We should start with the Bells of St. John. It turns out they are the phone inside the TARDIS telephone box (which reads “St. John’s Ambulance”).
Clara: Why don’t I have the internet?
The Doctor: It’s 1207.
Clara: I have half-past three. Am I phoning a different time zone?
That’s the second time I’ve ever seen the TARDIS phone ring, and the first time it’s been on the receiving end of a phone call. Clara Oswald was calling it looking for tech support. The show took pains to stress the name, and make it clear that she’s a different Clara from the Christmas special, who was Clara Oswin. The Doctor demands to know how she got this number, and Clara responds “The woman in the shop wrote it down. She said it’s the best help line out there.”
The woman in the shop? Well that’s interesting. Did she happen to have a mop of curly hair? Or, this being London, and her being a shop girl, did she have blonde lanky hair, ginormous eyes and a pop music career back in the 1990s?
That question never got answered. It’s not good that it was the one thing I really wanted to know the answer to the entire episode, is it?
Clara: When you say ‘mobile phone’ why do you point at that blue box?
The Doctor: Because it’s a surprisingly accurate description.
The rest of the episode was one long game of what the internet has named Moffat Bingo. The bad guys pulling images from your subconscious, à la the Pandorica? Check! Bonus factor that the image they pulled was from a book written by a previous companion living at an earlier time, à la “Angels Take Manhattan”? Check–that book was by Amelia (Pond) Williams! Characters who echo from inside technology and technology that dumbly echos human speech, à la “Silence in the Library”? Check! A character creepily asking “Are You My Mummy?” Check! A female character we are told time and again is strong and quick witted, robbed of her agency?
The Doctor: Human souls trapped like flies in the world wide web. Stuck forever. Crying out for help.
Clara: Isn’t that basically Twitter?
Don’t get me wrong, there were good parts of the episode–Hello, Anti-Gravity Bike. Because sometimes one cannot take a TARDIS into battle! Unlike some episodes, the plot was not some throw away in service of character’s emotional journeys (Little Black Boxes episode, I’m looking at you.) The spoonheads were neat–though not very menacing, even if they were a touch on the clockwork robots side of things. But I love the clockwork robots from back in the day, so that didn’t bother me. (I will, on the other hand, accept it as a square in Moffat Bingo.) I loved that UNIT showed up at the very end of the episode to arrest the bad guys, only to discover they’d been restored to “Factory Settings.” One thing–I did not get the weirdness of them appearing the next day after saving the airplane. They just stepped out of the TARDIS in the park and instantly they were getting tipped by the bystanders. That was fun and all, but seriously, what did I miss?
The Doctor: I found a disassembled quadracycle in the garage.
Clara: I don’t think you did.
The Doctor: I invented the quadracycle!
Even with the spoiler that Richard E Grant would eventually appear as the big reveal, finding out the Great Intelligence was behind the people trapped in the wifi was still effective. It helps that his appearance continued to support my pet theory that Clara is part of the Great Intelligence and that’s why she’s being “spun out of the pattern” (as I like to think of it) again and again. This makes her both companion and Big Bad, and far more interesting that Moffat allowed her to be tonight.
The Doctor: Clara, in your book, there was a leaf. Why?
Clara: That wasn’t a leaf. That was page one.
Because seriously, how interesting is a girl who lies around passed out while her soul keeps saying “I don’t know where I am!” I was promised witty rapid fire ripostes with Matt Smith. Instead Clara spent the bulk of the episode in either Manic Pixie Dream Girl mode (“That’s page one” indeed!) or in Damsel in Distress mode. The center square in Moffat bingo seems to be “create a fabulous female character and then ruin her by refusing to allow her agency.” Also, have her say the words “Doctor Who” over and over until that theme of the 50th anniversary year as been run into the ground and beaten like a dead horse until it has become glue.
Clara: Is this actually what you do? Do you just crook your finger and people just jump in your snog box and fly away?
The Doctor: It is not a snog box!
The one interesting thing Clara did do tonight was refuse to leave with the Doctor when he offered her all of time and space. Unlike Amy who dropped everything the night before her wedding and rolled out, Clara has responsibilities to the people back home (kids who lost their mother, who she nannies), and she’s strong enough in herself, and the sense of her life, not to just drop everything and run away. I liked that.
The Doctor: “I don’t know the future. I just work there.”
We’ll see if she can keep that part of her up for next week, and maybe spend a little more of the episode awake, and a little less of it being saved.