Steven Moffat, take a bow. One only needs to read other reviews I've written on here to discover that I am no fan of the Moff, and that his episodes are so far from being up my street that they're in a different post code. Yet, perhaps because of my low expectations, or perhaps because it genuinely was pretty damn good, I really, really enjoyed The Bells of Saint John.
|The Doctor and Clara do milkshakes in the shadow of... the bells of St Paul?|
One thing that nobody could have missed is how stunningly beautiful the episode looked. Of course, that is due in part to the direction of Colm McCarthy (why is he not directing more episodes this series? That's what I want to know!) but I do believe that the real reason for the episode's beauty is its choice of setting: the city of London. I've said it before and I'll say it again, London is one of the - if not the most - beautiful cities in the world, and its landmarks were the star of every scene they were in. I honestly can't tell you how much I loved the Doctor racing through Westminster and under Admiralty Arch, or how much I adored the scene in which Clara and the Doctor have coffee (well, milkshakes) in the shadow of St. Paul's Cathedral and the Shard. London gave the episode a truly epic feel, and Colm McCarthy did the city justice in such a way that he managed to make an episode of a sci-fi show look as majestic as Skyfall. However, speaking of the Shard... How FANTASTIC was the way it was used in this episode?! The scene in which the Doctor rides his antigrav motorbike up the building and into the office on floor 65 was the most fun Doctor Who scene Steven Moffat has ever written. It was like something out of a Russell T Davies script. Fun-wise, it was right up there with the flying bus sequence in Planet of the Dead. And the 'fun-ness' of that scene reflects how fun the rest of the episode was. I loved the TARDIS becoming one of the many performance acts you find on the South Bank! (Did it remind anyone else of the John Cleese/Eleanor Bron scene from City of Death? "Exquisite! Absolutely exquisite!") And I loved the whole plane flying sequence, too! Fun has been something that has been distinctly lacking in Steven Moffat's Who, which is why I'm so relieved that this episode actually was fun. It certainly bodes well for the future.
|The Doctor riding his antigrav motorbike up the Shard. What could be more fun?!|
|The Bells of Saint John - Doctor Who's answer to Skyfall.|
The Doctor: Clara?
Clara: Uh huh?
The Doctor: In your book there was a leaf. Why?
Clara: That wasn't a leaf, that was page one.
|"That wasn't a leaf. That was page one."|
So, overall, there was a lot right about this episode. Don't get me wrong, it's not quite a classic per se, but it was very solid and extremely enjoyable, with more than its fair share of fantastic moments. For example, the revelation about what the bells of Saint John actually were (the sound of the TARDIS's external phone ringing) was brilliant and very clever, despite having little overall relevance to the rest of the episode. And the scene in which we learn that Miss Kizlet (the episode's main villain, played rather wonderfully by the equally wonderful Celia Imrie) was abducted as a child? Genius! And heartbreaking. That's the kind of depth I wish Moffat would give to all of his minor characters. He proved with Miss Kizlet that he could do it as well as Russell T Davies did it, so let's hope he continues to do so. All in all, The Bells of Saint John was an extremely strong (half) series opener, in fact probably the best one Moffat has written, and if the rest of the series lives up to the promise of this first episode, then I'll be a very happy bunny* indeed.
Happy Easter, everyone!
*(Haha, see what I did there? It's funny because I'm writing this on Easter Sunday.)