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Doctor Who: The Bells of St. John (Review)

There’s something in the wifi.

– the Doctor does his best Jaws impression

The Bells of St. John is an intriguing piece of Doctor Who. This is the first time that the show has had to manage a companion swap in the middle of a season. That said, it doesn’t really work to think of the seventh season as a single cohesive entity.

The first five episodes are something of an abridged season, akin to the 2009 season of specials starring David Tennant. They are dedicated to tidying away lingering plot threads from the last two years of the show, and resolving Moffat’s lingering plot threads. The Power of Three and The Angels Take Manhattan are very much about tidying up the Doctor’s lingering connection to Rory and Amy.

In contrast, the second half of the season has a much more celebratory feeling to it, tied together by the over-arching mystery around Clara. While Clara pops up in Asylum of the Daleks, she’s very much a teaser of a mystery to come rather than a character in her own right. Instead, the themes of the season start in The Snowmen, introducing (or reintroducing) the Great Intelligence and Clara, and outlining the mystery of “the twice-dead girl.”

As a result, The Bells of St. John feels very much like a season opener to an unfortunately brief season of celebration.

Maybe that should be "thrice dead"?

Maybe that should be “thrice dead”?

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Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Impossible Astronaut originally aired in 2011.

Rory, would you mind going with her?

Yeah, a bit.

Then I appreciate it all the more.

– The Doctor and Rory

While Steven Moffat’s first season as showrunner followed the same basic format as the seasons run by Russell T. Davies, his second up-ends that. Viewers had become so conditioned to that structure that The Impossible Astronaut proves quite a shock. Far from an accessible and enjoyable romp in the style of Rose or New Earth or Smith & Jones or Partners in Crime or The Eleventh Hour, The Impossible Astronaut jumps right into the middle of things.

Taking advantage of the fact that this is the first time since New Earth (and only the second time in the revival) that a season premiere hasn’t been burdened with the weight of introducing a new Doctor or companion, Moffat is able to really mess up the structure of the season. Indeed, you might go so far as to suggest that he’s reversed it. Moffat’s second season ends with a one-part adventure that introduces us to a new era and new mission statement, but opens with a bombastic two-part climax.

It’s certainly ambitious.

Cowboys and aliens…

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