With the return of Doctor Who we are finally gifted with the first regular episode for new companion Clara Oswald. Well, technically, it’s the third time we’ve been introduced to her, but why bother to count? This time Clara is a live-in nanny for a typical London family. She is quickly entangled with the Doctor over a threat carried over wi-fi. It seems if you accidentally click on some squiggly lines when trying to log in, you will be captured and ultimately fed to the Great Intelligence.
This episode, while fun, is wracked with problematic elements. The chief of which is the main threat: a monster that will eat you if you click on the wrong wi-fi connection. Put simply, you have to be pretty darned stupid to click on a bunch of unknown squiggly lines that pops up on your computer, and a monster that feeds on stupid people is not what I would call threatening (since I am a total screaming genius…see what I did there?). There’s nothing less scary than a monster that is easily avoided.
Which brings us to another problem: Clara Oswald. We have been introduced to her twice before, and unfortunately the third time is the dullest. This version of Clara is sadly, not that interesting. Her back story is that of a girl who lost her mother at a young age. Her personal story is not as intriguing as the souffle girl who tried to fight the Daleks for a year, or the mysterious governess who doubled as a serving wench when it suited her purposes. Jenna Louise Coleman is a fine actress and she embraces her role with gusto, but she is not given much to work with except for the usual companion functions of asking questions and getting into trouble.
The primary difficulty with Clara is that we’ve already seen her meet the Doctor twice before, and both of those times carried more emotional impact and set up a more interesting character. Oswin’s cheerfulness in the face of danger and Victorian Clara’s fairytale climb up the ladder to the TARDIS were far more compelling than anything we saw in this episode. Couple this with a very non-scary villain and you have an episode which at best is a below-average but mildly fun adventure story. I truly hope that Clara’s story will turn out to be more intriguing than its start. Certainly Ms. Coleman deserves better.
“The Bells of St. John” gets Two and a Half Acorns out of Five!