Sunday, March 31, 2013

Not Loving Spoonheads


It's difficult to say whether The Bells of Saint John is Jenna-Louise Coleman's debut story as the Doctor's (Matt Smith) newest Companion, given that her character of Clara Oswin Oswald has not only appeared twice before this story (Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen) but DIED in both episodes.  With The Bells of Saint John or I choose to call it, The Spoonheads, though, it is the first Clara story where she is the Companion proper.  Now that she has entered the world of the TARDIS, the question is, 'Will it be a return to greatness or a return to form?'  Sadly, it is the latter; rather than being the 'epic' so often promised by showrunner/head writer/Satan Steven Moffat, The Bells of Saint John goes to his old bag of tricks, turning the Doctor almost literally into an organ grinder's monkey.

There is something menacing, dangerous in the Wi-Fi.  If you connect online via a strange gateway, it downloads your soul, trapping you in cyberspace and killing you in the process.  Meanwhile in Cumbria 1207 a Mad Monk (not Rasputin, which would have been a nice twist), is hiding out, waiting for "the bells of Saint John" to ring.  A Brother monk rushes in, and informs the Abbot, who then informs that Mad with a painting of a Girl Twice Dead and her final words..."Run, You Clever Boy, and Remember."  It's none other than The Doctor, and the bells of Saint John come from the TARDIS phone, which has the Saint John Ambulance sticker on the door. 

The phone, which is clearly not suppose to work, is a call for technical support from a mysterious woman who got it from 'a girl in the shop', who assured her it was the best help line in the world.  Once he hears her sound out the Wi-Fi password where she's at: RYCBAR123 or Run You Clever Boy And Remember, the DOctor immediately realizes the girl is Clara, the Girl Who's Died Twice.  He must solve this mystery, so off to London he races.

He arrives in his monk's robes only to find Clara A.) has no interest, and B.) asking, "Doctor Who?"  Leaving aside the fact that the Doctor is almost stalker-like in his behavior, a strange little girl suddenly appears.  Clara is confused, then alarmed when said girl not only just repeats whatever she says but literally spins her head, revealing a spoon-shaped head that is 'downloading' Clara.  The Doctor saves her by reversing the download (though not the polarity), which alarms the villainous Miss Kizlet (Celia Imrie).  She quickly tells "The Client" that the one warned about is here.

Tool Rider...
Clara is not too bad off (despite nearly having a plane crash into her, rescued by the Doctor's ability to pilot the TARDIS straight onto it and correcting its descent), and in a coffee shop an incredulous Doctor doesn't believe Clara can actually hack into whoever is stealing people's souls.  Hack she does, and manages to trace it to the Shard (the second tallest building in Europe recently opened to the general public), but what one can do, so can the other.  A horrified Clara finds the Doctor has turned into a Spoonhead, and she has been fully downloaded. 

Now the Doctor must rescue Clara, and he rides to her rescue on his motorbike, which is anti-gravity (thus allowing him to ride up on the Shard's exterior and crash into the nefarious office.  There, he makes a demand: release Clara.  In order to do that, Miss Kizlet would have to download all those she's taken.  Well if that's the case then so be it, because that's not the Doctor...that's the Doctor's Spoonhead!  He forces Miss Kizlet into the program, and with some manipulation the Doctor gets them all out...just in time for UNIT to raid the joint.  However, they were unaware that The Great Intelligence (Richard E. Grant) is revealed as "The Client"... 

While Clara initially turns down the Doctor's offer to go with him, she does say to come back tomorrow and see what she says.   

The First Question: Where's the
Organ Grinder?
At a certain point things go from fun to farce, and with The Spoonheads I think we've more than hit that point.  For me, the death knell in The Bells was when the Doctor rode up the Shard on his motorbike.  I thought this because my mind flashed to the previous Ten Doctors and I thought, "Would ANY of them do something like this?"  Certainly the First and Second would not do anything so patently idiotic.  The Third, a dashing man of adventure, would have applied logic and perhaps used either a helicopter or being more adventurous, a jet pack.  The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eight would likewise not have just ridden a motorbike up the side of a building.  I certainly can't imagine Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor enacting such shenanigans, and while I wouldn't put it beyond the realm of possibility for David Tennant's Tenth Doctor to pull off such a stunt, I find it questionable.  However, with Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor, this sort of silliness is par for the course (as is his using his beloved fez to solicit change for a coffee, like said organ grinder's monkey).  Steven Moffat, rather than attempt to bother to find a logical way through this dilemma (as all of Smith's predecessors would have), decided the best thing to do was introduce some sort of parody Bond-vehicle to solve the situation.  If the motorbike had been invisible, it wouldn't have been any more idiotic.

The Spoonheads also has some simply terrible moments that are derivative of other Doctor Who stories.  The TARDIS phone ringing when it shouldn't?  The Empty Child Part I.   A malevolent entity using computers and the minds of users for their own nefarious schemes?  School Reunion.  Creepy little children appearing at the top of the stairs?  The Lodger.  The villain sucking people into a viewing device?  The Idiot's Lantern.  Again and again Doctor Who is showing that it has no original ideas, and worse, attempting to pass off the 'mystery' over the Companion as the BIG story rather than anything with the Doctor.  Last season, it was All About River: her identity, death, and transfiguration.  Now, it is Clara Oswald, who adopted the nom de guerre Oswin from "Oswald for the Win...Os-Win" (when hacking into The Great Intelligence's mainframe).  We've seen it all already, and whatever entertainment value the show once had is not almost completely lost.

That goes for our newest Companion.  Jenna-Louise Coleman is a pretty girl, and I'm sure a very nice one.  However, in her third debut story (no, that is not an oxymoron) Clara Oswald was actually rather boring as a character.  Whether it is her character as written or Coleman's limitations as an actress is far too soon to say.  However, I frankly didn't care one bit about her plight or her altogether.  I liked Rose Tyler, got to know her in her debut.  I got to know Amy Pond in her debut...wasn't thrilled by her but at least she had some semblance of action to her (or at least Scottish belligerence).  Clara Oswald, on the other hand, seemed a bit dull.  There's this vague idea that she wants to travel but why should I care?  Also, when she's not dim she appears a bit smug: a bad cross between screamer and brat.

The same can't be said for Matt Smith's Doctor.  I don't find him boring...I just find him stupid.  Whereas the Doctor once was the smartest being in the room, the one who thought his way out of situations, the one who could be counted on to save the day, Smith's Eleventh Doctor is the one you can count on to be goofy throughout.  If necessary he can be called on to be serious, but for the most part Eleventh just behaves like a clown: no wit, no clever plan, no sense of anything other than a lunatic who can barely function in society.  The Doctor is a joke (only he isn't aware of it).  Whether it's appearing in a monk's habit or commenting on how much HE likes hearing people say, "Doctor Who?" (despite that joke having been more than pounded into the ground, that joke has now reached the third level of Hell) or riding up the second tallest building in the European Union on his anti-gravity motorbike, too much time and attention is being given over to show how goofy and silly The Doctor can be, not on how smart or brave he should be.

As a side note, despite Moffat's decision to give this story the more lofty title of The Bells of Saint John, the more appropriate title should really be The Spoonheads, namely because said 'bells' (those from the TARDIS) are actually immaterial to the story itself.   Once "the bells" have run (which begs the question of whether a monk was stationed next to the TARDIS to ensure said bells were never knows how often the phone rang with no one hearing it), "the bells of Saint John" are never mentioned again.  The only reason I can think of for the title to be thus is because the more accurate title The Spoonheads was too silly...even for Moffat. 

Moffat, however, couldn't resist taking a few jabs at people.  Clara looks at a book of one of the children she's watching, and asks the child what her favorite chapter is.  Ten is her favorite, she replies.  Clara then says that "Chapter 11 is the best; you'll cry your eyes out".  If anything, Moffat can never be subtle...clearly Eleven being our 'favourite' is something he's desperate for fans to believe, and isn't it always Moffat's declarations that almost every story will have us crying? 

Mr. Moffat, I have yet to shed a for when I think when Doctor Who was actually good, inventive, smart, and fun: all things your bastardization is not.

Of course, not everything in The Spoonheads was terrible.  Imrie played the part well (even if she did come across as a mix of Series Six's Madame Kovarian and The Idiot's Lantern's The Wire), and the idea of something collection souls is not a bad one.  I do note a good exchange between The Doctor and Clara.  When she asks something like shouldn't he know the future, he replies, "I can't tell the future.  I just work there."

However, for me, The Spoonheads was boring.  Even the big reveal of The Great Intelligence taking on The Snowmen's Dr. Simeon's image (or is it the other way round) proved less shocking and more, "...and?"  I just don't care what big mystery Clara has.  I don't even care how this 21-century London girl ended up as both a Victorian governess AND a future astronaut/human Dalek.  The Spoonheads is not this epic I was's just another dumb, silly, sad parody of a show I once loved but now I merely endure.  Alas, Doctor Who... 

Ultimately Steven Moffat has gone from "Don't Blink" to "Don't Click".          

For God's sake PLEASE stop
embarrassing yourself.


Next Story: The Rings of Akhaten


  1. Terrible review. I disagreed with just about everything you said.

  2. Nice! Great review and very accurate to my feelings as well!

  3. Great review. my feelings exactly

  4. Great Review! Spot on! moffat hasn't an original bone in his body. He can't even keep straight villains he himself has created. And all of his characters are 1 dimensional.

  5. Ten would have sneaked in with a fake ID I think. As for the rest you read my mind.


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