A press screening for Series 7: Part 2 opener The Bells of Saint John took place on Friday – and now the embargo on the screening has been lifted, the reviews for the opener have begun to flood in. Here’s some of the highlights:
This incarnation of time-splintered companion Clara is slightly less of a motormouth than the previous models. She seems altogether younger and just a little more vulnerable. It’s an engaging, spirited performance by Jenna-Louise Coleman.
For the vast majority of its running time, The Bells Of St John is, as billed, a contemporary thriller set in the heart of London (weaving in plenty of the city as it tells its tale). It certainly feels a long time since we had something quite like this in Doctor Who, too. It’s a standalone modern day episode, with subtle threads weaving their way through, and crucially, it’s exceptionally entertaining. Were Moffat a man with longer foliage on the top of his head, this would be described as one of his stories where he’s let it down a little more, and from start to finish had raging fun with his episode. It’s a delight to watch it unfold.
Most exciting is the gleeful use of central London’s landmarks by the Doctor and his fast-talking new assistant, who speed around the city in a bid to battle the malevolence lurking in the Wi-Fi. In all, Moffat has penned a witty nail-biter, liberally sprinkled with clever, modern ideas – and naturally a lot more happens than I’ve revealed here.
Most importantly, though, as series seven resumes (last autumn is a long while ago!) we see a delightful new dynamic at the heart of the series, as the Doctor befriends Clara. She may be known as “the woman twice dead” (after fatal outcomes in Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen) but is instantly brighter, cheerier and, on the face of it at least, less complex than Amy (although I also loved Karen Gillan’s work).
Doctor Who returns with The Bells of Saint John on Saturday 30th March.