The first episode of this half of the Doctor Who season has aired! And, frankly, I wish I had a few more answers.
Earlier in the year Moffat had claimed that the seventh season of Doctor Who would be more self-contained stories, as opposed to the convoluted arc of the previous season. Amy and Rory Pond’s last adventures were exactly that. However, it seems that this half of the season has sent us off on the trail of another grand mystery, as we try to figure out just who – or what – the new companion really is.
Ordinarily, this sort of thing would thrill me, as no one enjoys a mystery more than I do (and indeed, after the Christmas Special I was keen to start figuring it out). But after this first episode, I’m feeling a bit empty. I think I’ve narrowed the reasons down to two:
I’ve been burnt by you before
Everyone loves the super-cleverness of Moffat, but when I’ve had time to really puzzle over something – like the mystery of River Song, for example, or the hype for “Angels Take Manhattan” – I’ve either figured it out myself, read fan theories that have figured it out so quickly that it seems it must be wrong, or read fan theories that I preferred to the final result. I enjoy Moffat more when I’m surprised by the cleverness, instead of building him up as some sort of super-genius.
This issue isn’t limited only to him; consider the end of LOST. Or Battlestar: Galactica. When you’ve had too much time to mull over a mystery that promises to blow your mind, well, the expectations are raised, the telegraphing is more obvious, and you’re more likely to be disappointed (or I am, anyway).
Pick up the pace
We’ve now seen Clara three times. It’s evident that she’s likable each time, and we want to see more of her – so I want to get settled into a comfortable Doctor-Companion relationship. Because the Clara we’ve seen previously wasn’t “this” Clara, it’s like all that work has been undone. We saw a bit of that with River Song, but this is more like 50 First Dates.
I almost never use Russell T Davies as an example of doing things better, but compare this to Donna, who we’d met in a previous Christmas Special. It had been some time, and the character was in fact slightly different from the Christmas Special version, but within the first few minutes of seeing each other, that dynamic was established. We knew, with certainty, what this Doctor and Companion were like together, and we could then layer individual adventures on top of that comfortable foundation.
Since we don’t really know what the deal is with Clara, we don’t have that foundation. Even when we knew something was “off” about Amy Pond, we were confident that her relationship with the Doctor was genuine. With Clara, we don’t know anything, and that makes it more difficult to get comfortable. Intellectually intriguing? Sure. But I feel just slightly off-balance watching, waiting to get this mystery out of the way so things can really get started.
However, it’s entirely possible that this mystery will lead all the way up to the 50th Anniversary. That possibility doesn’t thrill me.
On the bright side
I’ve been avoiding spoilers, so for all I know this whole thing will get wrapped up in the next episode. And while it feels like we’ve had three episodes with Clara and haven’t settled in, well, that’s because she hasn’t been the same person and it really is three “first” episodes. So perhaps now that this season has officially kicked off, next episode will feel much more comfortable and familiar. Except for the fact that she hasn’t officially signed on as companion. Well, maybe that will happen in the first thirty seconds.
The mystery of who Clara actually is is certainly intriguing, even if I’m afraid of thinking too much about it. If you don’t have similar fears, here are a few questions to mull over:
- Who was the woman in the shop that gave Clara the number to the TARDIS? Especially given that it’s not a real phone like the one inside?
- Why is Clara 26 in the Christmas Special, but only 24 here?
- Why were the years 16 and 23 skipped over in the front cover of her book?
Either way, I know I’ll be tuning in for more Who, because even at my most frustrated (and I’m not), I’ve still thoroughly enjoyed every Moffat season. Plus I’m still thrilled about the upcoming 50th Anniversary – I try to avoid many spoilers but press releases are fairly hard to miss.
What about you? What did you think of “The Bells of St. John”? How do you feel about Clara as a new companion? And is her identity a mystery that you’re looking forward to stretching out, or would you rather solve it sooner than later?