After a three month long layoff, Series 7 of Doctor Who returned with “The Bells of Saint John”, written by show runner Steven Moffat. Moffat’s stint in charge of the 50 year-old series has been fresh, while still being respectful of what came before. With his rise, following the departure of Russell T. Davies, the show has taken a different tone. That, and the filming in high def, has the show making a subtle shift into something even more wonderful than before.
Those factors were important, yes. But no small amount of praise is due to the Eleventh Doctor, played so pitch perfectly by Matt Smith. He brings a gusto and childlike innocence to the part, while still being entirely credible in making all the scientific explanations and declarations. It is no coincidence that Smith is the first Doctor to be BAFTA nominated for best actor (he lost in an extremely competitive field). Accompanied by Amelia Pond (played by Karen Gillan) and, later Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), there were companions as beloved as those from the Fourth Doctor’s (Tom Baker) days. It is probably not a stretch to say that they were this generation’s companions. Sorry, Billie Piper.
Is a Doctor only as good as his companion? It was a question one had to wonder about with the apparent death of the Ponds/Williamses. One that still may not get a chance to be answered. Enter Clara Oswald, played by the lovely Jenna-Louise Coleman. We have already seen her in the series premiere as well as in the Christmas special but she died both times. Didn’t she? We meet her again as a nanny. She meets us as if for the first time.
Her on-screen chemistry with Smith is instant and undeniable. When the Doctor sees her again, it is clear that he is more than just fascinated by this impossible girl. Clara flirts with him and makes him uncomfortable in a way not unlike the Doctor’s “wife”, River Song. Only Clara’s comes from a sense of wonder, rather than familiarity. Her continued existence is an enigma to the Doctor and he is clearly clueless as to how she lives. He does so love a challenge as it is clear he is a bit smitten. Well, aren’t we all? Coleman’s screen presence is full of charm and confidence even when belied by her confusion.
As for the villains in this piece, they are a new evil corporation (called The Shard) that steal souls through wi-fi connections. They use robotic creatures, affectionately called “spoonheads”, to extract what makes a person and uploads it to a larger data cloud. This is certainly a strange thing but this is Doctor Who, after all. The reveal of what is behind The Shard presumably sets up the big bad for the second half of Series 7. As long as Smith and Coleman are there to confront it, it should be entertaining no matter what they face.
Doctor Who airs on BBC America on Saturdays at 8/7c.