The bells of St. John turned out to be an interesting detail. While most of us were busy thinking about the famous nursery rhyme, the St. John Ambulance logo on the TARDIS provided the key. The Doctor is living in Cumbria in 1207 in a monastery. He is still seeking solitude and quiet, to try to decipher the final message of the girl who died twice. And then a monk comes with news that the “bells of St. John are ringing” – which turns out to be the TARDIS phone!
It is Clara on the other end, and that opens one mystery they are sure to resolve. She got the number from a woman in a shop who recommended this as the “best helpline in the universe.” The call leads the Doctor to where Clara is, after she uses the phrase “Run you clever boy and remember” as a mnemonic device to help her remember the wi-fi password in the house where she lives.
Meanwhile, we also learn that the souls of people are being uploaded by an organization which seems like it could be official and governmental, but which we soon discover works for an unnamed client. It is only at the end that we discover who the client was – the Great Intelligence!
For those interested in the intersection of religion with Doctor Who, there were numerous elements of interest – from the monastic setting of the Doctor (and even the St. John reference, however indirect its connection with religion), to the god seen in one of the early shots of wi-fi usage, to the reference to “souls” rather than minds or something else being uploaded. The depiction of humans as like cattle for the Great Intelligence, who thus cares for human beings much as a farmer would for animals, takes a familiar religious metaphor and problematizes it. The idea of a god-like entity living in wi-fi is reminiscent of details in novels by Dan Simmons.Apparently monks aren't cool. No surprise there.
What did you like most about the episode? What questions did it raise, and do you have any speculations about the answers to them?
For me, I think that “Doctor Who” in fact sounds like the Doctor's actual name, and that is why he likes hearing it said aloud so much. And it is interesting that we saw a hint of this back in the William Hartnell era, when a supreme and seemingly all-knowing computer referred to the Doctor as “Doctor Who” – the only time he is so referred to on the show, other than in the credits.
In other news – in case you haven't heard – David Tennant and Billie Piper are returning for the 50th anniversary special!