Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John (7.2.1)

The Bells of Saint John

The Bells of St. John

Gay go up and gay go down
To Ring the Bells of London Town
“Oranges and Lemons” say the Bells of St. Clements
“Bullseyes and Targets” say the Bells of St. Margaret’s
“Brickbats and Tiles” say the Bells of St. Giles
“Halfpence and Farthings” say the Bells of St. Martin’s
“Pancakes and Fritters” say the Bells of St. Peter’s
“Two Sticks and an Apple” say the Bells of Whitechapel
“Maids in white aprons”say the Bells at St. Katherine’s
“Pokers and Tongs” say the Bells of St. John’s
“Kettles and Pans” say the Bells of St. Anne’s
“Old Father Baldpate” say the slow Bells of Aldgate
“You owe me Ten Shillings” say the Bells of St. Helen’s
“When will you Pay me?” say the Bells of Old Bailey
“When I grow Rich” say the Bells of Shoreditch
“Pray when will that be?” say the Bells of Stepney
“I do not know” say the Great Bell of Bow
Gay go up and gay go down
To Ring the Bells of London Town

– Nursery Rhyme

First you should see the prequel to Clara’s proper introduction to the series.

It sets the scene for the main episode. The Doctor is holed up in a 13th century monastery, apparently prompted by young Clara’s suggestion that he go off somewhere quiet for a think, to help him find his lost friend. It all ties in with the image of the bells, which directly link the episode to London through the old nursery rhyme. The conceit is also effectively used as the windows of the houses chime alight to represent the captured minds being activated later in the episode.

I’m a little disappointed and not quite sure why. It has the wonderful Clara, who I have been waiting for since The Snowmen, her previous, inconclusive encounter with the Doctor. And it’s stuffed to the gills with brilliant Moffat inventions and allusions.

We have London in general, and the Shard in particular, showcased in a piece of mega product placement, along with a classic Triumph motorbike. The action sequences have a Bondian feeling, with the Doctor riding up the sheer face of the Shard to confront the soul-stealers in their office. There’s a nod to Amy in her novel, Summer Falls, and a spoonface is created out of the creepy little girl on the cover. Clara even refers to the Doctor’s regenerations in her comment on the chapters – “Eleven’s  the best. You’ll cry your eyes out.”

The idea of the Great Intelligence hoovering up the minds of internet users through their wifi connection is utterly contemporary, and not so far from the truth. I particularly liked Clara’s take on it – “Isn’t that basically Twitter?” This reflects Moffat’s animus against Twitter in real life. There’s also an ironic appreciation by Celia Imrie’s boss lady of the Great Intelligence’s love for his stolen minds, ending in “No-one loves cattle more than Burger King.”

Entertaining as all this is, the threat-of-world-domination plot is slight and the Great Intelligence easily vanquished. The real business of the episode is the bonding of the Doctor with Clara. No smooth sailing here, what with Clara being a little skittish about this strange man who so obviously wants her to run away with him. Quite rightly, she won’t get into a cramped police box, even in the face of danger. Nor will she fly off in the Doctor’s “snog box” when all is explained. But she’s attracted, and the flirting is very enjoyable. You can’t blame her, really, given that the Doctor comes across as a bit of a stalker. He even changes his clothes for a smoother image, which I don’t entirely approve of. That tweed jacket was a classic look.

So we’re left with the Doctor essentially told that Clara’s washing her hair that night, but he’s welcome to try again tomorrow. And off he goes to ponder her mystery: “Right then, Clara Oswald, time to find out who you are.”

I think my reservations spring from there being so much good stuff jammed together in this episode that it was hard to get a handle on it. I can understand why Moffat wanted to knock our socks off, including a revamped opening sequence and music, plus a Tardis that looks like Changing Rooms was given a free hand in the make-over. But it comes across as an extremely entertaining dog’s breakfast.

Presumably things will settle down and get a bit deeper as the relationship between the Doctor and Clara develops.

The Troll Catalogue

Internet TrollsI would have reblogged this website if it were possible, but since I can’t, a link will have to do. The Troll Catalogue is exactly what it says on the tin, a list of the more common trolls you find infesting forums and blogs, along with an illustration and an apt description.

It’s brilliantly done and very more-ish, like a box of assorted chocolates. I started with one small troll, intending to move on to the other things I really needed to do that day. Several hours later I was still there, sprawled and bloated, having gobbled down the whole lot in one sitting.

Seeing all the little buggers assembled in one place had a curious effect, rather like reading a book of medical symptons. Not only could I recognise trolls from Comment Is Free, the Guardian’s online forum, I could also see myself in some of the descriptions. Quite disconcerting.

Trolls can be destroyed, as Classics professor Mary Beard demonstrated in a recent infestation. She had the audacity to question whether a member of a BBC Question Time audience had all the facts at her fingertips regarding the effect of immigration on social services in Boston, Lincolnshire. Beard, who had actually read the council report on the issue, was subjected to vile, mysogynistic online abuse, emanating from Twitter and one website in particular – Don’t Start Me Off! You can read her blog post about it here. Beard’s followers and colleagues responded by spamming Don’t Start Me Off! with Latin poetry. Amazingly, this worked, and the website has been shut down. This is not so much destroying trolls as destroying the mothership.

So let’s hear it for Latin poetry – who knew a Latin attack could be so effective – and for Mary Beard who stood up to the bigots and ignorami(?)! If you haven’t heard of her, here’s the first episode of her BBC documentary, Meet the Romans.

Social Media Hits the Fan

I’m not sure what to make of this infographic. It’s clearly coming from an anti-FaceBook source, which I have no problem with, but you might find it a little biased. The most egregious lack is any mention of Google+, with 110.7 million unique users, according to the last crowd sourcing reply on G+. But if the intent is to tar FB and Twitter users exclusively with high narcissism and low self-esteem, then you can see why they left it out. Know your propaganda, even if you agree with it. Anyway, take a look, and below the infographic I will compound the insult by telling you why I despise FB and think G+ is so much better.

Psychology of Social Networking
This infographic was provided by Psychology Degree. Please visit their site to find out more about them.

One factoid jumped out at me. Does the average person have 150 friends in real life? Sounds far too many, or at least an extremely elastic definition of friend, almost as elastic as the one FB uses.

I despise FB because the experience is akin to entering a noisy gaming arcade, with bad rap music playing, and the machines practically grabbing the cash out of your pocket. Too loud to have a proper conversation and anyway, the text boxes aren’t designed for that – a shouted message or a status update is all they’re good for. I visit FB as little as possible, only to dash in and out for a quick word with my family in Indiana. By the way, they’re not narcissists or people with low self-esteem.

I’ve been on Twitter for just over a year and still don’t know what it’s for. Obviously a force for both good and bad – the mobilisation of citizen dissent and racist abuse – but what normal, everyday purpose does it serve? I automatically share G+ and Beautiful Railway Bridge posts on Twitter and FB, as well as interesting bits from the news on Twitter. I’m followed by 16 people and following 23. Clearly I don’t get it, though Some Grey Bloke does.

Google+, on the other hand, is a delight and a distraction. You can have a proper conversation, and build relationships that transcend the stupid monocategory of Friends. I’ve met people I like, would be happy to see in real life, and the place feels like home. A clean and uncluttered home with a big living room, where you sprawl on a comfortable sofa, have a beer and a good crack. Circles make it easy to add on smaller rooms for particular categories, where you can have more private conversations. It’s so easy to do this that I’ve developed what might be a bad habit. I’m circled by 459 people and only follow 317. Why the disparity? Because the FaceBook Friend disease is spreading to G+. Some are notching up followers with no concern for like-mindedness, shared interests, or even if they could stand sharing an elevator with any of them. I doubt they actually read my posts. I’ve followed a lot of people back for the sake of politeness, and there is a Being Polite circle where I park them all, adjusting the stream so I don’t get any of their posts. Where there’s not even a shred of common ground, I don’t follow back.

See, the social media are beginning to erode my deeply cherished curmudgeonality. Bad social media!