Dear Steven Moffat: The Bells of Saint John

Clara and The Shard

Dear Steven,

Ring-a-ding-ding, Doctor Who’s back, and not a moment too soon. This was the icing on the stodge for me because it caps an extraordinary run of good luck that began shortly after the Christmas episode. When I last wrote to you I was a homeless pauper; ignored by the public, rejected by squats and not quite what the Big Issue were looking for, though I gave a great interview and they’d keep me informed of any future vacancies that should arise. Then, one day, with my tether frayed at both ends, I met Managra, a former vagrant who was now helping those who were less fortunate bounce back by paying them for sex.

Managra told me that society, in its current configuration, was a kind of madness and that only by rejecting it and its preposterous conventions could I attain true happiness. He asked if I wanted to be happy. I said I did. And so he absorbed me into his commune. No ordinary revolution in microcosm, Steven, but a Doctor Who commune: a place where we lived with both webbed feet rooted in the show’s mythos and values.

‘It’s not just an excuse to dress up and validate a lifestyle based on infantile fantasy and the avoidance of real-world responsibility then?’ I’d asked on the first night, as I was measured for my Ice Warrior costume.

‘No,’ he replied, and Steven, that was good enough for me.

Tonight, on a sofa bookended by Hamuel: The Gaseous Interlocutor of Darvil and Bare Breasted Latrex of the Anti-Sontaran Star League, I settled down to see The Bells of Saint John, the first in what promises to be a short run of episodes that tops out a season that began when most of us were kids. Following the Christmas reintroduction of Clara, we were chomping each other’s bits to find out more about her origin and how a woman who’d died twice could still seem so fresh and precocious. Would you throw us a bone or let us rot in a fetid pit of maggots fattened on questions? ‘I don’t care,’ I told the others, ‘as long as I find out who she is.’

Well we didn’t find out who she was but we did learn that she’s powered by a fate engine, or something. Present day Clara has a very similar job to her Victorian counterpart, the home’s Wi-Fi password is an acronym of the last thing she said to The Doctor before she died (the first time), her name in Asylum of the Daleks is a contraction of her real moniker and the colloquial use of the word “win”, and the story, about the consciousness of everyday fucks being uploaded into the digi-ether, foreshadowed her ultimate fate in the Dalek Asylum.

What were we supposed to conclude from this, Steven? That present day Clara was a forerunner to the one that ended her life as a memory pattern, but perhaps some kind of successor to the one who died in the 1890s? What’s that? We’re not supposed to conclude anything? In fact why don’t you just wait and find out you spoiler hungry bastard? Alright, I’m just trying to take an interest.

So with absolutely no fucking idea who or what Clara is, and whether we’re supposed to read anything into her copy of Amy’s book, we were left to enjoy another slight but fun episode that gently satirised the digital habits of the viewership. Long before Clara cracked her Twitter gag, we’d surmised that talk of losing your soul to the internet, the victims becoming an amorphous, abstract mass of servile automatons, was a wry comment on social media and the fashionable shift from real-world experience to self-commodification in the hope that turning ourselves into live content will provide the attention, adulation and cool that it would be impossible for us to attain in flesh and blood social situations on account of natural disadvantages, personality disorders and the very lack of self-awareness that fuelled our online celebrity fantasies in the first place.

With the point well taken, we enjoyed the clipped banter between the Galifreyian ganglinoid and his CILF, the reminder that you should never judge a book’s cover, because it may come to life and turn your mind into a void, and the bittersweet realisation that if The Doctor breaks into a young woman’s house, puts her to bed and eats her food, it’s fine, but when we do it we’re put on a register and obliged to visit a police station every fortnight: a vivid illustration of why TV is better than life.

The commune says hi, by the way.

Yours in time and cyberspace,


P.S: I enjoyed the revelation that the London Riots were a consequence of The Great Intelligence’s mass activation of London digi-slaves. Of course this will be scant comfort to those caught in the fracas who now languish in prison and certainly no comfort to the family of the man who stole a gingerbread biscuit and later died in the clink. Anyway, it was a smart gag. Sleep well.

The Past:

The Distant Past:

Deep Time:


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