Dr. Who Season 7, Episode 6 (The Bells of Saint John), the one where there's something malevolent in the Wifi: why did the bad guys give Clara hacker powers?

I get to watch Dr. Who in dribs and drabs, usually woefully out of date and out of order, which means there are usually details that I'm somewhat puzzled about. However, this time I did manage to watch the other two Clara Oswald episodes before I watched this one, so at least I knew why the Doctor was going on about governesses. However, I don't understand why the bad guys (and forgive me if they have a name: I missed it) decided it was a good idea to give Clara hacker abilities while they were downloading her. As far as I could tell, the downloaded people don't actually do anything, other than try to tell everyone that they don't know where they are. So what purpose would it serve to enhance their knowledge?

(I also don't quite get why they'd give her the enhancement first, before completing her download? Why incur the extra bandwidth, if you can call it that in this case? Or maybe that's not what happened, but then why did Clara have the abilities after the Doctor interrupted that first download?)

3 Answers 3


At the start of the episode, someone trapped in the Wi-Fi gives a warning. In the warning, there is this part:

They can see you. And if they can see you, they might choose you.

So, before downloading people, they carefully select them. Just before they download Cara, Alexei and Miss Kizlet had this exchange:

Alexei: We've got a positive lock on her, but I think she's borderline. Very clever, but no computer skills.
Miss Kizlet: Upload her anyway, splice her a computer skills package.

So, the 2 criteria to select someone is being clever and having computer skills. But somehow, they could add computer skill, probably only if a subject was worth the hassle.

We don't have the technical details on how the computer skills package is spliced, but my guess is that they added the package to the signal as it's downloaded, just before it's saved to the cloud. So they don't have to use additional bandwidth to do the modification, the doctor just retrieved the modified data.

Why they'd give her the enhancement first? It may be a technical limitation, maybe they cannot modify a consciousness once it's saved on the cloud. Anyway, they don't worry about download reversal before the Doctor did it as they are surprised when it happens and state that such thing is possible, in theory.

  • Idle question: how did you know the names "Alexei" and "Miss Kizlet"? I.e. were these used in the episode (and I am even less observant than I thought), or did you look them up somewhere?
    – Martha
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 21:49
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    @Martha I checked tardis.wikia episode wiki. But the quotes come from the subtitle of the episodes. As a non native English speaker, I always turn on the subtitles for Doctor Who. I made a check and they are explicitly called by theirs names on several occasion in the episode.
    – DavRob60
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 22:54
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    But still the question remains. Why give her those skills? What would those skills have been used for, once she was in the cloud? And why take her in the first place, if her skills were not up to standard? My guess is we're going to see more of this mysterious "client", this great intelligence, later in the series.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 11:49
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    Well, if the Great Intelligence was "eating" the people in the cloud to be happy, the computer skills could be as simple as a flavor that the Great Intelligence likes to eat. Like putting ketchup on fries. Alternately, they might enhance the Great Intelligence when he consumes the person, like putting protein powder in an energy shake to bulk up at the gym.
    – Lokathor
    Commented Apr 7, 2013 at 0:03

As of the start of season 8, Clara has not used those powers since that episode where she got them, but a version of Clara did do a super hack on the Daleks in "Asylum of the Daleks", a hack which impressed the hell out of the Doctor himself, which aired earlier. And since there is a connection between all the Claras, maybe giving her magically superior skills was written in for that purpose.

I don't think there's a cleverer explanation than that right now.


The bad guys didn't give Clara the hacker powers. It hasn't been made very clear yet but it appears to be a piece of innate computer knowledge that Clara brought back with her when the Doctor pulled back the part of her that had already been uploaded to the Wifi. There is another episode from last season that included Clara and the Daleks in the future where she puts those hacker skills to good use.

  • 2
    Sorry, but they did explicitly say that they added hacker powers to Clara. See my answer.
    – DavRob60
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 12:35
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    @Beofett That's because she is really cleaver. It's something to have knowledge, it's something else to use it and expand upon it. The point is that they "spliced her a computer skills package", it's not a "piece of innate computer knowledge that Clara brought back with her".
    – DavRob60
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 13:45
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    I have a feeling we may learn more about her hacking abilities in later episodes. It may be that the splicing triggered something deeper in her. It may be that her being converted in the previous episode I referenced may have done something similar. I think it's too soon to say one or another for certain.
    – Beofett
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 13:48
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    The Clara who hacked the Daleks was a different incarnation, with different life experiences, and thus different specific skills.
    – Martha
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 14:47
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    @Martha I don't believe we know that for sure, yet. Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 15:18

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