In "The Bells of St. John", Clara calls what she thinks is a help line for her computer. When the Doctor answers, Clara says that the woman at the shop told her it was the best help line in the universe.

Maybe I missed something in the episode, but who is the woman at the shop and how did she get the number for the TARDIS? I've got a few ideas:

  1. It was a fortunate coincidence. The woman at the shop gave Clara the wrong number and it just happened to be the TARDIS

  2. It was Sally Sparrow. (Maybe she upgraded to computer repair plus video rental?) But then how did she get that number, and how did she know Clara needed it?

  3. It was one of the Doctor's previous companions who has gotten out of the Universe Saving business and into something more mundane. But then, how did this companion know that Clara needed the Doctor?

Like I said, maybe I've missed something. Either way, I'd like to know.

EDIT: I am mostly interested to know

  1. Is there an official canon answer to this question?
  2. If not, is there anything from the other episodes in the season that I've missed that might point toward an answer?
  3. Lacking both of those, is there anything that has been said by Moffat & Co. at conventions or in interviews that might hint toward an answer?
  • The woman at the shop could also have been Clara - perhaps so heavily aged she didn't recognise herself. As the impossible girl, Clara is scattered throughout time 'nudging' events in the Doctor's favour and saving his life. As ensuring that Clara and the Doctor meet is probably the most fundamentally important event underpinning all of that, it is reasonable to assume that she would ensure that happens.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 8:44

5 Answers 5


When this first happened there were any number of possibilities, from interference by the Great Intelligence, to the Doctor and Clara just popping back to the previous week and telling the shopkeep what to say, to some other character doing it for whatever reason.

It was a mystery, and the Doctor's adventures are full of mysteries. Sometimes they're important and sometimes they're not.

Until Series 8 this one hadn't put up any particular red flags, but then hints started being liberally dropped.

It's been suggested that the Series 8 arc villain "Missy" had something to do with it. And in the series final, she confirms it herself. Of course, Missy's bananas and a liar. So anyone can still pop up and take credit for it also.

  • 8
    Side note: the phone on the outside of the TARDIS is often said to not actually be functioning, and only some unusual external force can make it ring at all (as in The Empty Child), so by that whatever number Clara dialed shouldn't have reached him in that manner no matter HOW she got it. How this reconciles with the many times the phone's been rung up casually (as Churchill does in Victory of the Daleks) I leave as an exercise for the viewer. "Doctor Who" has never been especially attached to quibbly canon detail when it gets in the way of a good bit.
    – BESW
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 16:32
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    perhaps I'm misremembering, but doesn't Churchill call the console phone, rather than the phone attached to the door? Which, as far as I remember, generally has been known to function correctly as a phone.
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 17:05
  • @alexwlchan Mm, I think you're right. The point stands, though.
    – BESW
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 17:06
  • 1
    @alexwlchan You're right, he does, but ever since the TARDIS redesign, whenever someone phones her, her outside phone rings, the Doctor himself calls it ridiculous that he has to go there to pick up and asks Handles to remind him to fix that in "The Time of the Doctor". And "The Moff" sometimes plays a really very long long game, so maybe the shopkeeper might just be coming up in the future... or not.
    – BMWurm
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 21:56
  • 4
    Just as an update, this same question was mentioned in the series 8 opener, and apparently will be part of the story arc. My money is in the weird lady we saw at the end.
    – tilley31
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 20:57

This Answer was pretty much correct from the beginning with it's assumption and has been confirmed officially in Death in Heaven. It was in fact Missy who gave Clara the number to the TARDIS (and it was her who put the add in the Newspaper back in Victorian London).

But then how did she know the number? by only looking at TV episodes (as i don't have any comics/sound dramas) and only the episodes from Post War Doctor (because i havn't been able to see older episodes), because Missy is The Master one can assume that The Master got/remembered the number to the TARDIS from back when he/she was Harold Saxon and stole it at the end of Utopia since we know that The Doctor has kept the same TARDIS since Post War Doctor


Nothing is really specific as to who it is, but I suspect it would be one of the Claras scattered around saving the Doctor. Or maybe, since River Song knows about Clara, maybe it’s her. There are a wide range of possibilities but these are only two... Hoped this helped you figure it out!


Or perhaps it was Ace?

For those that might not know, Ace was the last companion to be on the classic show, not including comics or the TV movie, she ran with the Seventh Doctor, and in the comics, it was said that:


That she went to the Academy on Gallifrey to train to be a Timelord, which if you're on Gallifrey, it should be easy to track down a Tardis, especially if this Tardis was in a Museum, stolen, and is being used by possibly one of the most famous Timelords, it should be rather easy to find the number. Also, she was, to my knowledge, evacuated and brought back to Earth, before the Time War ended, she was hinted at being alive in a Sarah Jane Adventures episode, so maybe it's Ace!


Maybe it is not a coincidence that Rose Tyler was a shop girl. When she absorbed the time vortex to save the doctor, she could see and apparently affect all time and space, leaving messages for herself. Maybe Bad Wolf placed other safeguards in place to continue saving the Doctor, and made sure that Clara would get a "message" that would lead the Doctor to her since she ultimately saves him again and again.

  • Hello and welcome to SFSE! Unfortunately this seems to be predominately speculation rather than a canonical answer. If you could provide evidence for this, that would be excellent. Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 8:29

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