[alert-announce]Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars. A somewhat predictable, but not unwatchable, episode, Time Heist could really have done with a bit more stolen time.[/alert-announce]
The Doctor and Clara rob a bank! At least, that’s what we were told to expect from the trailer.
Last week’s Listen had me cowering under my blanket (hopefully alone) for a while, very much like what I expected from the preview, but anyone hoping for a Doctor Who x Hustle mash-up would have been somewhat disappointed with this week’s Time Heist.
It starts with Clara (Jenna Coleman) about to head off on a date with not-that-guy Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), when the TARDIS’ phone rings. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) insists on picking up the phone, and suddenly, the duo find themselves in a room with two other people, their memories wiped through the use of memory worms.
The Doctor, Clara, augmented-human hacker/gamer Psi (Jonathan Bailey) and mutant-human Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner) have been tasked by the mysterious architect to rob the Bank of Karabraxos, the most secure bank in the universe. Psi can interface with any computer system and download loads of information, while Saibra can mimic any organic creature she touches. All have agreed to participate in the heist because of something of value to them in the vaults, but can’t remember because they memories have been wiped.
The group has to go against the bank’s multiple security levels, including a defence system that can detect guilty thoughts and turn brains into… soup.
That defence is the Teller, an alien which is said to be the last of its kind, deployed by the Head of Secuirty, Miss Delphox (Keeley Hawes, the voice of Lara Croft for the gamers out there). The Doctor and his crew witness the Teller’s powers on a customer with such “guilty thoughts”, but are not detected as they make their way through the insides of the bank.
They find briefcases placed for them by the Architect which contain information and items for their use, including an “atomic disintegrator” meant to be a suicide device in case they’re caught by the Teller (I suppose becoming soup isn’t ideal). Saibra has to use the device when they enter the Teller’s chamber. Psi also uses it when he saves Clara from the Teller by downloading loads of guilty thoughts into him (see if you spot some familiar faces).
The Doctor and Clara find the items Psi and Saibra had come for – a device to restore memories for Psi, and a solution to Saibra’s mutant woes (JLaw would disagree here). They’re unfortunately captured by the bank security, and Miss Delphox orders them to be disposed of… but it turns out their guards are actually Psi and Saibra in disguise. The “atomic disintegrator” was a teleportation device, and sent them up to a ship in orbit where a blue box was also waiting for them.
The reunited four break into the Private Vault, where the item Clara and the Doctor had agreed to perform the heist for waited. Turns out Miss Delphox is a clone of the bank’s real owner, Madame Karabraxos, who immediately fires her and orders her to be incinerated. This ties in to what Saibra had said earlier about a person not being able to tolerate their own image – and the Doctor realises why he’s had this dislike for the Architect throughout the whole episode.
The Teller arrives in the private vault as Madame Karabraxos escapes from an oncoming solar flare, but not before the Doctor writes down his phone number and asks her to call him if she has any regrets. As the Teller’s soup-inducing scan restores the Doctor’s memories, we find out that Karabraxos did, indeed, on her death bed, have one – and it’s for that reason the Doctor and gang are in the bank, to rescue the Teller’s mate, whom Karabraxos had imprisoned, and in turn the whole species.
The group returns to the ship and the Doctor brings the Teller and his mate to a planet where they can live out their days and repopulate, has a little party with the rest of his gang, then drops them off one by one, with Clara arriving just on time for her date.
I have to get this off my chest: the Architect’s identity and the rescue of the Teller seemed pretty obvious midway through the episode. I mean, time traveller mastermind and last of its kind in chains seems pretty much up the Doctor’s alley.
It’s a nice change to see the Doctor taking charge of things once again, ordering Psi and Saibra around at the start and taking on the role of a leader. Clara was pretty much relegated to a passenger in this episode, needing the Doctor and Psi to save her from the Teller… which leads me to conclude that dating Danny Pink is bad for her. Ditch him, Clara, ditch him for your own good!
One scene I found interesting was Capaldi’s Doctor admitting to hating his own guts. The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and his meta-crisis clone didn’t exactly disagree on much, except the annihilation of the Daleks, of course, while the Eleventh (Matt Smith) and his Flesh clone got along pretty well if you asked me.
Perhaps that’s intentional on the part of the writers, trying yet again to placate an audience which may not have settled with Capaldi’s Doctor just yet. Of course, the Tenth and the Eleventh also had that little adventure together with the War Doctor (John Hurt).
Time Heist was fairly predictable, but not terrible. It’s one of those episodes you watch and don’t feel adverse to, but don’t remember much of afterwards. Perhaps they’ll bring back Psi and Saibra later on in the series for some massive Season 8 get-together. Psi’s intentional memory deletion brings back shades of the Doctor having to erase Donna’s (Catherine Tate) memories at the end of Season 4, and both Bailey’s and Bennett-Warner’s performance as Saibra deserved a bit more depth.
The idea of weaving the end to the beginning is basically what Steven Moffat has been doing with all his Doctor Who seasons, and while they work (in my opinion) fairly well over the course of an entire series, cramming it into a 45-minute window makes it suffer.
Time Heist would’ve done well to have stolen more time to explore the ideas and lay the groundwork for the finale (such as the whole greed is bad idea, being the last of a species etc, the value of memories, being alone); instead it feels rushed into a conclusion because of time constraints. Perhaps it might have worked better as a two-parter, or even a 90-minute special.
What did you think of the Doctor Who episode Time Heist? Let us know in the comments below!