Sunday, 21 September 2014

DOCTOR WHO, 8.5 – 'Time Heist' • the bank job

Sunday, 21 September 2014

THE DOCTOR: It's just a phone, Clara. Nothing happens when you answer the phone.
The prospect of a DOCTOR WHO episode about The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) breaking into the galaxy's most impenetrable bank, was considerably juicy. The title "Time Heist" also provoked ideas of a mind-bending, uniquely sci-fi take on the bank heist sub-genre. A little disappointingly, the title was slightly misleading and the ambitions of this hour were more grounded and formulaic, but it still contained excellent moments and captured the feel of an intergalactic Ocean's Eleven at times. Clara even wore a suit and skinny tie, as a loose echo to the Frank Sinatra-starring original?

What helped keep this episode engaging was how it had a big mystery laid over the top. After answering a call on his TARDIS external phone (which few people know the number to), The Doctor and Clara found themselves sat around a table from augmented-human Psi (Jonathan Bailey) and shapeshifter Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner), their memories erased by disgusting worms, and thus willing but clueless participants in a bank job.

As befits the genre, this robbery wasn't going to be easy, with the main obstacle being a large creature called The Teller (Ross Mullan); an alien with eyes on stalks, kept inside a straightjacket, that wanders the bank telepathically detecting would-be criminals with tell-tale guilty thoughts. It then proceeds to turn their brains to mush (resulting in a pretty disgusting visual of the guilty gaining concave craniums). The Teller reminded me of the Minotaur from Greek legend, actually—particularly when the latter half of the episode saw The Doctor and his gang running around a maze of wide corridors, evading the beast.

When you removed the twist of everyone having their memories erased beforehand, "Time Heist" was certainly a less enthralling episode. Once the explanation was revealed for why The Doctor agreed to break into the facility, there was the faint whiff of disappointment—not helped by a twist about the fate of two people, who clearly died. I still don't quite understand how they cheated death, and managed to trick even The Doctor.

It was also a little unfortunate the villain of the piece was yet another archetypal 'evil businesswoman', called Ms Delphox (Keeley Hawes). Second only to aliens that like to wear expressionless masks or helmets, is Doctor Who's obsession with wicked women who wear suits. Delphox joins the likes of series 6's Madame Kovarian (the eye path wearing baby-stealer), series 7's Miss Kizlet (the technology manager hacking human minds), and series 4's Ms Foster (the diet guru who created those chubby Adipose aliens).

However, minor quibbles aside, "Time Heist" was very enjoyable despite reminding me of "Into the Dalek" from mere weeks before—in the sense it was another adventure where The Doctor took charge of a motley crew, wandering around a hostile alien environment. The show needs good standalone episodes like this, and I'm pleased to see that Series 8 is almost halfway through its run and there hasn't really been a complete stinker.

Capaldi's really settling into his childhood dream role role, too. Anyone else have flashbacks of Peter Cushing's similarly gangly Doctor in the non-canonical 1960s films, by the way? Maybe it's more of a physical similarity, but I'm always reminded of Cushing whenever I see the way Capaldi moves.


  • Flashbacks to Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It when Peter Capaldi had to deliver that "shuttipy up up up!" line.
  • Very amusing scene for fans, with The Doctor admitting his predecessor's bow tie was "embarrassing", while also revealing second thoughts about his own attire. "I was going for minimalist but I think I came out with magician".
  • There are still people who criticise the quality of Doctor Who's special effects (mostly whenever they spot a bad greenscreen composite), but few take the time to mention when it outdoes Hollywood. I loved The Teller creature, from the Millennium FX crew. I actually thought it had a CGI face at times, but I think it was just amazing animatronics. Fantastic work.
  • No mytharc bread crumbs or easter eggs this week. It's actually been a fair while since Missy last appeared, so hope they get back to that soon.
  • It bears repeating that Clara's been wonderful this series. I just love how she feels more like a genuine person, going about her own life, which keeps getting interrupted by The Doctor materialising. They also keep dropping little moments that make it very clear The Doctor doesn't see her in a sexual or romantic way, in the slightest, which is so refreshing. He can't even understand why she's wearing blusher ("why's your face all coloured in?") and high heels before her second date with Danny Pink!
written by Steve Thompson & Steven Moffat • directed by Douglas Mackinnon • 20 September 2014 • BBC1

Next time...