Time Heist starts off normal…well, for Doctor Who. The Doctor and Clara share an awkward moment as he begs Clara to go on a play date while she’s busy getting ready for a real date with Danny Pink. But when the phone on the TARDIS starts wringing the Doctor’s curiosity on who could possibly be calling lands the two in a bizarre situation. They ‘wake up’ to find themselves in the midst of a rather strange caper involving the need to break into the galaxy’s most secure bank!
This episode drives home its central theme’s of introspection and questioning oneself early on when the Doctor, Clara, and their two new companions are memory-wiped. They spend the rest of the episode on an existential ride trying to discover who they are while trying to break into the galaxy’s most secure bank for the super rich! Yeah…
They find themselves taking orders from the mysterious organizer of this break in. Tasked with robbing the bank in order to survive, the team sets off uncertain with what lies ahead. Uncertainty play a huge role in Time Heist. The Doctor is rarely in a situation he feels so utterly out of control in, and in Time Heist we see a frantic Doctor uncertain of who he is supposed to be, and how to deal with his situation.
The two companions for the episode are taken directly out of Doctor Who’s Classic Era. An absurdly adorned cyber-punk hacker, and a shape-changing doppelganger… Awesome! This isn’t the episode’s only commonality with Classic Who. The episode’s plot feels like something right out of a 4th or 7th Doctor story. Come on, you can see it!
The main ‘villains’ for this episode are especially interesting. One is yet another Moffat-esqu female antagonist clad unsurprisingly in business attire, complete with intensely manicured hair. The other a dangerous alien prisoner, enslaved by the Bank as a perfect security measure. The alien monster turns out to be a powerful psychic with twist none too difficult to guess. The villains here don’t standout too brightly, but do help tell a surprisingly entertaining story despite a general sense of aimless meandering that drives this episode.
As is becoming typical of Season 8, there comes a time when several characters are faced with their inevitable demise, and whether they acknowledged it or not. In these moments the Doctor must face the reality that he cannot save everyone, and we see how the Twelfth Doctor reacts to a classic Doctor dilemma. For a Doctor that has become much more harsh, antagonistic, and devoid of social graces, he handles these moments with a lukewarm directness. He doesn’t hesitate to tell it like it is, but he still, somewhere, hates the inevitability of it. It’s a recurring trait that Peter Capaldi conveys very well. The sense of an old mask that was once so convincing now showing its wear after all the years of maintenance, and someone who has lost the desire or ability to bother hiding it anymore.
With satisfying twists aplenty by the end, and a cast of one-off characters that don’t feel over-exaggerated, Time Heist at least allowed Peter Capaldi to prove he can handle an episode that wasn’t quite up to snuff. I think he continues to make the role his own by never quite letting us be sure what he’s going to say or do. It’s a pleasant uneasiness that makes even a mediocre episode like Time Heist fun to watch. And in the end the Doctor still gets to dazzle those around him and make things right in the end.
This week’s episode didn’t have a great story, even thought it almost directly rips off The God Complex, which I think is excellent. Time Heist is an episode that ends up being a bit too on the nose thematically. It unnecessarily reinforced traits in the Doctor and Clara that were already developing nicely. But it’s by no means a terrible mess. At worst it’s forgettable. It is quite a fun episode to watch, thought, with another similarity to Classic Who. It’s an episode that maybe could have been great, probably wouldn’t be memorable, but is still a fun mediocre episode of a show that otherwise had four weeks of surprisingly good episodes.
image source: [doctorwhotv]