“Time Heist,” was a really fun episode. It gave us the chance to know the Doctor better, introduced a fascinating alien and gave us some great guest stars and characters. The episode itself is the 5th one of Series 8 and was directed by Douglas Mackinnon and written by Steven Moffat and Stephen Thompson (this is Thompson’s best episode so far).
The story involves the architect who convinces The Doctor, Clara, Psi (a hacker) and Saibra (a shapeshifter) to rob the most dangerous bank in the universe, The Bank of Karabraxos. It begins with the four in a room together with the mysterious architect speaking to them from a device as Karabraxos security is trying to reach them. From here the story unfolds as they figure out if they can trust one another and what reason they would rob the most dangerous bank, as their minds have been wiped to protect them from the Teller who senses and feeds of guilt.
Here is the assessment of the episode:
The Pros: The Premise – We’ve never seen the Doctor rob a bank before, in any of his incarnations…so this was something new that gave a great reason to explore the Universe of Doctor who more and his motivations that would drive him to do something this risky and dangerous.
The Bank of Karabraxos – The Bank of Karabraxos was done really well and creatively. From the Teller who hunts and feeds off of guilt and memories, to Ms. Delphin and Madam Karabraxos and all the security agents who are dressed in pretty cool space marine uniforms. It feels like a place that would be difficult to break into, which serves the plot really well.
Psi – Jonathan Baily is fantastic in this role, from his critique of the Doctor to Clara (“I can tell you’ve been traveling with him for some time. You keep making excuses for him”). Who is a hacker and whose motivation is to reclaim the memories he deleted as he’s an augmented human who is part computer (glad we have one of these in “Doctor Who” now). He’s arrogant and selfish at times but cares a lot for Saibra and Clara, and eventually comes around to the Doctor after the reveal of how intricate the Architect’s plans were.
Saibra – Pippa Bennett-Warner plays a character who becomes the thing she touches. She is unable to form connections with people because they always see themselves staring right back at them. She is really good in this role and adds a lot of depth to the role and relates to the Doctor’s detachment from others as that is all she’s known all her life. Saibra is robbing the bank to have something to suppress the mutant gene so she can have the possibility of romantic relationships with others.
Clara – Clara feels like more of a minor character this time around, but we do see that she is pretty selfish as when her life flashes before her eyes when the Teller is hunting her she sees only herself. This is interesting in regards to her relationship and her empathy she has for other characters. She’s very much like the Doctor that way.
Ms. Delphin/Madam Karabraxos – These characters are clones who hate themselves. Karabraxos is the main clone but she’s destroyed herself so many times and is so detached from everyone she’s hurt that she makes a great villain. She is changed later though as her conversation with the Doctor at the end pricks her regret and leads her to make a call on the day the Solar Storm destroys the Bank of Karabraxos…as she wants to atone for one of the greatest wrongs she’s done. Keeley Hawes does a good job in the role.
The Teller – The Teller is a fascinating species, that I hope we see again. It preys off memories and guilt like a Dementor but is also a prisoner to the Bank, and as we learn, serving the bank to protect it’s mate they have trapped in the private vault. This was the reason the architect robbed the bank in the end, to save a species that was the last of it’s kind. It was imprisoning the Tellers that prompts Madam Karabraxos to call the Doctor in her old age and set the story in motion. I hope we see this species again, in a complicated role of antagonist and victim like this episode, antagonist or protagonist. They have a great design and concept.
The Doctor – The Doctor is the architect and we see the reason behind his professional detachment as doing so protected the victim (the Teller) from making them victims and allowed them to save the species and get Saibra and Psi what they wanted more than anything else. The Doctor is the Architect and it ends with us seeing him lay the briefcases that open up the different doors, and how the devices he used and lied about were transporters to get Psi and Saibra out but believing themselves to be dead when they were being assaulted by the Teller. He really is detached in this but the reason he is is driven for the greater good of saving a species and helping the members of his team. The biggest issue I had was his childishness at the end when he’s grumbling to himself, “Robbing a bank, beat that for a date.” Also he makes a great quote about his eyebrows being the reason everybody follows him. They got to make some Capaldi Detachable eyebrows for “Doctor Who” conventions at some point.
Okay: The “Don’t” Moffat Meme – This is a bit overdone and began with “Blink” and “Don’t blink.” This episode had, “Don’t think.” It’s an idea he tends to use a lot and I was kind of hoping for something different, especially after “Listen” used the concept with “Don’t look.” Considering this came right after “Listen” it’s an okay that’s going to be counted against the episode.
Clara’s Reason for Coming – We don’t fully see Clara’s motivation for coming along, she likes to help others, but I get that…but she never put her motivations to words the way the Doctor did at the end when the reason for the heist was revealed.
The Time Loop – The reason behind the heist was okay, I was kind of hoping the Doctor wouldn’t have been the Architect though, the closed loop (see the River Song arc) with the Doctor knowing everything that will happen can kill suspense. It didn’t quite kill suspense this episode, but thinking on it later, I would’ve liked if it was revealed another Time Lord was involved in some way, especially since there was so much we didn’t know about the Bank of Karabraxos.
This was a solidly good episode. It was great in how it did characters, and the reveal wasn’t bad even if I wish Moffat had gotten a little bit more out of his comfort zone. This is the best Thompson episode though he’s done on “Doctor Who.” I recommend this episode for sure and I do hope we see more of The Teller species. Also, Capaldi is owning this role and I really love him as the 12th Doctor.
Final Score: 8.5 / 10