Disclaimer: In 2013 I reviewed the second half of Series 7 for The Hairy Housewife and fully intended to do the same for Series 8 last year. Unfortunately, it proved impossible. Life and work and caring responsibilities called and at my lowest point, I was about five episodes behind everyone else. After speaking recently with Gemma, she thought it would be cool for me to do a re-tread of Series 8 to tide blog readers over until Series 9 airs. So that’s what’s happening. Every week I’ll re-watch and review an episode for this blog. Feel free to join me! Oh, and there will be spoilers.
I was so excited for this episode the first time round because KEELEY HAWES Y’ALL. Ahem. Anyway, who knew that an episode penned by Stephen Thompson (he who also wrote orientalist Sherlock episode and the abysmal The Curse of the Black Spot) could be such rollicking fun and still smart at the same time? This episode is what happens when Oceans Eleven meets Doctor Who and the story could have worked as part of the Series 7 run, when each week caricatured a new genre. Time Heist sees The Doctor and Clara positioned alongside two other strangers to rob the most secure bank in the galaxy. Only problem is, neither of them can remember why they agreed to rob the bank or who the mysterious Architect is who directs them on their mission.
Companions who never are?
Luckily, beyond the opening credits, this stand alone episode really kicks off as we meet Psy (zomg Ollie from Broadchurch) and Saibra (The Doctor and Clara’s partners in crime) as well as see the impenetrable bank, with a set and costumes reminiscent of The Hunger Games (yay for high production values!) Both Psy and Saibra are interesting would be companions, adding to the long list found in Series 8 as a whole. Psy can delete memories and did so in prison to protect his loved ones. Saibra can shape change. Both die in blazes of glory with Saibra telling The Doctor, ‘You’re a good man. I left it rather late to meet one of those.’ Psy goes out the tragic hero.
But this is a Moffat overseen episode, which means people don’t stay dead and everybody lives if The Doctor comes to call. Though some may have found this a bit of a cop-out, I enjoyed the scene in the TARDIS at the end as Clara, The Doctor, Saibra and Psy enjoyed some TARDIS take-out. One of the (many) things I like better about Moffat’s run, is that we see The TARDIS as both a home and a friend.
The Clara/Danny/Doctor relationship
The second time watching, the episode opener with Clara and Danny tackling their second date moved me much more than it initially did, even if Danny’s acting is still slightly off and The Doctor’s continued criticism of Clara’s appearance continues to irk. More interesting than The Doctor’s insistence on insulting Clara’s appearance, was Psy’s conversation with Clara where he says that The Doctor calls himself The Doctor because he goes in for professional detachment with Clara transparent about travelling with him for so long because she has learnt to keep making excuses.
This episode is predominantly fun filler with a tough edge, but we do learn more about Twelve. We learn that this Doctor sees him being in charge as ‘his special power’ and that his idea of a plan is to say what the heck and hope ‘that a thing happens’ (How very Eleven of you, Twelve). Finally, he reminds Karabraxos and the audience that he has been around a long time and is still wearing in a new face as he says of his regeneration, ‘I was hoping for minimalism, but I think I came out with magician.’
Keeley’s entrance as Ms Delphox didn’t disappoint, even if she did continue the trend of female villains on Doctor Who being tall, angular and wearers of bright red lippie. Ms Delphox is an interesting character: a creepily seductive villainess, who nonetheless becomes sympathetic towards the end of the episode when you realize that she is only doing her job. Though The Teller’s detection of another man’s guilt is horrifying as his brain is turned to soup, we can see both sides to the story. Ms Delphox is cruel to people with criminal intent, but she is protecting the bank’s reputation and security rating at the same time. The message is clear. If you obey the rules at the bank, there will be no moral or physical consequence. Alas for The Doctor and his companions…
Keeley had a challenging part: having to play both the clone, Ms Delphox, as well as the real puppeteer behind the bank, Karabraxos, a bitter, rich woman who doesn’t care about people unless they get her more tangible things to add to her wealthy collection. We see this in her private room, a den of antiquity and collector’s items complete with classical music playing in the background. Keeley is a revelation, playing both parts with ease and still bringing a dash of humor to the role.
Karabraxos doesn’t understand The Doctor and his companions at all. ‘What is this display, as amusing as you are?’ she says in response to The Doctor weaponless. At last he realizes his own clever deception for the woman who called The TARDIS was Karabraxos herself, old and infirm and choked up on regrets. He tells her humorously, ‘I thought we were getting on,’ as he gives the young and surprised Karabraxos his number, followed by ‘You’ll be old and full of regret for the things you can’t change.’ Helping an awful woman undo regrets and rescue an ancient species – is this not the summation and the essence of The Doctor? I like to think so.
Time Heist: 9/10 inky stars