TV REVIEW: Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 5: Time Heist

promoThis review contains spoilers.

 

Synopsis

The Doctor and Clara are involved in a plot to rob the Bank of Karabraxos, the most impregnable bank in the universe.

 

Plot

The Doctor tries to convince Clara to come sightseeing with him but she’s off for a date with Danny Pink. They’re into their second month of dating and obviously everything’s going well. Clara hasn’t yet freaked about knowing that she may have met her future descendant.

Before Clara can leave for her date, the TARDIS phone rings. Only a few people have that number, one of them being the mystery ‘woman in the shop’. Despite Clara’s protests, the Doctor answers the phone. The next thing we know, they’re waking up in some random room, seated around a table that looks ready to house a shady poker game.

Two others are in the room with them: Saibra, a mutant human who can take on the shape of anyone she touches, and Psi, an augmented human hacker who once erased all memories of his loved ones in an attempt to avoid implicating them in his criminal activities. The Doctor, Clara, and Saibra have all had their memories wiped with memory worms. Psi’s memory has been wiped manually with his robotic gadgets.

A briefcase on the table transmits a recording back to them, where they all agreed to submit to memory wipes of their own free will. The briefcase then opens to reveal a video message from someone calling himself the Architect. He wants them to rob the Bank of Karabraxos, the most impregnable bank in the universe. As it turns out, they’re already in the bank. And the security guards are after them. They take whatever tools have been left for them by the Architect and flee.

Orange is the new black. Hammerhead shark alien is the new sniffer dog.

Orange is the new black. Hammerhead shark alien is the new sniffer dog.

This isn’t a regular Ocean’s Eleven heist; they don’t just get shuffled off to prison if they’re caught. The Bank of Karabraxos seems to be holding hostage an alien being called the Teller (said to be the last of its kind), which has the ability to sense guilt and turn the brains of guilty parties into ‘soup’ with its psychic abilities. Luckily they get a demonstration of the Teller’s powers because some other dude is planning to pull one over on the bank.

Take your crime elsewhere, people. I have work to do.

Take your crime elsewhere, people. I have work to do.

Ms Delphox, the bank manager, is a bit creepy and very intent on catching the intruders. But there’s no way I can convince myself to dislike her or even consider her to be a villain: she mentions early on that if she fails at her job, she will be ‘fired with pain’. How can you vilify someone in that situation?

As the bank robbers begin to understand and implement the Architect’s plan, they wonder why they would have agreed to something so dangerous. The Doctor believes it’s because the bank contains something that each person wants more than anything in the universe.

I really do wish that Saibra's fierce make-up got transferred to whoever she was impersonating.

I really do wish that Saibra’s fierce make-up got transferred to whoever she was impersonating.

Psi is after an injection to replace the memories of his loved ones that he deleted. Saibra is after a gene represser which will mean that she can touch someone without becoming them. When the Doctor wonders why that’s a problem, Saibra tells him it’s difficult to love and trust someone who looks back at you with your own eyes. For the Doctor, who has on many occasions said that he hates himself and is still trying to figure out whether he’s a good man and whether he likes his new face, this strikes a chord.

And what are the Doctor and Clara after? What do they want more than anything in the universe? I assume that Clara is tagging along to get the Doctor what he wants. And what the Doctor wants must be Gallifrey, right? Or information about Gallifrey? Something about Gallifrey, at least.

Despite the fact that everyone is after the thing they want most in the universe, I feel like the episode lacks any true sense of urgency or desperation. Yes, they want to avoid being caught by the Teller but no one is so willing to get their prize that they won’t sacrifice themselves for someone else.

When Clara is caught by the Teller, Psi offers himself instead on the basis that Clara still has people who love her—people that she remembers, anyway. But if you know that you have a shot at getting all of those precious memories back, what difference does it make?

Yeah, I’m advocating for characters to backstab each other out of desperation. Maybe that’s a bit shitty but why else would these people be here? I’m assuming that they consented to the memory wipe and decided to join a life-threatening bank heist because they were desperate enough to get their rewards.

In the end, it turns out that this is all a weird time loop thing. At the completion of the plan, the Doctor finally realises how all this came into being: he is the Architect. He sets everything in motion for the plan to take place in the future/past/whenever this time loop makes sense. So maybe the Doctor assured Saibra and Psi in advance that they would get what they want. Honestly, I can’t tell.

Bad luck if you two were expecting a whole planet to be in that vault.

And the Doctor isn’t getting any information about Gallifrey out of this. He’s helping to save the Teller’s species (whatever that is) because a female Teller thingie is being held captive in the vault of the Bank of Karabraxos. I mean, it’s lovely. He’s saved a species. Or he’s at least made sure that the last two of their kind don’t have to die alone.

There is no mention of Gallifrey from either the Doctor or Clara. Neither of them express any mild disappointment that the thing they want most in the universe isn’t waiting for them, even though Saibra and Psi both get exactly what they have been promised.

I was waiting for some kind of comment as the Doctor watches the Teller and his lady friend walk off into the sunset. Even a vague thing like, ‘You know, I really did think for a moment that it might have been …’ and trail off to let the audience make the connection and realise that the Doctor really has missed out on something that could have changed his life.

The Doctor drops everyone off exactly where they need to be and Clara heads off for her date with Danny. The Doctor mutters to himself, ‘Robbing a bank. Robbing a whole bank. Beat that for a date.’ Why? WHY are you competing with a companion’s love interest even in your own head? We just finished with that frigging relationship/not relationship arc and no one needs it brought back, especially when the whole season has cast the Doctor and Clara as great platonic friends. The rest of the episode was hit and miss but this was a definite crappy line to end on.

Last episode had a distinct lack of obvious connection to the overarching season plot. Time Heist does a little better, with the fleeting references to the ‘woman in the shop’, the Doctor’s face, and whether he’s a good man. They may not be more Missy sightings but they are better thematically linked with the previous episodes.

 

Next week

Looks like we’re in for another Clara/Danny-centric episode. Clara says she ‘can’t keep doing this’. Maybe it’s an indication that Danny is going to find out about the Doctor. Or maybe Clara’s time with the Doctor is starting to come to an end and she wants a more normal life.

You know it's true.

You know it’s true.

The Doctor is posing as a caretaker at Coal Hill either because he’s jealous that Clara has other people in her life or because there’s a weird goblin running around a night that looks like one of Sid’s mutant creations from Toy Story.

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