If there’s anyway to describe the first few episodes of Peter Capaldi’s run at the helm of the TARDIS, it might be that he’s getting a lot of the standard Doctor Who adventures out of the way. There’s the Dalek adventure. He’s done the adventure with a historical figure. There’s the horror episode. This week, it was timey-wimey genre bending.
The Doctor and Clara were tasked with robbing the most secure bank in the universe. However, this wasn’t the standard bank robbery caper. Of course not. This is Doctor Who.
If there’s one important takeaway from this episode, it’s that you don’t have to deus ex machina your way through an episode. If all the set pieces are explained clearly and they make sense in the context of the plot and the overall lore of the series, it makes for a well written plot. Nobody like a plot where, say, the Heart of the TARDIS can kill all the Daleks because Rose wills it to happen.
In Time Heist, every little wrinkle has an important meaning later in the episode. Why where their memories wiped? To protect them from The Teller who would be able to smell the intention to knock off the bank on them. Why did they need a shapeshifter? To get into the bank. Why couldn’t they use the TARDIS? Solar storm. Simple little plot points like that take a little time to write but are very important to viewers and fans. Don’t insult them with deus ex machina. Give them a smart and logical episode and they’ll love you for it.
As the title of the episode implied, time travel would play a part in the heist. When The Doctor gave Miss Delphox the TARDIS’s phone number at the end of the episode, the idea that this was all a setup orchestrated, in part, by Delphox and The Doctor was clear. Granted, a lack of nefarious motives was almost always a given.
The ending solution of a memory block being removed by a creature who eats memories was clever and tied back to all the build of the episode using logic. A creature that eats all of your memories can reach beyond the memory block and show it back to you because it’s telepathic. It works so well building to the true reason for the heist which turns The Teller into a little old softie. For an ugly bad guy, he sure has a heart of gold.
And The Teller certainly had a great look. It was like something right out of Star Wars but with the practical effects that we’ve come to expect from Doctor Who or Star Trek. Sure, the telepathy effect was a little cheesy but I always say that you should show rather than tell. Show brains being melted rather than show a screaming man and say his brain’s being melted.
For the first time this season, Clara’s presence was entirely tangential to the plot. Actually, even saying that might be giving her credit. If it wasn’t for being the target of The Teller a couple of times, she could have taken this week off and no one would have missed her. I won’t say that she added nothing to the episode but it was nice for Clara not to be the most important person in the Who-verse for a week.
Overall, I enjoyed this episode. It was a nice light piece of entertainment. Sure, there wasn’t a lot of character development but Doctor Who doesn’t have to be the super serious morality episodes like Into The Dalek or horror episodes like Listen. Robot of Sherwood was a fun episode and it wasn’t serious at all. It was a quick little comedic affair. Time Heist might be a bit of comedy and a bit of drama but it works well if you want to shut down and just watch TV for an hour.
However, that makes it three weeks in a row where we don’t have an appearance from Missy in what is apparently heaven. While it’s nice that we get little departures every now and then, we’re at risk of completely missing the plot. Cracks in time felt like the showed up too often but it feels like heaven isn’t being mentioned often enough. After two episodes, it felt like those scenes were going somewhere. After three weeks without, it’ll be a surprise when heaven comes back again.
Other random points of note:
- Nine had “Fantastic.” Ten led every adventure with “Allons-y.” Eleven dove head-first into action with a “Geronimo.” And Twelve wants you to “Shut up.” One of those catchphrases is not like the others and I absolutely love it for that.
- And a lovely shout out to Malcolm Tucker with the “shuttity up.” It’s no “f***ity bye” but it’ll do for a kids show.
Next week, The Doctor gets a job. The Doctor takes up his mop and becomes The Caretaker at Coal Hill School which means that Clara’s TARDIS life and her Earth life collide. Of course, The Doctor isn’t just popping in on Clara to see what she’s up to. There’s danger afoot and only The Doctor can save the day.