Doctor Who 'Time Heist' [TV-EPISODE REVIEW]

Steve Thompson has been my least favorite writer in both Series 6 and Series 7, in fact his output in series 6 ('The Curse of the Black Spot') is one of the worst episodes of the new series so naturally I was not particularly excited to see him return yet again for Series 8. I gave him the benefit of the doubt with 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' but after that one failed - I went into 'Time Heist' expecting only the worst. What did I get? Time to find out.

'Time Heist' is most definitely Steve Thompson's best script so far. In fact... this episode is pretty damn great. No it does not compare to 'Listen' and it does not have a lot of philosophical or deep meanings behind it - but for what it set out to do, it succeeded in spades. I do not think you understand how pleasantly surprised I was by this episode and I do not think I will be able to explain it with words. Thinking Steve Thompson would be writing an episode about a bank heist just sounded like a recipe for incredibly convoluted and stupid moments for the plot to work. Now I know this episode is co-written by Steven Moffat so I am more inclined in believing he is the main reason why this episode works when taking into account just how poor Thompson's earlier output was. It is actually kind of funny that he is not coming back for Series 9 - just as he started getting good. But anyways time to actually talk about the episode.

Douglas Mackinnon returns as the director here after knocking it out of several parks last episode with 'Listen' and here he seamlessly imitates a kind of 'Ocean's Eleven' aesthetic which fits like a glove and also makes the episode stand out from the rest. The episode looks fantastic, I love the camera angles, I love the composition of each shot. 'Doctor Who' has become one of the most gorgeous shows on Television now despite the low budget for such a huge series. The tension is excellent (which of course is a given considering how phenomenal it was last episode), it cannot be understated just how much Mackinnon understands how to get the audience engaged in what is happening.

The screenplay is quite solid, there are some really clever moments in the episode that have been missing in other Thompson scripts. It is like he actually put some thought into the story to make it work. Yes there are still some major conveniences that I expected right after I found out the premise for the episode (I guess having human sized vents around the place really supports the idea of Karabraxos being the most secure bank in the universe) but they are never distracting you from enjoying the episode and one of the main reasons why this episode is so enjoyable is of course the cast - and no The Doctor and Clara are not the only heroes here, joining them in their bank heist is Saibra and Psi who are both surprisingly good and well developed characters. I mentioned in my review of 'Robot of Sherwood' that the supporting cast this season are for the most part really good and memorable and these two are no exception. The one downfall with Saibra is that she goes through the exact same complications of not being able to touch people like Rouge in 'X-Men' and the similarities are so blatant that it took me out of the episode. We also needed more of that in the episode because when all is resolved - it did not feel like "oh I am so happy for her that she has finally overcome this problem". Nevertheless, Saibra and Psi are great characters and I really hope we have not seen the last of them.

The weakest part of the episode however has to be the solar storm. "The what?" could be a logical question after that sentence because when all is said and done it really does not make a huge impact - but it is such a vital part of the episode which is why it shocked me that they never even established it. Basically, a solar storm is looming over the planet and it momentarily weakens the security so they can ultimately break in. It would have been fine - except that they never mentioned it in the episode until that very moment. It was like Steve Thompson thought to himself "well they cannot just break in THAT easily, something else must happen that also ties in with this being a "Time" heist..." and then did not bother adding in a line earlier to establish it.

'Time Heist' introduces a new creature into the world of 'Doctor Who' called The Teller and frankly... this is a magnificent creation. Major props has to be given to the visual effects department because this creature looks so outstanding and to know that it is all practical (the picture you are seeing next to this text is an actual man in a suit) just shows the love and care being put into every second of this show. The idea of a creature that can detect guilt is also a really good idea but also one that could be abused so it is good to see the script realized this and mentioned that it is the last of its kind (or the last two). The only problem with this concept is that its clear Mackinnon was struggling a bit because it is not particularly easy to show a character trying to clear his/her mind and pretty much just not think at all. With something like "do not blink" we can clearly see the torment on the character's face as he/she is trying to keep his/her eyes open. The same also goes for what we got in 'Deep Breath' earlier this season when Clara was being forced to not breath (basically all we can do by now is LISTEN and count the shadows).

Overall 'Time Heist' is another really solid entry in this new Peter Capaldi era. It is not one of the main highlights of the season but it takes everything it set out to do and just runs with it and accomplishes everything with ease. It does not try to be more than it is and it does not try to be clever for the sake of being clever. It is The Doctor and Clara getting involved in a bank heist and knowing the good ideas Steve Thompson has messed up before ('Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS'), this could have been so much worse. Douglas Mackinnon has one more episode he directed this season ('Flatline') so when I reach that I might actually talk a bit about his input as a whole because he has really shown himself to be quite a remarkable director for 'Doctor Who' this season.


- Lucas


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