Doctor Who - "Time Heist" (Season 8, Episode 5) Recap/Analysis | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Doctor Who - “Time Heist” (Season 8, Episode 5) Recap/Analysis

BBC America, Saturdays 9/8 Central

Sep 22, 2014 Doctor Who
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[Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the latest episode of Doctor Who, then read no further.]

One of the remarkable things about a series like Doctor Who is the potential for versatility in storytelling. It explains the show’s enduring appeal, that every week can bring a new adventure in any setting imaginable, on any world, past present or future. Yet for some reason, the last year or two have been uncharacteristically underwhelming. Now, five episodes into the new season, and the adventures are exciting again, and in this week’s case, considerably more creative.

“Time Heist” takes a very simple concepta bank heistgives it a uniquely Whovian twist, and turns a tired old idea into an engaging and fun hour of television. Moffat set himself up for quite a challenge with last week’s game changing “Listen,” but “Time Heist” is a perfectly executed follow-up.

The Doctor and Clara have their memories erased in order to rob the most heavily guarded bank in the universe. The security is an enslaved alien, the Teller, that feasts on thoughts, and leaves its victims with a crushed skull and their minds left as “soup.” There is mystery laid upon mystery here, for instance, who exactly is The Architect that hired them to rob the bank? Who are their two teammates, and what do they want from the bank? Who are they stealing from, and most importantly, what are they there to steal?

What is least surprising is that each question has its own twist revelation. Of course, The Architect was The Doctor himself, hence the mind erasing. And the loot isn’t loot at all, but a rescue. The owner of the bank has sent The Doctor back in time to set the Teller free.

There we have it, a perfectly constructed action story featuring our new Doctor. Only, we can hardly call him new anymore. “Time Heist” signals the end of the honeymoon for the Twelfth Doctor, as his aloof stubbornness turns from shockingly refreshing to frustrating. Heist companion Psi sums it up when he asks Clara when she will stop making excuses for him. Clara recognizes the truth in the jab, but the episode leaves it to be dealt with later on (hopefully).

The self-contained storytelling in this episode is its weakness, as character developments are brought up only to be discarded. “Time Heist” is a plot-driven action story that works very well on its own, but misses out on opportunities to reflect on some relevant aspects of The Doctor’s current state, which, as he clearly illustrates here, is a megalomaniacal self-hatred. But that fact is only used as another plot device. When these pieces are stacked up against each other, The Doctor looks like he is either on the brink of a therapeutic breakthrough, or a nervous breakdown. Nothing happens, though, and The Doctor is left with nothing more than a diagnosis of “professional detachment.”

That’s all fine, really. This episode was all about The Doctor in action, and delivering another timey-wimey space caper that only Doctor Who can pull off. Like the more introspective “Listen” last week, it reached its desired goal gracefully, and with last week’s high mark leveled out a new consistency for quality. “Listen” cemented Capaldi’s legitimacy in the Doctor’s legacy, but “Time Heist” proves the series can keep up with the new direction he’s heading. (

Next week on Doctor Who:

Author rating: 7.5/10

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