There was something of a familiar plot in this week’s Doctor Who 8×05: Time Heist. Not familiar to any of the previous episodes, but undoubtedly it’s not the first time we see them break into an “impregnable” fortress.
I’m not sure if I was just in a very chill mood this weekend after two parties in a row, but I just decided to enjoy this episode for what it was. And it was really enjoyable.
We start with another date in the life of Clara Oswald. She’s happy and ready to leave as the Doctor appears. She’s waving him away as the phone in the TARDIS rings. Clara protests immediately as the Doctor goes to answer. She knows, and he should know, that the phone never rings casually.
Next thing we know, the Doctor and Clara find themselves sitting at a table with two individuals with very particular skillsets: Psi, a hacker, and Saibra, a shape-shifter. None of the four of them remember how they got there, but apparently they’ve agreed to perpetrate a bank heist masterminded by a shadowy figure that calls himself the Architect. Erasing their recent memories concerning their motives was deemed essential. Notice the memory worms on the table, they’ve appeared in the Doctor’s universe before.
As a matter of fact, I was really perplexed when Miss Delphos appeared on screen. The bank about to be robbed is Karabraxos, a bank that contains the most valuable items in the universe. The head of security is a woman called Miss Delphos, who reminded me by her hairstyle and mannerisms of Missy, the Promised Land greeter. It’s not her. There are no references to the Promised Land on this episode.
The crew of the Doctor, Clara, Psi and Saibra accept their fate and decide to rob the bank. Saibra adopts the appearance of a bank customer to get them in. As they cross the entrance hall, they are witnesses to the bank security taking action against another customer. Miss Delphos brings in the Teller, a creature capable of reading guilty thoughts. The Teller also demonstrates a more sinister skill: it can syphon the brain until it turns to soup. Fate worse than death? Check.
But our intrepid band of thieves is not deterred. Well, they are a little bit when they find out that the Architect’s means of intrusion is through a bomb… of sorts. Anyhow, I don’t want to give every little secret away here but slowly we get to know a little, and just a little, of both Psi and Saibra.
Psi has no past, he’s a cybernetic criminal who erased the memories of everyone he knew when he got caught to protect them. He develops a rapport with Clara, but he’s not overly fond of the Doctor at first. He even makes one of the best insight observations of our esteem Timelord of Gallifrey I’ve heard a while: “Is that why you call yourself The Doctor? Professional detachment?”
Saibra is another convincing three-dimensional character. Her skill to mutate into others has isolated from everyone. Saibra is also good at reading faces. When they run into six small devices left by the Architect, she can immediately tell the Doctor is lying when he states he doesn’t know what they are. He later tells her they are an exit strategy of sorts, implying they’re some sort of suicide device. Saibra has an even cooler line that she tells the Doctor that will be relevant later: “I am alone… Could you trust someone who looked back at you out of your own eyes?”
Eventually our team runs into the chamber where the Teller is held captive. The creature is in some sort of stasis but it still manages to lock onto Clara. As it becomes completely awake, or such is the Doctor’s explanation, it roars and Clara manages to break away as the team scrambles to the next vent. In the shuffle, Saibra ends up getting caught in the full blast and asks The Doctor for the “exit strategy” device. When she activates it, she disappears in a blast of light.
The Doctor, Clara and Psi manage to get away and find the vault, along with more information from the Architect for Psi to decipher and open the vault. But the Teller has been let loose and the remaining thieves must separate so that the monster can go after Shaggy and Scoo- wait, wrong show. Errr, let’s go with “minimizing brainwaves” which is Doctor-speak for “dramatic license”.
After Clara ends up being a target again, Psy gets one heroic scene. Conjuring up the memories of the worst possible criminals in history, which include a number of old references from the classic Doctor Who episodes, Psi manages to divert the Teller’s attention to himself. As he gets caught by the psychic grasp of the Teller, he promptly clicks the exit strategy device and is blasted away.
This gives Clara and the Doctor the diversion to return to the vault, but the last lock has failed to open. Fortunately, there’s a solar storm coming that is already interfering with all devices. With all the locks opened but one, it’s the last lock that finally becomes unlocked (well, technically it could have messed up with the previous locks and close them but let’s not pick at the little things). It’s at this point that the Doctor realizes that they’re actually in the past and that’s the reason the Architect knows there’s a solar storm in progress. It’s also at this point that the Architect’s identity becomes obvious, but let’s not jump ahead.
A quick search using the index codes left by the Architect, turns up a memory restore thingamajig for Psi and a gene suppressant for Saibra. The Doctor and Clara’s prize is hidden in the private vault.
But the time-traveling duo ends up captured and brought to Miss Delphos, who orders their execution. Curiously enough, she doesn’t use the Teller but commissions two guards who end up being… Psi and Saibra. Yeah, I said spoilers at the start. The exit strategy is really a teleporter to a ship where the TARDIS is docked.
So the Scarecrow gets his courage and… oops sorry. Psi and Saibra get what they’ve always wanted. The reunited band of thieves decide to open the private vault to find the bank’s own director, Kalabraxas. As it turns out, it’s Miss Delphos… or actually the original is Kalabraxas and Miss Delphos is a clone. It is at this time that the Doctor realizes who the Architect is, but he still needs more exposition to let us know.
With the solar storm becoming worse, flares start razing the planet where the bank is on. Kalabraxas calls for the Teller and escapes, but not before she receives a paper from the Doctor with the number of the TARDIS and the statement, “I’m a Time Traveler”. More than obvious at this point, no?
The Teller appears and psychically attacks the Doctor, removing the memory block but also letting the Teller know why the Doctor is here. The reason is to rescue a hostage, the Teller’s own mate, who Kalabraxas used to coerce the Teller to do her bidding. It also finally reveals the Doctor as the true Architect and mastermind of the heist. This episode actually has a happy ending and I was entertained throughout. What else could you possibly want?
- Psi, a three-dimensional character. Odds are we’ll see him again.
- Saibras, a three-dimensional character. Odds are we’ll see her again.
- The Teller at least had one extra aspect to its character.
- The mind-wipe ends up making sense. Yes, it’s a bit of a dramatic license but it was in line with the episode’s main problem to overcome.
- Besides the line about the Doctor, Psi also has a burn line for Clara when she tries to justify his behaviour. He tells Clara that he can tell she’s been hanging around him for a while, “you’re good at making excuses”. Burn.
- Clara still seems to fall too easily into the Damsel in Distress trope. That being said, she did manage to shake off the Teller by herself at least once.
- The bank has way too many vents conveniently located across most of the important rooms. It becomes obvious it’s the same vent.
- I’m obviously nitpicking because tropes and all, I really did enjoy the episode.
That will do for now.