Not caught up on Doctor Who? Be warned:
This episode kind of had a raw deal. It had to follow up an episode that some are already calling the defining episode of Capaldi’s run as the Doctor. After an episode as creepy, disconcerting, and imaginative as last week’s “Listen”, all “Time Heist” really could aspire to be was good fun–which it certainly was. However, I think this episode was also an episode for those who still aren’t completely sold on Capaldi’s Doctor, for those viewers who miss the goofiness and kindness of Smith. So let’s talk about that.
On its face, this episode was sort of a timey-wimey Ocean’s Eleven. That is, if Danny Ocean and his gang were suddenly and mysteriously thrust into an ultra-dangerous bank heist with no idea of what they were stealing or why they had agreed to rob a bank in the first place. The Doctor, Clara, and two others named Psi and Saibra find themselves in this very predicament.
Again, there wasn’t anything too earth-shattering in this episode. We don’t get to see Clara and Danny’s relationship evolve any further (he’s not even in this episode, actually), and we don’t get any more of our favorite new mystery lady, Missy.
Really “Time Heist” was sort of a transitory episode from the craziness of “Listen” to whatever the future holds for us, but like I said, it revisited a few core, running themes from Smith’s Doctor. We saw these played out in the story of an alien called the Teller.
is held captive by works for the Bank of Karabraxos to detect potential thieves. The Teller reads a patron’s thoughts and tells (get it?) if the patron is guilty of a crime or not. If they are guilty, he sucks out all of their thoughts and memories, turning their brains to soup and leaving them a lifeless shell (with a seriously caved in skull). Obviously this guy poses a pretty serious threat to our four newly-minted bank robbers, and he is initially portrayed as one of the Big Bads of the episode.
Like I said before, one of the big mysteries of the episode is why each person agreed to rob the bank. We learn why the Doctor and Clara’s two new partners in crime agreed to the Karabraxos heist–one to restore his lost memories of loved ones, and the other to cure a mutation that causes her to physically and biologically mimic anyone she touches–however, it’s not until the very end that we learn why the Doctor and Clara have taken part in the heist. Ultimately, we find out that the Doctor had been commissioned (in a very timey wimey fashion, of course) to free the Teller and the Teller’s partner, who was being held captive to coerce the Teller into doing the bank’s dirty work, revisiting one of my favorite themes from Smith’s era:
Even though the Doctor has made it very clear that he isn’t going to have any sort of a romantic relationship with Clara, and even though he’s been a bit of a jerk when talking about her physical appearance, it reminded us all that he still is the same, lonely Doctor who needs his companions more than anything. When he drops Clara off for her date with Danny–a date that Clara nearly chose over spending time with the Doctor–he challenges Danny to top a bank heist. So sure, there’s no budding romance between the Doctor and Clara, and the Doctor can be a bit rude to Clara, but ultimately every lonely, slightly rude, rough-around-the-edges, suddenly Scottish, large-eyebrowed monster needs a companion.
The other revisited theme we see with the Teller centers around the fact that the Teller and his companion happen to be the very last of their species–which is, understandably, a sensitive spot for the Doctor. So while the Teller wasn’t necessarily a nice alien throughout the episode (you know, with the brain soup and all), as soon as the Doctor lets the Teller know it is free, its only concern is for his partner, letting us know that everything he did in Karabraxos was under duress, showing the audience that in reality the Teller was very old, (secretly) very kind, and (one of) the very last of its kind.
Again, this episode didn’t blow the doors off. This won’t be the episode that you tell your non-Whovians to watch to get them pulled into the show. However, it gave us a bit of quick and dirty fun after the intensity of “Listen”, and it also played back into two very poignant themes from Smith’s era, reminding us that though Capaldi’s Doctor is a bit rougher around the edges than Smith, he is still the same Doctor underneath it all. We’re all still getting used to Twelve, and a lot of us still miss Eleven quite a bit, so I think episodes like this are important. They remind us that while the Doctor may look and act a bit different, he is, ultimately, still the Doctor.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments!