I’ve been enjoying Peter Capaldi’s performance since he first stepped into the TARDIS a few weeks back. The writing, though, I didn’t feel really stretched him. Not until last week, with one of the best episodes of the show in longer than I care to recall. “Listen”, as readers of my review last week will have seen, was well-paced, serious and gripping.
From the trailer of this week’s episode, “Time Heist”, we’re back to madcap-style adventure romp. Which is not a bad thing, it’s Doctor Who‘s default setting.
What it needs, to be a success, is three things. Firstly, it needs to be fun. Secondly, it needs to advance the characters and adequately make use of the series’ concept and conceits. Thirdly, it needs to make sense within itself. If it can tick all of those boxes, then ladies and gentlemen we have ourselves a romp!
Just as Clara is about to head off on a second date with Danny Pink, the Doctor shows up to tempt her with adventures. Nothing really bites, until the TARDIS phone rings — and in a moment Clara and the Doctor are breaking into the most secure bank in the world, with no memory of how they got there, or why they are doing it. At the behest of a shadowy “architect”, they run around the bank with a shape-shifting mutant and a a cyborg, trying to avoid the security director and a creature which feeds on brains and can detect guilt.
The episode meets the first of my three points. This is a lot of fun, as an action-packed Whovian adaptation of Ocean’s Eleven. But without the cringeworthy cavalcade of cameos. Actually, it’s a bad guy in a gimp suit away from being Farscape‘s “Liars, Guns and Money” three-part arc, but that’s another matter. A Doctor Who bank robbery is always going to be a lark, and is a great chance for Capaldi to steer a little closer to the sort of performances Matt Smith owned.
Secondly, the characters and the concepts. There is an evolving theme of the Doctor getting in the way of Clara’s personal life. Looking ahead to the next week, this looks like something Moffat and co are looking to explore. But here it works as a gentle point needling way under the surface. And as for the concept; this is a creature feature, and the Teller is pretty fascinating beast. A stalk-eyed telepathic bloodhound which is the last of its kind, sniffing out criminal intent and turning the brains of the guilty into, er, soup.
It’s the third one which has me scratching my head a little. Last week I praised the closed time loop of the story. This week tries for something similar, and it…sort of works. Whether the internal consistency works I’m still unsure about, but I do like the way that it turns the whole thing on its head. The Doctor being the Architect I called, but the whole mission being an errand of mercy for the Teller (and its imprisoned mate) orchestrated by the owner of the bank… That was something different.
So in the end, yes. I liked it. It was a little sentimental in its conclusion, but that’s alright. “Time Heist” earned it. The plot was complicated, but straightforwardly enough presented to follow at the pace it proceeded at. There was emotional heart to it, and hints at larger things going on — and even the side characters are fleshed out. And Peter Capaldi is already cemented as the Doctor, a role he seems to have been born to play.
- The TARDIS phone has never been so busy…
- The memory worms were apparently referenced back in 2012’s Christmas special. If you didn’t get that, don’t worry; neither did I.
- Jealous Doctor is…a little weird, actually.