Doctor Who, S8 Ep5 — Time Heist

There was something familiar about last week’s Doctor Who episode, “Listen,” but I didn’t mention it because it wasn’t that much of a big deal. Now, with 8.5, “Time Heist,” I’m getting a similar familiar feeling — and the familiarity goes back to the exact same Series 7 episode, “Hide.” With “Hide,” there was a mysterious character from the distant future who turned out to be the descendant of Emma and the Professor; in “Listen,” Orson was (very obviously) the descendant of Clara and Danny. Not a big thing, distant relatives are bound to occur multiple times in a show about time traveling. It’s the second parallel from the same episode that makes me wonder if the current writers are running out of ideas.



Let me rewind. “Time Heist” has a fairly original plot — not that a bank heist in general is original, but theft isn’t the Doctor’s usual bag. The story starts with Clara getting ready for another date with Danny, who we already know is endgame, while The Doctor follows her around the house trying to re-focus the attention on himself. Just as she’s about to leave, the TARDIS phone rings. Well, who can resist that? Not the Doctor. As soon as he lifts the receiver, he and Clara find themselves in a strange room with two strangers, holding giant maggot worm things. The strangers are Saibra, a beautiful shapeshifter, and Psi, a part-robotic hacker. As they try to figure out what’s going on, they hear their own voices making statements that they freely gave consent for their memories to be wiped. Of course, they have no idea what brought them together or what led up to the memory wipe.

Their mission, as it turns out, is to rob Karabraxos, the most secure bank in the Universe. They don’t know why, but apparently they’ve already agreed. So why the memory wipe?

When they enter the bank, the reason starts to become apparent. A man is stopped as a possible thief, and is “interrogated” by a creature called The Teller that looks like it just stepped out of the Mos Eisley Cantina. There are no words, it just looks into the suspect’s eyes and can tell whether he’s guilty. Remember “Don’t Blink”? That’s nothing compared to “Don’t Think.” Better to know nothing. Especially since the punishment is an immediate liquefying of the brain.

The quartet manages to breach security, but not without a couple of run-ins with The Teller that force both Saibra and Psi to sacrifice themselves. Or so it seems. Just when things look hopeless for The Doctor and Clara, they’re saved by the seemingly doomed pair. The Doctor rewards them with the items they wanted most of all, which they’d taken from specified safe deposit boxes.



But that wasn’t what they were there for. Head of Security, a clone-happy woman who calls herself The Architect, had enlisted The Doctor’s help to undo the wrongs of her past (the present time of the bank heist). The Doctor had recruited Saibra and Psi himself for their valuable abilities.

The real “treasure” was in the last vault: A female Teller. The Doctor freed her, and the happy Teller couple, the last two of their kind, went off to save the species.

Really not unlike the creature in “Hide,” who was only scary because he was trying to reunite with his female partner in another dimension. They, too, rode off into the creature sunset.

“Time Heist” isn’t a bad episode — I’m generally not enthralled by “heist” stories, so it’s not my favorite plot of the series so far, but it’s a clear, well-paced episode. The non-linear style works.

There is one especially odd detail that I noticed that nagged at me. Since noting that “Robots of Sherwood” was the first episode to not pass the Bechdel Test, I’ve been paying attention to female-to-female interaction, which was done very well (excellent, even) in the first two episodes of the series. When I saw Saibra, I thought this episode would pass for sure, but Clara and Saibra never exchange words directly (let alone words about something other than a man). There’s even a moment where Saibra is talking, and Clara just kinds of nods instead of saying anything. I don’t live and die by The Bechdel Test, but it was weird. Clara interacted with Psi, The Doctor interacted with Saibra. It’s a racially diverse episode, though. Series 8 seems to be consciously making up for the overall lack of diversity since Moffatt took over, the often-overlooked “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” and Liz 10 notwithstanding.

Next week: Clara struggles to balance life with The Doctor and her love life with Danny.