Doctor Who: Time Heist (EPISODE REVIEW)

Another episode co-written by showrunner Steven Moffat. I’m curious if it was truly a collaborative effort, or if SteMo simply took the reins from Stephen Thompson after his first draft of the script came through. Regardless, SteMo’s hands aren’t as all over this episode as you might have expected. I was personally anticipating another visit from the, as of late, remarkably absent Missy. And although there are timey-wimey elements to the story, it doesn’t feel like a Moffat script.

That being said, I’ve read many a comment from fans and critics stating this is Stephen Thompson’s first really good episode. Yes, The Curse of the Black Spot was a disgusting attempt to steal some of that Pirates of the Caribbean hype. Time Heist is certainly better than that episode. But was it better than Thompson’s second go at Who, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS? I’m not really sure. Despite the disappointing glimpse into the TARDIS it promised but failed to deliver, I found that Journey was rather enjoyable. But this? Time Heist was too fast paced, too scatter-brained for me to really ever enjoy it. By the end my mind felt a bit like soup actually, as if the Teller had his way with me.

That Teller though. I really thought they did a great job with that. A beautiful mesh of excellent costuming and seemless CGI. And for once a formidable foe that didn’t have to run to catch you. He can get into your head, feed off your guilt. An excellent foe. But… This makes three out of five episodes thus far into series 8 that rely heavily on sensory horrors. Why?! This, surely, is SteMo’s stamp on the episode. It must be. From the man who brought you Blink, Deep Breath, and Listen, comes a tale so terrifying it requires you to stop thinking altogether. The only issue is, as a member of the viewing audience I don’t need to stop thinking – and unfortunately when it comes to Time Heist I overthought nearly everything.

In fact, I really didn’t get the episode. I watched it twice. I don’t understand why any of that had to happen. If this Delphox character called the Doctor and he went ahead and planted all those tools to help the crew through the (far too easy to break into) Bank of Karabraxos, why couldn’t he have just popped into the Private Vault and let loose the monsters in the first place. Yes, I understand that the TARDIS couldn’t go into the place during the storm, but it went in beforehand anyway to place all the necessary items. Never was it explicitly stated that it could traveling into the private vault. What’s one more quick stop into the private vault. Then they wouldn’t have had to go back in without the TARDIS during the storm anyway. I understand how closed-loops work in regards to time travel (the all-time best example of that will always be Blink), but this was just done so poorly – especially noting that the Doctor planned it all in advance.

On that note – hooray! Yippee! The Doctor’s tag-along associates got the things they most wanted in the universe. But how did the Doctor know where to find those items? Did Delphox let him know, because as far as I’m aware he chose his team after she commissioned him to the task. Did the Doctor also place those items in the bank vaults to be gathered as a reward for completing their assigned missions? Did they just get a heads up that the perfect gifts for them were waiting inside? I just don’t get why those random items are sitting in the bank so conveniently. Did they steal someone else’s items or was that left for them on purpose?

I really liked the planet on which the Bank of Karabraxos stood. I thought that brief glimpse of it was the most visually stunning moment of the episode (aside from the gorgeous Teller obviously). It was like peering through the glass of the pilots deck during series 4’s Midnight. But its brevity left so much to be desired, only to be cut to a shot where the four of them walk into the bank in slow-mo. It seemed a bit spacious and empty inside didn’t it? For the most part, I have to say I think Douglas Mackinnon does a great job of utilizing limited sets and money. The first time I watched Time Heist I barely noticed that it was the same hallway they endlessly ran through.

But on my second viewing everything that looked okay at first simply fell through. It’s a very ugly hallway. When the characters split up, all they do is tint the lights red or blue to give it semblance of change. And speaking of their lighting… They were underground last I checked. Why were the lights mimicking the lightning going on outside? Once you notice this you won’t be able to un-notice it. It’s particularly grating. And wow! What’s going on with 51st century ventilation!? You can fit two people crouching side-by-side through those vents. This, for me, was the biggest issue I had with the episode, the area I needed to suspend disbelief the most. For a bank as impregnable as Karabraxos, the Doctor’s crew sure did make it seem easy.

Side point: I did some research on the 51st century, in regards Doctor Who – as the century comes up so often. Apparently this is when the human race actually gets about to traversing the stars. And thus so much happens in this century. I just wish it looked slightly more futuristic for the most part.

Anyone else notice that Clara starts the episode off in heels, but is later seen running through the hallway in pumps? Or how about when the doctor writes his number along with “I’m a time-traveller” on that paper in quill and ink – but when we next see it it’s clearly been penned in by marker? Let’s not get into the nitty gritty. I just didn’t like this episode. I didn’t get most of it. The most interesting thing for me was the Teller. I really thought he was a beautifully crafted one-off monster. But overall this was a low-point for me this season.

41 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Time Heist (EPISODE REVIEW)

  1. I’m not reading your reviews of the new episodes because I haven’t gotten there yet, but want to say that I love/hate you because now I’m obsessed with Dr. Who. Mildly shocking is the fact that I had not watched a single episode of the show until recently when I kept seeing you blog about it. I love sci-fi, the BBC and David Tennant so really wtf is wrong with me… but I just started 2005 now. And I don’t want to do anything but sit in front of my tv. Curse you!! ❤


    1. Oh my. I’m so happy. Best comment I’ve received in a while. Glad I was able to convert another muahahaha! But seriously, it’s a ridiculously good show. Has its ups and downs, but it’s the characters you really start to love. Have you gotten to David Tennant yet?


  2. I liked the Teller – or as Blogtor Who calls him – UterusFaced Goat Monster! When I watched it the second time the Teller made my legs feel like they were going to pop! I think that must mean he is quite scary.


  3. Turns out I liked this episode much more than a lot of other critics. It’s no where near on the level of Listen, but it’s still a fun little filler romp that proves itself to be more than entertaining, if you turn your brain off. Certainly not a 10/10, but I feel like it’s not quite as low as a 5.2. You’ve made some good points here, great review as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was exceptional harsh this week. My original score was a 6.2. But when o realized how little good I had to write about during my review, I ended up changing it last minute. Seemed appropriate at the time.


  4. It was a step by step formulaic construction of an episode, like Moffat had just spun a bingo roller to pick out his plot elements from his previous adventures. It’s embarrassing really. Capaldi is great, but he has hardly had a good episode yet and is entangled in this mediocre, tried writing. The Teller looked great but his vaguely defined abilities were pretty silly. I hate the whole mind going blank to escape the mind reader thing, but at least Clara couldn’t actually do it. The only effective bit of the whole episode was our first look at soup making.


  5. For the most impregnable bank in the universe, they say the word “robbery” quite a lot without anything happening. I would’ve thought that would trigger some sort of security to protect the, er, impregnable bank.


    1. You know. There was only ever one Teller loose. Why not double the security a bit? Double the guilt mind capture thing. In fact, it seems this episode just goes to show how little security the bank actually has going for it. If there was say another robber/team of robbers at the same time, the Teller could’ve only been preoccupied with one.


  6. I guess I’m in the minority as I actually enjoyed this one and didn’t find it necessary to look too deeply into the suspect elements of the plot. A bit of a romp if you will. Still beats the worst opening story by a mile in my opinion


  7. Great review! I feel the same way about the episode, it felt like a waste of an amazing concept. The Teller was a great monster, and I actually enjoyed the two supporting characters. This episode had a Star Wars feel to it, because of being on a different planet, and the design of The Teller. When you look at this episode as a whole and compare it to Listen, it feels like Listen was better executed. Some of these episodes need to be split into two parts.

    As for Capaldi’s catchphrase, I think it’s “Question.” In Deep Breath, Capaldi says “…Question is, have there been any similar murders?” In Listen he says “Question! Why do we talk to ourselves when we are alone? Conjecture! Because we know we are not.” I don’t remember if Peter Capaldi says “question” in Time Heist, I need to rewatch it.


  8. As you know, my opinion is not an in depth review of what should have been, what could have been. It is certainly not one looking for ‘writing mistakes,’ and how they may or, may not fit properly in to the entire story line. Shut-up.

    Did I have fun? Did I enjoy the episode? No, and no. This was not the best. The story seemed to bounce from here to there, back and forth. I still can’t draw a conclusion without watching again. On repeat from the dvr, I hope to make a little more sense of what, exactly was going on, and look for the fluidity in the story line others seem to have found.

    I see others have noticed this, ‘shut-up’ seems to be written, and re-written as a show of character strength. It doesn’t get it. It was cute…………..once! Shut up! See….cute; Once.

    It was nice not dealing with bots, center-script.

    When I saw the boss of the bank, my first reaction was they somehow brought Missy back in another tense but it appears this is not the case.

    Miss River as I think some sort of a story line bringing Missy, River, and the Doctor together might be worth exploring.

    I know…….shut-up…


    1. Must’ve missed that. All I remember is she is planning on going out on a date, when suddenly the Doctor gets that phonecall and all of a sudden they wake up with the memory worms (and I’m assuming she is wearing different shoes at that point).


  9. I was pretty surprised when I saw your rating, as I rather enjoyed the episode. Especially the atmosphere of the shots and the dynamic of the characters.

    As for how The Doctor set everything up: From what I gathered from the positions of the cases, was every one before the doors to the normal vaults and that part seemed to be quite easy to access even without a TARDIS. Besides he said even he wouldn’t be able to unlock the vault – which might be the reason he set up the heist in the first place. Other than that did he probably also learn a couple of things from Karabraxos, like when he had met her, under which circumstances and who was with him, etc. and because she saw them it became a fixed event and he had to try and reconstruct it. (Similar to how he had to do/say/write the things he had to because of the things Sally gave him in Blink)

    As for how he knew what the others wanted: He specifically picked those two and they probably have talked about the reward beforehand, so he had had the chance to hack into the storage system to get the information where the items would be located. And I guess they just stole them from someone else.

    For me it somehow does make sense…

    The running through endless corridors was something they did frequently in the classic run, so that didn’t bother me that much either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I have just forgotten it:
      The “Shut up” reminded me of a scene in Sherlock, where he wanted everyone to be silent, because he was thinking. Again similar to what The Doctor did.
      Is it really supposed to become his catchphrase? I kind of doubt that…or at least hope it wont happen…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. These thoughts ran through my head after my initial viewing, not gonna lie. Where it unraveled for me was going back and looking for those explanations. They may be there, but Capaldi’s fast paced explanation seemed devoid of real sense to me.

      As for the corridors, I too felt it had the classic vibe going. Especially with the slow, menacing monster, just trudging along. But at the end of the day, the lighting in most classic episodes (prior to Davison’s run) had excellent lighting usage and that made it easier to reuse sets – because although you knew they were doing it, it wasn’t as obvious. This episode they don’t even bother hiding it with props. It’s well lit, they don’t go cutting other scenes in inbetween, so it looks rather like they just keep starting from the same side and running through, and they don’t even bother filling the space with random junk just to change it up.

      But regardless, I’m glad some can enjoy it. I hope my reasoning didn’t dampen your enjoyment of the episode. New Who, for better or worse, is a gift that keeps giving and I’d be dumb to let episodes as questionable as this hamper that notion.


  10. Good review. I agree but I think the worst part is I didn’t even care about the plotholes because I was like why would he even write such an episode. It isn’t really about the plot in this one, it’s what was hinted before and after and what didn’t happen I think. Whatever, I was watching purely for seeing Capaldi after that. I liked the shut p thing but as soon as I realized they were trying to make that his catchphrase I shrunk back a bit, this still is a show for all ages….


  11. Yeah, definitely a hard episode to grade for me… because a large chunk of it, nitpicks aside, actually plays really well. To me where it all falls apart is where they do the big reveals and tell you how the con was setup.

    In the Ocean’s Eleven style movies, they setup a con… do it… then go back and show you flashbacks of what really happened under your nose… those mostly work for me… but in Doctor Who… the problem here is, the flashback setting up the con unravels the story because if the Doctor could get in there and setup all the stuff he did… why couldn’t he just rescue those two characters from the beginning without all the bank-robbing nonsense.

    This is the rare case where they told us too much! They overexplained… IF they had just left it with the reveal of the Doctor as the Architect (which you could see coming anyway) but didn’t show him going about planting stuff… you could go with the premise that they couldn’t break in and steal stuff outright… but the reveals undermine the plot and made me go “huh” and wonder why most of the episode was necessary, even the good parts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, great comment. My thoughts are on a similar plain. It did flow excellently. My issue is the fact it makes so little sense.


  12. Yes… Some episodes I’ve liked more and more, but with this one the more I think about it the more I dislike it. The idea is so great, but it just felt a bit flat, and then there are all these plot holes once you get to thinking about it.


  13. A few reviewers round the place have also asked what the hell is up with bank security in the future.

    For real secure vault services in 2014, it’s all face to face and escorted, has been since ancient times.

    Mass spectrometers, x-ray guns, the works is now standard.

    But in Moff’s fave period, the 51st-52nd century… not so much.

    Silly is one thing, silly due to poor research or though- something else again.


      1. I gave it a 5 on gall base, purely because it is, taken all in all, an episode of doctor who, done competently.

        but increasingly the Moff loop plot recycling and the almost deliberately pantomime rather than drama aspects are turning this into an iffy season. I hope it rockets up by the end of the series, but who knows.


  14. I vaguely remember that the Doctor told Clara to change shoes since she’s going to need it.

    Otherwise, I agree with everything you said here. The huge old-fashioned vents being number one on my list of WTF moments.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. And can I point out to the writers that trying to use the very rude “shut up” as a catchphrase is ridiculous?

    Try using shut up as a catchphrase in real life and you’ll wind up in hospital.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope that’s not his catchphrase… I particularly disliked that scene where he began putting the pieces together and told everyone to shut up.


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