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.