It’s not just a bank heist on this week’s Doctor Who – it’s a time heist! Was this episode a wealth of excitement, or was the idea vault a little empty?
Doctor Who seems to be attempting a series of firsts – after going inside a Dalek for the first time and messing around with its own timeline in past weeks, the show gave us a pitch-perfect heist movie this week, complete with a team of experts and a heck of a McGuffin. Not that I have encyclopedic knowledge of the show1, but this feels like continued new ground. It’s nice to see a show that could easily tread the same ground time and time again continuing to find places and situations it hasn’t already put the Doctor in (especially when you consider the show’s been around for nearly half a century2).
Even better this episode, it finally feels like after continuing to figure out who he is, the Doctor seems ready to take charge again. Past episodes have had Clara or other characters (like Robin Hood) driving the Doctor’s actions, but here it felt like he took the reins, guiding the ragtag team into the bank as they tried to figure out just why they were robbing it in the first place (messy things, those memory worms). Also nice was the makeup of the team itself. Along with the Doctor and Clara (who had been prepping for another date with Danny before getting sucked into this whole mess) for this round of adventure we have Psi3, an augmented human who’s purposefully deleted some memories he wishes he hadn’t, and Sabra, a Grace Jones-esque mutant human4 who shape shifts to look like anyone she touches. Giving the Doctor more people to play off this episode was nice – much like the Paternoster gang in the premiere, it seems Twelve works best when he’s got multiple people to play off.
As for the plot itself, while the idea of a heist is new to Who, and a number of the elements were similarly fresh (The Teller in particular, was an interesting new monster), there was a lot that felt by-the-numbers and easily telegraphed. I’ll save some of the bigger twists from getting too spoiled, but if you had a careful eye on things, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out who was The Architect of the whole heist, or what the secret with Keeley Hawes’ character was going to end up being. Similarly, there were some moments in the resolution with the week’s monster, The Teller, that felt like the show was returning to the power-of-love well it so often draws from. It’s nice to have familiar moments in the show, but in an episode that felt like it was otherwise taking some new risks, it was disappointing to see so much that felt stale.
- Psi and Sabra’s looks were really working for me – liked the nods to today mixed with some futuristic touches
- The Doctor on his own updated look: “I was hoping for minimalism, but I think I ended up with magician”
- Another episode where we’ve heard nothing from our friend Missy after she popped up rather conspicuously in the first two episodes.
- Keeley Hawes is the second person to appear on this series that also popped up in a minor role on The Vicar of Dibley. Since the first person is Peter Capaldi (who appeared in a recurring role in a few of the episodes in the first series of that show), I’m going to pretend that this is being done on purpose and will assume that Dawn French is playing this series’ Big Bad. I refuse to hear otherwise.
- truth time: I haven’t seen all of the initial reboot season with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor, just a handful of episodes. I started with Tennant and much like the Doctor himself, just kept going ↵
- admittedly it wasn’t broadcasting for a number of those years, but still ↵
- no, not that one. ↵
- so: Grace Jones. ↵