Monday, September 22, 2014

Doctor Who 8.05: "Time Heist"

“You agreed to rob the most impregnable bank in history. You must have had a very good reason. We all must have. Picture the thing you want most in the universe and decide how badly you want it.”
-The Doctor

“Time Heist,” from the previews, seemed like it would be a lot more fun than it ended up actually being. Don’t get me wrong, I love anything heist/caper-like, so I certainly didn’t dislike this episode. I was just expecting something a little more cheeky. Much like with “Robot of Sherwood,” the ending didn’t fit with the tone of the episode. It felt slapped together in an effort to quickly tie up all the plot lines. It was also kind of predictable. I called from the beginning of the episode what the Doctor’s role was in this caper. It couldn’t have been any other way, really. Like pretty much every episode of the Moffat era of “Doctor Who,” a fantastic premise suffered from severe over-plotting. Come to think of it, that couldn’t have really been any other way, either.

The episode opens normally enough. The doctor is trying to entice Clara with plans for a fun day of traveling, but Clara’s not interested. She has a date with Danny that she can’t miss. Before she has time to duck out, though, the phone on the TARDIS rings and stops her in her tracks. There aren’t many people who have that phone number. Next thing we know, the Doctor, Clara, and two strangers are sitting around a table, recoiling in horror at some large worm-like creatures they had been holding. The strangers end up being Psy, an “augmented” human (he’s got a lot of computer components in his brain) and Saibra, a “mutant” human (she has the ability to morph into living beings that she touches).

A recording plays indicating that each of the four consented to a memory wipe. Then we learn a little more about what they all have been gathered to do. They are going to rob a bank. Not just any bank, but Kalabraxos, the most secure bank in the universe. The whole thing has been planned out by the Architect, who only appears via video with an altered voice. The direction of the episode once we start the heist is interesting. It’s kind of a cross between “Leverage” and “Sherlock” in visual style. The stakes are quickly clear. The appearance of the team has set of security sensors, so the head of security asks for a “Teller.” The Teller is a creepy looking creature that can read thoughts and detect guilt. Our team manages to keep their mind blank, but the Teller detects guilt in another patron. The Teller then turns that patron’s brain to soup (he cries liquefied brain…it’s gross).

There’s a lot of chase-y stuff in the middle of the episode. The important point is that the Doctor and crew are armed with dimension-shifting bombs. Instead of causing a big explosion right where they are standing, these bombs send molecules away to another dimension. There’s a pivotal scene where the team encounters the Teller, and the Teller appears to be in a Plexiglas cage. As the Doctor approaches the cage, I’m reminded of Peter Capaldi, as bureaucrat John Frobisher, tried to negotiate with the 4-5-6 in “Torchwood: Children of Earth.” Given that the Doctor has acknowledged he has seen his current face before, I’m not sure that’s an accident.

Anyway, seeing the Teller sets off a sequence where each of the team members are threatened with brain soupage. The first victim is Saibra. She sets off a dimension-shifting bomb before her brain can be turned to mush. Then the Teller tries to go after Clara. Clara and Psi have developed a friendship through the course of the episode, though, so he goes to great lengths to save her. He broadcasts thoughts about all the greatest criminals in history. This is more interesting to the Teller, so the Teller starts to target him. He also sets off the dimension-shifting bomb before his brain can be turned to soup. Psi had been trying to undo the many locks to the Bank’s vault, and one is still left engaged when he disintegrates. Conveniently (too conveniently…it’s kind of a plot point) a solar flare hits and disables that final lock, so the Doctor and Clara are able to get into the vault. They have papers on which the items each member of the team were hoping to steal are written. Psi wanted a device that would restore memories he wiped. Saibra wanted a cure for her morphing power (which seems unfortunate to me…it’s a pretty cool power). Whatever the Doctor and Clara were looking for is in the “private vault” belonging to Kalabraxos herself.

The Doctor and Clara are interrupted by a Teller. Next thing we know, they are in the Chief of Security’s office. The Chief of Security orders some guards to incinerate the Doctor and Clara, but those guards turn out to be Psi and Saibra. Apparently the devices they were using were actually teleporters, and they were perfectly safe the whole time. The foursome make their way to the private vault, where they meet Kalabraxos herself. It turns out that the Chief of Security was a clone of Kalabraxos, and Kalabraxos casually says she’s going to have to kill the Chief now. The Doctor then has a revelation. People don’t like reflections of themselves. He really doesn’t like the Architect. Therefore, he himself is the Architect.

The Doctor gives Kalabraxos the TARDIS phone number, telling her to call him when she is old and full of regret. Then he goads the Teller into showing him the time that has been erased from his memory. Kalabraxos did indeed call him. The Teller then opens the door to the vault, and the group sees a female Teller. That’s what the mission has been about the whole time. As the Doctor puts it, it’s about saving a whole species. We get a happy ending with the Tellers going back to their home planet, and Psi and Saibra telling the Doctor to contact them in the future for more adventures. I hope that those two are added to the semi-regular stable of characters like the Paternoster Gang. They are fun and seem to have potential.

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