After the more cerebral and atmospheric episode “Listen,” Doctor Who treats us to the kind of fun adventure episode I really wish they would make more of, “Time Heist.” It’s enjoyable, the supporting characters are interesting and well rounded, and the plot makes sense, mostly, despite getting up its own ass at the end with some timey-wimeyness. (Show runner and head writer Steven Moffat seems to love using time travel as a plot point instead of simply as a method to bring the Doctor from one adventure to the next. It can get to be a bit much.) As much as I liked it, though, I felt the direction could have been better. Some scenes and events were not clearly related to the viewers. For instance, Clara has a note she says came from the case the Architect left for them, but we don’t see her find or take the note. Additionally, many transition scenes are missing, so we don’t always know how characters get places or how much time has passed.
But it’s a fun heist story with a cool, weird monster and a mystery at its heart, so how could I not like it? Peter Capaldi continues to elevate the material beyond its pulp roots. Jenna Coleman’s Clara continues to be believably torn between her evolving personal life and the Doctor’s increasingly annoying demands on her time. Personally, I wish Clara’s issues were about something a little less conventional than a man — maybe she could have a big career choice ahead of her, or maybe there could be somebody in her life who depends on her to the point where her travels with the Doctor are interfering? I mean, it’s not that hard to come up with ideas that don’t revolve around dating — but at least she finally has a life outside of her relationship with the Doctor. (All that “I was born to save the Doctor” shit last season made me cringe.)
Unfortunately, “Time Heist” features a few glaring plot holes that are detrimental the story. For example, when the Doctor and the others think the atomic shredders are weapons (“exit strategies” to kill themselves before they fall prey to the Teller), why don’t any of them think to use them on the Teller instead of on themselves? If Karabraxos has regrets about her past, particularly with regard to the Teller, why set up something as ridiculously convoluted as a fake bank heist when she could just as easily have given the Doctor the information to go back in time and rescue the Teller’s mate? Or convince a younger Karabraxos to simply release them? Or go even further back and prevent the capture of the Teller’s mate in the first place? And of course, I don’t need to tell anyone that skulls are not water balloons. When the brains inside them are turned to “soup,” the skull itself does not deflate. I’m still rolling my eyes over that one.
The mysterious “woman in the shop” who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number is mentioned again, but I have a very hard time believing that in all this time neither of them has thought to go visit that shop and try to find out who she is. Especially when the Doctor obviously has no other pressing business, what with always asking Clara where she wants to go next as if they’re on a permanent vacation.
Lastly, we once again get, just like in “The Rings of Akhaten,” a creature that devours memories and the Doctor tries to overwhelm it by feeding it the entirety of his massive lifetime. It plays out differently here — the Doctor wants the Teller to read his mind and tell him the memories he’s missing — but the scenes are almost identical in concept and structure. Last week, I mentioned that Moffat, who co-wrote this episode, likes to return to the well of his own making and draw out the same tropes, and this scene is yet another example of it.
And now for some Doctor Who neepery! When Psi is scanning through the bank’s most-wanted files on a computer screen, mixed in with the pictures are a Sensorite, a Terileptil, an Ice Warrior, and a Slitheen. There are, intriguingly, also two pictures from Torchwood: a Weevil and James Marsters’s Captain John Hart. But perhaps most interesting of all is a picture of Abslom Daak right out of the Doctor Who comics. Apparently Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer, is now canon on the TV show, too! Also, the Doctor mentions his scarf again, and (rightfully, in my opinion) calls the bow tie he wore as the Eleventh Doctor “a bit embarrassing.”