#SRCZ TV Review // Doctor Who: Series Eight, Episode 5: 'Time Heist'

Warning: contains spoilers!

Cast: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson, Keeley Hawes, Jonathan Bailey, Pippa Bennett-Warner

Written by: Steve Thompson and Steven Moffat

Directed by: Douglas MacKinnon


 The Story: The Doctor has to break in to the most dangerous bank in the Universe, with no idea who sent him or why he’s doing it.

Peter Capaldi’s fifth outing as everyone’s favourite Time Lord from Gallifrey Time Heist gives us Doctor Who meets Mission: Impossible meets Oceans Eleven. But with a timey-wimey twist, of course.

As Time Heist starts we see that the Doctor has been alone in the TARDIS while Clara has been working on her budding relationship with Danny Pink. Director Douglas McKinnon puts in a very classy turn here as the episode jumps forwards and backwards in time without ever losing sight of the story. But more of this later.

As the tale unfolds we see the Doctor and Clara teamed up with shapeshifter Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner) and Psi, a cyber-augmented gamer (Jonathan Bailey) attempt to break into the vault in a bank where even guilty thoughts are picked up by the genuinely terrifying Teller.  Psi and Saibra are instantly likeable as one-off companions, even if you get the feeling that they (and their abilities) are the equivalent of the sonic screwdriver - a quick way for the Doctor to get through a difficulty.   Which is a shame because each character is a worthy guest-companion in his or her own right.  

As the caper unfolds, the fates of Psi and Saibra hold up a metaphorical spotlight that shines on the Doctor’s response to their apparent demises. And this is probably the most interesting facet of Time Heist. We see the Doctor as a rather cold and logical man as he accepts, and even assists, the apparent self-sacrifices of the people he’s brought along to help him solve a problem.  Even the Doctor’s use of inducements akin to The Wizard of Oz - a gene suppressant and a system recovery tool instead of a brain/a heart/the nerve - to bring Psi and Saibra along is nothing short of cynical.

Guest villain-of-the-week Keeley Hawes has double-turn duties and bags of fun as the very foxy Miss Dephox and Director Karabraxos. Oozing 80s sex appeal while draining brains and avoiding being fired from her job as bank Head of Security, Miss Delphox, is a power-dressed treat. Miss Delphox’s captive creature The Teller - the beastie who can detect guilty thoughts - is extremely well done. Shown in a Guantamo-orange suit and chains, this creature is more than just a monster and while it may have echoes of Matt Smith episode Hide, The Teller is a sinister and worthy addition to Doctor Who.

Where last week’s episode, Listen, showed Peter Capaldi completely inhabiting the role of the Doctor for the first time, Time Heist shows him for the first time this series as being the one in control. Up to now, Clara has played the grown-up member of the TARDIS crew, but in this episode the Doctor quite literally masterminds events, from he and Clara being at the bank’s vault at the exact right time (the only right time) to break in, to the phone call many years in the future that frees The Teller and his captive mate before it’s too late.

Douglas MacKinnon’s direction in Time Heist is a thing of beauty, played just absolutely right in order to tell the tale properly and with style. The nods to Hollywood crime capers are fantastically well done and there are some spectacularly effective sequences involving The Teller.

Overall Time Heist is an entertaining caper and a solid episode with an unexpected, but very welcome, dark undercurrent, even if it makes no-one’s list of favourite ever episodes.

Next time: The Doctor returns to Coal Hill school in The Caretaker

Did you spot? A whole host of villains and creatures from Doctor Who history projected by Psi, which included a Sensorite, the Gunslinger Kahler-Tek,  an Ice Warrior, a Terileptil, the Trickster (from The Sarah Jane Adventures) and a Raxacoricofallapatorian.

Gadget of the Week: The particle shift device. We want now!

Best line: “What do you think of my new look? I was hoping for minimalism. I think I ended up with magician.”


Reviewed by Andrea McGuire. Images © BBC Worldwide. 

Next Time: The Caretaker!