Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review - "Doctor Who: Time Heist"

Warning: The following review will contain spoilers

The notion of combining Doctor Who with the heist movie sub-genre seems like such a successful idea, it's surprising it hasn't happened before now. The latest episode of Series 8, Time Heist combines these two elements seamlessly, making for a very entertaining viewing experience. Let's take a closer look.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) find themselves in a locked room with two strangers, their memories having been completely wiped. A masked figure calling himself The Architect gives them a proposition they cannot refuse - the group must steal from the Bank of Karabraxos, the most dangerous and highly-secure bank in all the cosmos. Their lives at risk, the Doctor agrees to the mission as does Psi (Jonathon Bailey), an augmented human with half a computer for a brain and Saibra (Pippa Bennett Warner) who can replicate the DNA of anyone she touches. But will their entire mission be for naught as they come face-to-face with The Teller, an alien being who can detect guilt?

Time Heist was the collaborative effort of showrunner Steven Moffat and writer Steve Thompson. Thompson's two previous efforts for Doctor Who, Curse of the Black Spot and Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS have been mediocre romps but nothing more. Yet, Thompson was also responsible for The Reichenbach Fall and The Sign of Three, putting him on the good side of many a picky Sherlockian. I have to say that Time Heist is probably Thompson's best script thus far. It's full of wit, suspense and plenty of plot twists. How much of this was contributed by Steven Moffat I cannot say, but whoever did the majority of the work for the episode took the obviously entertaining concept and really turned it into something fun.

The Doctor prepares to rob the most secure
safe in all the cosmos
As always, Peter Capaldi continues to shine as the Doctor. Dare I say he has mellowed out a bit in the role - he's a bit less prickly and bit more likable which makes for an interesting character arc. Jenna Coleman continues to do a nice job as Clara though she was not as much in the spotlight this time as she was in last week's episode Listen. However, I must say that the best performances of the episode were provided by the guest stars. Jonathon Bailey was excellent as Psi. Bailey's line delivery was excellent making the most of his obvious character-building moments. The scene in which he is willing to sacrifice himself to save Clara was very well executed as well. I have read much since the episode's broadcast from viewers in hopes that Psi makes a return in the future, and I agree on that point. Bailey had great on-screen chemistry with Capaldi and I must admit I wouldn't mind if he played a more intrical part of the TARDIS team in future. Pippa Bennett Warner was also very good as Saibra and she too had some excellent line delivery, hiding one of the episode's most vital clues to its twist ending in plain sight.

While the episode was very good, I do feel that the twist could have been executed a little better. It was rather shoe-horned in and my mind had to play catch-up as one revelation was made after another. That's not to say that the ending was bad and the feeling of mental shock is what accompanies any good plot twist. I also agree with those who said that the ending was a little too similar to last season's episode Hide.

In all though, Time Heist was a finely-crafted piece of television. With superb performances from both its principle cast and the guest stars, I do not hesitate in saying that it was my favorite episode of the series so far. What's even more exciting is that next week's episode will be the first which was not leaked to the public in some form. So, all Whovians are going into just as blind as the next. In the meantime, I give Time Heist a well-deserved 4 out of 5 stars.

Next Week - The Caretaker by Gareth Roberts

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