Archive for the Series 8 Category

8.11 & 8.12 – “Dark Water”/”Death In Heaven”

Posted in New Who, Series 8 with tags , , , , , , on January 7, 2016 by Review The Who

DW Series 8 - Dark Water & Death In Heaven

STORY
Danny Pink is dead, killed whilst crossing the street. Such a pointless death is more than Clara can bare and she goes to drastic lengths to get The Doctor involved. But what they discover in their search for an afterlife is an insidious plan to turn the world’s dead into an unstoppable army…and there’s only one nemesis of The Doctor crazy enough to dream up such a scheme.

REVIEW
Peter Capaldi’s first series in the TARDIS driving seat has been a mixed bag of sorts; there have been wonderful high points (“Listen”, “Flatline”) and dismal low points (“The Caretaker”, “Mummy On The Orient Express”) but what makes “Dark Water” and “Death In Heaven” something of a chore is the fact that this two-part series finale remains firmly in the middle at all times, never getting dull or annoying but never rising to greatness either. And that’s not to say that there aren’t great moments, as there most certainly are, but they are too few and far between.

Danny’s untimely demise sends Clara into a bit of a state (understandably) and she tries to get The Doctor to go back and change history, in a scene where she threatens him by taking them both to a volcano and throwing the spare TARDIS keys into the lava, one by one. It’s a compelling sequence, sure, but the whole time I was thinking “Can’t The Doctor just snap his fingers and the TARDIS doors will open anyway?” The whole thing turns out to be a deceit; The Doctor slapped a dreaming patch on Clara’s neck beforehand and let her play out the scenario in her mind because he was curious to see how far she would go. Now that he knows, he says that he will help her anyway, leaving Clara flummoxed; she’s just betrayed him, in thought if not in actual deed, so why would The Doctor forgive her? His answer to that is a rather touching display of rare emotion from Ole’ Twelve and adds another little flourish to Capaldi’s evolving portrayal.

And so we’re off! Off to find the afterlife, off to rescue Danny, The Doctor and Clara facing their greatest personal challenge! Only thing is, the whole enterprise is about to get sidetracked by a mystery plot that involves the return of that most un-stay-deadable of villains, The Master. Clara and The Doctor uncover a company named 3W who are storing bodies in water tanks, where recurring mystery character Missy shows up and plays host. She’s clearly not what she seems but The Doctor is struggling to figure out what’s really happening with all of these corpses. Meanwhile Danny wakes up in the Nethersphere – a supposed afterlife where he learns that he can purge all of his emotions and let go of his guilt over having killed a child when he was a soldier (yawn to this development at this late stage in the game). But, in fact, the Nethersphere is a piece of Gallifreyan technology that houses the consciences of thousands of dead people, all of whom are about to get an upgrade when they’re downloaded back into their bodies. Yes, the Cybermen seen all over the trailers and promotional images for this finale are the newly revived dead members of the human race, brought back as an army to outnumber the living in a plan conceived by The Master…who is a now a woman.

The amount of online fury and verbal diarrhoea that greeted the reveal of Michelle Gomez’s Missy as actually being The Master was truly shocking. I mean, come the fuck on; in “The TV Movie”, The Master was a gelatinous CGI ghost snake who deep-throated Eric Roberts. THAT HAPPENED! THAT IS CANON! But making The Master a woman?! Holy fucknuggets, now you’ve really crossed the line! Leaving aside the bigoted bullshit of a portion of the Whovian fanbase, who don’t deserve to call themselves fans, is Michelle Gomez actually any good in the role? Personally, I would say yes, she’s great…but I hope to see her return and do more with the character. Her unhinged, maniacal Missy is a treat but occasionally she slips too close to John Simm style histrionics and certainly I prefer the moments where Gomez instead shows flashes of vicious cruelty instead of over-the-top flirting.

So after all of the build up and with the pieces all in place, what follows is little more than watchable. Missy reveals that she’s created the Cyberman army as a gift for The Doctor, which he of course rejects, leading to CyberDanny making “the ultimate sacrifice” and using himself and the other Cybermen to destroy the scary rain and remove the threat. Then we get the laughable introduction of The Brigadier, resurrected as a Cyberman, supposedly killing Missy and then blasting off to have further adventures that nobody in their right mind wants to see. It’s a massive let down in story terms because this could have been an incredible finale, with The Doctor facing off against Missy and her army, having to do something drastic to put things right, but instead it’s all settled after one conversation in a grave yard. And I won’t even bother getting into the whole thing with Danny sending the dead boy back to the land of the living instead of coming back himself…

On the plus side, Peter Capaldi gives everything he’s got in this last story of series 8. There are moments of quality sarcasm (dealing with the “boy scout” on the plane), heroic grandstanding (“I…am…an idiot! With a box and a screwdriver, passing through, helping out, learning.”), heartbreaking fury (smashing the TARDIS console) and deep sadness (“Never trust a hug…”), all of which are delivered perfectly. With all the issues I may have taken with various episodes this series, Capaldi’s performance has never been one of them; he is a fantastic Doctor and I can’t wait to see him grow in the role and bring even more facets to his portrayal. Long may he reign…but hopefully with some better quality stories behind him, eh?

RATING
As series finales go, this two-parter does a decent job of raising the stakes, returning a classic villain in a new iteration and throwing a bit of fan service in for good measure. But it doesn’t quite pack enough punch to elevate it beyond watchable. Fine performances all around from the main cast and the supporting cast will hold your interest, whilst the story itself will slip in and out of your attention. It’s not bad, but it ain’t great, leading to a final score of 6/10.

Written and edited by Richey Hackett

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8.10 – “In The Forest Of The Night”

Posted in New Who, Series 8 with tags , , , , on September 8, 2015 by Review The Who

DW Series 8 - In The Forest Of The Night

STORY
Clara and Danny take a group of “gifted” students for a sleepover at the Natural History Museum in London, only to wake the following morning and discover that the whole of London has become overgrown with trees. But it’s not just London, as The Doctor soon discovers; it’s the entire planet.

REVIEW
If I was in a cruel mood, I’d probably find it quite easy to dismiss “In The Forest Of The Night” as a piece of filler designed to tide us over before we get to the two-part series finale, where all of the interesting shit always happens. But having watched the episode and mostly enjoyed it (as well as having fun spotting all of the William Blake references), I’m inclined to be a bit more generous towards it’s lightweight nature. There’s also a nice little message tucked away amongst the foliage instead of being forced down your throat.

Playing out with a fairytale atmosphere, “In The Forest Of The Night” is the story of a planetary invasion with a twist; rather than the Earth being plagued by some alien menace or transdimensional beings, nature itself is apparently rising up in rebellion. Overnight, the entire planet has become swamped by trees of all varieties, turning the Earth into one giant forest.

There’s the usual running about as The Doctor and Clara attempt to figure out what’s really going on, with the assistance of a young girl named Maeb who for some reason is able to hear the voices of the trees. When they realise that the trees can’t be destroyed it starts to look as though the forest will become a permanent addition to the world, that is until The Doctor looks in Maeb’s school book and sees that she’s drawn a picture of the sun burning the Earth up. Investigating further, The Doctor discovers that a solar flare is going to hit the planet and destroy everything.

Okay, so science is pretty much meaningless in this episode, as solar flares do not work that way. As it turns out, the trees have grown up to protect the planet, not invade it, so that when the solar flare hits the excess oxygen the trees have created will be burned away by the flare and the Earth will be safe. Again, not science. Not even close.

But that’s alright; this is very much a fairytale episode, with the emphasis being on the ideas, specifically that people should’ve trusted a little more and feared a little less (the government for example immediately attempts to burn the trees, only to find that they are impervious to fire). It’s a fine message, one that isn’t slapping you about the face and trying to make you feel bad. It’s a positive idea.

But despite good performances all around and the subtle message…yeah, this isn’t an episode that I’d ever watch again. It’s enjoyable enough but it certainly doesn’t rank amongst the most memorable of stories.

RATING
“In The Forest Of The Night” is a fun little pit stop before we dive into the more serious drama of the series finale and, for the most part, it works just fine. Lightweight, sure, but diverting and enjoyable nevertheless. And for once I didn’t recoil in abject horror at the performances of the child actors! A curiously watchable 5/10.

Written and edited by Richey Hackett

8.9 – “Flatline”

Posted in New Who, Series 8 with tags , , , , on October 19, 2014 by Review The Who

DW Series 8 - Flatline

STORY
Not for the first time, The Doctor lands the TARDIS in the wrong place but, on this occasion, he has more than an irritated Clara to contend with. The TARDIS itself is shrinking and people in the local area are disappearing. Is there are connection?

REVIEW
Doctor Who is always a treat when it deals in concepts rather than simple storytelling and “Flatline” offers up a compelling concept that opens the door to an unusual situation for The Doctor and Clara. Rather than your traditional monster of the week, the antagonists of this story are beings that exist on a separate dimensional plane to our own, specifically the second dimension. When said 2D thingies begin converting people to their dimensions in an effort to better understand the third dimension and it’s inhabitants, how exactly is The Doctor supposed to communicate with these things and make them understand that they are essentially killing innocent people?

Well, before we can even get to that quandary, The Doctor himself is immediately cut off from being directly involved in this week’s adventure. After arriving in Bristol (once again, nowhere near where Clara is trying to go) our heroes step outside of the TARDIS only to discover that it’s shrunk significantly. The Doctor isn’t immediately rattled by this; he’s actually enjoying the fact that something weird has happened and he has no idea what it is. He sends Clara off to take a look around the nearby housing estate to see if she can find anything that might be connected with the TARDIS shrinkage but, when she returns with news of disappearing locals, the TARDIS has now shrunk to the point where Clara can lift it off the ground. The Doctor is now trapped inside and in a bit of a panic, his initial curiosity now forgotten as the problem seems to be getting worse.

So with The Doctor out of action it’s time for Clara to step in and become his avatar for this week. I’ve seen a lot of people writing online about how much this angered them, saying that The Doctor’s role has been diminished and that the show has become all about Clara. I will not do the show the disservice of referring to these people as fans, as they clearly have no idea what they’re talking about. The worst companions in Doctor Who history are the ones who do very little and basically serve as a plot device for The Doctor to have to run around saving. The best companions are the ones who get involved, help solve the mysteries and act on The Doctor’s behalf when he is either incapacitated to some degree or is off solving another piece of the puzzle by himself. The best companion in the entire history of the show, Sarah Jane Smith, was always investigating and getting her hands dirty in an effort to aid The Doctor but I don’t see anyone complaining about that.

Okay, this is becoming a rant now so I’ll simply say that Clara does an excellent job of not only relaying The Doctor’s instructions but also doing her own thing, putting together the pieces, taking charge of a group of people and doing her best to keep them safe while she deals with this week’s creepy antagonists, The Boneless (more on them in a minute). She essentially spends a day being The Doctor and seeing the world through his eyes; there are tough decisions that have to be made, personal feelings and affections can’t always win out or else they can get in the way, you have to be pragmatic and do the best you can in the situation, even if that means lying to people in order to give them hope. This is all best summed up in a line from The Doctor himself towards the end of the episode, where Clara asks him why he can’t just admit that she was good at being Doctor for the day, to which he responds “You were an exceptional Doctor; but goodness had nothing to do with it.” In other words, doing the right thing doesn’t always equate with doing good things, something The Doctor knows all too well.

The Boneless themselves are a fascinating idea for a villain, one that should probably have appeared before now really. They exist in the second dimension and, as such, have no understanding of our plane, so they analyse and dissect people in order to better comprehend, to learn and evolve. Some of the effects in this episode are absolutely wonderful, with the Boneless brilliantly realised in creepy, fluid stop motion animation that is plastered on top of live action performances to great effect. The fact that The Doctor does his best to understand them and try to communicate with them, only to eventually determine that they are intentionally being hostile, is something I really loved about these monsters. They are not misunderstood or just different in an alien way that we can’t understand – they are monsters, they need to be stopped and there’s only one man for the job in those situations. Well, one Time Lord and his quick-thinking companion.

The resolution may have been lacking somewhat but the style, atmosphere and ideas of the episode all win out and make this an instant classic for New Who. Capaldi and Coleman are both on excellent form throughout, with Coleman bearing the brunt of the workload in this somewhat Doctor-lite episode. There’s also a great visual gag that’s more than a little nod to The Addams Family – I won’t spoil it here but it had me laughing my head off! I really appreciated that little moment of fun in an otherwise moody episode. The guest cast are all pretty good but one individual shone above them all; Joivan Wade as young graffiti artist Rigsy, who played his role with such easy charm and street-smart quick thinking that he would make an excellent future companion for The Doctor. If that never happens, I at least hope to see more of him on television as Wade is clearly a fine young British actor in the making.

RATING
Easily my second favourite story of this series, “Flatline” is an atmospheric, high concept piece that plays out at the perfect speed and features quality performances from all involved. The Boneless are a great one-off enemy, brilliantly realised in creepy stop-motion animation and exactly the kind of alien threat the show needs more of – you can’t see their true form, you can’t understand their motives, you only know that they’re a force to be feared and that The Doctor is the only one who can stop them. Great stuff. “Flatline” earns this series’ second, totally deserved 9/10.

Written and edited by Richey Hackett

8.8 – “Mummy On The Orient Express”

Posted in New Who, Series 8 with tags , , , , on October 11, 2014 by Review The Who

DW Series 8 - Mummy On The Orient Express

STORY
In an effort to part on better terms, Clara decides to accompany The Doctor on one final trip. He takes her on-board the Orient Express…in spaaaaace!! There’s little time to enjoy the nostalgic 1920’s atmosphere though as an ancient mummy appears to be stalking the train’s passengers.

REVIEW
After last week’s emotional epilogue, it seems that Clara has finally had enough of The Doctor’s current incarnation wearing a heartless exterior and has decided that she doesn’t want to travel with him. But rather than parting on bad terms, she agrees to go with him on one last hurrah.

We all know that it will end with Clara forgiving The Doctor; him explaining that he has to make tough choices or else do nothing so that’s why he appears so cold at times, Clara agreeing to travel with him again and everything being back to the way it was. And that’s fine! The interesting part will be the adventure ahead, seeing how things play out and what brings the two of them back together as friends. Except that we don’t. The Doctor and Clara spend the majority of the episode apart, with The Doctor taking charge and leaping headlong into the problem of solving the mystery of the mummy (with Capaldi on fantastic form once again) before meeting up with his companion at the conclusion.

The episode has some great ideas to play with; the 1920’s style in a futuristic setting, the plot switcheroo that reveals the sinister truth behind the Orient Express, the reality of who and what the mummy actually is. But all of these pieces never really fit together, it just doesn’t feel like a complete story and, for all intents and purposes, it comes across as a stand-alone, standard fare adventure. It wasn’t bad, there was nothing about it that annoyed me or made me wonder what the hell the writer was thinking…it just wasn’t that rewarding. All the right ingredients, just not a great meal in the end.

And the happy ending – as much as I may have enjoyed it – was not earned. Not in the slightest. We had so much emotional drama at the end of “Kill The Moon” but by the end of this story our heroes have made up without really much on-screen interplay between the two of them. Bit of a let down for me, I’m afraid. Probably why this has been a shorter review than usual from me – the episode just didn’t leave much of an impression to warrant me saying that much.

RATING
Despite an intriguing premise and some good quality guest performances, “Mummy On The Orient Express” turns out to be a bit of a mixed bag. I would award an extra point for the jelly babies, but I’d only have to deduct that point for the jazz/swing version of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”. A watchable but unrewarding 6/10.

Written and edited by Richey Hackett

8.7 – “Kill The Moon”

Posted in New Who, Series 8 with tags , , , , on October 5, 2014 by Review The Who

DW Series 8 - Kill The Moon

STORY
When The Doctor treats Clara and young Courtney to a quick trip to the moon, it’s not long before they find themselves embroiled in a serious dilemma – one which The Doctor decides is none of his business, leaving the fate of humanity to a child, a teacher and an astronaut.

REVIEW
Genuinely moral dilemmas are a rare thing in modern science fiction by merit of the fact that shows like Doctor Who and Star Trek have already done most of them before. It must be difficult for television writers who want their episode to be filled with morality and difficult questions/decisions to come up with something without suffering the involuntary impulse to check Memory Alpha first. Kudos then to writer Peter Harness for delivering an episode of New Who that does manage to place our heroes in a situation where there is no magic reset button, where hard choices do have to be made and the consequences of those choices have to be faced.

The trouble-making Courtney Woods (played with equal parts innocence and sass by Ellis George) returns to the show after her brief trip in the TARDIS last week, when Clara informs The Doctor that he’s pretty much stamped on the kid’s faith in herself by telling her she’s not special. Encouraging him to try and make it up to her, Clara unwittingly sends The Doctor into show-off mode, as he takes the three of them on a joyride to the moon. They materialise on-board a spaceship that is carrying 100 nuclear missiles and, shortly afterwards, it crashes onto the lunar surface. Our heroes then encounter Captain Lundvik and her team, who are there to try and ascertain why the moon has gained mass and is causing tidal mayhem back on Earth. After a classic Doctor-talking-his-way-out-of-trouble speech, Lundvik agrees to let The Doctor help them in their mission.

But Hinchcliffian horror soon rears its head when the team are attacked by highly evolved germs (that’s “glowing spider thingies” to you and me) and they soon learn that the entire moon is infested with the blighters. But that’s not nearly enough to account for the increased bulk the moon is now carrying around its midriff so The Doctor runs off to explore a crater, leaving Clara, Courtney and Lundvik to twiddle their thumbs for a bit. Upon his return the penny finally drops; the moon is actually an egg and inside this egg there is a one-of-a-kind lifeform growing. That explains the weight, but what about the seismic activity on the lunar surface? Well, that’s the creature attempting to emerge from its shell. The Doctor finds all of this absolutely fascinating and quickly finds the beauty in the existence of such a creature but Lundvik immediately wants to know how they go about killing it. You see, if this thing hatches then the moon will cease to exist and the consequences for Earth could be catastrophic. For a start, the beautiful coastlines of Australia might be permanently defaced by the presence of skyscraper-sized pieces of egg shell.

And this is when The Doctor makes the dramatic decision to step back and wash his hands of the affair. He tells Lundvik and Clara that the future of the human race will be decided right here, right now and seeing as how it’s their moon and their planet that is in potential jeopardy, it’s up to them to figure it all out and make the decision; kill the creature using the nukes or let it hatch and see what happens. Some people will no doubt read this as a pro-life argument, abortion on a planetary body scale, but that’s just stupid (in my opinion). this is a creature that exists nowhere else, it isn’t in a womb or inside a host and it’s not something that requires the care of somebody else. Once it hatches, it will go off and do its own thing. The dilemma here isn’t a pro-life or pro-choice one, it’s more like a test of humanity’s character or a question of faith; do you assume that the hatching of this creature will destroy all life on Earth and kill it to prevent that from happening or do you accept that, realistically speaking, you have no idea what might happen so let the thing hatch and then deal with the consequences?

Clara turns the decision over to humanity itself when she addresses the world, instructing them to leave their lights on to vote Save The Space Egg and to turn their lights off to vote We Don’t Understand! Kill The Thing We Don’t Understand!! You might be expecting a shot of Earth glowing with artificial light to show that mankind has once again proven that it’s alright deep down. If so, you clearly aren’t a member of the human species and must therefore be detained for further study. Yep, all the lights go out and humanity proves that it’s not ready to be Star Trek, preferring instead to save its own arse above all else. It doesn’t matter in the end though as Clara makes the choice to let the cards fall where they may, and stops Lundvik from detonating the nukes. The Doctor turns up instantly afterwards to rescue them all and takes them back to Earth, where they witness the hatching of the creature and the moon’s “shell” disintegrating, causing no harm to the planet below. The consequences of a planet without a moon are still in question though, so it’s time for another classic Doctor speech, in which the Time Lord explains that humanity witnessing the spectacle of the alien being hatching will inspire them to get off their collective backsides and go explore the galaxy, discover new worlds and new civilisations and boldly go where their species has never gone before.

Cue the theme tune from Star Trek: The Next Generation!!

In spite of the positive outcome and the little bit of magic that mankind has witnessed, The Doctor’s behaviour during all of this has been a bit shoddy and it’s no surprise that Clara feels he basically walked out on her at a moment when she was afraid and needed the support of her best friend. That the episode doesn’t gloss over this but instead chooses to address it head-on is wonderful; we are treated to an epilogue in which Clara gives The Doctor a bollocking and tells him to sod off, he’s crossed a line here in their friendship. A chat with Danny doesn’t improve Clara’s mood but it does showcase Danny’s level headedness, gives us another insight into his character when he refers to wisdom being the result of “a bad day” (I couldn’t help thinking of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke at that point!) and once again points his character’s history in the direction of tragedy.

RATING
Leaving aside the high quality of the performances and the emotion-wrought epilogue, “Kill The Moon” would still deserve props just for taking a ridiculous premise like “the moon is an egg” and being able to turn it into a genuine moral dilemma. An “eggcellent” 8/10.

I’m…I’m so sorry…

Written and edited by Richey Hackett

8.6 – “The Caretaker”

Posted in New Who, Series 8 with tags , , , , on October 1, 2014 by Review The Who

DW Series 8 - The Caretaker

STORY
The Doctor takes the job of the school caretaker at Coal Hill, where Clara and Danny work, in order to lure out a rejected monster from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Things occur.

REVIEW
There were some Whovians that accused “Listen” (the absolute highlight of this series so far) of being an episode with little to no story. To those people I say nice try, but here’s “The Caretaker” to show you exactly how an episode with little to no story is truly done. Oh, and look at that; one of the writers was Gareth Roberts, who wrote “Planet Of The Dead”, the most boring episode ever made of New Who, and “The Lodger” and “Closing Time”, where comedy went to die.

If I’m not making this obvious enough, I didn’t like “The Caretaker”.

One thing that New Who arguably does a damn sight better than Classic Who is character development and that’s something to be applauded. The problem is that an entire episode devoted to character development is never going to work if it doesn’t have an interesting story as the framework on which to hang said character development. And if you want to know the story of “The Caretaker”, just look at the top of this article because that’s it, people. That’s all there is. The rest of the episode revolves around the blossoming relationship between Clara and Danny, with The Doctor in the slightly more parental role of being the person whose endorsement Clara is seeking. And again I say – THAT’S FINE! I like seeing Clara being developed as an actual, real person. I like seeing new sides to Danny’s character and having the chance to witness Samuel Anderson grow in the role. I like seeing The Doctor being slightly conflicted about Clara having a love interest but ultimately approving of Danny when he sees that he’ll go to somewhat acrobatic lengths to protect her.

But none of that makes up for the fact that our alien menace this week was utterly pointless. At the opening of the episode, we get a fun little montage of The Doctor and Clara on various adventures where things don’t go according to plan, leaving her dishevelled and knackered when she meets up with Danny literally seconds after each of these encounters. That helps build up Clara’s incentive for wanting a solid block of time with Danny where she’s not secretly running about and almost getting killed on alien worlds. It also provides the impetus for Danny to want to know more about what’s really going on because he can sense that something ain’t right with this broad.

So what’s the solution? Well, ideally you’d want to see Danny suddenly thrust into the adventure of the week without a frame of reference, with no idea what’s going on and having to put the pieces together himself as he’s dragged along with The Doctor and Clara on some terrifying but intoxicating thrill ride of an experience. Remember how Rory’s Dad got pulled into the events of “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship”? That’s how you pull that off. Whereas Brian quickly adjusts to the situation and proves himself to be quite useful, with Danny you could have him seemingly out of his element, all the while trying to figure out how he feels about this sudden revelation (with The Doctor criticising and poking fun at him all the way) before finally proving himself capable of dealing with events in the story’s climax.

That’s not what happens in “The Caretaker”. The Doctor lures out the evil robot baddie in an effort to send it away through a time vortex and Danny fucks the whole thing up. Then he mopes about Clara lying to him before finally proving himself worthy to The Doctor by doing a ridiculous somersault over said robotic nasty to lure it away from hurting Clara, allowing The Doctor to convince it to shut down whilst dressed like a bad Ghostbusters cosplayer. The end.

Oh, and The Doctor once spent a week living amongst otters because he and River had a lover’s tiff. So he’s got that going for him, I guess.

RATING
All the leads turn in solid performances but, at this stage in the series, I’d be disappointed if they didn’t. Character development alone, as wonderful and as important as it is, does not make a great episode of Doctor Who. There has to be something more going on and in “The Caretaker” there just isn’t much of anything really happening. See me after school, episode. A disappointing 5/10.

Written and edited by Richey Hackett

8.5 – “Time Heist”

Posted in New Who, Series 8 with tags , , , , on October 1, 2014 by Review The Who

DW Series 8 - Time Heist

STORY
The Doctor, Clara and two unknown companions find themselves deep in the heart of the universe’s most impenetrable bank, with absolutely no idea of how they got there. All they have to go on is a recording from a mysterious figure called The Architect, who tells them just how shit their odds of surviving are before commanding them to rob the bank. Well, seeing as how they’re already there…

REVIEW
So far this series, Peter Capaldi hasn’t been given the chance to do much running up and down corridors. This blatantly needed to be remedied and so – tah dah – “Time Heist” provides plenty of fast paced running antics and a mystery plot that unravels with a nice bit of flair instead of just unfolding with a quick thunk like a folded up mattress. It also gives The Doctor something new to add to his long list of career choices; bank robber!

Things kick off in the traditional manner; Clara is trying to get ready for a date with Mr Pink and The Doctor is busy harassing her into going on a day out to some amazing alien locale, but before you can say plot contrivance, the TARDIS phone rings. Like all good Whovians, Clara knows that this will inevitably lead to “a thing” and, no sooner has The Doctor answered, than the two of them suddenly find themselves in a room with two complete strangers and they’re all holding rather phallic looking worms to their faces. Unpleasant!

Turns out that The Doctor and Clara, along with their new pals Psi and Saibra, have been recruited by an unkown entity (who refers to himself as The Architect) to rob the bank of Karabraxos – a feat thought to be impossible. Whatever lies in the vault deep in the heart of this heavily fortified instilation, it holds the key to the foursome escaping with their lives and so they venture into the bowels of the bank to discover the secrets. Things are slightly complicated though by the bank’s security system – guards, booby traps, explosives etc. but also a rather unpleasant looking fellow named The Teller, who is able to detect a persons true intentions via psychic connection. As our heroes look on, they get to witness first hand what The Teller does to those with the intention of dishonesty – it liquefies their brains, leaving the would-be robber with a head that looks half inflated. Further unpleasantness!

There’s lots of twists and turns on the way to freedom of course, lots of cool and sarcastic dialogue from Capaldi’s Doctor and even the guest cast get to have some dramatic moments. At one point, Saibra is cornered by The Teller and can’t escape, so The Doctor hands her a device that should vaporise her instantly without pain. In a way, he’s trying to give her a better way out than having her brain squished but it does seem very cold and The Doctor does his best to seem unfazed by her untimely death (leading Psi to remark that “Doctor” obviously stands for “professional detachment” shortly before his own death). But it becomes clear later, when The Doctor and Clara discover that the disintegrators were actually teleporters,  that not only is The Doctor relieved to find Psi and Saibra both alive but that he also feels quite guilty for having put them in the situation in the first place where they needed to seemingly take their own lives to help him and Clara get to the vault.

Having finally made their way to the vault, the team discover Madame Karabraxos inside, who looks identical to the bank’s manager Miss Delphox thanks to the wonders of genetic cloning. She informs them that The Teller is on his way to turn their brains into soup and promptly leaves, but not before The Doctor gives her his phone number and tells her to call him. It seems his memory might be coming back and after a few blasts of psychic fury from The Teller, The Doctor finally remembers that it was an elderly and regretful Karabraxos who phoned him at the beginning of the episode. She didn’t send him and Clara and Psi and Saibra here to rob the bank – she sent them here to free The Teller and its companion so that they could go off and live peacefully somewhere quiet and restart their species. The Doctor understood Karabraxos’ guilt and agreed to help The Teller, necessitating that he wipe his mind and the minds of his co-conspirators in order to get past the security of the bank. That’s right, The Doctor was The Architect all along! Hooray for Scooby Doo endings!!

All in all, I really enjoyed the faster pace and fun scenes of “Time Heist”, so much so that I watched it again the following day and once more for this review. The guest cast aren’t amazing but they’re enjoyable to watch and I particularly liked the dynamic that Capaldi had with each one of them. Admittedly, the ending felt like a bit of a retread from “Hide” but it was well executed and that goes a long way here. Can next week’s episode continue the winning streak?

RATING
After the wonderfully cerebral and atmospheric “Listen”, episode 5 of series 8 dives the viewer into a mystery/adventure that will give The Doctor and Clara something out of the ordinary to do whilst also delivering on the fun factor. “Time Heist” features plenty of good comedic moments, some nicely unsettling ones, a great ensemble guest cast for Capaldi and Coleman to play off and there’s even time for a quip about The Doctor now looking like a magician. A rollicking good 8/10.

Written and edited by Richey Hackett