Friday, September 26, 2014

Painfully Predictable, “Time Heist” Is The First Doctor Who Flop For Peter Capaldi!

The Good: Moments of direction, Sense of values.
The Bad: Very predictable plot, No real character development
The Basics: With “Time Heist,” Steven Moffat creates a predictable bank job story that maintains Doctor Who ethics and values.

There is an unfortunate thing that occurs when a writer whose body of work largely consists of works that hinge upon a reversal at the end creates a sufficient library that those who watch their works are able to predict their reversals. Unfortunately for Steven Moffat and fans of Doctor Who, if that point had not been reached before, it is certainly hit by the episode “Time Heist.” “Time Heist” is like Mission Impossible III (reviewed here!) was for fans of Alias (reviewed here!); it was entirely unsurprising to anyone who was a fan of the works of J.J. Abrams. Virtually every move in the film was predictable because it was something of a “best of” Alias and fans of Abrams’s other works had seen all of the best plays.

In a similar fashion, “Time Heist” moves right along, but it plays very much like a Steven Moffat “best of,” even if he has not previously done a Doctor Who bank robbery caper. There are some new specifics to Moffat’s Doctor Who Universe that are unique; the indented head and the floor bomb are pretty cool, but feel less surprising than they are well-executed in “Time Heist.” After all of the uncertainty raised in “Into The Dalek” (reviewed here!) as to what kind of man the new regeneration of The Doctor is, “Time Heist” finally explicitly declares that he is a good man.

Opening with The Doctor interrupting Clara as she prepares for a date with Danny Pink, when the TARDIS’s telephone rings, the Doctor, Clara and two people they have never seen before find themselves seated at a table, holding memory worms. After the quartet hears a recording of each of them consenting to the memory wipe they have just experienced, they watch a recording from The Architect. The Architect insists that the quartet is going to rob the Bank Of Karabraxos, an impregnable bank for the ultra rich. One of the two people in the group is an augmented human, who has the ability to download all of the information the Architect left for them. The other additional person, Saibra, is able to mimic the appearance of anyone or anything whose DNA she encounters. Together, the four step into the Bank Of Karabraxos where they witness the price of failure. An individual who is in the lobby at the same time encounters the telepathic Teller, who senses the man’s guilt and liquefies the man’s brain.

As Psi, Saibra, The Doctor and Clara advance into the vault, the head of the Bank Of Karabraxos, Ms. Delphox starts to hunt the quartet. Finding cases left throughout the underbelly of the Bank, the quartet gains tools and information on their purpose. They are pursued by the alien Teller, who is the last of its kind. As the Teller hones in on the group’s mental energy, it comes to feed upon each of them. But when the Doctor and Clara make it to the deepest vault, a solar storm hits and gives The Doctor the tools needed to complete the robbery.

Moffat’s script is hardly an audacious one; in fact, he seems to address how mundane the concept of “Time Heist” is early in the episode. “Time Heist” is essentially a drawn out punchline to the joke, “A time traveler goes to rob a bank . . .*” with Doctor Who sensibilities. So, just like fans of Star Trek expect characters who wear a StarFleet uniform to act with a certain set of values (the Prime Directive, respect for life and freedom, etc.), fans of Doctor Who expect there to be a purpose for the actions of the Doctor. “Time Heist” continues to neglect the overall mission inherent to the new Doctor’s story – namely finding Gallifrey – but climaxes in a revelation consistent with the values of The Doctor.

Sadly, it is not a terribly surprising or clever mission.

“Time Heist,” as a thoroughly underwhelming episode, could not come at a worse time for Peter Capaldi and Doctor Who. Capaldi is embodying one of the most compelling and interesting Doctors in recent memory, but the story in “Time Heist” does nothing to truly advance his character. Unlike most of the prior episodes in which Capaldi has appeared, after the teaser, Capaldi is given nothing remarkable to perform. The Doctor does not advance or develop in “Time Heist;” he is simply restored to a familiar set of values that Doctor Who fans will recognize.

“Time Heist” is plot-heavy, has a cool-looking alien, but does not allow anyone to shine. The result is one of the worst, most mundane episodes of the modern Doctor Who.

For other heist stories, please check out my reviews of:
“Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Usual Suspects
Prison Break - Season 1

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Eighth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor here!


Check out how this episode stacks up against other episodes and seasons of Doctor Who by visiting my Doctor Who Review Index Page where the episodes are organized from Best to Worst!

* “. . . realizes he’s done it before.”
© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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