Doctor Who does its best impression of Ocean’s Eleven breaking into Gringotts. Does the obvious homage to other pop culture texts spell good things for the show’s eighth season?
Let’s bitch it out…
First off, thanks to cinephilactic who covered me last week – and although he was right about my persistent negatively throughout S8, he may be happy to know that I found ‘Time Heist’ to be the most enjoyable episode of Doctor Who this season. Yes, I’m sure many others will gripe about how it’s essentially a mashup of borrowed plotlines- and although the episode of plenty of cliché moments, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement throughout that has been sorrowfully lacking all throughout S8. This episode had everything, a tightly plotted and very clear narrative (who doesn’t love a good heist?), some great new characters (my chin still needs a wipe down after drooling over Jonathan Bailey’s Psi), and even some timey-wimey goodness (finally!).
Anyone could have told you that The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) was The Architect from the moment we saw that hooded figure and heard that distorted voice (it’s a dead giveaway, who are we kidding) but in this instance, it really is an example of the journey being far more important than the goal. Often times the show takes itself way too seriously- tending to lose itself (and its audience) when motivations and scenarios are just too complicated for their own good. Here, we know right from the beginning what the goal is: to rob a bank, and we’ve got an interesting team to make it happen. The voluntary memory wipe is a great way to propel viewer motivation – we know we’ll eventually find out why they’ve decided to do this and it merely sets up some excitement in expectation going through. Doctor Who needed an episode like this – good pacing, nice distribution of performances, contained plot and even a suggestively phallic monster for a little bit of interest. It wasn’t the best episode of the show’s rebooted run, but I appreciated how it no longer felt like a chore to get through it.
I still think the Doctor is lacking some development – we still see him try to prove himself right while being old and crotchety throughout the quest – but we’re starting (slowly) to understand why. When the Teller scans his memories, (a second time this happened this season) it’s clear the Doctor is carrying a lot of baggage. While both Ten and Eleven dealt with this guilt, sorrow, etc. in sporadic moments, perhaps the externalizing these burdens will be Twelve’s defining characteristic. That he can no longer run away from his experiences and the consequences that accompany all of those journeys and lives he’s effected. It’s also abundantly clear that the Doctor hates himself. It’s been spelled out to us so many times it mind as well be tattooed on his forehead.
Perhaps this can give us further insight into his new costume, which he himself describes as ‘minimalist’. There’s nothing to hide behind here – no bowties, fezzes and glasses worn just to appear smart – this Doctor is simply too tired to think about how to distract. Maybe I’m just grasping at straws here, but I’m determined to believe that Twelve is a Doctor in his own right- I just wish it wouldn’t take so darn long to figure out who he’s gonna be. I can see the argument that this is more organic process and isn’t as contrived as we’ve seen prior, but there’s a delicate balance between being boring your audience and intriguing them with a slow build. Where do you think Twelve’s evolution falls?
All in all, ‘Time Heist’ is a solid episode even if it does fall back into a more predictable, case-of-the-week structure. Perhaps perfecting what it does right and delivering entertaining vignettes is a better way to go until we get a new companion.
- Even though this season is largely a dud, let’s take a moment to applaud the impressive array of female supporting characters that have been featured thus far. Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner) really does shine in the limited scenes she has – giving us definite shades of X-Men‘s Rogue as she laments about how her ‘condition’ has sentenced her to a life of solitude. I also loved the measured callousness of Ms. Delphox (Keeley Hawes), who has just the right amount of bitchy-robotic-ness that is perfectly fitting for a villain in this environment. There were definite callbacks to Missy (Michelle Gomez, who is absent once again) who I’ve mentioned before as being the most intriguing of S8’s elements, but perhaps it’s those perfect red lips that’s triggering the comparison. Nevertheless, bravo to our female guest stars.
- I mentioned it before, but huzzah to the return of playing around with time streams. Setting things up in the future and returning to the past reminds me of the brilliance that was ‘Blink’. More please.
- Anyone else getting a kind of Adam Lambert vibe from Psi’s fashion choices? I’m secretly hoping he’ll turn into this season’s Captain Jack (John Barrowman).
- The slow motion returns, but at least it’s played for gags instead of emotional manipulation.
What did you think viewers? Was this a good episode for you? Do you feel like we’re getting to know Twelve better? Wasn’t the make-up job they did on old Ms. Delphox pretty impressive? Do you think this is the last we’ll see of Psi and Saibra? Sound off in the comments below.
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9:00pm EST on BBC America and 8:00pm EST on Space Network in Canada.