Director: Douglas Mackinnon
Starring: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Keeley Hawes
The Story: The Doctor and Clara wake up in the galaxy’s most impregnable bank, with one instruction: rob it.
For this Doctor Who fan, interest was seriously beginning to wane in the new series. The first three episodes proved lacklustre to the point of dire tedium, encapsulated in the trainwreck that was Robot of Sherwood. It’s not that twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi was necessarily unwatchable (aside from the odd incomprehensible line here and there); no, instead, it was the writing that had gone so severely downhill.
Luckily, things picked up with last week’s Listen; an altogether more interesting experience than the repetitive, tired and ultimately inconsequential drivel that had preceded it. It was hoped that the series had finally come into its own – sadly, Time Heist only brings us full circle. While its monster is certainly one of the more interesting this series, the plot is predictably half-arsed and the usually-reliable Douglas Mackinnon (responsible even for last week’s Listen) really screws up the direction on this one.
It’s clear that he’s tried to go for the 60s/70s spy homage, right down to the awkward transitions and cheesy score. Sadly, it mostly falls flat, with a particularly poor sequence towards the episode’s end when the Doctor drops off his new gang of companions. This, coupled with a timey-wimey script that hops about with little care for a natural flow, makes for a highly jarring experience.
The episode opens with a dash of trademark Who-banter between Clara and the Doctor, before a mysterious phone call sees them awake inside the galaxy’s most heavily guarded prison (not that you’d know it from the ease with which they later come to navigate it). Sat opposite is a pair of dull-at-best filler characters, Psi and Saibra, who we suspect will probably come in useful as a plot device at some point.
Upon receiving instructions from a mysterious (or not) ‘architect’, the gang then set about trying to rob the place – to what end, they do not yet know. Predictably, it transpires that the plot device tag-alongs are attempting to acquire the one thing that will fix their respective afflictions, all at the behest of – who else? – the Doctor. It’s all horrendously predictable (who didn’t see that the shredders were teleporters?) and resumes Series 8’s tendency towards tedium.
Luckily, Time Heist isn’t totally without any redeeming factors: Keeley Hawes’ guest appearance as Ms Delphox at least represents a notable performance in the series so far, even if her character is somewhat clichéd. But it’s the mysterious Teller who really steals the show (despite having his creature design borrowed from every other sci-fi source under the sun… Admiral Ackbar anyone?); his story is a little predictable in the end, but it’s still an interesting one that we haven’t seen in Who for a while.
Still, you get the sense that Series 8 of Doctor Who is trying too hard to be a lighter and breezier ride – perhaps in a vague attempt to please those who prefer the whimsy while still keeping Capaldi’s Doctor relatively darker than previous incarnations. But this is futile – it doesn’t give Capaldi room to breathe, so we’re struggling to get a sense of just what kind of Doctor he is. During those lighter moments it almost feels like he’s being forced to ape the mannerisms of David Tennant or Matt Smith, which feels horribly like pandering and doesn’t suit Capaldi at all.
It’s been a rough ride so far, but hopefully things will pick up over the course of the series and allow Capaldi to really come into his own in one of these episodes. Alas, Time Heist is not that episode; instead, it’s another dull 45 minutes with barely a breath of excitement.
The end reveal in the bank’s private vault, while slightly predictable on the part of the Teller, was at least well executed – and also gave Capaldi his best scene of the episode.
The Doctor: Are you taller?
The Doctor: What, do you have to reach a high shelf?
Clara: Right, gotta go, gonna be late!
The Doctor: For a shelf?
[usr=2] THN’s Doctor Who Series 8 Blog returns next Saturday.