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Time Heist

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

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Presented with a task he cannot refuse, the Doctor becomes a bank robber, and brings together a team of talented criminals to rob the most dangerous bank in the galaxy. With the help of a mutant shape shifter and computer-enhanced human, the Doctor and Clara must find a way to get past the advanced security within the Bank of Karabraxos, controlled by the villainous Ms Delphox, where the Doctor and his team soon encounter the Teller: a fearsome telepathic creature of unimaginable power that can detect guilt…

Time Heist plunges the Doctor and Clara into an adventure where time travel and bank heist collide in this fifth episode of series eight, co-written by Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat. Having brought us The Curse of the Black Spot (2011) and Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, Stephen Thompson latest offering is an exciting high-concept adventure that combines Doctor Who with Ocean’s 11 and a hint of Mission Impossible, as the Doctor and his team attempt to beak into the most highly guarded bank in the cosmos.

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Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are once more on great form in this episode as the Doctor visits Clara while she’s getting ready for a date with Danny, when a surprise phone call to the TARDIS suddenly finds them awakening on another world – their memories erased by memory worms (creatures first seen in the 2012 Christmas Special: The Snowmen). The Doctor and Clara have little choice but to accept their mission from the mysterious Architect to rob the Bank of Karabraxos, together with their fellow team members: the beautiful shape-shifter Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner) and cyber-augmented computer hacker Psi (Jonathan Bailey).

All movement on this planet is monitored, even the air is regulated. The Bank of Karabraxos also has the ultimate security system, the terrifying mind-reading alien: The Teller. The Doctor and his team have some protection from the creatures power because their memories have been wiped, but with no idea how to carry out the heist they‘ve been hired to perform, they must rely on a series of briefcases left by the Architect to guide them. Once the Doctor and his team manage to get into the Deposit Booth, their presence is detected, putting the mission and their lives in jeopardy. The ruthless head of security at the bank, Ms Delphox (Keeley Hawes), is determined to stop the Doctor’s gang and keep the impregnable banks secrets and its reputation secure.

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Time Heist is an involving and action-packed story from writer Stephen Thompson. The clever use of time travel to rob a bank is really inspired, complex, exciting, and with a fascinating central premise, the real highlight of Time Heist is seeing the Doctor working with a team of professional criminals to break into the Bank of Karabraxos. The scene where Psi attempt to distract the Teller features the hacker accessing a colourful array of computerised mug shots: where we see a Teripletil (originally seen in the 1982 story the Visitation), a Slitheen (aliens that have featured in a number of new Doctor Who and Sarah Jane Adventures), a Sensorite (last seen 1964‘s The Sensorites), Androvax and the Trickster (both from the Sara Jane Adventures), Captain John Heart (James Masters) who appeared in Torchwood’s second season, an Ice Warrior of the same design seen in Cold War (2013), the Gunslinger from A Town Called Mercy (2012), and Absalom Daak (the Dalek Killer) a popular character from the Doctor Who comic strips.

Capaldi’s 12th Doctor is at his grouchy, disagreeable best in Time Heist, he’s far less user-friendly than his predecessor, and seems almost frustrated at times by his team’s inability to keep up with him – which makes him that little bit more dangerous and unpredictable. Pippa Bennett-Warner is great as the shape-shifter Saibra, she even gets to impersonate Clara at one point, and Jonathan Bailey is also really good as computer wiz-kid Psi. The scene were Psi brings the Doctor to task about his “professional detachment” is another superb moment. Jenna Coleman also has plenty to do in Time Heist, she’s an integral part of the Doctor’s team, and because their memories get erased it leads to really some fun banter between them during the episode.

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Using a dimensional shift bomb the Doctor and his fellow bank robbers descend to the service level, where they uncover the horrific fate of those who have dared to cheat the bank. With security closing in, the teams escape route inadvertently leads them into frightening encounters with the Teller, where first Saibra, and then later once Ms Delphox has unleashed the Teller to track them down, Psi, valiantly sacrifice themselves using the exit strategy provided for them by the Architect. After this deadly game of cat and mouse with the Teller, a solar storm begins battering the planet, allowing the Doctor and Clara the chance they need to finally break into the vault and use the code from the last case to find the things that their team most wanted to find in all the universe.

Keely Hawes gives a brilliant performances as Ms Delphox, the wickedly evil head of security at the Bank of Karabraxos, with her deadly golden armoured guards and icy-cool charm, she makes a perfect adversary for the Doctor. The way Mrs Delphox deals with a customer who is trying to swindle the bank is quite horrific, and she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to stop the Doctor his and team from reaching the vault.

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After trying to locate the contents of the Private Vault the Doctor and Clara are captured and Ms Delphox orders her guards to dispose of them. The guards are actually Saibra and Psi in disguise; it seems the disintegrator “exit strategy” devices given to them by the Architect were really teleports to a ship hidden in orbit. The Doctor gives them the items they found in the vault as payment for their mission, Saibra has the gene suppressant antidote she wanted to cure her mutation and Psi receives the neophyte circuit to restore his memories.

With the solar storm sweeping the planet, the Doctor and his allies gain access to the Private Vault, where the Director of the Bank is revealed as Madame Karabraxos. She has used numerous clones of herself to control her own security, of which Mrs Delphox was just one of many, and it quickly becomes apparent that Madame Karabraxos has no qualms about “firing”, quite literally, any clones that fail her. A sudden flash of inspiration inspires the Doctor to give Madame Karabraxos the phone number for the TARDIS on a scrap of paper as she gathers her valuables, revealing he is a time traveller, before asking her to call him should she ever have any regrets as she departs. The Teller arrives and the Doctor willingly allows the creature to scan his mind, unblocking his memories, revealing the Doctor was really the Architect and shows the Time Lord how he set up the whole heist and planted all of the cases to enable his team to reach their goal.

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The Teller (Ross Mullan) is an alien being whose telepathic powers have been subverted and slaved to Ms Delphox’s will in order to provide the Bank of Karabraxos with the most ingenious and impregnable security system in the universe. This creature has awesome powers, and even the Doctor has never encountered anything quite like it before. The way it locks onto a persons mind to wipe it completely, feasting on their memories before turning their brain to “soup”, leaving them alive but in a state far worse than death, is very unsettling. We discover that the Teller is not the last of its kind as Ms Delphox claimed, and that the Doctor has orchestrated the entire heist to free another member of the Teller’s species, a female that’s been imprisoned in the Private Vault by Madame Karabraxos as a bargaining chip to ensure the Teller’s complete obedience to the Bank of Karabraxos. The Doctor helps both aliens and uses the TARDIS to take them to a planet where they can live together in peace and solitude, free from the mental traffic of the universe.

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Time Heist is a fast-paced Sci-Fi crime-caper from Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat, the story makes great use of its diverse cast of characters, Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are excellent as the Doctor and Clara, I really like how their characters interact with Saibra and Psi, lets hope they return to work with the Doctor again one day. It’s also ingenious how the phone call from the elderly Madame Karabraxos instigates the whole adventure, and the Doctor being jealous about Danny was priceless. Time Heist is the second story directed by Douglas Mackinnon for Peter Capaldi’s debut season, and just as he did with Listen, Mackinnon’s stylish use of striking and innovative visuals, together with the stunning CGI vistas featuring the bank, really enhances the story, capturing the heist vibe perfectly, to make Time Heist a thoroughly enjoyable and exciting adventure.

Images Belong BBC