Sunday, September 21, 2014

Doctor Who Is NEW: Time Heist

As Series 8 of Doctor Who progresses, I have found it fascinating to watch Peter Capaldi's development as the Doctor. As we were promised, this is a darker, edgier Doctor but if any one was concerned that it might mean a loss of humor and wonder, that has not been the case. Capaldi's Doctor is in many ways just as childlike as any of his predecessors, maybe even more so. The Doctor has a petulant frustration with the normal flow of time and with the slowness of minds around him, just a like a child frustrated that his parents don't understand the mythology of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and what's taking so long for the next new episode to get here. The Doctor continues to have a wondrous fascination with questions that still need to be answered and mysteries that still must be solved. 

In this weekend's new episode, Time Heist, we find the Doctor being snarky and clever and moody and intrigued and amazed and...well, there's a lot going on with the Doctor as he finds himself involved in a most unusual situation. 

He's robbing a bank. And not just any bank but the most secure bank in the universe. It is a bank that is impossible to rob and the Doctor, Clara and two new found compatriots have to do just that: rob it. 

How cool is that? 

So let's take a look at the Doctor's latest adventure but first the spoiler warning. 


Is that spoiler warning actually getting scarier? 

OK, let's get down to business. 

Time Heist
by Steven Thompson and Steven Moffat 

Things begin in Clara Oswald's home as she is rushing out the door to get to her 2nd date with Danny Pink. Of course the Doctor is oblivious to all this; he assumes the heels she's wearing is to help her reach a top shelf or something. Their banter is interrupted by the TARDIS telephone ringing. Clara doesn't want the Doctor to answer it because that will surely lead to trouble. The Doctor dismisses Clara's concerns as foolish. What kind trouble can one get into by just answering the phone?

One quick jump cut later and the Doctor and Clara are in trouble. 

In a dimly lit room, Clara has just been bit by a memory worm and her recent memories are all gone, a fate shared by the Doctor and two others, an augmented human computer hybrid named Psi and a mutant shape shifter named Saibre.  Recordings of their own voices assure themselves that they each agreed to be mind wiped of their own free will. Then we get a message from a mysterious entity known only as...the Architect. All blurry image and distorted voice, the Architect gives this foursome their mission: to rob the bank of Karabraxos, the bank that is impossible to rob. Any slip ups and they will be incinerated. Oh and they better get moving on that because guards are already after them. 

Saibre shape shifts a face to get the team into the bank where we discover what is the most significant peril to face our stalwart adventurers: an alien being know as the Teller. The Teller has psionic powers that, among other things, can turn a person's own thoughts, particularly guilty thoughts, against them. The bank manager, Ms. Delphox, commands the Teller to confirm the guilt of a suspected bank thief. The result is not pretty and only because of the self-inflicted mind wipe, the process does not happen to the Doctor and his gang.  At least not yet. 

The heist team heads deeper into the bank while Ms. Delphox becomes aware that the real thieves are still at large in the bank. So the Doctor, Clara, Saibre and Psi are on the run, trying to stay ahead of security goons and the Teller. But first Saibre then Psi must make valiant sacrifices to keep the Doctor and Clara moving towards the vaults. 

But in the end, Ms. Delphox captures the Doctor and Clara and orders her security team to have the pair executed. Fortunately for the Doctor and Clara, the two security guards on that detail are actually Saibre and Psi in disguise. So its back to the vault where they find the secret hiding at the center of the impregnable vault of the bank of Karabraxos: Director Karabraxos herself, living in luxury and looking very much like Ms. Delphox. 

Or rather its the other way around as its revealed that Ms. Delphrox is the clone of the Director. But things are falling apart quickly as a solar storm is ravaging the Karabraxos bank. The Director makes her escape but not before the Doctor gives her his phone number. Then then Doctor allows himself to be attacked by the Teller whose psionic powers reawakens the Doctor's latent memories and the true nature of the Teller is revealed. The Doctor, Clara, Saibre and Psi escape from the bank. Saibre and Psi as well as the Teller all get their hearts' desires while the Doctor get Clara back to her time in time for her date with Danny.

The end.  

So let's call this "Doctor Who Meets Ocean's Eleven". Like Robot of Sherwood romped around the cinematic toybox of the Robin Hood legend, Time Heists plays with the conventions of a classic heist caper movie. A mysterious mastermind, a complex plot that requires perfect timing, players in the heist with special skills and damaged psyches, unexpected obstacles and plot twists within plot twists. But of course with a Doctor Who spin involving future science and time travel. 

Some random musings 'n' stuff: 

The Doctor continues to be oblivious to Clara's private life. He may not be "Clara's boyfriend" (as he so succinctly reminded us in Deep Breath) but he's still intent on keeping her in his life as much as possible. He line at the end, ""Robbing a bank. Robbing a whole bank. Beat that for a date" seems to suggest a bit of competition from the Doctor with Clara's real life.  

Saibre was totally Rogue from the X-Men. Not a bad thing, mind you, but the whole "I can't touch other people so I'm always alone" thing was just a strong call out that one wonders if one of the Steves is an X-Men fan. 

Psi has his own "with my great powers comes a great price" motif as he has been forced to delete all memories of family and friends in order to protect them. He loved them so much, he had to save them; because he saved them, he no longer remembers loving them.  

The secret of the Teller is in keeping with previous Doctor Who monsters that have proven to not be the monsters we thought them to be. Comparable to the Nimon in The God Complex, for example, the Teller inflicts fates upon people in service to the bank but there is a reason why the bank keeps the Teller in chains. The Teller is not the last of his kind but one of the two last of his kind. Ultimately the Teller only wants to live free on a quiet planet with his mate. 

The issue of the Doctor's self-loathing comes up again. Addressed with the 11th Doctor vs. the Dream Lord in Amy's Choice back in 2010, the mind wiped Doctor realizes that he HATES the Architect and there's only one person he hates that much. Before the Teller restores his memories, the Doctor realizes the the Doctor. Yep, the Doctor is manipulating himself as well as others. Of course its in the cause of not a bank heist but a rescue mission, the mission to save the Teller and his mate. But nonetheless, the Doctor does not think well of this manipulative Architect; in turn, he does not think well of himself.

The Doctor channels Malcolm Tucker when the Doctor tells others around him to "shuttity shut up up up!"  

We have ourselves a classic Moffat loop. The phone call the Doctor gets as the start of the episode results from the Doctor giving his phone number to Director Karabraxos near the end of the episode which in turn reveals that the call comes from the future where Karabraxos is many years older and needs to make amends for something. In other words, the Doctor manipulate events in the future to make sure he gets a phone call in the past that will bring him to the present where...

Oh, I'm getting dizzy. 

My only pet peeve with this episode is that for the most defended, most impregnable bank in the universe, the gates over the duct work seem to come loose very easily. And other than Teller's scary psionic skull deflate, all the other security people are just normal guys from central casting. 

But man that is such a small pet peeve in what I found to be a very enjoyable romp for the Doctor and Clara.  Which is good to know because I wasn't sure I would be able to use the word "romp" for a Peter Capaldi Doctor Who episode and yet we've had 2 of the last five episodes being just that, a romp.

But overall, I enjoyed the episode quite a bit. So far, this series as been more or less on a roll. And I can't wait to see what happens next.



Saturday: It's Love's Labours WON as we look at romance for the companions in the TARDIS. 

Sunday: Another Doctor Who Is New with my review of The Caretaker.

Until next time, be good to one another.

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