Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 5 Review: Time Heist

Time HeistHere we go: “Time Heist” is one of the high-concept episodes of this series of Doctor Who, following in the vein of episodes like “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. Even from its title alone, it promises genuine excitement, but is this week’s episode actually any good? Well, yes and no. It’s not a total letdown, but the ride is certainly fun.

“Time Heist” begins in a similar way to many other recent episodes: with Clara (Jenna Coleman) connecting to and developing her relationship with Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), and The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) managing to swing by with some curiosity that inevitably leads to adventure. This week’s episode throws the audience and our heroes straight into the deep end, with The Doctor and Clara finding themselves mind-wiped and thrown in with augmented human Psi (Jonathan Bailey) and mutant shapeshifter human Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner), all led by a faceless Architect who informs them that they’ve signed up to rob a bank.

But it’s not just any old bank: we’re talking about the most secure bank in the universe. And obviously, this being Doctor Who, it’s not just any old bank robbery, either.

This is where Time Heist is a bit of a letdown. It’s far from being as elaborate or cool a bank heist as those perfected in films and TV shows over the years, but there’s still that Doctor Who charm in its DNA. Capaldi’s Doctor is as blunt and dry as he’s been throughout the series and leads with lots of command, misdirection and eyebrows. It’s a no-brainer that he takes charge, but he draws some wonderful chemistry from his co-heist partners.

In the short time we have with them in the space of an episode, Psi and Saibra are useful characters that have a purpose in the heist and the overall story, and together the four leads make a great team. Clara is the weak link, however, with danger persistently following her and clamping down on her like a magnet, which is a shame. For each bit of development she gets character-wise, she seems to be thrown to the metaphorical lions in each episode just to create extra tension.

Keeley Hawes as Ms Delphox adds some sinister layers to the equation, her character always acting under orders with consequences that are quite severe. Coupled with the use of a monster with a twist – The Teller, an alien even The Doctor hasn’t seen before – our heroes have more than they’re cut out for a lot of the time.

“Time Heist” is a fair episode, but one that isn’t great until two thirds of the way through. It’s not until things really get “Doctor Who” on us that the concept starts to shine. It’s a shame it takes so much time to build and show its hand, but at the same time, it makes sense. Much like last week’s episode, it’s all about the final payoff.

If only the production values and the budget offered just a tiny bit more here, this would be a much stronger episode. Many of the bank locations look great, but then things devolve to the usual running through corridors fare. With a concept like that behind “Time Heist”, there could have been just a little more slickness and coolness, and more of the twists and turns that we know Doctor Who can deliver. What it does give us is pretty good, but one can’t help but wish for more. Overall then, it’s not at all a bad episode, but it’s one that suffers from having been overhyped.

Still, next week’s episode does look solid, and is penned by Gareth Roberts, who has written some damn fine episodes in the past. What could possibly go wrong?

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