Sunday, 21 September 2014

Review: Doctor Who - Time Heist

The most impregnable bank in all the universe, you say? The Doctor thinks differently in this week's crime caper of an episode...

'It's just a phone, Clara. Nothing happens when you answer the phone.'

For Doctor Who's seventh series, you may remember (unless you've had a bite from the memory worm) that every episode was plugged as a 'movie-of-the-week' with stories riffing off westerns, film noirs and horror films alongside others. This week we were treated to Series Seven's missing adventure, Namely, 'Time Heist', an episode that does exactly what it says on the tin and provides a sci-fi spin on the classic heist movie. 

As with the writer's previous effort, Stephen Thompson's adventure has timey-wimey painted all over it. The set-up could have come from any high-concept thriller film - four people wake up knowing they must rob a bank without remembering why they're doing it - and continues the strong openings of this year's run so far. The momentum is also generally kept up throughout the episode thanks to the pace and the camaraderie of the characters. If there is a fault in the plotting then it's that some of the twists don't come off quite as surprising as intended - although second guessing the characters is sometimes part of the fun.

In other areas, however, the episode certainly succeeded on all fronts. This, the second episode this year from veteran Who director Douglas MacKinnon, is as slick and stylish as Doctor Who has ever been and fits in with the flashier direction this series has been gifted with. It seems that since its visit to the silver screen the show is clearly making more of an effort to match up to its cinematic counterparts. 

Word must also be given to the cast which is ably filled out by Jonathan Bailey and Pippa Bennett-Warner as the Doctor and Clara's fellow bank robbers. They are not the Doctor's best ensemble gang ever but both are given enough to be likeable amongst all the action. Keeley Hawes is also well cast as the prickly Miss Delphox, a woman of many facets... 
Something that also struck this reviewer this week was how much Peter Capaldi has completely consumed the role of the Doctor. This is only episode five but it seems like he has always been in the role, insulting Clara's appearance and telling everyone to shut up. Crucially, though, his antipathy for others has occasionally bordered on making the character too far removed from our classic hero but here the Doctor shows his intelligence and compassion, as well as his grumps. This is the Doctor we all know and love. 

On the whole, 'Time Heist' is a fun jaunt away from the heavier episodes this year ('Listen, 'Into the Dalek'...). A kind of Doctor Who does Hustle (Doctor Who-stle?), it provides a solid 45 minutes of cleverly-plotted entertainment. It may not linger in the memory as much as some others but still serves as a important addition to the series - particularly in its inclusion of the Teller. With a memorable design, creepy power (the 'that's not tears. It's soup' line was utterly chilling) yet sympathetic edge, it is surely the best monster this year. And I'm telling the truth about that. Trust me, he'd know.

Reign of Teller - The Doctor and co have to watch out for this monstrous guilt-tripper.

Next week: The Doctor gets a new job - as Caretaker of Coal Hill School. Just as Clara is trying to sort out her relationship with Danny. This can only mean trouble. Oh, and there's an alien involved. This can only mean Doctor Who...

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