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Doctor Who XXXIV(8).5: Time Heist

September 20th, 2014 (08:31 pm)

Alison Graham in Radio Times had told us not to expect much, but she was wrong. Time Heist showed what can be done with a small cast of speaking characters, a series of confined settings and lots of thoughtful lighting, as well as pulling off more successfully the misunderstood monster trope last seen in Hide. I'm at my parents' at the moment, and they came in just as the unsuccessful criminal was having his brain liquefied by the Teller; my father exclaimed that this was post-watershed stuff (and Doctor Who will be straddling 9pm from next week) and my mother (at the sight of the concave skull) that this was horrible. They returned for the last ten minutes, however, and my mother gave a cry of sympathy for the imprisoned female Teller. While some concern was expressed for children watching, I think this episode's horror had as much if not more resonance for adults as it would for the younger audience.

Capaldi is demonstrating his versatility and the mercurial nature of this Doctor; the way he hugged his arm after Saibra embraced him was expressive of a deeper awkwardness than non-tactility. Keeley Hawes was quietly magnificent with a few well-chosen performance notes. The Teller was the most expressive new alien creature seen in years, though where spacesuits are concerned BBC Cymru Wales clearly have a long-term agreement with makers of orange fabric.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/2014/09/20/doctor-who-xxiv-8-5-time-heist.html.


Posted by: kaffyr (kaffyr)
Posted at: September 20th, 2014 10:17 pm (UTC)
Dashing Twelve

I agree with you; this was a very well put together story, with lots of unexpected depths, shown to us in brief moments, from unexpected angles. The Director was a horrible person, who had a sliver of humanity left, and the Doctor is relearning that he has more than a sliver of kindness left in him.

It's very rare that someone can create a "romp" episode and infuse it with the kind of all-the-way-through structural and emotional integrity that this one had. I am well pleased.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 20th, 2014 10:22 pm (UTC)

Monstrously sympathetic villains is how I put it on Twitter. I thought the 'heist movie' elements were there to frame something else entirely; extremely professional, and I think Douglas Mackinnon has improved as a Doctor Who director substantially since The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky.

Posted by: kaffyr (kaffyr)
Posted at: September 20th, 2014 10:33 pm (UTC)
Buster thinks

Ah! I hadn't realized it was the same director. I'll have to think back to the pacing and performances he coaxed out of people back then - I remember both episodes being fairly lacklustre and jumpy, so, if nothing else, his pacing has improved.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: September 21st, 2014 09:53 pm (UTC)

At least it was different! Well, the premise was different, even if the actualisation was mostly people running down corridors away from a (very impressive) monster. I liked it a lot, though, even if I still don't feel I have a handle on Capaldi's Doctor. Still, early days.

I'm not sure about the concave skull. I was a squeamish child (and am a squeamish adult), but I think this is something most children would find enjoyably gruesome rather than horrifying. But I could be wrong.

Agreed about the spacesuits. Obviously the adverts of yesteryear were right in asserting that the future's orange, even if it isn't bright.

Any reason why Steven Moffat seems to get a co-author credit on everything?

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 21st, 2014 11:40 pm (UTC)

I've seen it suggested that Brian Minchin has suggested Steven Moffat take a credit on the stories where he's undertaken significant rewrites; the precedent is the Radio Times listings for Torchwood series one's later episodes, where Russell T Davies was credited as co-author in print, though not on screen, where he was not the sole author of an episode.

Posted by: Matthew (emperor)
Posted at: September 22nd, 2014 09:35 am (UTC)

Dr Who does love its ontological paradoxes, doesn't it? That said, this was a good episode, and I didn't spot that there would be another Teller in the private vault until almost the very last moment. OTOH, I'm not sure the plot quite stands up - if the bank is so impregnable, then how can the Doctor break in undetected once (leaving cases around the place that no-one finds), and then again? Who builds an entirely impregnable bank, but doesn't plan in advance for the solar storm? In a universe with cloning tech, why rely on DNA for security? etc.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: September 22nd, 2014 11:47 pm (UTC)

The details were clearer in the script - the bank is designed by the Doctor with the intention that it can be breached by the right person - himself. Everything else is up to Karabraxos, and she plays up to her own paranoia. Perhaps clones only exist as dependent 'inferior copies' like Ms Delphox and so can in theory be trusted.