Recap: ‘Doctor Who’ – ‘Time Heist’ is an old-fashioned bank robbery with a twist

Deputy Entertainment Editor


After last week”s episode, which was arguably one of the strongest entries into the Whovian lore in years, can the show maintain that momentum? “Time Heist” looks like a straight forward bank caper in the vein of the Rat Pack or the new Rat Pack Ocean”s Eleven. But things are rarely, if ever, straight forward when the Doctor is involved.

Away we go!


Oh hey, the world is twirling like an out of control Spin Art™ machine. No, wait. It”s just the Doctor staring into Clara”s dryer. He is trying to convince her to run away on an adventure with him instead of going on a boring old date with Danny. Doctor Who, Last of the Time Lords, Professional Cock-Blocker.

Clara is not taking the bait though. She is dressed to the nines and is ready for date two with her probable future husband. Her ensemble is a smashing pants suit with a tie and sure, you could argue it”s because the writers/wardrobe knew she”d be engaging in some high end bank robbery but I”d like to think it”s because she sees Danny as a potential soul-mate and this is her misguided notion of dressing “adult.” Either way, she looks fabulous.

The Doctor disagrees. “Why is your face all colored in?” Every Real Housewife needs to be watching this show and taking notes from Capaldi on how to throw shade. He manages to insult her outfit, her shoes, and her life choices…all without actually saying anything insulting. It”s uncanny. But just as Clara is about to flip him off and leave, the phone rings.

But not just any phone. The TARDIS phone. Which is odd, since only a handful of people in all of time and space have that phone number. Including the “girl in the shop” who gave the number to Clara. I”m glad they touch on that, but the plot thread flits away before we can so much as examine it. Twelve must decide if he”s going to answer the phone. Clara is suspicious. If he answers the phone, a thing will happen and then she”ll miss her date. So of course he picks up. If I didn”t know any better, I”d think the Doctor didn”t like Danny (or Clara spending time with anyone who isn”t him).

Sidenote: Does Clara have roommates? Her flat seems abnormally large for a single lady working on a teacher”s salary. But maybe British teachers make better cash than American?

Without preamble we are in a new, mood-lit location. The Doctor is screaming. There are memory worms involved. Oh, and a few new faces. No one remembers how they got into this room. It looks like they all lost a high stakes poker game, but instead of chips in the middle of the table, there is a suitcase. Which starts speaking in a vaguely robotic imitation of the Doctor”s voice. It”s a recording of each participant in the crime spree, each asserting they are touching the mind worms of their own free will. Of course, whenever anyone records something and says the words “of my own free will,” you should immediately suspect foul play. It”s the rules.

Also, brownie points for making Clara put on flats before the inevitably running part. 
After each person claims they want to be here – Twelve (Time Lord) , Clara (boring ol” normal human), Psi (augmented human), and Saibra (mutant human) –  the super spy briefcase pops open to reveal a miniature television and the architect of this heist…aptly named The Architect. 

Sounding like a ransom caller from a 90s action thriller, the Architect lays out the plan. The four of them are to break into the Bank of Karabraxas, the most well guarded bank in the universe. It”s the kind of place where only the wealthiest members of intergalactic society store their belongings and it is appropriately armed. Biometrics, scanners, guards, the works. Intruders are incinerated immediately upon discovery. No trial, no second chances, no pressure. 

There”s only one problem. They aren”t even authorized to be on the planet and the guards are already here to “humanely incinerate” them. Psi downloads the schematics, the Doctor grabs an important looking doohickey, and the Doctor”s Four slips out the backdoor.

In the bowels of the bank, the Head of Security gets a call. The guards touched the memory worms and have no recollection of where they are or who Miss Delphox is, much less what their mission was. No matter, you don”t become Head of Security at the most trusted bank in the universe without a backup plan. A scary backup plan kept in a glass cage that looks like something straight out of “The Cell.”

Out of immediate danger, the Doctor”s Four has already fallen to squabbling. Psi and Saibra are not nearly as willing to kowtow to Twelve”s leadership and rightly question who died and left him in charge. The Doctor deflects by trying to figure out what these guys are doing here. Psi – popping in from a cyberpunk galaxy – has obvious skills but what about Saibra? She”s a hybrid of Rogue and Mystique; she assumes the form of any living thing she touches, right down to the DNA, indefinitely.

DNA like the one inside the doohickey the Doctor snagged out of the briefcase. DNA belonging to an old rich white guy who has every right to be on this planet. Clever. Also, perhaps a bit of commentary on society, having a black woman become a white man to blend in. 

With a floor plan of the bank and the DNA to gain access, the troupe moves on. The Doctor briefly wonders why the TARDIS isn”t around, but that train of thought is derailed as the alarms sound. Have they been caught? Miss Delphox appears on the bank floor, a creature bound in a straitjacket and chains behind her. Very Hannibal Lector. With hooves and tentacle eyes, it has to be the creature that was in the box. Even the Doctor doesn”t know what it is. “I hate not knowing,” he says, but that”s a step closer to Nine”s sense of wonder and away from Ten and Eleven just flat out refusing to acknowledge gaps in their knowledge. 

Our heroes are in the clear. The Teller, as Miss Delphox calls it, sniffed out a liar on the bank floor, but it was another man. Judged as guilty, dude is not lucky enough to be “humanely incinerated.” Instead his fate is a psychic lobotomy courtesy of the Teller, who eats memories? Or eats lies? Either way, the guy is now missing his frontal lobe and his next of kin will be incarcerated to discourage any other DoubleThink™ in the future. 

While this is happening, Clara urges the Doctor to save the dude. But the Doctor is as coldly pragmatic as every other episode this season has suggested. He knows they can”t save him. Plus, it would just give them away and then they”d ALL be Teller chow.

Inside the elevator-esque waiting room, Saibra breathes into the tube to bring up something from the Vault and then drops her disguise. What comes up the tube is another super spy briefcase! Inside is a device that looks a hell of a lot like a bomb. Psi pulls up the schematic and lo and behold, where they need to go next is directly beneath their feet. They just have to blow their way down.

Meanwhile, Miss Delphox has realized her error. The intruders must be stopped lest she be fired by the Director. I assume she means literally.

Psi isn”t big on wanting to blow a hole in the floor and perhaps dying of shrapnel. He and Saibra once again question why Twelve is in charge. But there”s no time to squabble. The Doctor uses logic. It”s super effective. He asks everyone to think of the thing they want most in the universe, because that must be their reward or why agree to this insane plan? 

They set off the bomb. It was a dimensional shift bomb, so there”s no shrapnel. Hell, there”s not even an explosion. The Doctor”s Four disappear into the hole and it reseals right as Karabraxas security enters the room.

In the service tunnels beneath the bank, our heroes find their third super spy suitcase. Starting to wonder what the point of this is, if whoever set this up could get this far into a secure facility on their own. The Doctor explains the Teller can sense guilt and they must have wiped their memories to keep their thoughts away from it. Psi volunteers – under duress – to open the third case. Inside are syringes. Six of them. Well, that”s ominous. 

Our augmented human is glitching out and needs to interface with something to reset his memory. Clara stays with him as he plugs his brain in to a local network. This is straight up some Shadowrun stuff, right here. While they wait for the glitch to fix itself, Psi gives us his backstory. He was in prison for hacking and erased all memory of his friends and family to keep them safe during his interrogation. The only problem is, now he can”t remember them and there”s no way to bring those memories back. Sad face.

Elsewhere, the Doctor and Saibra are looking for their next step to get to the Vault. Saibra confronts the Doctor about knowing what the syringes are for. “They”re an exit strategy.” See? Ominous. The two of them have a conversation about how lonely her life is, because no one really wants to touch someone who will end up looking back at them with their own face. 

Suddenly, the dude from earlier who had his brain liquified appears. He”s locked in a cage and is somehow still alive. Clara and Psi rejoin the group and they all agree it”s time to beat a hasty retreat…straight into the room with the Teller. Twelve urges everyone to clear their minds since the creature locks onto thoughts. It”s like a psychic T-Rex.

And the theme of suppressing involuntary reflexes continues. Don”t blink, don”t breath, don”t think.

It senses them anyway and the group scatters. Saibra zigs when she should have zagged and gets separated from the group. The Teller is going to liquify her brain. But then the Doctor throws her a syringe. “Exit strategy.” Saibra makes him promise he”s going to kill the Architect. Ever the pragmatist, the Doctor says he “hates him” but can”t promise to kill him. And like that, Saibra instantly vaporizes herself.
I fully expect to see us cut to her entering “Heaven” but no such luck.

On the run now, the Doctor is all business. This doesn”t set well with Psi, who asks if he calls himself the Doctor because of “professional detachment” and scathingly pulls the wool off Clara”s eyes by saying she must have been with Twelve a long time to be this good at making excuses for him. 

Miss Delphox has released the Teller from its Creepy Box™ and it is now in the tunnels with the Doctor”s Three. Psi is plugged in to the Vault, trying to trip the locks so they can enter. To give him more time, Twelve and Clara split up to make it harder to for the Teller to pinpoint their location. But Psi is like “Leave me a suicide syringe” because he”s not an idiot. 

In the red hallway, Clara cannot calm her mind. She is not zen enough. The Teller is totally coming to nom on her thoughts. She tries to run, because they always run. But just when her brain is about to leak out her ears, Psi to rescue. He”s finished hacking the system and has now downloaded the profiles of dozens of criminals. A tasty morsel for any psychic eating monstrosity. 

Taking the bait, the Teller heads for the blue hallway. Clara escapes as Psi sacrifices himself via vaporization syringe. But it was all for naught! The last lock is unhackable and Clara and the Doctor can”t get in. Not even the sonic can crack it.

The Doctor refuses to believe this is the end. The Architect wouldn”t have gone this far just to trick them into dying. He must have some logic. Once more, the Doctor is proved right. A deus ex machina solar flare knocks out the power long enough to open the lock. Clara speaks for the audience when she declares it to be ridiculous that they”d be here at the exact moment in time when a sunstorm occurred. Which is when Twelve realizes this was never a bank heist. It was a time travel heist…planned from the future. It also explains why the TARDIS is MIA, the solar flares would fry Sexy”s systems, too. 

Inside the Vault, the remaining Doctor”s Two find what Psi and Saibra wanted most in the universe. Psi was to have received a neophyte circuit which would have restored his memories and Saibra would have gotten a gene suppressant that would”ve made her “normal.” But before they can reach whatever it was the Architect sent them to retrieve, the Doctor and Clara are confronted with the Teller.

Who doesn”t immediately eat them. For some reason?

Instead they are returned to Miss Delphox in her office where she monologues at them for a bit. She explains they keep the lobotomy victims on closed-circuit camera for employee morale and how the Teller is the last of its species and a very valuable asset to the company.  Despite hating her boss, Karabraxas, she stays because her “face fits.” That”s a weird turn of phrase that will surely be important later. Then, in a classic villain mistake, she takes her leave. With the Teller. And orders the guards to kill them.

But of course the guards don”t kill them. Because the guards are Psi and Saibra! What? Turns out the suicide syringe was actually a personalized teleportation device. THAT”S why Saibra didn”t go to “Heaven.” She didn”t die!
With the team reunited, it”s time to get into that private Vault. Psi breaks them in but points out that it”s odd the Vault has a life support system. There”s a person in there.

I really want it to be River but no, it”s Karabraxas. Who looks just like Miss Delphox…because the Head of Security is a clone. A clone who is now fired for such a breach of security. Literally fired. As in headed to the incinerator. Not that Karabraxas seems too upset about it. She hates her clones. 

Oh my God. The Doctor just said “Shutity up up up!” which is literally as close as he can get to saying “Fuckity bye” and bless whoever wrote that in. Please let it become Twelve”s catchphrase.

Things are finally starting to come together. The Doctor knows one thing about the Architect, he hates him. And who does the Doctor hate more than anyone? Himself. Still not completely certain what”s going on, the Doctor gives his phone number to Karabraxas as she escapes, telling her to call him when she has regrets. She laughs and sets the Teller on the Doctor”s Four before the elevator doors shut. Twelve allows the Teller to begin to liquifying his brain in an attempt to kickstart the memories taken by the memory worm. And it turns out, the whole thing was set up by the Doctor. 

Because Karabraxas did call him. On her deathbed, she had one regret. And that regret was apparently keeping the Teller in thrall by threatening his mate. His mate who is chained up in the Vault. It was never a bank heist. It was a rescue mission! The Teller wasn”t the last of his kind, they were the last of THEIR kind.

With the lady Teller in hand, there are now six of them. Six people and six teleportation syringes that transport them to the TARDIS. 

Mission accomplished, the Doctor gives Psi and Saibra their rewards and drops them back in their respective times. The Tellers are let off on an empty world where the thoughts of others won”t beat at their brains incessantly.  As Clara exits last, on her way to her date with Danny, the Doctor mutters to himself “Beat that for a date.”

You competitive shit.

Well, what did you guys think? For me, it was a solid episode with good characters who I wouldn”t mind seeing again. How much longer until Danny and Twelve meet, do you think? How much will they hate each other?

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