Doctor Who – Time Heist Review (or “The One That’s A Bit Like A Casserole And A Sylvester McCoy Story”)

Well last week’s review caused a bit of a stir.

Some people thought I was being unfair and judgemental about other Doctor Who fans (note I say “Doctor Who Fans” and not the incredibly wanky “Whovians”, which is the first and last time you’ll see that word written on my blog), the most recent comment of its kind being  “So it’s ok to have an opinion, as long as it isn’t that you don’t like New Who?”.

That’s just silly.

Of course everyone is entitled to an opinion, but at the same time, for an opinion to carry weight – in my eyes at least – it has to be one from a fair and balanced starting position.

To me, if you are determined not to like something, then in the face of all the positives, you won’t.

On the other hand, if you are so biased towards something that you never see its faults, then your praise becomes empty. If you say you love everything, then when something really good comes along, you won’t be able to express that.

I was also accused this week of carrying myself as if only my opinion counts; like I’m the only person in Doctor Who fandom who is capable of expressing an objective opinion. That’s just silly.

I’m sure there are one or two others out there apart from me… 😉

Seriously though, if you convince yourself that you won’t like something before you watch, you may as well not watch it.

But anyway, that’s not the point of this article. You’re here to read my thoughts on the latest episode – Time Heist.

And as always, I’m happy to oblige…

Doctor Who – Time Heist Review: What’s This One About?

The Doctor and Clara rob a bank, though they don’t know why.

Thoughts – A Bit Like A Casserole

My aim for this season is to get each review out as soon as possible with my immediate reaction to the episode while it’s fresh in my mind.

"Hey look, it's the woman off Ashes to Ashes" said my brother. Oh thanks Steven, I really wouldn't have known that if you hadn't said...

“Hey look, it’s the woman off Ashes to Ashes” said my brother. Oh thanks Steven, I really wouldn’t have known that if you hadn’t said…

But it occurred to me while watching Time Heist that because the episode was built upon the mystery of why the bank is being robbed, who is responsible for getting them to rob it, and what it actually was they were robbing, then this is a story that probably needs a second viewing to truly appreciate it.

In a sense, it’s like when you make a casserole. You enjoy it when it’s fresh out of the oven – of course you do – but you don’t get the full flavour of the ingredients until you have some of the leftovers the next day.

With Time Heist, I think my lasting opinion will be formed properly the second time around when I don’t have to concern myself with keeping up with every line in fear of being left behind.

That’s not a bad thing though; for an episode to keep you on your toes so that you don’t want to miss any plot development is a sign of depth; it shows that it’s something worth paying attention to. And the good thing about it was that every question you asked as a viewer was answered in a neat and clever manner. That’swhat

Again, not that I want to continually criticise Mark Gatiss’s writing, but this didn’t feel like a predictable, linear chore dressed up with a few gags like the Robots of Sherwood did.

No, Time Heist was a good episode, and it’ll probably get even better the second time around.

It Could Have Been A Sylvester McCoy Story

Remember when I said that The Robots of Sherwood felt like it was written for Matt Smith?

Well here’s an episode that came across like a Sylvester McCoy story.

And for those of you who haven’t read my opinions on his era, I don’t mean that as an insult.

With its darker and more ponderous theme, I could quite imagine the Seventh Doctor put in this same position; the only difference being that he would probably have known what was going on the whole time and had simply refused to tell Ace. But it did have parts that were reflective of his era.

The Teller had the air of the Destroyer about him, while Ms Delphox could easily be compared to Helen A from the Happiness Patrol.

Does anyone else see that?

A Welcome Lack of Humour

Here’s another thing I noticed; for the first time, this story seemed to deliberately lack humour.

Am I the only one having trouble believing a Sensorite would want to rob a bank?

Am I the only one having trouble believing a Sensorite would want to rob a bank?

It’s good for episodes to have humour from time to time, but Doctor Who is not a comedy, nor should it look to parody different themes each week.

In Time Heist, I felt that Capaldi’s Doctor got a chance to develop even more without the crutch of being a less-sweary Malcolm Tucker (also his use of the word “shutity” was definitely written with Tucker in mind) and once again, he excelled in doing so.

Having had a quick look at Twitter before writing this up, I’m not sure where people are getting the idea that this was a “romp”, and I think the Telegraph’s idea that it’s a parody of the banking system is trying to find clever subtext for the sake of seeming deep.

No, to me this felt quite serious, and it was a welcome change.

Great Visuals

I’m a big believer in the importance of visuals, and this story – nay, this entire season of Doctor Who – passed that test with flying colours.

One of the crushing aspects of Matt Smith’s stories  – from his second season onwards – were that they all felt so dark and murky, with only the brightness of The Girl Who Waited really standing out as being dissimilar to the rest. Time Heist differs from Listen, which in turn differed from Robots of Sherwood and so on.

The setting of Time Heist was particularly good. The CGI looked of a high standard, the setting felt like there had been some real imagination put into it, and the appearance of the Teller – though definitely familiar from some other Sci Fi show/movie – felt new for Doctor Who and was actually very impressive.

Random Observations

  • I like a bit of clever writing, and so the part where it was revealed why the Doctor was specifically chosen to rob the vault – i,e. that it was a bank job specifically for a Time Traveller – was great. Well…I say that, but then I took a moment to think about the name of the episode and realised I should have seen that plot development coming.
  • One thing I didn’t quite get was why The Teller didn’t end up damaging the Doctor in any way whilst turning his mind into soup.
  • Being someone who likes to spot obscure character actors in other roles (the best one ever being my identification of an extra from the Daemons by looking at the back of his head in an episode of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads), my brother’s
    You know how babies have that soft bit on the top of their heads? Am I the only one worried that you might accidentally end up doing something like that to one if you hold it the wrong way? I probably am...

    You know how babies have that soft bit on the top of their heads? Does it ever worry you that you might accidentally end up doing something like that to one if you hold it the wrong way? Or is it just me?

    startling realisation of “Hey, that’s the woman off Ashes to Ashes” didn’t exactly blow me away. Thanks for identifying one of British Televisions’s top female actresses of the last 10 years, Steven, I’d have never have known if you hadn’t told me.

  • And as you would expect from an actress of her aplomb, Keeley Hawes was perfectly acceptable in her role.
  • But to be fair, I think every one of the guest cast was good, and added to my enjoyment of the episode.
  • Am I the only one who has a hard time believing a Sensorite would rob a bank?
  • The pacing of this story, as well as the direction, was great. The brisk nature and sharp scene changes added a lot to the episode.
  • In that respect, in some ways it felt more like a US TV Drama than a UK one.
  • Writer Stephen Thompson has clearly played Portal, based on that device used in the elevator.
  • I find the nature of the Doctor & Clara’s relationship an interesting one. Unlike every other companion, he just drops her off at home every week. I wonder why the Doctor has never thought of this before, or crucially, why any of his companions have asked him to do that? Wouldn’t it make more sense? Why doesn’t he go back and whisk Dodo off on a few adventures in between his time with her? Oh that’s right, because she just abandoned him without so much as a by-your-leave. The ungrateful bitch.
  • Thankfully, this is another story that is light on the season long story arcs. Yes, they bring up the woman in the shop, and Clara’s domestic relationship is in there again, but neither were major parts of the episode.
  • That we don’t get any scenes with Missy is a relief. The absence of that from the last three episodes is something I’ve very much enjoyed.
  • Next week’s episode looks like another big change, and I’m looking forward to it.

Doctor Who – Time Heist Review: Final Thoughts

So I’m pleased to say this is another episode of a high standard, meaning that this season – five episodes in – has had more hits than misses.

If the quality remains consistent over the next few weeks, we’ll have the makings of a pretty special season of the show.

But looking at Time Heist in particular, I thought it was an enjoyable, well paced yarn that has the potential to be even better the second time around.

A solid thumbs up from me again.

Enjoyed reading this Doctor Who review? Why not check out my book on Amazon. Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book One – The Classic Era. It’s available for a great price and can be read on any mobile or tablet device. Plus, you get a free preview of it so you can try before you buy. Get it here


6 Responses to Doctor Who – Time Heist Review (or “The One That’s A Bit Like A Casserole And A Sylvester McCoy Story”)

  1. Perry Armstrong says:

    I quite liked ‘Time Heist’, but thought the inconsistency of the Teller’s powers let it down somewhat (if minds weren’t – literally – turned into soup but rather wiped, then the Doctor’s ability to resist the mental assault would’ve made more sense). Yeah, it did feel like a McCoy story.

    Never mind whether a Sensorite would wanna rob a bank, but given they can’t even tell each other apart, it amuses me to think of a bunch of them in a police line-up!

  2. lukebbtt says:

    Time Heist was clever, but I felt it was a tad too fast. Like most Doctor Who episodes, it came across as rushed. It kept cutting to scenes, jumping across the two or three problems about how the team would get to the next room. I know Time Heist worked so well, because it was played so fast, but I think a second viewing would cause plot holes will be uncovered. However, yes, a very good episode, especially with Keeley Hawes.

  3. George Dolley says:

    Absolutely correct about how people foolishly judge an episode as good or bad before watching, people need to go in with no expectations either way if they want to truly assess whether or not it was a good episode.

    Couple of things though:

    1) The Teller’s powers weren’t inconsistent; it first scans the brain, then upon detecting guilt, it turns the brain into soup. The reason The Doctor didn’t end up as a pudding brain was because it scanned his brain and didn’t follow through to the soup making stage. I think they should have made it a bit more clear though.

    2) I may be wrong about this, but he just said it was data on a load of criminals in general, which was to act as bait for the Teller. They never actually state that they’re all people that robbed the bank, so much as committed some kind of criminal act by someone’s laws. To further support this, they’re all holding cards of different styles, suggesting they’re each being held by different authorities.

  4. Slavin Ivanov says:

    In your Deep Breath review I made a wild guess and said that the next thing Moffat would come up with will be “Think and you’re dead”. Do I get any points for being right? 🙂
    What works in Doctor Who is that it’s an anthology show to a large degree. In other words, everything could happen and it does. I agree with your opinion and you shouldn’t care about the uberfans.

    • Perry Armstrong says:

      Indeed you do 🙂

      At the risk of turning this into a political discussion, when I originally read your ‘Deep Breath’ comment, the very first thought that came into my mind was “Oh no, if ‘don’t think’ becomes a thing then Clara’s in trouble because they’ve just established her as a Guardian reader. Now, if they’d shown her reading Rupert’s rags instead…” Ha ha

      • Slavin Ivanov says:

        You needn’t worry, it’s not like Doctor Who is famous for its political discussions or anything 🙂
        Besides, Moffat is rather predictable, isn’t he? The series finale (about which I don’t know anything yet) is bound to be another Stable Time Loop or something of the sort. Who knows?

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