Doctor Who: Totally Awesome Robbery, Director Imitates Soderbergh

There was a bank heist. In space. You see, the characters of the show were in space. And they were there to carry out a bank heist. Hence: Space bank heist. I’m not sure if you’re following me here, but the events of this weeks episode revolved around a bank heist- following me?- but it was in space.

I was pretty taken with the concept behind this week’s episode alone, and, after the belter that was Listen last week, I was hoping for something that held onto the dark tone while still carrying through a tight, well-constructed plot. Time Heist did a pretty good job fulfilling both roles.

I was expecting far more of a caper than we actually got, and it did deliver on some capery aspects- the demure British bitch stock character played magnificently by Keeley Hawes made sure of that. But it was actually a pretty interesting episode aside from the premise alone- the alien that featured was legitimatley excellent, a creature that detected guilt and proceeded to literally turn your mind to soup TILL YOUR SKULL CAVED IN AND YOUR BRAIN LEAKED OUT OF YOUR EYES. It was a nifty idea, and one that was shown in gratifyingly edifying detail for a Saturday night teatime show. See, this for me is where Doctor Who provides a genuine public service- introducing children to the brilliance and subtlety that makes up really good horror.  Being frightened of a TV show or a movie or an audiobook (damn you, Anthony Horowitz’s Granny) but still thoroughly enjoying them when you’re a kid leads you to binge on Joe Hill, Stephen King, Lovejoy, Ramsay, et al in your teenage years, then drops you into the deep end of great horror movies as you blossom into gory adulthood. More horror fans mean more horror movies and books made by people who understand the genre and want to create something new, which I will consume and go on about while drunk for the following eight months. Ergo, Doctor Who has played into my hands once again. The prosthetics on the creature gave in a menacing presence, and the concept was cool enough that even the slightly cheesy ending didn’t undermine how cool it was. I give it a season till we reach it’s tenth episode.

The story itself was pretty paper-thin, but interesting, mainly thanks to a fascinating supporting cast. This takeaway-carton companions thing is one that can either work spectacularly (Sally Sparrow in Blink, Madame de Pompadour in Girl in the Fireplace) or terribly (Tim McInnery in that Ood episode that I hate, Kylie Minogue aboard the Titanic), but here they allowed just enough characterisation that their fates actually came to mean something, making the heist more about just some ingenious Doctor scheme taken out of curiosity. It was a pretty non-descript episode for Clara, who got to run around scary corridors for a bit, which was pretty disappointing. Next week’s fiasco looks like it involves Danny Pink in some way, which delights me, as I’ve developed a life-threatening crush on Samuel Anderson that can only be treated by regular doses of his lovely facial features, and presumably some extra Clara as they are clearly doing the horizontal shoe shuffle.

Overall, this episode was a good one. Following from a stunning episode like Listen is always a tricky one, but Time Heist had enough Ocean’s Eleven-y fun with the premise while indulging in a lot of curious sci-fi ideas and scary moments. On a scale of the whole eight seasons, Time Heist probably wouldn’t rate particularly highly. In terms of this season, however, it’s far and away the next best episode of the season after Listen, and has thrown into sharp relief just how mediocre-at-best the start of series eight was. After a wibbly beginning, things are on the up- they better keep in that way. I’ll have you yet, Moffat.