Doctor Who - Series 8, Episode 5: Time Heist

Doctor Who

We look back at Series 8 ahead of series 9 premiere with our Who guru, Steve Hendry, and he has spoken. Here's the official word on "Time Heist" from Steve ...

It’s occasionally interesting to gauge a Doctor Who storyline from the reaction of someone who isn’t a full-on fan of the show. My sample audience this week was my Anita Doth lookalike partner who, like me, had spent the entire day ripping up the hall, stairs and landing carpet then painting walls and skirting boards. We didn’t sit down for tea with The Doctor until 8:15, so weren’t part of the irrelevant overnight viewing statistic. Please, by the way, can we all stop worrying about these figures? I watched Nottingham Forest v Derby on my phone via Sky Go while peeling spuds in the kitchen last week, then The 100 on 4OD in the bath. I watched Time Heist with a delicious meal of garlic chicken and pilau rice with a G&T. Step away from the viewing figures folks, they’re meaningless in the context of television now and are, in reality, exclusively for the cinema industry to fret about.

Anyway, back to the missus, she of the English literature diploma and fan of Margaret Atwood. Queen of “I saw that coming”. And I know she always did because she helpfully informs me what’s coming DURING films. So, having ruined countless films halfway through, she is rarely permitted to watch Doctor Who with me on my first watch, it’s not worth the risk. But guess what? She didn’t see Time Heist’s twists coming, and neither did I. Ok, I had a good idea about The Architect’s identity but only while The Doctor was unravelling matters in Karabraxos’ office near the end. The best thing about watching this with my other half though is that she really enjoyed it. Audience Appreciation Index - 100 in my gaff.

One of the many outstanding features of this season so far has been the quality of the supporting characters. A small supporting cast gives the writers better scope to flesh them out in the 45-minute window available, and this season’s change of pace and tone is working superbly. Mystique, sorry, Saibra, and Psi were terrific as one-shot companions, smartly written by Thompson and Moffat. Keeley Hawes not being revealed as The Rani was the only minor disappointment this week, but she was predictably brilliant and sexy, leaving her mark on the episode without feeling the need to try and upstage anyone. Keeley Hawes is future Doctor material, and if it follows that he can (albeit subconsciously) change his face to match someone he bent time to save from the lava of Pompeii, he can surely switch it to that of someone he offered moral redemption to.

While it’s the first “Bank Job” story for Doctor Who and smells sweetly of originality, it doffs its hat at various times to cinema classics like Ocean’s Eleven, Men in Black, Reservoir Dogs and X-Men 3. There’s never anything wrong with that when it’s done with subtlety and wit, and it certainly was here. The non-linear style of presentation isn’t maxed out this year, but that too is being used in the right measure to excellent effect. I sang the praises of Douglas Mackinnon’s directorial skills last week and he’s risen to the challenge of a different type of story altogether here. He’s a master of maintaining tension, we knew that, but he had to balance that with an intense pace this week. Steve Moffat has clearly given a lot of thought to which directors to assign to particular episodes this year, either that or he’s just got very lucky. Mackinnon is not only massively talented but versatile too, and I look forward to many more episodes under his stewardship. A word must also go to Steve Thompson, who has delivered a terrific script in which I’m yet to find anything to dislike on second viewing. How things have changed since Curse of the Black Spot.

This season is five episodes in now, and the promise of a fresh feel is being delivered. Everything is so polished and intelligent, and for the first time since 1989 I am giving two successive, regular season stories a 10 rating. Peter Capaldi is unquestionably my number one Doctor now, and yet is still in the process of layering out his Time Lord. The Doctor Who curse of episodes with ‘Time’ in the title was broken with Time of the Doctor and the shackles are well and truly off now. Still need convincing that Time Heist is a masterpiece? Well, if you thought The Doctor’s greatest achievement this season was turning a Dalek from the dark side, he’s managed to do the same to a banker by the end of this episode. Beat that.

Images - BBC.