I normally like to post my Doctor Who reviews earlier in the week, closer to the episode’s initial air date, but this past week I have been feeling somewhat uninspired. Not because I didn’t enjoy “Time Heist,” but because I did. I didn’t want to just rehash how Clara actually has an interesting personality this season, how the Doctor has found a footing for his new personality, how this episode’s structure incorporates all this great about Doctor, etc. I basically said all of that last week. On the bright side, however, I am glad that I can still say it, that it looks as if Series 8 is going to do great things, and that “Listen” was not a fluke in the series.
Nonetheless, I will try to touch on a few things that are “Time Heist” specific. To start, this episode is very Doctor Who-cool. I love watching the Doctor achieve the impossible, and robbing an unbreakable bank is very high on the list of awesome impossible things. However, one does wonder why the bank with the best security in the galaxy never invested in a few simple video cameras; they could have located the Doctor and his team immediately. (Amateurs.) And although the Teller is creative and deliciously creepy, I think the security system in general should have been played up a bit more. The episode was certainly tense, but it really could have been played up more.
Beyond that, the episode also touches on pieces of what it means to be human. Psi and Saibra, the two short-term companions, manage to win their way into viewer’s hearts in the space of a single episode. The first impression they give is very much along the lines of “kickass humans with crazy superpowers,” but they quickly become more complex. Both have backstories, both have something they want more than anything else in the universe, and both reveal something about what makes humans tick: the need to love, and the desire to fit in.
I also love the twist this episode gave to the classic “character giving his life for others and for the good of the mission.” The fact that Psi and Saibra don’t actually die is very fitting, since the Doctor is the one who organized the mission (I’m surprised it took him that long to figure that out, though) and is a nice offset to the fact that this Doctor is seemingly so unaffected by human deaths. “Professional detachment” as Psi says. Psi and Saibra’s surprise return also just wanted to make me shout, “Everybody lives!” because the viewers know how rare that is for the Doctor.
Of course, everyone doesn’t live, which may be the one odd point of “Time Heist.” At the end of the episode, the bank is clearly destroyed by the solar storm and everyone inside clearly roasted. Obviously, that was not at all the doing of Madame Karabraxos, so I understand how she probably felt more personal guilt for the imprisonment and extinction of the Teller’s species. However…it is really strange that no one mentions the fact that everyone else in the bank dies, and no one seems even passingly sad or regretful. If the Doctor had said something about the bank’s destruction being a fixed point in time or explained he just can’t save that many people, I would have been satisfied. As it stands, the Doctor and his team seem to be present at one of the universe’s major tragedies, and they just overlook it. That’s pretty harsh.
So, “Time Heist” is lacking some contemplation of one of the major moral question of the plot line (the other, as others pointed out, being whether one should rob a bank—the Doctor just assumes they all had a good reason to agree to it). Beyond that, however, the episode is exciting and highly satisfying, featuring a great story and great acting. Very enjoyable.