Doctor Who’s eighth season hasn’t been the best received by fans so far. Some have enjoyed it whilst others have been less than happy with Steven Moffat’s direction but have mostly praised Capaldi’s performance. I’m sort of in the middle with this. I don’t mind Moffat staying as the episodes that he’s been involved with have been fun and Capaldi is brilliant as normal but at the same time It wouldn’t hurt to see somebody new involved. However, Time Heist did make the case that yes, Doctor Who can be good again, with a rollicking adventure tale that borrows from the likes of Ocean’s 11 and the Jason Bourne series (memory loss playing a key role in the storyline for the latter) that probably beats last week’s Listen for the best episode so far of the series, which is a surprise given that the same writer (Steven Thompson) behind this episode is the one responsible for the mediocre The Curse of the Black Spot.
I’ve longed for the show to tackle a heist storyline ever since I started watching with Eccleston’s Doctor and Time Heist didn’t disappoint on that front, providing a compelling drama with an interesting twist that made sure it wasn’t quite everything that it seemed on the surface. If you were expecting a typical, simple heist plot then you won’t get that, because there is something far more interesting at work, and the end reveal is probably the most satisfying that the series has given us so far.
The TARDIS phone ringing at the start of the episode was an interesting way to kick things off – it’s been established that there are very few beings in the Universe that can actually call the TARDIS phone – the titular child in the creepy (Moffat written) The Empty Child from Season 1 springs to mind as one of them. So right from the start you knew that you were going to get something a little different, and Steven Thompson didn’t disappoint.
There was an element of Malcolm Tucker in Peter Capaldi’s delivery of this week’s episode, and fans of the foul-mouthed central character in The Thick of It will get an something extra out of the “shutity up up up” line which is probably the closest we will see to the Time Lord actually swearing on screen. It was a nice touch and reminded me once again why Capaldi is probably among my Top 3 favourite Doctors right now – right up there with Christopher Eccleston and John Hurt (if he counts), and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here with Capaldi easily being one of the best things of the series so far, capable of making even otherwise poor episodes watchable.
The guest companions also impressed this week, with Psi (Jonathan Bailey), and Saibra (Pippa Bennet-Warner) adding interesting dynamics to the show’s cast. And the main human antagonist for this week was Ms. Karabraxos (Keeley Hawkes), who didn’t bring anything memorable to the table and will most likely be forgotten by the end of the next week, coming off as another typical Moffat villain, striking comparisons to the likes of Season 6’s Madame Kovarian and The Bells of St. John’s Miss Kizlet and never suggesting that she will have a lasting impact on the show. The monster was more interesting – a “Teller” as it was named, presenting a far more interesting and credible threat.
So whilst there was a lot of good stuff going on in this episode, there was a few negative aspects as well. It felt like it could have benefited from an extra fifteen minutes, and in some places, Murray Gold’s music was too loud taking away any real impact from certain scenes. And like all the episodes before it this season, Time Heist never really establishes itself as an episode that is likely to be classed as one of the better ones of Doctor Who so far. But despite all of this, it remains a rather enjoyable episode that will hopefully give doubters of this season renewed faith in the series.