Thursday, 18 September 2014

Doctor Who: Time Heist - Spoiler-Free Preview

Doctor Who: Series 8, Episode 5
Time Heist

Written by: Steve Thompson and Steven Moffat
Directed by: Douglas Mackinnon

Broadcast Date: Saturday 20th September at 7.30pm on BBC One

Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz for The Gallifrey Times

The Gallifrey Times have seen Time Heist and have put our spoiler free preview together.

Steve Thompson's Doctor Who track record is sketchy - The Curse of the Black Spot failed to marry pirates and sci-fi and Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS crash landed its twist ending - so this reviewer went into Time Heist with mixed expectations. Thankfully, while Thompson's third episode is no classic, it's his strongest yet.

Time Heist hits the ground running with an excellent pre-titles sequence that sees the Doctor, Clara and guest characters Psi and Saibra tasked with a seemingly impossible mission - to rob the impenetrable bank of Karabraxos. Thus follows another Doctor Who take on a classic genre - as you'd expect from the title, it's a Doctor Who heist movie, complete with bank vaults, security combinations and tense chase sequences.

Since this is Doctor Who, however, there's some opposition, in the form of villain of the week Ms Delphox and the Teller, a creature that can detect guilt. The Teller is an excellently realised creature - a slightly disconcerting, firmly alien design that's quite unlike anything we've seen before. In a series where robots are the order of the day, it's nice to see Neill Gorton's FX team create a brand new monster with an intriguing set of powers.

As for the speaking guest cast, it's a little bit more of a mixed bag. Jonathan Bailey and Pippa Bennett-Warner, playing cyborg Psi and shapeshifter Saibra, deliver effective guest performances - and they're a surprisingly interesting pair, whose backstories are engaging enough to keep us rooting for them, Ms Delphox, played by renowned actress Keeley Hawes, is a fairly weak antagonist however - a well-spoken, suited villainess, the likes of which you've most likely seen before (and possibly done better). It's a waste of Hawes' talent, and a shame to fall back on old stock Who villains, but Hawes does her best with the role. 

Time Heist's plot, like the guest characters, is also a mixed bag. The first two-thirds are slick, stylish Who - a sparkling and original take on a heist movie - however, Time Heist somewhat fails to stick the landing, with a series of contrived plot twists and an ending that sees Thompson fall back on bad habits. It's not an entirely awful final third, but there's a feeling that with a little simplification in the ending Thompson could have created something rather special. As it is, Time Heist falls squarely into the 'slightly above average' pack.

There's still plenty more to enjoy however - Peter Capaldi has fully settled into the role, and continues to ably play the darker and more socially awkward Doctor as if he's played the role for years (he gets some of the funniest lines here, including a line that harks back to his slightly less family friendly role on The Thick of It). Douglas Mackinnon continues to show he's one of the show's strongest directors, with some slick direction (including some interesting transitions between scenes) that feels very, very different to Listen.

Overall, Time Heist is a stylish, enjoyable caper that is easily Steve Thompson's finest work for the show - even if there's a feeling of squandered potential here with a confused conclusion and a poor, stock villain. It's the sort of episode you'll like but most likely not love; a solid and entertaining 45 minutes that'll leave you mostly satisfied, but not one that'll become a fan favourite.

The Gallifrey Times Rating: 7.5/10
Thanks to the BBC for providing an advance copy for review.