Time Heist Review

(119 comments)

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Right, so, circumstances mean I can get this review up very quickly, and I’m taking the temperature of the fans who rated it on GallifreyBase within ten minutes of it airing. Two hundred and sixty-one raters, 55.55% of which are rating 8-10. Another 22.22% at a 7. About an hour later, and it’s still running right around there. For comparison, that puts it roughly in line with where the polls on Journey to the Center of the TARDIS and The Bells of St. John settled down, which suggests this one is going to be somewhat harshly remembered (although Rings of Akhaten got something more like 35% 8-10, so it’s merely a rough ride, not a drubbing). I politely disagree - I rather liked it. Although I can see the faults, on the whole, they were not unduly distracting for me. 

Still, it’s notable that this is by one of the less popular recurring writers. If Steve Thompson can be said to have one defining stylistic tic, it is that he is prone to creating elaborate plots and then populating them with thin cartoons of actual characters. The cynic might accuse Moffat of the same thing, although I obviously disagree, and certainly think Time Heist illustrates the difference. Which is to say that Sai is everyone’s first Shadowrun character, and Sabra is blatantly Rogue from the X-Men with the serial numbers filed off and a less sensible superpower, and it’s clear very little thought has gone into either of them past picking where to nick them from, in a way that just flatly isn’t true of… really any Moffat character who gets as many lines as either of them do, but let’s say Clara, just to really make the point. Although in this case, there’s barely any characterization of Clara or the Doctor either - it’s pretty much a straight shot high-paced thriller.

This isn’t, of course, inherently a problem, or, at least, it doesn’t have to be. It’s perfectly possible to have the elaborate plot be interesting enough to carry the story, and Time Heist illustrates this. Its central plot dynamic is terribly clever, in that it allows for exposition and plot twists to happen organically at more or less any moment. The heist itself provides a continual forward momentum, but all the key plot revelations concern things that have already happened, which makes for a neat structure that keeps things moving. 

There are, of course, some proper plot holes. (How exactly did the Doctor seed the bank with all of those cases without triggering the Teller?) But they’re proper refrigerator logic plot holes - ones that you don’t notice them until you sit down and think about it later. (See also the descendants of the murdered Viking settlers in The Curse of Fenric, which took me decades and Tat Wood to notice. Which is to say, plot holes like the days of old.) For the most part, this is a story to just sit down and enjoy. It’s not that it doesn’t hold up to rewatching - between watching for the Slate podcast (see bullet points) and this, I’ve seen it three times now, and I enjoyed it each time. But it very much puts it all on the screen, as it were.

All of which said, I find myself wanting to knock the production a little bit - specifically the tedious overuse of colored lighting. On a hunch, I went and snagged the leaked workprint of this, and as I kind of suspected, it looks far better in black and white, simply because the bank actually feels stately and monolithic. By attempting to redress whatever location provided the tunnels with lighting gels, they only ended up highlighting the degree to which this episode is almost entirely comprised of corridor runs, and, worse, corridor runs through frightfully drab corridors, in a story where the entire point is how posh the setting is. I mean, yes, a corridor run is the heart and soul of Doctor Who, but Time Heist seems slightly embarrassed by the preponderance of corridors, and embarrassed in a way that makes them slightly embarrassing.

On the brighter side is the Teller, which is one of the best alien designs in a while - one that actually feels properly alien. After making magic out of a monster that never appears last episode, this time they really show the degree to which Doctor Who uses its special effects well. It’s not that the Teller is “realistic,” a word I don’t even know how to apply to it, but rather that the Teller looks like good CGI. The moment it appears, you recognize it as a CGI monster, but it’s impressive as an object of design, as opposed to as an illusion. And Doctor Who has learned to go for that approach in a satisfying way. (Edit: Apparently it wasn't CGI, so that's an amusing error, although my point about focusing on design over realism stands, I think, regardless of the physical construction.)

Beyond that, the story works in the way that a lot of good Doctor Who stories work, which is by finding a genre Doctor Who hasn’t actually crashed into yet, but that’s a natural fit for Doctor Who. The intrinsically anarchic aesthetic of Doctor Who is a natural fit for the heist film. The long tradition of bank robbers (and criminals in general) as heroes is one that, while it might not be entirely accurate to say that Doctor Who fits into it every week, it at least fits into often enough for this to be an incredibly natural pairing. And yet it’s one that Doctor Who has never really done, although I suppose you could try to argue for Dinosaurs on a Spaceship having the same basic plot structure.

On top of that, it finds two very specifically Doctor Who twists on it. The first, of course, is the addition of time travel to the heist structure, which we’ve already discussed in terms of its benefits for the speed of plot advancement. The second is the late turn from being a heist to being a rescue mission, with the revelation that the Teller is not, in fact, a monster but a sympathetic victim of the bank’s abuses - a move that fits into Moffat’s general aversion towards straightforward villains. Both are solid, and the decision to leave them until relatively late in the episode means that they work as twists (although there’s a case to be made that the first one is excessively given away by the title), allowing the episode to first milk the “Doctor Who bank robbery” angle straightforwardly, and then to successively add its clever tricks. It’s not a classic, but is yet another instance where the meat and potatoes episodes are coming off well, with almost all their tricks working.

Which puts us nearly half a season in, and still, for my money at least, without any turkeys. The two credits that were perhaps most nerve-wracking are now past, and worked. One can’t imagine Gareth Roberts screwing up too badly, although I suppose the one exception to that is the other time he was rewritten. There’s the three new boys, who are all unknowns for Doctor Who (and, more frustratingly, boys), but at this point we’re starting to get to the point where we can say with some confidence that this is a solid season. Certainly it’s the strongest opening five episodes we’ve seen in the new series.
  • I see a lot of criticism of the Doctor’s regularly insulting Clara, which is I suppose understandable, but seems to me a misreading of the situation. The point isn’t that the Doctor is insulting Clara - it’s that he’s humorously bad at giving compliments because he doesn’t actually understand humans or human form. Take last episode - “you’ve taken your make up off,” he says, clearly wrongly, and then, when that’s pointed out, he attempts to soften the accidental insult with “you probably just missed a bit,” rather spectacularly deepening the hole. The “insulting Clara” jokes are the same as his “you’re taller… do you have to reach a high shelf” joke this episode, ultimately. 
  • The Abslom Daak appearance is, of course, doubly sweet when you realize this episode was filming right around when Steve Moore died, and that it was likely a conscious tribute. Also, the other images are almost as good - I love the Sensorite. 
  • This is the last of the episodes that leaked in advance, so there’s a sense in which we’re moving into “Phase Two” of the season - a sense that’s heightened by the shift to new writers coming after next week, and the shift in transmission time coming next week.
  • Fun counterfactual - how would this episode have been changed by yes winning the independence referendum? For that matter, how was it changed by no winning?
  • As mentioned, I’m a guest on Slate’s Doctor Who podcast, which, as I understand it, will post at this link for Slate Plus members after US transmission this evening. You can join Slate Plus on a two-week trial to grab it and check it out. I had fun with it, certainly.
  • Rankings!
  1. Listen
  2. Deep Breath
  3. Time Heist
  4. Into the Dalek
  5. Robot of Sherwood

Comments

Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

Again I come to this relatively unspoilered.
Now I like a good heist plot but then there's Planet of the Dead so possibly not in Doctor Who. On the other hand that only started out as a heist troper though and didn't follow through before getting derailed in the desert.
So...four great episodes in a row, can they make it five?

Ps. Could you post a link for the Slate podcast please?

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ScarvesandCelery 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm feeling positive about this one - the trailer looks fun, Keely Hawes is an excellent guest star to have as a villain, and Moffat's writing credit make me feel like this could be pretty good. Certainly better than the obligatory bad Steven Thompson episode that seems to have become a frustrating part of the Moffat Era.

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Daru 2 years, 11 months ago

I hope that the story really follows through with the heist story - I have high hopes that they will and I totally have high hopes for the episode being good as they have hit good innings so far. Not spoiled too which is exciting!

Loved Keeley Hawes in Ashes to Ashes so hopeful there too.

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Bennett 2 years, 11 months ago

"...the obligatory bad Steven Thompson episode..."

I've never had particular issue with the scripts Thompson has delivered. I'm quite fond of Curse personally, and think it delivers on mood, humour and plot. And while Journey is absolutely daft at times, it is also absolutely daft at times - so I can't bring myself to dislike that one either. Even if Moffat's name wasn't attached, I'd say we're in for a solid and enjoyable yarn. Maybe not the emotional roller-coaster that last week was, but an anti-climax once in a while is good for the hearts.

Then again...the title of the episode is uncannily similar to Time-Flight. Perhaps they are courting disaster.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

TIME HEIST scrambled is I MEET THIS.

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jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

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jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

As soon as such a thing as a link exists, I will post the best link I can find.

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 11 months ago

Wait what did "Journey" say about the TARDIS exploding? Was it just implicit?

I think there is more evidence to suggest it was a Silence plot...

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Chicanery 2 years, 11 months ago

I didn't understand any of that, the plot was nonsense, the emotional stakes were completely unrelatable since they were so far away from human experience, the dialogue was frequently embarrassing, and characters bonded emotionally for no reason.

Still, better than Robots of Sherwood. I liked Clara's suit.

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dm 2 years, 11 months ago

I had fun playing what-could-have-been. More than anything, what really let this down was the fact it gave Capaldi nothing to do but explain the plot. As these are still early days for this incarnation, it would have been interesting to see the Doctor upset, full of self doubt and maybe even disgust, that someone managed to buy him out somehow. He should have been eager, but a bit fearful, to find out what his price was.

Fairly weak overall. It seemed as if they never finished making it, there were so many weird cuts and transitions that at first I thought they were just playing on the memory wipe thing. The twist at the end was nice though, but could have been more impactful with the setup I described.

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jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

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Matthew Blanchette 2 years, 11 months ago

Synopses for episodes 5 through 9 have been released... and considering the synopsis for episode 6, I will be VERY disappointed if a certain Mr. ("er, Chesterfield?") does not show up during the course of the plot.

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jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

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Spacewarp 2 years, 11 months ago

Narr, good bit of a fun runaround. The plot was nicely impenetrable until the end when the Doctor explained it all and it all fell into place. No plot holes there for me. Evoked memories of the Doctor comin' a'callin' for a team in "A Good Man Goes To War". One must always has to bear in mind that this is a programme that has to be accessible to children as young as seven so even a complex plot has to be pretty well sign-posted along the way. Hence the Architect couldn't be anyone other than who he was, and the Doctor's reward had a simple moral message that any young child could relate to. I felt this was perfectly acceptable Doctor Who...but then I know that it isn't implicitly aimed at me, it's aimed at as broad an audience as it can get (something mid to late 80s Classic Who never truly learned, to it's cost).

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Scurra 2 years, 11 months ago

As someone who loves Moffat puzzle-boxes, it's been fantastic that we've had two explicitly "closed loop" stories in a row - and there are elements of the other three that might work that way too (who put the advert in the paper? And, of course, who gave Clara that number?)
I really liked this one. The two new characters worked wonderfully well, and I was rooting for them even as the "death" option appeared to be the only escape. And whilst the reveals weren't exactly ground-breaking, they were all extremely "fair" in the context of a time-loop story. And yes, either of them would have made terrific companions, even if they were a bit over-powered in the superhero stakes...

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xen trilus 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm not sure how to read the observation about the Teller 'looking like good CGI' and that 'you recognize it as a CGI monster' (it wasn't CGI, as Doctor Who Extra shows).

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Philip Sandifer 2 years, 11 months ago

As an entertaining error perpetuated by someone for whom Doctor Who Extra doesn't become available for a few hours yet.

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Spacewarp 2 years, 11 months ago

It's an interesting comment on how far FX have come in the entertainment business, when makeup and costume design is so good that we assume it to be computer-generated. I'm not sure if the people responsible would feel insulted or complimented!

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ScarvesandCelery 2 years, 11 months ago

I think there's a fan theory that the TARDIS never recovers from breaking in "Journey", and that because of this it explodes in "The Pandorica Opens" (something to that effect).

As for my thoughts on Steven Thompson, I'm probably a bit harsh to him - there is nothing wrong with being a "meat and potatoes episode" writer - as Phil says, they are a necessary part of creating a season of television.

With that said, I think it's possible to do a low demand episode better than Thompson historically has - "Curse" doesn't have clear idea of what its themes are, and ends up being a bit of a mess - compare to this week's episode (I liked it, and am willing to give Thompson credit for this) - genre clash with a sweet moral about the Teller. Simple, knows its job, delivers a solid 45 minutes of television.

@jonathon inge - I agree about "Journey" being a tentpole episode - personally I don't feel it deserves to be. It has a lot of heavy lifting, and for me, it just misses the bullseye on all the big moments. Plus, there's some cringeworthy dialogue and the Van Balen Brothers are unsympathetic with no logic behind their unsympathetic actions

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David Anderson 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm not sure that the twists are properly twists. Most of them are answers to questions that the viewer ought to be asking - who is the Architect, and why would the Doctor agree to rob a bank? Whereas I think a twist proper is when the author does something that the reader wasn't aware was a question.

I suppose that the clever thing about the structure is that the final reveal (it is a rescue mission) was hidden behind two more obvious reveals. There are only really three possibilities for the identity of the Architect; reveal one is that the Architect is in fact the most obvious candidate, and reveal two is that the second most obvious candidate is, after a fashion, in on it. (Candidate three does not appear in this episode, but is mentioned in the dialogue a couple of times.)

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ScarvesandCelery 2 years, 11 months ago

Still I liked this episode - credit to Thompson for constructing a pacy and entertaining 45 minutes of television. It's my least favourite episode of Series eight, but only the run so far has been uniformly excellent.

My rankings so far:

Listen
Deep Breath
Into the Dalek
Robot of Sherwood
Time Heist

"Robot of Sherwood" only squeezes ahead of "Time Heist" because I'm a sucker for the meta commentary about stories and legends.

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Melissa Robertson 2 years, 11 months ago

So, I'm fairly new here, but I love your blog, Philip, and I'm trying to catch up. I figured it'd be safe to comment on this, though.

Overall, I liked Time Heist. The transporter twist was blatantly obvious (when Sabra "died" I turned to my sister and said "that looks a whole lot more like a transporter") but that was a minor quibble. It's a good, fun romp, and I liked how it turned out to be a rescue at the end.

One thing I noticed that I thought was a nice touch: the mood lighting in the corridor with the prisoners is yellow, a color that can be associated with fear, especially when it's that shade.

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

My first disappointment of the Capaldi season. It started brilliantly and just got worse and worse until the opportunity to create a Bank Heist plot with added time travel paradoxes was completely squandered. I actually felt like some exposition was lost in the final edit. Yes even though there was hardly anything but exposition in this story, actually nothing important was ever explained. Perhaps I need to see it again. It wasn't that I didn't get it. There was just nothing to get. There were moments where even the writer(s) seemed lost. The actors were clearly struggling to sell it. I mean okay for example, someone please tell me, what was with the things that killed people but we're really teleporters but not really. Were they ever explained properly or did we really just get a "look! Over there, something more interesting than the thing I can't explain just happened. Let's run down this corridor." Why was the Teller's mate locked away? Why did any of it need to happen? Why we're the objects that Sabra and Sai out to steal kept secret from us. What was the point of having them kept as big reveals at the end? Surely it would have been better if we knew what their motivation was from the start? Overall - What a waste of talent. Looked great, sounded fine, written badly. Surely Steven Thompson won't be writing any more Doctor Who after this? Once again, just like in CotBS and JttCotT he collected all the right ingredients and then just threw them in a pot and forgot to turn on the heat. Not good enough.

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John Peacock 2 years, 11 months ago

Something I've been wondering about, but don't quite have the brain-power to get anywhere with: there are different, specific kinds of narrative logic playing out in different episodes, particularly at points of elision (where something has been left out between one point and another). Last week's episode seemed very much to be adhering to dream logic, whereas this weeks was game logic: apart from the movement from level to level collecting things that aid in the task, closing in on the final boss (literally), and at least one elision point was highlighted (They enter a vent and there's an explicit visual effect and they are at the next level). I wonder if this ties in with the sense in Robot of Sherwood that they had materialised in story-space rather than actual medieval England. How I tie the first two episodes in to that, I don't really know.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 11 months ago

"Surely Steven Thompson won't be writing any more Doctor Who after this?"

Of course he will: he's Steven Moffat's friend, and he's reliable. I can't wait to see what great premise he makes dull and uninteresting next year.


Aside: since the episode I've read through a couple of reviews and this really stood out to me as an idea:

Okay, but Time Heist would have been a lot more interesting if — spoilers — Saibra had been the Architect instead.

Picture it: She could have taken on the forms of the Doctor, Clara, and Psi to record their consent messages herself, then made them touch the worms (under threat of violence or something) to forget what she had done. The Doctor would still come to the same conclusion that there’s something they all want in the vault that made them agree to the mission, when in actuality she would have been playing them from the start. They could even have seen the Architect’s face in that video, since Saibra could have taken on another form for it. Instead of the feel-good victory we got at the end of the episode, we could have had Saibra using the others for her own ends and then getting away with the loot. Psi could even have been in on it too, so that the only real victims of the deceit would be the Doctor and Clara.

Heist stories are all about the twists and turns, and having the Architect — spoilers again — be the Doctor using a voice modulator wasn’t a particularly good one. After all, the Doctor secretly sending himself on a mission is a story beat we’ve seen before. The Doctor being outsmarted by a nemesis hiding right under his nose the whole episode would have been a refreshing change of pace, AND much more in touch with the heist genre this story was aiming for.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 11 months ago

I just found Time Heist very average. I came away, not thinking it was great or bad, but just that I'd watched a Doctor Who episode. *shrug*. I totally agree on the "production" point, Phil, with the lighting. It seems to be something this director does a lot - Listen had some purple hues, and The Sontaran Stratagem was full of bright and tacky colours (that purple disco spaceship).

It was passable, but I'd much rather have seen someone new to the show get Steve Thompson's episode. Although credit to him, it's 3/3 for getting great premises and then pretty much wasting them.

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elvwood 2 years, 11 months ago

Well, the characterisation was lacking even for a story which was based on computer game logic (as John Peacock points out), and the wrong bits were predictable. On the other hand, it kept me entertained, looked good (mostly), and kept up the variety in episode tone and pacing we've been seeing throughout the series thus far.

I note that even Keeley Hawes' villain repented and wanted to undo some of her worst crimes in the end, which I think is a worthwhile message.

My ordering, to date:

Listen
Robot of Sherwood
Deep Breath
Into the Dalek
Time Heist

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Why so oblique? I'm assuming the second most obvious candidate is the director, but who's the third most obvious? The woman who gave Clara the Doctor's number?

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Alex Antonijevic 2 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, this series is pretty good if this is what one of the weaker ones is like.

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David Ainsworth 2 years, 11 months ago

If the mind wipe took everything, nobody would have had the skills needed to pull off the heist.

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David Ainsworth 2 years, 11 months ago

No problem with seeding the suitcases in the bank, as the Doctor can materialize the TARDIS, drop the case and leave before anyone notices. (Note the delay before each new alarm sounds; the details here were actually well established.)

And while I can see grounds to complain about characterization, I deeply appreciate a story where all the information you need to work out what's going on is on the screen in front of you. Being one (short) step ahead of the Doctor as he worked out what was up used to be a pleasure in the old series; too often the new one involves the Doctor pulling out some fact the audience couldn't possibly have.

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jane 2 years, 11 months ago

I have to say, I was disappointed. Yes, it was fine for what it was trying to be, a plot-oriented heist movie, but I was really hoping for something more, something that was actually more rooted in characterization. And unfortunately, that was exactly the thing missing in this story. That I was expecting something in the way of feels, which wasn't delivered, rather speaks to what I've been getting out of the show for the last several years.

And I was distracted by the fact that Saibra and Clara never actually spoke to each other, which would have helped both in terms of characterization and developing a sense of stakes in the supporting characters. As it is I didn't really care. I was frankly more concerned for the monster, who looked so sad, but that its sadness was rooted in the same premise as Hide, well, we've seen it before.

On the other hand, I think there's more to the Private Vault than meets the eye, and I rather liked the final twist concerning the relationship between the Doctor and Clara, because the monsters speak to that.

Still, both conceptually and emotionally, I preferred Black Spot and Journey.

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jane 2 years, 11 months ago

Perhaps I wouldn't have been as let down if the monster didn't feed on guilt -- because that is a very character-centric thing, but I never got the feeling that any of our principals had anything to feel guilty about in the first place. Especially Saibra, who had so much potential but was largely sidelined throughout. A "guilt monster" would be so much more effective in a story more concerned with characterization than plot mechanics.

And the more I think about it, the more ticked I am that Clara and Saibra never really talked.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

what was with the things that killed people but we're really teleporters but not really. Were they ever explained properly

Not sure what you’re asking, or what you mean by “not really.” They’re teleporters disguised as disintegrators. Their purpose was so that the Doctor and Clara wouldn’t know they were alive and so couldn’t mentally give them away.

Why was the Teller's mate locked away?

To use as leverage on the Teller to get it to work for the bank.

Why did any of it need to happen?

When the bank director evacuated, leaving the bank to be destroyed by the solar flare, she committed xenocide by letting the last two Tellers be wiped out. On her deathbed she regretted this and hired the Doctor to fix it. The Doctor had to fix it without undoing any known temporal events.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

I notice the Doctor was given some more Malcolm-Tucker-speak.

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Jarl 2 years, 11 months ago

If this was last season, we know exactly what the Guilt Monster would have latched onto in the Doctor. Hell, that probably would have choked it to death. Maybe that was the resolution in an earlier draft, who knows.

Not only do Clara and Saibra never have a conversation, Clara's the first person we see her take the form of. So, y'know, mirroring. Plus, it would have tied in with Clara's ongoing troubles with herself (going back to calling Tardis-Hologram-Clara "a cow" and coming up recently with the "Don't meet yourself" stuff in Listen) quite nicely.

When this episode was first filming, there were shots of the main characters walking about in a square somewhere. Obviously the scene was deleted, but between Clara's unusual jacket and everyone else's manner of dress, it looked like Planet of the Suits, with Clara being fitted out with a loaner like someone who came to a black tie restaurant in a t-shirt.

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inkdestroyedmybrush 2 years, 11 months ago

ok, i'm clearly in the minority here, but i felt that this was, finally, proper fun Doctor Who on the screen. A bit compressed for the 45 minutes but fun and with a couple of twists in the end and a good performance by Capaldi and the rest. Solid and not earth shaking, but good.

I've been missing "good" Doctor who. Not "event" Doctor Who, which in the 50th year was all too common. Good, fun, different, interesting Doctor Who that didn't do a damn bit of mythology but was forward looking. This had that. And when it comes to it, i HATED black spot and journey. so, OK then.

i will watch this one a few times to absord my favorite parts, and will never, unless duct taped to the couch and the remote is out of batteries, watch Robot of Sherwood ever again.

so far, this season has had two that i would watch more than once, back to back. I doubt that i'd ever go and watch the others, given how many faults i found with them.

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jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

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storiteller 2 years, 11 months ago

The episode this reminded me the most of in some ways was actually The God Complex. The opening of not knowing where they are or why they are there (which is true of a lot of episodes, but this just had the same "feel.") A lot of the shots - how the monster walked, the framing of the people while their mind was being wiped - reminded me of similar shots in the God Complex, although without the metaphorical / narrative aspect of the previous ones. In addition, it also had the monster that is in pain and essentially helpless - a villain against its own will. This episode isn't nearly as good as that one, but certain aspects just reminded me of it. Unfortunately, the strong characterization isn't one of them.

Despite that, I found it a fun romp, but I like bank heist movies anyway.

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jonathan inge 2 years, 11 months ago

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joshleejosh 2 years, 11 months ago

They all technically have something to feel guilty about -- they are robbing the bank after all -- but it's just guilt of plot, not guilt of character. Pairing up the Doctor with Saibra and Clara with Psi in such a mechanical way is another thing that made this episode feel solid but unspectacular. Not terrible, just lots of missed opportunities for extra character beats.

The Doctor's nonplussed reaction when Saibra and Psi reveal themselves might have been more telling than his self-hatred. "Well this is good, I suppose" is not exactly a resounding "Just this once, everybody lives!"

I wish we could have seen a bit of what was flashing through Clara's mind as she tried to blank it out. Come to think of it, that's two episodes in a row now where Clara has to think (or not think) really, really hard.

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Jesse 2 years, 11 months ago

I find myself wanting to knock the production a little bit - specifically the tedious overuse of colored lighting.

I disagree. I think it enhanced the general decision to make the bank-heist episode look like a heist movie.

Overall I liked it. A fun genre exercise with a timey-wimey twist, and yes, I felt as silly writing that phrase as you probably did reading it.

Rankings:

1. Listen
2. Time Heist (or maybe Deep Breath)
3. Deep Breath (or maybe Time Heist)
4. Robot of Sherwood
5. [commercials, bathroom breaks, etc.]
6. Into the Dalek

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

Thank you BerserkRL. Did you actually like this one? Perhaps I should watch it again. I'm not sure a second viewing will convince me that the Time paradox plot worked though.

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

Then surely he could have just materialised the TARDIS around the Teller' s mate and taken her away, coming back for the Teller and taken them both to another world. Job done. Like I asked above -Why did any of it need to happen?

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

I think the most wasted opportunity was the character of Saibra. Having established her as a shape-shifter nothing was done with it apart from having her unnecessarily disguise herself as a guard who we hadn't seen before while Psi achieved the same effect by merely wearing his guard's helmet. Where were the confusing 'is it Clara now or is it Saibra..Oh no! the Doctor's been disintegrated! Phew! it was Saibra disguised as the Doctor and she only teleported! Who is she now?' moments that the opening scenes led me to expect and the Heist concept demanded?

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

@Jarl
When this episode was first filming, there were shots of the main characters walking about in a square somewhere. Obviously the scene was deleted,
Or were filmed for another episode. The finale perhaps?

@jane
I'm struggling to find any resonances or metaphors here too. The final shot of the two Teller 'monsters' walking off into the sunset while ludicrously bathetic could be another reference to a 'Promised Land'. Themes of memory, of not thinking or clearing your mind, (this Doctor meditates cross legged on top of the TARDIS as we saw last episode) guilt....nah! I've got nothing.

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Chicanery 2 years, 11 months ago

Oh, I forgot to rank them.

1. Listen.
2. Into the Dalek.
3. Deep Breath.
4. Time Heist.
5. Robots of Sherwood.

I would rewatch the first two voluntarily, wouldn't change the channel if Deep Breath was on, and would rather exercise than watch Time Heist and Robots again.

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Monicker 2 years, 11 months ago

@Anton B
@Jarl
When this episode was first filming, there were shots of the main characters walking about in a square somewhere. Obviously the scene was deleted,

Or were filmed for another episode. The finale perhaps?

I do recall those photos, however I'm pretty sure that it was actually the brief sequence from about 7.08 to 7.17 in this episode that they were filming, where the man in the suit leads the group toward the bank and they stand there looking across at it from exterior of the planet. Obviously the bank and most of the surroundings will have been done with CGI or somesuch, but it appears that this was the scene they were recording that you're thinking of.

It was recorded in the square at Cardiff, I believe.

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J Mairs 2 years, 11 months ago

The Doctor does specifically say that he can't do that because the storm makes it a problem to land the Tardis.

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ferret 2 years, 11 months ago

"shut shut shut shut shutitty-up"

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BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

Yes, I liked it!

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BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

Right. The TARDIS can't get into the vault when there's a solar storm because the storm interferes with navigation. But it also can't get in when there isn't a storm because the vault can be unsealed without authorisation only during the storm.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

It's not guilt of doing something wrong (the bank is obviously a criminal enterprise so robbing it is not clearly wrong; actually robbing banks in real life is not clearly wrong either, for similar reasons) but guilt of doing something forbidden; we use the term "guilt" that way too.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

That's the one.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm still not sure what it was about "Into the Dalek" that you disliked so much.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 11 months ago

Having established her as a shape-shifter nothing was done with it apart from having her unnecessarily disguise herself as a guard who we hadn't seen before

She also disguised herself as a customer in order to use his genetics to gain access.

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Matthew Pickens 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm surprised you didn't find more to like, Jane. I'd've thought an episode about descending into a plutonic realm to rescue love, where to look back/remember is to fail, would have given you something to work with.

(I never comment, but I'm a big fan of yours.)

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SpaceSquid 2 years, 11 months ago

This is obviously pretty parenthetical, but I continue to think Phil's wrong about there being a hole in Curse of Fenric. There's precisely nothing in the script that says the Vikings with the flask are the same Vikings who settled the surrounding area. Indeed, the script implies otherwise; why would one expect haven somewhere if there wasn't any of your own people there already?

(There's actually a really nice story to be built around this, actually, the tale of exhausted, terrified Viking warriors appearing in a village and dragging a curse right alongside them that strikes each down in turn.)

While on the subject of plot holes, I don't think the suitcases qualify either, at least not in the way suggested. I watched the whole episode under the assumption the Architect and the Doctor were one and the same - it just seemed the most obvious twist - and so the obvious explanation was that the Doctor could use the TARDIS to seed the cases; it was only the vault that he couldn't breach. Why he couldn't do that is a mystery, but that's distinct from a hole in the plot, I'd argue.

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David Ainsworth 2 years, 11 months ago

I'd say the big themes here were regret, redemption, loss and the loneliness/companionship thread we've seen for a while. They just aren't as dominant as we've come to expect.

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David Anderson 2 years, 11 months ago

Indeed.

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

Yes she did. I had forgotten that. So that was her reason for being on the heist but I still don't think her abilities were used enough. I mean if you've got Mystique in your movie you want to pull a few shape-shifting surprises on the audience, no?

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TheOncomingHurricane 2 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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TheOncomingHurricane 2 years, 11 months ago

Actually, why he couldn't breach the vault is addressed - he needed the solar storm to knock out the failsafe lock. And as he says, the TARDIS can't land properly in a solar storm, so he wasn't able to use it.

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

I really need to watch this again.
May I ask those people that liked this episode and obviously picked up on all the subtleties I missed, whether that's due to you previously reading a leaked script? Or watching a leaked work print ? Or watching the episode multiple times as opposed to my (rather tired after a 9 hour working day) one late night viewing? Or a combination of the above?

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jane 2 years, 11 months ago

Thank you, Matthew, that's what I was looking for!

Sometimes it takes me a while to get to the good stuff. Time Heist doesn't have such blatant near-death imagery like Black Spot or even Journey. Likewise, with a reference like Abraxas, I was expecting some really stark "union of opposites" and especially in the imagery. But this time, all the esoteric stuff is much more subtle than in Thompson's other stories. Lacking that, and lacking any substantive emotional beats, I just found it rather lackluster.

So thank you for pointing a way forward with this story.

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Alan 2 years, 11 months ago

I picked it all up just from watching the episode. Though, it helped a good deal, I suppose, that I realized almost instantly (1) that the Architect was the Doctor who memory wiped himself to avoid the bad guys learning about the plan and (2) that the Teller was not the bad guy but was a prisoner of the bank. The only twist I didn't guess immediately was that the person who called the Doctor was the bank owner who was calling from her own death, but I think I would have gotten that when the Doctor gave her his number had I not been distracted by the pizza guy arriving. Given Moffatt's fetishistic obsession with ontological paradoxes, I was not terribly surprised to find out that the plot of the whole episode was set up by something the Doctor did in the last five minutes. Indeed, the only thing that DID surprise me was that the hacker-guy didn't die for real and then wake up in the Promised Land, as it's been a while since we've touched on that.

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

Okay, I've just watched it again and it definitely improves on second viewing. But, see the thing is, the first time round I also guessed the Architect must be the Doctor and the Gauntanamo style containment suit was enough of a clue that the Teller was a prisoner. Those things weren't my problem. In retrospect and on second viewing I think, ironically, I was asking the wrong questions and looking for the wrong things. As I said, better on second viewing but I don't think a third will shift it up in my rating of worst episode so far but that's probably due to the quality of the others.

Btw. Something makes me suspect we may see either Psi or Saibre or both again. Perhaps in the finale? Also, anyone else suspect that the dialogue about the Doctor not wanting to see himself, coupled with last week's warning that "you don't want to meet yourself" and Deep Breath' s "Don't look in the mirror" is leading to something? Could Missy actually be an aspect of the Doctor himself?

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Bennett 2 years, 11 months ago

I personally found Time Heist, on a metaphorical level at least, confused. And no more so than Miss Delphox's recurring thread of asking victims of the Teller whether they are ready for their "close up".

Could someone explain this one to me? It reads like a standard villainous euphemism, though it's so utterly disconnected from the context of the story in a way that bewilders me. I mean, I know the victims end up showcased on camera - but it just sounds like something a villain should say to a victim done in by vanity or a lust for fame, not by dishonest financial transactions.

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Aylwin 2 years, 11 months ago

The idea that that was a plot hole in Curse of Fenric has never made sense to me. It seems clear that the "curse" picked off the ship's company one by one, and there is no indication of the timescale. It could well have taken years (like the deaths attributed to the "curse of Tutankhamun", the obvious cultural antecedent). And strictly speaking it wouldn't actually have to take more than a matter of days: just long enough for the last survivor to bury some treasure, carve an inscription and father at least one child - the "wolves" are all his descendants. Where's the problem?

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 11 months ago

Does Clara's suit trump Clara's red dress, then?

I was really confused by this one too (admittedly it didn't have 100% of my attention, but I tried) and I wish I had the time to watch it again. But online episode summaries show that I caught all the plot beats. Yet I just kept feeling like I was missing something...which seemed to be the point as they needed to find out why they were there, but there seemed to be more frustration than intrigue and mystery. Also, it was really obvious to me that the Teller was imprisoned in some way and I never quite believed that the other two characters were dead, because it happened too abruptly. And I had always assumed the Doctor, Clara, or the other characters had something to do with the reasoning behind the heist, so I was just waiting for that to be explained.

I feel like it was more about technical achievements (I actually liked the colored corridor thing) but unlike last week (which was focused around sound), it lacked audience engagement for me. Although Capaldi was great at expressing pain and despair.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 11 months ago

Small correction: Psy and Saibra is how you spell the names of the other two bank robbers. And was that Absalom cameo in that montage of bank robbers? Because that really flashed too quickly by. Reminded me a little of that Tenth Doctor DWM comic 'The Woman Who Sold the World' in some of its aesthetics.

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mengu 2 years, 11 months ago

Clara and Saibra technically do talk, just after she morphs her, but the absence after that is glaring.

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Bennett 2 years, 11 months ago

Smaller correction: Psi is how you spell the name of the augmented bank robber.

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Jarl 2 years, 11 months ago

The cyberpunk tone.
Time shenanigans.
A heist movie with a vault at the center of it with someone living in it.
Clara's fine suit.
"You'll be old... and full of regrets."
Hiding your guilt and regret in your own shady memory.

Time Heist is Doctor Who landing in Inception. There's more parallels, but those are the ones that jump out at me right off the bat.

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5tephe 2 years, 11 months ago

While I found this to be fun, mostly old fashioned Doctor Who, it wad neither strong enough on character or plot to distinguish it further than that. Not of course that it needs to: as has been pointed out often before, that's more than enough to ask of an episode.

Disappointing for me was the treatment of Clara. She not only (as Jane pointed out above) gets thoroughly Bechdeled in this episode, the only things she does get to do are

a) Successfully blank her mind. Entirely. Bit of a backhanded compliment there.

b) Inspire one of the boy characters to nobly sacrifice himself

c) Get conspicuously not asked what her job was on the heist. The two guests aggressively quiz the Doctor about what his role is, and Clara just sits meekly in the background. Apparently it didn't occur to anyone to question just what she was doing there.

Which kind of highlights the problem I'm alluding to here. I think it never occurred to the script writer to ask what her role was in this little drama.

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Ozyman Jones 2 years, 11 months ago

In agreement with this episode. Just fun, not to mentally taxing and different enough to engage. The kids and the wife loved it (and they loved Robot of Sherwood and have re-watched it more than any previous DW episode.... ever. Me, not so much).

Sure, Clara was a bit shortchanged and the deeper character moments were a mite lacking. Still, I found it more satisfying than the majority of Hollywood's output in the last decade or so (damning with feint praise?) The Teller was a great creation, and I don't believe we've seen the last of him. Might come in useful in the final to sort out the real guilty party.

Yes, it's good to have some regular Doctor Who. Sitting down with the family to watch together... the 'only' show we do this for on telly. The only show that gets all of us on the couch at the same time is Doctor Who! That's special in my book. And so far this season 'every' episode has been strong enough to have them looking forward to the next one in genuine anticipation. That's successful television on a family level. With ages in our house ranging 5, 13, 17, 40 and 47 that's quite a spread to catch with one show. Really I'm in awe of Moffat and the whole production team for managing that pretty much every episode, week after week.

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Jarl 2 years, 11 months ago

Also, I get this feeling that the planet he left the guilt eaters on was the Eye of Orion. It just looks very much like it would probably look with modern production values.

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UrsulaL 2 years, 11 months ago

Clara knows her job when she's adventuring with the Doctor. She's his carer.

It was established way back in "Cold War" that Clara enjoys the idea that saving the world is what they do, and also it's been long established that when someone needs taking care of (the Maitland children, Merry Galel), she steps up to do so.

In "Name of the Doctor" Clara took on the special task of taking care of the Doctor, which has only intensified since his regeneration.

Clara and the Doctor are a team, and Clara takes care of everyone, and particularly the Doctor.

She didn't need to have her role defined, when she and the Doctor are already a team. Only the newcomers needed that definition.

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Chris 2 years, 11 months ago

"I see a lot of criticism of the Doctor’s regularly insulting Clara, which is I suppose understandable, but seems to me a misreading of the situation. The point isn’t that the Doctor is insulting Clara - it’s that he’s humorously bad at giving compliments because he doesn’t actually understand humans or human form."

I've been seeing that criticism too, and have had the same reaction that you have. But I hoped it would have stopped by now. Yes, it's played for laughs, but the laughs are still generated by insults, and it's starting to bother me. I don't want this Doctor to be remembered as "the one who didn't understand women and therefore kept saying unintentionally means things to them."

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5tephe 2 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, I'm not saying that WE don't know why she's there. Personally I am a lot happier with how Clara's character has been handled this season.

I'm saying that 'in script' there was a clear gap - the 2 guests demanded to know the Doctor's role, but basically overlooked Clara entirely.

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UrsulaL 2 years, 11 months ago

The guests demand to know the Doctor's role/qualifications because he immediately starts bossing them around, and they're not taking orders from someone they don't know.

Clara, they figure out more gradually. But she does get challenged about how it is obvious she's been with the Doctor for a long time, because she makes excuses for his bad behavior so easily and automatically.

Which is a point that I think will be a big one next week. Danny will be in the same position as Psy and Saibra, with the Doctor leaping into his life from nowhere and starting to give orders, and Clara making excuses for the Doctor. But this time, it will be personal, his girlfriend making excuses for this rude, bossy fellow whose just shown up out of nowhere.

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Adam Riggio 2 years, 11 months ago

I actually find Thompson's scripts much more interesting than the relative consensus that he's dull. All of his scripts are filled with a variety of interesting ideas, all of which can be visibly fascinating. Curse of the Black Spot had the new riff on the parallel shipwrecks, fascinating reflection imagery, the weirdness of the collision of pirate stories with sci-fi worlds, and the beautiful images of the medical hologram. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS was screaming for contributions to the myth of the TARDIS right from the beginning.

It's just that the focus on the interesting and wild ideas result in the detriment of the overall story. Thompson's scripts all suffer from flat characterization, especially the famously nonsensical Van Baalen Brothers. But I think Time Heist probably has the highest ratio of fascinating ideas to middling execution, combined with a reliance on what's become outdated standard Moffat-era tropes. More at my competing review bloggings . . .
http://adamwriteseverything.blogspot.ca/2014/09/a-familiar-architect-doctor-who-time.html

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Commander Maxil 2 years, 11 months ago

This is set out more explicitly in the target novelisation (truly one of the best ones ever done, its better than the Remembrance one, that’s how good it is). Basically the Viking crew are picked off one by one on the journey back from Constantinople and then the final surviving one buries the casket amongst the graves. The Ancient Haemavore cannot retrieve it from there because the graves are holy and the belief blocks him. These Vikings are presumably adults, so they are certainly capable of having produced offspring prior to their sailing to Constantinople) so why is there any issue with them having descendant? It’s entirely feasible. No plot holes here at all

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Commander Maxil 2 years, 11 months ago

One things that does baffle me though is just how obsessed i truly am with Doctor Who that i just used my lunch break to defend the Curse of Fenric plot logic by appeal to a novelisation i read over 20 years ago!

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Isaac 2 years, 11 months ago

What fell flat for me in this episode was that it raised the question of what the four heisters wanted more than anything else in the world and then it did not answer that question for the two leads. One could argue, I suppose, that what they want is to perform acts of altruism, but that doesn't feel right from either an episode thematics point of view, nor from a what-these-characters-are-actually-about point of view.

Still, I like cyberpunk, and heists, and Doctor Who, so this wasn't exactly a bad hour of television for me.

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SpaceSquid 2 years, 11 months ago

@TheOncomingHurricane

I realise that, my question was why he needed for the failsafe lock to be taken out by the storm. Why not just use the TARDIS to materialise directly inside the vault? Get in, nab Ms Teller, get out. Why does the vault need to be open at all?

@Commander Maxil

I was initially reluctant to go with that theory, purely beause I didn't see how the rune-carver would know he would die on that given night, but I guess the whispers in his dreams might have told him.

Though the novel's approach (and you could argue that Briggs is just clearing up his own mistakes here) does raise the question of how the flask got from the graves to the church. And if holy ground really is such an issue, how did the Haemovores manage to attack in episode 3? Was that really all Wainwright's fault?

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ComMaxil 2 years, 11 months ago

You are right that the novel does through up some further questions. IIRC the idea is that the church and it graveyard was built on top of the Viking graves. The rune-carver has faith that the graves are holy and there has been faith in the place ever since, pagan and then Christian. Rev Wainwright is the first to have actually lost his faith and it is noted it is only at the start of the war this has taken place (due to British bombing of German cities).

Am I also right in thinking that the Haemovores only attack the church after the flask is removed by the Doctor? In any case its clearly time for a rewatch (never a chore, Fenric is pretty much my favourite Doctor Who story!)

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SpaceSquid 2 years, 11 months ago

Ace has picked up the flask, but it's still in the building during the attack. And I'm not keen on the Wainwright theory (which doesn't mean it wasn't what Briggs intended, of course), because a) it doesn't explain why the Ancient One/Haemovores hadn't stolen the flask in previous months, and b) there's so much more wrapped up in the generation of the faith suffusing a church that it seems problematic to suggest it's only the bloke with the dog collar that holds it all together.

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Adam Riggio 2 years, 11 months ago

That was another one of those fascinating ideas that wasn't really engaged with. The notion of why they're all on the heist is explored. The hired guns would get what they most wanted (Psi's memories of his family, the capacity for Saibra to maintain her form), but the Doctor and Clara didn't need that kind of motivation (or perhaps I should say payment). They were working directly for the older Karabraxos to free the Teller creatures from her younger self on her behalf.

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Matthew Pickens 2 years, 11 months ago

Glad to be of service, Jane!

Bennett: Thanks for bringing up the recurring "ready for your close-up" line, because I think it might point the way toward another inexplicable bit I haven't seen anyone mention yet.

Basically, it struck me while watching that the garish green and yellow lighting in the general vault were mightily reminiscent of "The Wizard of Oz". Granted, yellow/gold would be associated with wealth throughout the world (or only the West?), but it seems odd for a non-US production to us green=money imagery. Further, the particular color tones used seemed *very* Emerald City/Yellow Brick Road to me.

Primed by this, it was hard not to read the following scene where the Doctor distributed the spoils as a direct reference to WoOz. The staging (but not the framing, I think) seemed to deliberately recall the scene where the Wizard gave out heart, brains, and courage to Dorothy's companions, and the fact that he gave brains/memory to Psy and heart/ability-to-be-loved to Saibra makes me think I'm not overreading too much. I was confused at the absence of a third companion, but then there was the reveal with the Teller and his reward of going (no place like) home.

But...why? It seemed to be there, but didn't seem to add resonance or depth. In fact, even if it was there, it was apparently subtle enough that nobody else is seeing it. So what's up with that?

The recurring "ready for your closeup" was already a perplexing reference to "Sunset Boulevard", but I hadn't put the two together. I wonder if, in an earlier draft, this story had been not just "Doctor Who" crashing into a heist movie but also a celebration of Golden Age Hollywood more generally?

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UrsulaL 2 years, 11 months ago

The Doctor is always game for a good adventure, and when Clara sees a problem, she sets out to fix it, as well as keeping an eye on the Doctor when she sees him about to run off after trouble. What more temptation would either need?

"Don't rob any banks... without me!"

"Robbing a bank, beat that for a date!"

Demanding greater motivation would actually be out of character for both of them.

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ComMaxil 2 years, 11 months ago

Yes the Wainwright faith theory doesn't stack up. Maybe then the reason the haemovore waited until this point is connected to Fenric's plan. We know he was manipulating things to get to final confrontation with the Doctor and we know he has some mastery over time and can manipulate his 'wolves' so perhaps getting the flask to that point to be buried there was part of the plan. The Ancient one I think describes himself as the guardian of the flask. In any case although its not 100% clear I agree very much with your initial point, which is that there isn't really any major plot hole in Fenric, one or two question marks, but the thing does hold together for me.

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Seeing_I 2 years, 11 months ago

It's Moffat playing out the "You're a beautiful woman, probably" gag with diminishing results. But I choose to interpret this as the Doctor deliberately goading Clara as a form of passive-aggressive revenge for all the "you're so old!" business in Deep Breath.

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Seeing_I 2 years, 11 months ago

Two niggling little disappointments - one, Jack should have been included in the mugshot montage (I miss that guy!) and two, the lack of aliens among the bank clientele seemed oddly dull. It's not like they couldn't easily paint a couple of extras blue, or pull the Hoix out from storage or something.

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 11 months ago

If I remember correctly, the talk in this episode about not being able to trust someone who looked back at you with your own face, just preceded the first shot of the Teller's prison, which looked remarkably like what the 456 appeared in...

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jane 2 years, 11 months ago

The Yellow Light is used to signify Revelation. The case opens -- yellow light pours out, just like in Pulp Fiction. The Architect sheds his hood, revealing the Doctor -- yellow light crosses his forehead, in such a way it seems the crown of his head is floating in mid-air.

The garish yellow light of the Vault, therefore, signifies a kind of revelation. If this is truly a descent into the Underworld, then it's a descent into the subconscious mind, upon death. The Vault in this respect is kind of like the Library, a repository of all the secrets of the Universe.

It is here we find that which will confer "rebirth" -- for Psi, it's the return of his lost memories of family; for Saibra, the ability to touch again; for Clara, helping the Tellers be reunited, a minidrama of her own desire to find a mate; for the Doctor, an opportunity to keep Clara interested; for the Teller, reunion with his lost love; for Karabraxos, the opportunity to shed some regret.

The Green, on the other hand, I think it has to do with the nigredo stage of the Great Work. It's dissolution, putrefaction, death, decay. Being eaten. Hence the harsh green light in the Dalek's stomach. The overwhelming Green when the "shredders" are discovered.

Green also predominates at the entrance to the Vault. But if the Vault is like the Akashic Records, accessible only through death, then the lighting actually makes sense.

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 11 months ago

It all got a bit unnecessarily heterosexual at the end, didn't it? Same as in Hide.

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jane 2 years, 11 months ago

And I hope you're feeling better
Yeah I hope you're feeling good

I know I am, now

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Adam Riggio 2 years, 11 months ago

I didn't see anything about either of the Teller creatures that suggested gender in the traditional sense. The Doctor refers to them with some usual pronouns, but they're alien enough that I left the question of gender out of their existence.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

"My dear, nobody could be as stupid as he seems."

I find it impossible to believe that the Doctor is too "alien" or too forgetful of, what, 1500 years of knowing human women to be unable to understand makeup or high heels. Therefore he's just being a dick. It was funny once or twice. The returns, as Seeing_I says, are diminishing.

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encyclops 2 years, 11 months ago

I'd been planning to take a break from reviewing each episode with the changeover from Smith to Capaldi, but got excited enough to keep going through four more episodes. This is the one that broke me. I could summon up enough interest to squeeze out a few bored bullet points, but that was about it.

I had high hopes for this one, which was my mistake. I loved the idea of a Doctor Who heist episode, and instead I got the fucking Wizard of Oz. Which isn't a terrible idea, and maybe months from now I'll watch this again and be happy with it. But the first viewing really bummed me out, and the second didn't do much more than smooth that over a bit. I'm hoping next week is the opposite: lackluster trailer, strong episode.

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Jarl 2 years, 11 months ago

Pickens: That's a neat idea, though the collision with cyberpunk definitely makes it complicated. An entire episode made out of the same visual aesthetic as the Merovingian's mountain chateau...

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 11 months ago

But that's why it's so frustrating. They're alien enough that the pronouns are unnecessary. Exactly the same with Hide. The creatures themselves are obviously gendered in any human way - but the Doctor gives them pronouns which makes the relationship heterosexual entirely unnecessarily.

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 11 months ago

grrr. *aren't* obviously gendered. Basically, my problem is that the gendering pronouns are an unnecessary imposition in those stories. The 'look, they're just in love' plot point could be made without the gendering. When you're already dealing with creatures as alien as these, why add in human gender conceptions when they add nothing and take away so much.

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John Peacock 2 years, 11 months ago

Given that they are stated to be the last breeding pair of their species, their sex (if not necessarily gender) is significant.

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 11 months ago

We can accept that this species can detect our guilt, suck up our thoughts and melt our brains with their hammerheads, but not that they might breed differently?

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Isaac 2 years, 11 months ago

I agree they wouldn't require more motivation. Saving a prisoner in need or helping a villain trying to atone is more than enough for either of them to jump in. Still, the episode raised the question and then didn't answer it. By setting up the premise of "what do the Doctor and Clara want more than anything else?" they raise the story stakes beyond a standard save-the-day adventure and then it end up being just a standard save-the-day adventure and so it felt unfulfilling.

Such was my take on it.

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Daru 2 years, 11 months ago

Been missing a lot of discussion as I have a deadline right now for a lot of coursework I need to finish. So in brief: I actually found this episode really refreshing. Yes in a way I did feel that possibly there was something missing in the leads and the emotional depth I was expecting was missing to a degree. In the end though it was a fun space bank romp with a pretty good plot, which yes I did guess some of early on, but the story really carried me and on repeated viewings it still works.

Loved the 'bank teller', they always press the alarms don't they?

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Matthew Pickens 2 years, 11 months ago

Jane: That's wonderful! I guess the solar flares serve as a crucible for the entire planet?

Jarl: Good point on the cyberpunk, which definitely wasn't incidental to the episode. And I guess I have to get around to watching the Matrix sequels some day.

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Jarl 2 years, 11 months ago

If you watch them both in one go without a year long break in between, they're not as bad as people say. But they are kinda bad. Important information is kept locked up in video games and animated shorts, a main character is recast with only vague explanation as to how it happened (sadly, not recast as Christopher Eccleston, hurr hurr), and worst of all, the ending of the third movie serves only to set up an MMO that's since gone defunct. Still, the action scenes are generally pretty fun.

I might not be the best source for this whole thing, since I seem to be the only person in the universe who actually likes Reloaded. I'm certainly the only person I know who likes it very much.

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jane 2 years, 11 months ago

Bennett: "I'm ready for my closeup" is the last line in Sunset Boulevard, a 1950 noir film. The production is very meta.

It's a story of a middle-aged woman dripping with wealth, a silent-movie actress who failed to make the transition to the talkies. She is in denial about the reality of her situation. Reminds me of Karabraxos and Delphox, who pretend that their lives aren't as ghoulish and empty as they really are.

Sunset Boulevard is narrated by a dead man, a writer found floating in a swimming pool. They put a mirror at the bottom of the pool so they could create a shot that looked up at him from under water. Just for that alone, I absolutely love the line being included in Time Heist.

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

Sunset Boulevard is also about the relationship between an older woman who has lived a glamorous life amongst the stars and a young man who is just starting out, a mirror reversal of the Doctor/Clara situation.
The full line from which the quote is taken also has resonances with the current meta textual Moffat Doctor.

"You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!... All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."

The movie also contains the often quoted exchange

"You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big."
"I am big. It's the pictures that got small."

Another layer of meta text. The protagonist /narrator of Sunset Boulevard is not only dead but his profession was that of a screen writer. At one point in the narration he says

"Audiences don't know somebody sits down and writes a picture; they think the actors make it up as they go along."

Possibly the 'ready for your close-up' line is also meant to tell us something about Miss Delphox's coldly callous attitude. And as such again recalls Pulp Fiction. Jules' line in Pulp Fiction after delivering his Ezekial quote for the umpteenth time.

"Now... I been sayin' that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, that meant your ass. You'd be dead right now. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass."

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

I agree. I'm amazed at how many people are rating this episode highly, to the extent that I'm avoiding discussing it now.

If I may paraphrase Groucho Marx -

I had a wonderful Doctor Who heist episode...unfortunately this wasn' t it.

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

The problem wasn't that the writers didn't invent a new way of breeding because male/female sexual reproduction is too heteronormative. For me the problem, once again, was the tacky addition of a 'power of love' denoument. No amount of non determinate and inclusive gender tagging would prevent the bullying and insultingly conformist message that the answer to everything is to get a date. Many people through choice or circumstance live fulfilling and creative single lives.

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Anton B 2 years, 11 months ago

I could just about buy Smith's gawky, socially naive simpleton who is also a scientifically advanced immortal because he sold it so well. With Capaldi it doesn't work and he looks uncomfortable doing it. This mature Doctor should not understand make-be up and high heels because he is above all that stuff not ignorant of it. That's why these lines end up looking like Superdickery, those old Silver Age DC comics where Superman pretends to be a dick to Lois for some convoluted plot reason but, to the casual reader just ends up looking like a dick.

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Terry 2 years, 7 months ago

I'm beginning to think that Steve Thompson is sort of an Eric Saward for NuWho, except without the elevation to a far too powerful position far too early on, and actual - if incremental - improvement from episode to episode, and this is probably the best of his three episodes. That said, I do hope he improves exponentially within his next two episodes (we all know they're going to happen) and if he doesn't there's no point in keeping him around. Unless Moffat is doing so on purpose to make everything else look better by comparison...

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