Time Heist

12-episode set
Region A/1
12-episode set
Region B/2
(Doctor Who Story No. 251, starring Peter Capaldi)
  • written by Steve Thompson and Steven Moffat
  • directed by Douglas MacKinnon
  • produced by Peter Bennett
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 47 minutes
Story: Recovering from a sudden memory loss, the Doctor and Clara find themselves amongst a group of outlaws attempting to rob the Bank of Karabraxos on a completely secure planet. Who is the mysterious architect giving them directions and tools and secrets? How will they get past the mysterious alien Teller, who can sense guilty thoughts a mile away? And why did they all agree to this caper in the first place?

DVD Extras for this story include:

  • Behind the Scenes featurette (11 min.) with Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald),
    Keeley Hawes (Ms. Delphox), Jonathan Bailey (Psi), Pippa Bennett-Warner (Saibra),
    co-writer Steven Moffat, director Douglas MacKinnon, and worm wrangler Alec Fitzpatrick.

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide to the season instead.

This story has an absolutely fascinating plot with great potential, but the execution of writing, acting, and directing was just rough enough around the edges to drop its ranking down a number of pegs.

I think perhaps it is the realization of alien life in this episode that grates against me most. The combination of the look and the abilities and the limitations of the alien Teller don't seem to quite make sense in combination. His design seems like it wouldn't quite work in his own favour once back in his own environment, and I think his motivation for each phase of his actions in the plot don't quite hold up against the revelations at the end. That said, his look is suitably weird and intriguing, and when handled right in the filming, is a plus for the episode.

What might be a more serious downside is that, once you include an alien who is so non-Human in the story, it then feels false for a bank on an alien planet with a multi-cultural interstellar customer base to be seen populated with only perfectly human-looking characters wearing our culture's current business attire. Even the core group of outlaws lack the obvious diversity of species, with a Mutant-Human, an Augmented-Human, and Clara being fully Human. An obvious trick is missed there.

A side-point to this is the re-run concept of the Teller being the last of its kind. I'll gladly put that down to a false idea in the heads of the characters which isn't necessarily true for the universe of the episode, but even so it's not very inspiring to see the same situation that the Doctor is impossibly supposed to be in, now projected onto others as well.

All that said, we do have here a refreshingly different kind of plot, one that avoids easy predictability, and one that does successfully take us out there into the universe. Nice. There are lots of intriguing questions in it that bite and keep us on the hook for answers.

Interestingly, we manage here to explore one of Steven Moffat's favourite concepts - the untrustworthiness of memory - and without falling back on time travel as the primary cause. Memory is actually handled in a refreshingly clean and believable manner here. Two thumbs up!

The biggest plot-based problem I had was not quite knowing what to root for at times. Should the Doctor and company proceed with the bank heist, or reverse course and go after the Architect who sent them? My instinct would be to go after the Architect, at least until he can explain to everyone's satisfaction why the bank robbery should go ahead. Undertaking a bank robbery without having clear motivation is a little too far fetched to engage in with much emotion.

Perhaps the one scene that worked the least for me was the very formulaic need to demonstrate the powers of today's monster on a victim, and perhaps even more so because the Doctor and company are in the same room, doing nothing about it without being connected to any obvious higher purpose in their own motivations.

And then sometimes, it's just written dialogue or acting or directing that, while not bad, seems to miss the mark a bit. Sometimes it just makes the story a bit harder to follow than was intended.

Capaldi's final confrontation scene seems to be written in the same manner as other recent Doctors, particularly when he gets a rush of putting things together in his head. I'm not convinced that style was ever a great idea, but at least Tennant and Smith could, with their energy and enthusiasm and charisma, sweeten the tone considerably and make the Doctor's presence electric in such moments. Capaldi only seems to be achieving an irritable crass old bugger here, which I enjoy much less. Even Hartnell was miles ahead, and far better at balancing his crass and irritable moments with charm and wit and genius.

Even Douglas MacKinnon's directing, while certainly not bad, seems to feel a bit rushed and under-developed in this tale. I think his two other episodes from this season demonstrate a much more inspired effort on his part.

Well, this is still a pretty decent story, and demonstrates a direction in which to point the show's concepts that should lead to more variety and less predictability, which I heartily welcome. A bit more enthusiasm, applied imagination, and polish, and we could get something really good going here....

International Titles:

Deutsch: "Verschlusssache"

Magyar: "Időrablás"

Français: "Braquage temporel"

Русский: "Ограбление во времени"

Italiano: "Rapina temporale"

The Germans switched to a different idea for their title: "Classified".

This story is available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Season 34 Box Set
11 stories in 12 episodes

NEW for
Dec. 9, 2014.

NEW for
Dec. 9, 2014.

NEW for
Nov. 17, 2014.
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
Dec. 9, 2014.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
Dec. 9, 2014.
Blu-ray U.K.

NEW for
Nov. 17, 2014.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Caretaker"

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