Time Heist

There are so many memories in here. Feast on them! Tuck in! Big scarf. Bow tie – bit embarrassing. What do you think of the new look? I was hoping for minimalism, but I think I came out with magician.

The Twelfth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor and Clara receive a mysterious phone call and find themselves in the middle of a bank heist. Their quarry is to steal from an impregnable bank, with the aid of two strangers, whilst the Teller protects the bank, able to detect potential thieves through telepathically detecting their guilt.

Review

Not to damn the story with faint praise, but this might be Steve Thompson’s best contribution to Doctor Who. Time Heist won’t trouble most top 10 lists, however, compared to his two previous efforts, this is more entertaining, and Douglas Mackinnon’s direction and Peter Capaldi’s performance are strong parts of this story. That’s not to say that the story is perfect, as there are problems with the writing and it is really rather forgettable.

Douglas Mackinnon’s direction is certainly one of the more positive aspects of this episode, and it is perhaps notable that, as the episode is part of the same production block as Listen and Mackinnon directed both of them, the styles feel very different. I’m particularly fond of the way that the way that the opening shot transitions from a shot of the opening credits into Clara’s washing machine and the Doctor’s face. Additionally, during the scenes in the corridors of the Bank of Karabraxos, the simple use of lighting to make the same corridor set look different is quite effective. Douglas Mackinnon seems to be a fairly safe pair of hands for Doctor Who as he seems to know how to direct different types of stories. This one, which is more of a romp, pays homage to heist movies quite a lot, especially with that zoom shot of the Doctor and his gang of bank robbers. Equally, the image of someone’s brain being turned into ‘soup’ is something that, despite other problems with this story, still remains with me.

Steve Thompson has a pretty poor reputation amongst Who fans, but I think this is probably his strongest contribution to the show. It would be all too easy for me to say that all the positive aspects of the story were Moffat and all the negative parts were Thompson, but it is difficult to say for certain who contributed which bits. I think it is more than likely that, in addition to the initial idea of the Doctor participating in a heist, Moffat probably also helped write dialogue for the new Doctor, as this is something he probably had to do a lot of during Series 8, with his abrasive personality being a distinct change from Matt Smith’s Doctor. This story isn’t so much of a tonal shift as say, Robot of Sherwood, probably due to Moffat being more involved in the script writing process, but is still a bit more light hearted than what has come before. This being said, this is a story in which the Doctor hands two characters devices that he believes the use of which will kill them. However, the story is quite flawed in places, and I feel that the story is much more plot driven than character driven. Guest characters like Psi and Saibra are given very little to do, with us only really being given thin characterisation of both, which ultimately makes them feel generic and bland. I feel that the hints that the Architect is in fact the Doctor is a bit too telegraphed from the beginning, making the eventual revelation underwhelming. Equally, the conclusion of the Teller aliens being reunited feels very derivative of Hide. Ultimately, Time Heist feels forgettable, which is a shame in a way, because I would love to say that Steve Thompson’s final contribution was fantastic.

When you meet the Architect, promise me something. Kill him.

I hate him too, but I can’t make that promise.

Saibra and the Twelfth Doctor

That being said, the idea of the Teller is quite interesting, and the fact that the alien is largely done by prosthetics is fantastic. Apparently, Thompson had learnt from the experience of The Curse of the Black Spot, where an entirely CG alien had meant that there wasn’t much of a budget to do anything else, and was determined to have a ‘practical’ alien here. The idea of a monster able to detect guilt is quite a good one and quite creepy. I feel that the story does focus on the exploitation of the Teller, but like the characters of Psi and Saibra, doesn’t really do enough with it.

Are you taller?

Heels.

What, do you have to reach a high shelf?

Right, got to go. Going to be late.

For a shelf?

Bye.

Twelfth Doctor and Clara

This story, like many, does really benefit from having an actor like Peter Capaldi in the lead. As usual in his first series, he gives this story his absolute all, which is good because it is incredibly uneven in places. This is the first story that really feels as though it focuses on the 12th Doctor rather than Clara, and Capaldi doesn’t waste the opportunity. The scene after Saibra ‘dies’ and his reaction to Psi’s criticism of his ‘professional detachment’ is something that I don’t think we’ve really seen before. Equally, his bemusement at Clara’s preparations for her date with Danny is superb and hilarious. The other character who stands out is Keeley Hawes’ Ms. Delphox and Karabraxos, who gives a great performance as the owner of the bank and her clones. A central theme of the story is self-loathing, and both the Doctor and Karabraxos certainly hate the other versions of themselves they see reflected in the Architect and the Delphox clones.

Verdict: An interesting premise and some excellent acting save a script that is not fantastic here. 6/10

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Keeley Hawes (Ms Delphox), Jonathan Bailey (Psi), Pippa Bennett-Warner (Saibra), Mark Ebulue (Guard), Trevor Sellers (Mr Porrima), Junior Laniyan (Suited Customer) & Ross Mullan (The Teller)

Writer: Steve Thompson and Steven Moffat

Director: Douglas Mackinnon

Behind the Scenes

  • Steven Moffat originally came up with the idea of the time-based bank robbery, before handing the concept to Steve Thompson to write the story. Thompson added the Teller as the ultimate CCTV system and Psi and Saibra.
  • The fifth and final episode of series 8 that was leaked ahead of broadcast.
  • The story contains images of Abslom Daak, who originated from the comics as well as images of Captain John Hart from Torchwood, and the Androvax and the Trickster from The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Best Moment

I really like the quick transition between the Doctor and Clara in her apartment straight into the action.

Best Quote

Intruders are most welcome. They remind us that the bank is impregnable. It’s good for morale to have a few of you scattered about the place.

Delphox

Revenge of the Cybermen

Revenge of the Cybermen Cybermen

Harry Sullivan is an imbecile!

Fourth Doctor

Synopsis

Arriving on Space Station Nerva in its distant past, the Doctor, Sarah and Harry find its crew threatened by a mysterious plague. Discovering that things are not what they seem, they stumble upon a plan to commit genocide devised by the Doctor’s old enemies, the Cybermen.

Review

Revenge of the Cybermen is a bit of a bizarre story really and a lacklustre end to Tom Baker’s largely strong first season. Having held a cult statement due to being the first story to be released on VHS, it demonstrates some poor writing and feels like a 60s era story. The direction is largely strong from Michael Briant and generally, the story feels as though it has quite high production values. I really struggle with this story, especially the Vogan Civil War element, which really failed to grab my interest.

Revenge of the Cybermen Doctor

I will start by talking about the positives of the story. I feel like the direction, is for the most part, quite good and Briant is very competent in his shots. I particularly like the contrasting uses of light on Nerva Beacon and on Voga, as it makes the scenes on the planet feel significantly different to those on the space station. This is not to say that everything works well, although the blame cannot solely be laid at Michael Briant’s door. The writing and some of the performances do him no favours and small things like the Cyber Leader having his hands on his hips when interrogating Sarah seem like contributing factors as to why the story doesn’t really work for me – the Cybermen seem to have too much emotion. Additionally, scenes like the fight between the Cybermen and the Vogans lack any kind of visual flair to keep them interesting, which feel especially necessary when they drag like they do here. Like I say, it would be unfair to blame the director solely for this, and he does do the best he can with an admittedly poor script. Briant does a good job considering the fact that he is working with a limited budget and it is fair to say that I think that Spielberg, or, to use a more achievable director for the modern series, Rachel Talalay, would struggle to make scenes involving that Cybermat look good.

As this story featured the return of the Cybermen after a seven-year absence, it does seem as though both Gerry Davis, one of the creators of the Cybermen, and Robert Holmes seem not to understand how they work. I think that Holmes, like his predecessor as script editor Terrance Dicks, did not like the Cybermen and so his interest was probably not too high when he came to do his extensive rewrites on this story, but there are some really ridiculous moments that smack of laziness on both men’s behalf. The Vogan Civil War is really uninteresting, rather extraordinary when you consider the calibre of actors under the prosthetics, and just feels like padding to get the story up to the required length. Each part feels as though it has a massive amount of exposition in There are also massive plot holes in this story, the most irritating of which being that the Vogans at no point consider using the gold as a weapon against the Cybermen, despite it being one of their weaknesses and Voga is the planet of gold. I really dislike the idea of gold being a weakness for the Cybermen anyway as it adds to a list of weaknesses for this supposedly continually upgrading race established over the course of 1960s Doctor Who, but this plot hole bugged me, especially as two Cybermen slaughter a load of Vogans in the overlong battle scene.

Sadly, unlike other stories of this era where the elements feel a bit lacking, this story suffers from coming early in Tom Baker’s era, and it is clear that he has not got to grips with the part during the production of this story. There are hints of the direction that Baker would take his incarnation and he isn’t helped by the fact that this story feels as though it was written for any of his three predecessors. It’s hard to say for certain, but the moments that feel most in character for this incarnation of the Doctor are likely ad-libbed moments and reactions. Equally, Sarah Jane feels very poorly written and lacking any agency. The scene where she is interrogated by the Cybermen in the concluding part really shows how disinterested Holmes was in this story, and it is a shame Sladen doesn’t have more to sink her teeth into. I do feel that both Sladen and Baker deserve a huge amount of credit for getting through the scene talking about heading towards the “biggest bang in the universe” without absolutely corpsing though. The only one of the TARDIS team who feels well written in this story is Harry, continuing to show his usefulness to the Doctor, combined with his occasional bumbling.

Verdict: The return of the Cybermen is really rather underwhelming, with a poorly written story which doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. It does contain some lovely direction and the use of Wookey Hole Caves does raise it slightly. 3/10

Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan), Ronald Leigh-Hunt (Commander Stevenson), William Marlowe (Lester), Jeremy Wilkin (Kellman), Kevin Stoney (Tyrum), David Collings (Vorus), Alec Wallis (Warner), Michael Wisher (Magrik), Brian Grellis (Sheprah), Christopher Robbie (Cyber-Leader) & Melville Jones (First Cybermen)

Writer: Gerry Davis

Director: Michael Briant

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The symbol hanging in the Vogan audience chamber would be re-used in The Deadly Assassin and would be retrospectively named as the Seal of Rassilon.
  • The story was largely rewritten by Robert Holmes. The original story was set on a deserted space casino and Davis rewrote it to be set on the Nerva Beacon. This story carries Gerry Davis’ only writing credit on his own.
  • Terror of the Zygons was originally shot as the season finale for Tom Baker’s debut season, but was held over to start the following season.
  • The first Doctor Who story released on VHS.
  • The location filming took place at Wookey Hole Caves, where production was beset by bad luck. An electrician broke his leg and Elisabeth Sladen’s motorboat went out of control. Terry Walsh rescued Sladen, but was taken ill shortly afterwards.
  • First major appearance of the Cybermen since The Invasion. They had previously made a cameo appearance in Carnival of Monsters, their only appearance in the Pertwee era.
  • During the transmission of the story, William Hartnell passed away.
  • This story marks the reappearance of the TARDIS, which was last seen on screen in The Ark in Space.
  • The first occasion where the Cybermen’s voices are provided by the actor inside the suit.

Best Moment

The entrance of the Cybermen at the end of the second part is one of my favourite parts of this story.

Best Quote

Then what is it? You’ve no home planet, no influence, nothing. You’re just a pathetic bunch of tin soldiers skulking about the galaxy in an ancient spaceship.

Fourth Doctor

Revenge of the Cybermen TARDIS

Flesh and Stone

Flesh and Stone Crack

Cracks, cracks in time. Time running out. No, couldn’t be. But how is a duck pond a duck pond if there aren’t any ducks? And she didn’t recognise the Daleks. Okay, time can shift. Time can be rewritten. But how? Oh.

The Eleventh Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Amy, River and the Clerics are trapped by an army of Weeping Angels and an evergrowing Crack in the Universe. They try to escape through the crashed Byzantium, while Amy faces a deadly battle with a Weeping Angel inside her own mind, forcing her to navigate the forest vault with her eyes closed.

Review

Flesh and Stone picks up from where The Time of Angels left off, and the frenetic pace doesn’t let up, which leads to a really satisfying conclusion to the story. The first two-part story of the Matt Smith era has a great mix of horror and humour with some superb writing from Steven Moffat. Adam Smith’s direction and Murray Gold’s music help to escalate the tension as the number of the Doctor’s allies dwindle.

Now. Listen. Remember what I told you when you were seven.

What did you tell me?

No. See that’s the whole point. You have to remember.

The Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond

The strength of this concluding part is that it manages to maintain the frenetic pace and energy of its predecessor, and Adam Smith is a massive part of that.  In the opening moments of the story, after the recap, we get a beautiful tracking shot which reveals how they escaped the climactic events of The Time of Angels.  One of my favourite moments is the scene where the Weeping Angels enter the Byzantium in a darkened corridor whilst the Clerics fire at them.  The direction here is effective and creepy and I like how the only light is from their weapons.  Murray Gold’s music particularly helps, especially when Amy is walking through the forest with her eyes closed, evoking unease and putting the viewer on the edge of their seats.

Flesh and Stone Weeping Angel

The story is top-notch, which makes it one of the few two-parters in modern Doctor Who which feels like it really lives up to its predecessor.  The fact that Moffat gives the Angels a voice makes them feel all the more menacing and a potent threat.  What this two-parter does, in general, is add to the mythos around the Weeping Angels, making them feel much more fleshed out and resourceful.  There is genuine brilliance in some moments of the dialogue, especially the speech that Father Octavian and the Doctor share before the former has his neck broken.  The dialogue flips quickly between comedic and epic speeches, which are equally well written, and the comedy does not detract from the overall tone of the story as the Doctor looks to lead the Clerics and Amy and River

I know that this episode is controversial amongst some regions of the fanbase due to two separate issues.  The first of these is that we see the Weeping Angels move.  I feel that this is particularly well done in the story, with the idea being seeded when we see an Angel reach out to grab the Doctor’s jacket, something which I only noticed when watching for this review in a quite literal blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment.  As mentioned above, the sequence in which Amy has to walk through a group of the Angels with her eyes closed is one of my favourite moments in the episode.  I appreciate for some it may take away some of the mystery of them, but the execution is superb.  The second controversial moment comes in the final moments and one that I can see where people are coming from.  When Amy comes on to the Doctor, it is an expression of her relief of surviving the ordeal she has been through, and it has been horrific.  She has had an angel in her mind and was seconds away from dying.  However, I feel the execution is inappropriate for a show of Doctor Who’s ‘family nature’ stamp, even if it does not impact on my appreciation of the episode too much.  One redeeming part of it is Matt Smith’s reactions to being kissed, looking largely uncomfortable.  This establishes this incarnation as much less comfortable with romantic interactions, even perplexed by them., whereas his predecessor seemed to be completely at ease.  It might be a difference even from the asexual nature of the Doctor of the classic series, but it is at least something a bit different, a bit more alien and just watching Smith’s performance here, it is entertaining.

Flesh and Stone River Doctor Amy

Like the Angels, this story continues to flesh out the mysterious relationship between the Doctor and River Song, and with a slightly smaller cast, this story does get a bit more room to breathe.  Alex Kingston is fantastic as River again and we learn here that she is in prison for killing ‘a good man’.  There is surely no doubt in anyone’s mind that her victim is the Doctor and I’m not sure that it was ever intended to be some great mystery.  Kingston and Smith have some good chemistry, especially demonstrated in the scene where the two talk before she gets picked up at the end of the story.  I also really like Karen Gillan in this story, and by this time in 2010, she was established as possibly my favourite companion in the revived series.  However, contrived the reasons for bringing Arthur Darvill in as a semi-regular for the remainder of the series in the next story would cement her and the Last Centurion as two of my favourite companions of all time.

Verdict: Flesh and Stone is one of the strongest concluding parts of a two parter, with the perfect melding of writing, performances, music and direction. 10/10

Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Alex Kingston (River Song), Iain Glen (Octavian), David Atkins (Angel Bob), Darren Morfitt (Marco), Mark Monero (Pedro) & George Russo (Phillip)

Director: Adam Smith

Writer: Steven Moffat

Behind the Scenes

  • Flesh and Stone reveals more about the Cracks in the Universe, with the Doctor realising that a lot of past events have been retconned.
  • The final scene where Amy attempts to make sexual advances on the Doctor was criticised.
  • The first episode where we actually see the Weeping Angels move.

Best Moment

It should come as no surprise, but Amy’s walk through the forest.

Best Quote

The Angels are feasting, sir. Soon we’ll be able to absorb enough power to consume this vessel, this world and all the stars beyond.

Well, we’ve got comfy chairs, did I mention?

We have no need of comfy chairs.

I made him say “comfy chairs”!

Angel Bob and the Eleventh Doctor