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


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.


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?


What, do you have to reach a high shelf?

Right, got to go. Going to be late.

For a shelf?


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.


Previous Twelfth Doctor review: Listen

Next Twelfth Doctor review: The Caretaker

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