Recap: Doctor Who, “Time Heist” (8×05)

Last week’s episode was a hard one to follow. It was the best of everything Doctor Who has to offer – a fun mystery, amazing character work and a heck of a lot of heart. But not all episodes can be all things. “Time Heist” certainly wasn’t. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. It was simply treading water – passing time mid-season without exerting too much effort.

The episode opens with the Doctor asking Clara to go play with him – very much in the vein of the whimsical trips I mentioned they weren’t having this season. But she’s not interested. She’s all painted in, a couple inches taller and ready to go on her second date with Danny. But the Bells of Saint John ring. The phone on the TARDIS rings so infrequently – the mysterious woman in the shop who gave the number to Clara is one of the only who would have it. Clara tells the Doctor not to answer – surely something will happen if he does. And just like that, Clara and the Doctor are sitting at a poker table with some gross looking worms and two people we’ve never met. It seems they’ve volunteered for a partial memory wipe and they’re mid-heist.

The zooming camera followed by slow motion is meant to invoke bank heist movies. But mostly it is just overwrought. This seems to be the season of prim ladies in charge and annoyed. We’re introduced to the bank security lady who brings her big bad guy around to eat the thoughts and brains of anyone trying to rob the bank.

The heist continues with the team: Clara, the Doctor, the Mutant (who can change her DNA to look like anyone) and the augmented Human (who can delete his memory at will). Following a scavenger hunt created by “The Architect,” the group delves deeper into the bank. The team finds that, along with riches and treasures, the bank seems to be storing the brainless people still alive.  When they come across the big bad brain-eating guy, Mutant lady sacrifices herself. The augmented Human follows. We all wait for them to be offered tea.

The last vault that they need access to is still locked. Turns out a solar storm is hitting at the precise moment that they’re in front of the vault. This is a time-travel assisted bank heist. Just when the bank is vulnerable – the Doctor and Clara are in place to get in. Going through the vault they find the carrots for the augmented Human and the Mutant but are caught before they can find their own incentives to rob the bank.

After a short speech by the security lady, she leaves to bring her pet back to bed. The guards holding Clara and the Doctor turn out to be the mutant lady and the augmented human and they happily inform the Doctor that the TARDIS is safe in the escape ship in orbit around the planet. The heist resumes.

Finally making their way to the private vault, the team finds that the bank security lady is a clone of the bank owner. She calls up to her clone to order the big bad guy and explains that she routinely kills her clones that disappoint her. As the Doctor said, she’d give a good therapist a lifetime of work. That amount of self-loathing inspires the Doctor and he realizes that it’s very likely that he himself has set this whole thing in motion – though he can’t quite figure out why. He gives the bank owner his phone number and waits for the big bad guy to read his mind before eating it.

Turns out his hunch was right, the Doctor had received a call from the bank owner to set this whole thing up but it was never a bank robbery – it was a chance to save the last of a species – the big bad guy – and a lady big bad who was held prisoner as incentive for him to do the bank’s bidding. The Doctor and Clara happily return them to their home planet, the bank robbing team back to their homes and Clara back to her apartment in time for her date. She makes the Doctor promise not to rob any banks – without her. And to himself, the Doctor seems to dare Danny to beat a bank heist for a date.

Odds & Ends

– My horrible habit of not remembering any supporting characters names continues. The supporting characters this episode seemed particularly disposable.

– Clara not only wore pants but legit menswear. The continued rehabilitation of Clara Oswald makes me officially sad that she’s leaving.

– The Doctor’s continued confusion about Clara’s state of dress and makeup is perhaps not amusing enough to happen every episode. It’s cute. But I don’t need it every week. I get it – he’s really not human.

– I did appreciate the augmented Human calling Clara out for all of the excuses she has for the Doctor. Her function this season vacillates: adoration of the Doctor, excusing the Doctor, and trying to remind him of the hero that he is.