“I was hoping for minimalism, but I think I came up with magician!”
In the middle of a phone call , the Doctor and Clara lose consciousness only to awaken and find that they have become unwilling participants in the most ambitious bank heist ever attempted. Their short term memories removed, they are part of a four person team consisting of an augmented hacker named Psi and a shape-shifter named Saibra. Using a series of carefully laid out plans and conveniently placed packages containing useful items, the quartet are instructed by a mysterious shadowy figure called the Architect who leads them toward the main vault. Their payment is their heart’s desire.
Make no mistake, the new Doctor Who is based on gimmicks. This is partly, in my opinion, due to the nostalgia for classic episodes that can be summed up with one sentence ‘the one with ___.’ Insert ‘giant maggots, butterfly people, video nasties, inflatable snake or Brian Blessed and you get the idea. However, Moffat is quite fond of gimmicks and uses this to feed his stories; the one with the Weeping Angels (again… and again), the one with the evil wi-fi, the one with Robin Hood, etc. His threats this season are especially one-noters as they are scary only because of the victim’s participation. So far we have seen poor Clara urged to not breath, not let her mind wander and now not think at all, or else all Hell will break loose.
I have been very frustrated by Moffat’s reliance on gimmicks as it hinders what little story there is to be found but this season I feel that it is starting to pay off. In many ways, this series has the inventive vitality of the Fifth Series that introduced Matt Smith. A bank heist is an interesting premise for an adventure and the guest characters are also quite fun and allow this new Doctor still more people to bounce his new persona against. We see that he is crotchety but sincere and soulful as well. His sympathy toward Psi and Saibra is genuine, yet he appears snippy with Clara (who is really coming into her own this year).
The guest villain Ms Delphox played by Keeley Hawes is a little too similar to many Cruella Deville-ish characters we have seen in the past eight years, but she works well enough. Her steely yet sexy demeanor is made all the more insidious by her treatment of the massive creature she carries in tow, The Teller.
An alien that can scent thoughts and consume them is yet another gimmicky threat and a bit of a silly one (especially as it leaves a massive dent where the digested memories resided), but the effect is impressive and unique enough to be cool.
As our quartet delves deeper into the bank, their pursuers hot on their heels, they are saved by plot contrivance packets left by the Architect. The Doctor theorizes that this is not just a bank job, but a time job, using temporal technology in order to pull it off. This is worthy of note as once more we see that this Doctor does not have all the answers, but instead is full of questions.
The twelfth Doctor is the most active and invested incarnation we have seen in ages. Rather than saunter through a story with God-like power toward a reset button, he has to use his smarts to unravel mysteries and solve them using his brain. It’s not perfect, but I’m happy to at least see the new series attempt this approach. The pay off here is an opportunity to show that this grumpy and off-putting Doctor with the mad eyebrows is a caring and sympathetic person whose greatest wish is to rescue those in need.
A fun and quick-moving story with a great guest cast and a cool-looking ‘monster,’ this is another win for the 8th series. It is very concept-heavy and uses time travel notions first seen in the Bill & Ted movies, but I still enjoyed it.
Grodd help me… I’m actually enjoying new Doctor Who again.
The 2014 ratings so far (via DrWhoTV):
Deep Breath 6.8m (overnight) 9.17m (final) AI 82
Into the Dalek 5.2m (overnight) 7.29m (final) AI 84
Robot of Sherwood 5.2m (overnight) 7.28m (final) AI 82
Listen 4.8m (overnight) 7.01m (final) AI 82
Time Heist 4.93m (overnight) 6.99m (final) AI 84
Next time: The Caretaker