A team of four amnesiacs: a cantankerous Time Lord, a hapless human, a hacker cyborg, and a shape-shifter walk into the most dangerous bank in the universe …
This is the joke that begins this episode of Doctor Who.
However I would like to point out that while most jokes end with one punchline, “Time Heist” ends with at least two. Imagine some Mission Impossible combined with a bit of the creepiness (though not the gore) of Saw and some Memento for good measure. Then add this concoction to some Doctor Who zaniness that almost always borders a bit on camp or kitsch (the very strange tone that almost turned me off from the series altogether, at the very beginning of my watching experience until I recognized even weirder rhythms and human interactions of the Whoniverse as presented from Davies and onward).
Essentially The Doctor, Clara and their other two companions find themselves trying to rob the Bank of Karabraxos on behalf of a mysterious figure called The Architect after having been exposed to some memory worms. The convolutions and the reversals of fortune (and the re-reversals thereof) throughout the episode were extremely clever and tied back into the nice neat package of a Steve Moffat self-contained episode.
What I mean by that is that, once again, this could have branched out into the overall arc of the series (whatever it is that seems to be happening with Missy, the robots and the Promised Land we keep hearing about) but it doesn’t seem to be the case. In that sense, it’s a lot like “Listen”: in that it begins with something of great import. “Listen” begins with The Doctor becoming fixated on an idea that threatens to become a psychic meme, while “Time Heist” starts with someone actually phoning the TARDIS.
And just how many people are capable of doing that?
This episode definitely caught my interest in wondering who could have phoned The Doctor, who The Architect was, and just what could the only Time Lord in current existence possibly want in the Bank of Karabraxos. I will also say that “Time Heist” plays with the idea of just what a Whovian monster actually is, the various ways in which The Doctor deals with it, how self-hatred and regret can manifest, and the novel way that he handles a conflict that someone might solve differently with a gun.
I definitely appreciated seeing a lot more of The Doctor’s humanity and the fact that, unlike his other recent incarnations, he actually gets angry at people attempting to question him: and he is not above putting them in their place. Sometimes I really like this Doctor when I’m not somewhat cautious or outright want to slap him.
And I hope I don’t spoil too much when I state that, not only is this episode constructed immaculately like the trap that it is, but Team Not Dead succeeds in breaking through it: and definitely lives up to its name. I just hope that Moffat can something similar with the series overall story arc.
So tell me my fellow Whovian watchers, just how long did it take you to figure out this episode’s punchline or two?