Doctor Who Recap: “Time Heist”

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After last week’s emotional visit to the Doctor’s childhood, we needed this pick-me-up. Or rather, this rob-you-blind. “Time Heist” takes its cue from a mishmash of iconic bank job movies, most notably Ocean’s Eleven. But because this is Doctor Who, the bank is located on a faraway planet, the teller is a terrifying pig-alien who can read minds, and the heist itself hinges on some well-timed time-travel maneuvers.

Judging by Clara and Danny’s after-school makeouts, they’ve recovered from their first-date disaster. And she’s just about to meet up with her soldier-turned-teacher when the Doctor slams the TARDIS down in her living room. She tries to brush him off, but when the police box’s phone starts ringing—the number for which is known to only a few people in the universe—she can’t resist sticking around to see who’s on the other end. However, immediately upon picking up the receiver, the Doctor and Clara find themselves sitting around a table in a dark room in the universe’s highest-security bank, having willfully deleted their memories. All they’ve got to go on is a set of video instructions delivered by a mysterious “architect,” who informs them that they must rob the bank.

Money doesn’t frequently enter the equation on Doctor Who, but in this case, every character worked for a price. The Teller—a gnarly beast who would read clients’ thoughts via two telepathic snouts coming off his head—was paid to melt the minds of potential bank infiltrators. (Though we later learn he’s motivated by more than cash.) Saibra and Psi, the Doctor and Clara’s two associates, are both robbers-for-hire. And even the Doctor and Clara are motivated by a reward—though we don’t initially know what that is.

Ultimately, none of these prizes turn out to be monetary. Psi, a bank robber who previously had no choice but to wipe his friends and family from his brain, earns a device to restore his memory. Saibra, a shapeshifter who struggles to form relationships with others, earns a gene suppressant that will allow her to live a normal life. And the Doctor and Clara? Their goal: reuniting the Teller with the only other remaining individual of his species—who’s been locked in the bank’s private vault by the evil Director Karabraxos. For each of these characters, the ability to connect with others was more valuable than money.

On the topic of Director Karabraxos, she was a fun villain with a similar vibe to Missy, the mysterious occupant of the “Heaven” who claims to be the Doctor’s girlfriend. (Is Missy the other person with the Doctor’s phone number?) We didn’t get to know Karabraxos too well, but the idea of a mean-spirited banker who employs—and kills—her own clones was a funny one: this gives new meaning to self-employment. And it’s a new take on being afraid of your boss—which, in this case, just means being afraid of yourself.

Side note: I usually really like Clara’s style, but why was she dressed like Avril Lavigne for her date with Danny?