‘Doctor Who’: ‘Time Heist’ spoiler-free review

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Bankers, eh? You know the drill. Boo, hiss, etc.

Since the real-world economic crisis (now also canon in Doctor Who thanks to ‘The End of Time’) they’ve become besuited bogeyfolk. Like The Silence, but with champagne corks. Still, after ‘Listen’ it’s not like you can keep your savings under the bed.

Callous, calculating, and ruthless, you’d think the Banks would be the perfect foe for The Doctor to sneer at. But Sherlock‘s Stephen Thompson and co-writer Steven Moffat (clearly the showrunner is keeping tighter hold on Series 8) aren’t taking jabs at financial institutions. Breaking into a bank to discover why you’re breaking into a bank is the intriguing premise of ‘Time Heist’.

Doctor Who Time Heist 1

As the title winks suggestively, this is no ordinary bank robbery jobbery. It’s Wibbly-wobbly Heisty-weisty and, at the risk of echoing something that everyone else will be saying, can best be summed up as Ocean’s 11 meets Hustle on a Doctor Who budget. ‘Who-stle’. Oh, no…that’s rubbish. No one will be saying that.

Instead of Ocean’s 11 it’d be more apt to call it ‘Twelve’s 4’ (equally rubbish but stick with me), as The Doctor is joined by a cyborg human named Psi (Broadchurch’s Jonathan Bailey), a mutant shape-changer called Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner), and Clara, who he’s once again quickly pushed out of her love life and into his TARDIS. It’s a plucky group, but lacks much in fun. Perhaps because this is serious business, or perhaps because Capaldi’s Doctor can be such a fun-sponge at times.

Doctor Who Time Heist 3

In a fast-moving set up, the four are tasked by a mysterious stranger with breaking into a cosmic Fort Knox: The Bank of Karabraxos. It is, apparently, the most secure storage facility for your valuables in the galaxy, though for somewhere so secure it seems alarmingly short-staffed, and happens to possess a lot of generously-sized vents that thieves can scuttle through.

Overseeing events with a lipstick smirk is Line of Duty‘s Keeley Hawes as the Chief of Security, Ms Delphox. An actress of considerable talent, Hawes deserved something more substantial than Delphox. With nothing to do but click around in high heels and be a totem to validate public ire at the financial sector, the character feels like one of the weaker creations of the RTD era. A Bitcoin Ms Foster, maybe.

Doctor Who Time Heist Keeley Hawes

Because numismatic monsters aren’t scary, there’s a proper creature, a good old-fashioned rubbery kind with a shiny new trick. The Teller stomps about the bank’s labyrinthine corridor (yes, corridor – once again Douglas Mackinnon’s direction artfully masks the limits of budget) like a gastropod Minotaur, sniffing out guilt.

And chances are you’ll have sniffed out a good deal of what’s going on before the vault door unlocks and all is explained. For a story wound so tightly around a big mystery it is incredibly procedural, plodding rather than racing toward the treasure and a resolution that is neat but not as thrilling as you may have inferred it would be. It’s an incredibly smart idea, but the payoff it gives is ever so slightly disappointing.

Still, disappointment is always a risk when you invest in something. Any banker will tell you that.


Airs at 7.30pm on Saturday 20 September 2014 on BBC One.

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