Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 5: Time Heist

Whaddya know, another decent episode this week! I don't want to say it too loudly and jinx things, but so far this has been a pretty good season.

This week the Doctor and Clara star in their own version of a heist film! Too bad this wasn't a Matt Smith episode– they could have called it Doctor's Eleven.

This episode had a little of everything. There were lots of cool characters, a commentary on the banking industry, a convoluted plot, lots of requisite twists, time travel shenanigans, callouts to old episodes and a couple of mysteries to solve. 

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
The Doctor, Clara, a cyborg named Psi and a shape-shifting mutant named Saibra wake up in a room with no idea how they got there. They're told (by their own recorded voices) that they've all agreed to rob the Bank Of Karabraxos, the most secure facility in the galaxy. 


A mysterious hooded figure called the Architect gives them the tools they'll need to complete the mission. The quartet then breaks into the bank (using their unique powers), and hijinks ensue.

Thoughts:
• I thought the Doctor and Clara were both just a wee bit too willing to rob the bank. These are supposed to be the good guys, right? They hear alleged recordings of themselves saying they agreed to the robbery before having their minds wiped, and that's apparently all it took to convince them to start the thievery.

Personally it would take more than a recording of my own voice– which could very well be faked– to sway me to commit a felony.

Yes, they're going up a big old nasty bank, and we eventually find out the robbery served a good and noble purpose, but they (and we in the audience) don't know that at the start, making the Doctor and Clara more than a bit unscrupulous.

• Among the Bank's many high tech security devices: DNA scanners that analyze one's breath before allowing one to pass. 

Whenever anyone uses one of these scanners, they breathe into it and you can see a visible mist issuing from their mouths. Wha...? So was it really cold inside the bank, or did everyone just have really, really moist mouths?

• Although I enjoyed this episode, I couldn't help thinking that it's very similar to Into The Dalek from a couple of weeks ago. You've got a ragtag team trapped inside a dangerous space, trying to reach a specific point as they run up and down endless corridors while being pursued by deadly defense mechanisms. It's practically the same story!

• When the Doctor & Co. first arrive inside the Bank, security detects a crooked customer in the lobby. A telepathic alien called the Teller is dispatched to ferret out the guilty party. The Teller locates the criminal and proceeds to psychically turn the man's brain to soup. 

Why does the guilty man's skull cave in once its empty? Granted it's a shocking visual, but a skull is made of rigid bone. Think about all the skulls you've seen in museums-- they don't have anything inside them and they don't collapse.

• When Clara is confronted by the Teller, the Doctor tells her the only way to survive is for her to clear her mind, so the alien can't detect her guilt.

Ever notice how many of Moffat's stories revolve around not doing something natural in order to survive? Don't blink, don't breathe, don't look, etc. And now we have Don't Think. The man's a fountain of Don'ts!

• The Architect has planted cases full of useful items for the Team to find on various levels. One case contains six devices called shredders, which the Doctor says are small disintegration units.

When Psi is confronted by the Teller, he doesn't want his brain turned to soup, so he uses a shredder to kill himself. But the Teller is right in front of him. Why not jab the shredder into its arm and hit the button and disintegrate it?

As it turns out, the shredders are actually mini teleporters, which beam the user up to an orbiting ship. But Psi doesn't know that at this point; he still thinks it's a disintegrator. He thinks he's going to die anyway, so why not try it on the Teller?

The Doctor goes shopping at Spencer Gifts
• As it turns out, the Doctor is really the Architect, in a plot twist you could see coming from several miles away. As soon as they started wondering how the Architect could be planting the cases for them to find, and why he didn't just rob the bank himself, I knew he had to be our favorite Time Lord. 

There was also the fact that the Architect was hooded. Why hide his face unless his identity was meant to be shocking? And who would be more shocking than the Doctor himself?

Remember kids, any time you see a character whose face is covered, it means their identity is supposed to surprise you. It's Writing 101.

• Sigh... another week, another dig from the Doctor about Clara's appearance. As I said last week, I think they're doing this to play up the fact that this Doctor is more alien, but it's just coming off as mean.

• The Doctor finally assumes center stage this week. It's about time, too. In the first four episodes of this season, the Doctor was placed firmly in the background, as Clara was definitely in charge. In effect, Clara has been the Doctor for the past four weeks.

For years now there've been rumors that the Doctor may regenerate into a woman. Call me crazy, but... is this the creators' sneaky way of gauging audience reaction to such a change, or to possibly prepare us for a female Doctor?

• At one point the Doctor is trying to think, and says, 'Shutitty up up up!" 

That was obviously an homage to Peter Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker character from The Thick Of It. Tucker's exclamation was a bit more R-rated though, as he was fond of saying, "F*ckity bye."

• As the Teller is pursuing the Doctor & Co., Psi uploads the memory patterns of the galaxy's most dangerous criminals into his brain, which will hopefully create a diversion. Among the mugshots we (briefly) see:

A Terrileptil from the Fifth Doctor episode The Visitation.

A member of the family Slitheen, from the planet Raxacoricofallapatorius.

A Sensorite, from the First Doctor episode The Sensorites.

Next is Abslom Daak, a character who's previously only been in Doctor Who comics. He's some kind of Dalek hunter. I'm not 100% sure, but this may be the first time a character from the comics has made an appearance on the show.

Then there's an Androvax, not from Doctor Who but from The Sara Jane Adventures!

The Trickster, also from The Sara Jane Adventures.

And Captain John Hart, from Torchwood. He was Captain Jack's fellow Time Agent, best friend and ex-lover.

• The Bank of Karabraxos is the safest and most impregnable facility in the known universe. Unless there's a solar storm, of course, in which case the vaults open up automatically.

What kind of cockamamie security system is that? If anything, shouldn't the storm knock out the power and make the vaults even harder to open?

• The solar storm grows so intense that the entire Bank has to be evacuated before it's destroyed. So who thought building a bank on a planet next to an unstable star was a good idea? Did no one ever study the star's energy readings before building? 

And what happened to all the treasures housed within the Bank? Were they removed as well, or are they gone forever? If so, the Bank Of Karabraxos is gonna have one hell of an insurance payout.

• As payment for helping the Doctor, Saibra receives some sort of serum that will suppress her shape shifting abilities, so she can become more human.

I'm hoping the serum offers a permanent cure and is not something she's going to have to take from now on, because it doesn't look like there's a much of it in the vial.

• Once everything's sorted out, we see the TARDIS spinning through space as the Doctor flies Psi and Saibra back to their home planets. 

I've always been a little fuzzy on just how the TARDIS functions. 95% of the time we see it simply materialize or dematerialize. We never see it land or take off. Yet quite often we see it traveling through space, spinning like a top as it goes. So which is it? Does it fade or fly? Or does it do both?

Maybe when the Doctor's on Earth and runs inside it, the TARDIS dematerializes and then materializes in space, where it zooms away like a normal spaceship. That's as good an explanation for what's happening as any, but I don't see any logical reason why it should function that way.

I have a feeling I'm putting more thought into the way it flies than the producers.

• No mention of Missy or the Promised Land this week. We're due for another appearance soon.

• Next week, the Doctor becomes a janitor at Clara's school in an episode that, from the previews, looks a lot like The Lodger.

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