Doctor Who: Time Heist   First Watch 
September 20, 2014 3:19 PM - Season 8, Episode 5 - Subscribe

The Doctor turns bank robber when he is given a task he cannot refuse - steal from the most dangerous bank in the cosmos. With the help of a beautiful shape-shifter and a cyber-augmented gamer, the Doctor and Clara must fight their way past deadly security, and come face-to-face with the fearsome Teller - a creature of terrifying power that can detect guilt. Description from BBC
posted by Magnakai (48 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm still not sure how I felt about the plot of this episode, thanks to the terrible sound editing which resulted in my missing a lot of dialogue unless I constantly rewound or put up with out-of-sync subtitles. The sound editing's normally not great, but I don't know if it was objectively worse this time or just more frustrating because the whys and wherefores of heist plots are so exposition-dependent.

That aside, stuff I liked:

- Psi and Saibra were well-realized one-off characters and the foursome they made with the Doctor and Clara was a great team (even though Clara should've had more to do). Was unsurprised but genuinely upset when they died and delighted when they survived and each got their own happy ending. Fingers crossed for future cameos!
- The Doctor may pretend he's outsourced his "caring" onto Clara, but he's still the same man underneath.
- I am so jealous of Clara's suit. So. jealous.
- Also Psi and Saibra's outfits.
- Clara and Danny's thing is v. endearing despite their complete inability to communicate.
- I'll have to rewatch to talk coherently about the direction/set design/etc, but those swoopy almost Star Wars-esque wipes added to the "bank heist... IN SPACE!" feel.


Stuff I did not like:

- I realize not every episode can have a subplot tailored to that specific companion, but Clara really didn't have a lot to do here, even of the catch-all "companion does stuff" variety.
- The Doctor's running commentary on Clara continues to be annoying, and makes particularly little sense this episode. He's confused by her make-up and wedge heels this episode, when in previous episodes he understood the purpose of cosmetics just fine (enough to neg her with a remark about making a good effort) and had nothing to say about her running around in stilletos. And after Deep Breath he only ever makes these comments about Clara -- you'd think Psi and Saibra's fashion choices would make them great targets for this.
- The "scary monster who's the last of his species -- SURPRISE HE'S GOT A LADYFRIEND AND THE DOCTOR REUNITES THEM" twist was straight out of Hide, and unlike previous plot rehashes this series I didn't feel this episode's take was fresh enough to justify the reuse, certainly not this soon.
posted by bettafish at 4:59 PM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


It was all right. It filled in the space between episodes 4 and 6 far less embarrassingly than it could have. I suspect that its primary purpose was to reassure viewers that they weren't all going to be like last week's. It's actually quite difficult to think of anything to say about the perfectly workmanlike. At some level, I realised I think of Steve Thompson as a plasterer who writes TV shows on the side. Bosh, Bosh, there's yer denouement. That's a bit classist, isn't it? Sorry.

Keeley Hawes is great, though. I don't think she was especially underserved - the script gave her a bunch of fun things to do, and it wasn't something it would be embarrassing to be associated with, but I hope they've shot other bits for callbacks later in the series.

Clara (who was underserved by the script this time, although I quite liked having more Doctor, and I continue to respect Jenna Coleman's ability to inject a bit of life into essentially feed lines and reaction shots) looks really quite Sarah-Jane-ish with that haircut and outfit (that's really not the kind of thing that usually crosses my mind, I must say). Which made me think, if they did want a kids' TV spin-off, The Coal Hill School Gang (as well as having two Tardis occupants on the staff, and an alien among the alumni, it's also been shot up by Daleks, which not many secondary schools can claim) could be it - a cross between The X-Files and Grange Hill. I think it's significant that the episode didn't go out of its way to shake me from this implausible reverie.

I'm not sure why the Moff has the writing credit - there's a lot less Moff in this than previous episodes (or even episodes that he didn't get a credit for last season, such as Cold War).

So not really bad as such, just not surprising enough to distract me from a television programme that doesn't, and will not ever, exist.
posted by Grangousier at 5:13 PM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I quite liked the bits they borrowed from Hustle.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 6:15 PM on September 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Just going to copy bettafish on Psi and Saibra (and their outfits--hope to see Saibra cosplay at Gallifrey One in February!--and Clara's).

And also the sound editing. I felt like I missed a lot of the episode. I imagine I'll like it better the second time.

I'm usually sensitive to characters mocking others' appearances, but for some reason, the Doctor-Clara thing doesn't bother me. For one thing, she has total confidence in her appearance, and appears no more than mildly irritated by his comments.

I endorse the "Coal Hill School" spinoff idea 100%.
posted by wintersweet at 6:54 PM on September 20, 2014


Oh! One more thing: the Doctor's reaction to being touched. I don't know if this is some kind of plot point in the making or just more character development, but I kind of appreciate it. When I started watching "Doc Martin," I thoroughly enjoyed his uncouth reactions because they're often what I feel internally, too. (Later, he turned into just a real jerk, but oh well.) So I appreciate the Doctor's anti-hugging stance. (Don't move to California if you don't love random hugging, because it's practically conversation punctuation here.) He seemed really uncomfortable with Saibra's hug, though he didn't say anything--which is good, of course, because of Saibra's history.

Anyway, anti-casual-huggers UNITE! ...At a safe distance, that is.
posted by wintersweet at 7:14 PM on September 20, 2014


We've done "don't blink" and "don't breathe", so today it's "don't think". We're running out of things to not do.

I liked this one quite a bit and think they've found a nice balance between a season-long story arc and individual episodes. I think the only tie-in to the arc in this one was Saibra's "good man" comment.

He's confused by her make-up and wedge heels this episode, when in previous episodes he understood the purpose of cosmetics just fine

I was going to defend him this episode because, continuity aside, not knowing the purpose of make-up and heels finally makes the comments seem alien without putting her down. That's what I thought until the "how's that for a date?" line at the end. It bugs me because it shows that he knows what she was up to. I'm hoping he is jealous simply because she still wants to have a life outside of the Tardis. If it's a romantic jealousy, then he really is the terrible Negging Doctor.
posted by Gary at 11:08 PM on September 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Elsewhere, I saw the suggestion that a future episode will have to be titled simply "Don't."
posted by wintersweet at 11:12 PM on September 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


The plot of this episode really doesn't make sense.

So the Doctor gets called by Cabraxas who tells him that she feels guilty for leaving (she thinks) the teller and his mate to die on the planet after it was consumed by a solar flare. She asks him to break into the bank so that he will be in the vault just in time for her leaving and the teller arriving, so he can convince the teller that it is now safe to rescue his mate.

So the Doctor, who presumably has been given access codes to the bank, goes in, sets up dead drops, because he can go into the bank. Also he has a teleporter which can go into the bank. Also he has some guard costumes. Then he decides to mind wipe himself, Clara, and two others and sends them in, where they will head down into the private vault, inevitable getting captured by the teller who will decide not to eat the Doctor for no real reason, then be rescued by two people he thought were dead who have teleported back on and efortlessly infiltrated the greatest bank in the universe again by virtue of wearing shiny armour. Then he'll go to the private vault.

Couldn't he have just... gone to the private vault on time? Because apparently he could have done that at any point anyway? Without the whole needless memory loss bit?

Eh. It was an ok episode, and I think the two new characters were actually decently introduced and there was a genuine sense of loss when I thought they'd died, but it was clunky. Also the caved out humans was super scary, and really went nowhere (there was a comment about why they were being kept, but this wasn't expanded on)
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:58 AM on September 21, 2014


We've done "don't blink" and "don't breathe", so today it's "don't think". We're running out of things to not do.

"Don't smell! Whatever you do, DON'T SMELL!"--The Doctor, in Steven Moffat's The Farts of the Arcturoids.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:14 AM on September 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


Uh, I guess if she felt that bad about holding the Teller and its mate prisoner she could have, like, asked the Doctor to go back even further in time and keep her from taking them hostage? Instead she's all, "Listen, I'm crazy old now and I'm gonna die any second, but there's one thing in my whole long life I feel guilty about...now I don't want you to keep it from happening at all because it worked out kind of awesome for me, I mean I'm insanely rich, but if you could go back to a point where fixing this would allow me to live a long and impossibly rich life of psychopathic mayhem and sadism but at the same time keep me from feeling the massive bummer I am currently in the grips of on my deathbed..."
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:45 AM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm still not sure how I felt about the plot of this episode, thanks to the terrible sound editing which resulted in my missing a lot of dialogue unless I constantly rewound or put up with out-of-sync subtitles. The sound editing's normally not great, but I don't know if it was objectively worse this time or just more frustrating because the whys and wherefores of heist plots are so exposition-dependent.

Me too. I've sort of given up actually understanding the dialog. Between his accent and the sound quality, I can't make out most of what's said.
posted by octothorpe at 8:05 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have to say, I found this to be the most enjoyable episode for a long time.

If you consider his final comment in the episode, the plot makes sense if you see it as the Doctor's plan to one up on Clara's date. That is, provide something far more exciting. I mean, of course he could have just gone and rescued the Tellers, but don't you think he would've been bored by that?

What's with the Doctor giving Psi the "call me" gesture?
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 9:06 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


All I could think of from the opening was this from Red Dwarf. "You heard what he said - knows what he's talking about, that dude."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:19 AM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Interesting line from Psi telling Clara she is good at making excuses for the Doctor. Makes me wonder if that is a bit of foreshadowing.
posted by plastic_animals at 9:28 AM on September 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


I quite liked it. The caper was a good change of pace. I feel like they've hit a good balance between episode stuff and season stuff (nothing obvious, and the teleporters were a nice fakeout--I'm sure I wasn't the only person expecting Psi and Saibra to get into heaven--hope we see them in the season finale). I'm willing to give them the one thing of "this is the way to free the aliens". It was nice to see a decent motive for the Doctor to do it, even if there were holes to poke. It wasn't a perfect episode, and there are always things to nitpick, but this year I don't have the desire to nitpick or go "oh, that's bullshit".

As far as the season as a whole goes, I'm enjoying it, and I'm down with the folks who say you know what you're getting, and if you like it, great, and if you don't, you're not going to like this one either.
posted by immlass at 11:44 AM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Overall, I liked this one, mainly because it made me think about "what is the one thing the Doctor wants more than anything?" I was really curious about what his payoff for the heist would be. It's a nice bit of characterization that the other two did it for truly significant payoffs but the Doctor did it just because he's the Doctor and going into risky situations to rescue being who need help is his thing. We're getting a pretty clear answer to the "Am I a good man?" question.

Clara had so little to do that I wish she had been left out entirely. You could have had a nice comic element if you cut back and forth between scenes of her elegant date with Danny and scenes of the the Doctor getting into danger with his mercenary companions. Hate to see her basically along for the ride on this one.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:55 AM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


One think I don't like: another impossible time paradox. This whole thing started because the Doctor got a call from Cabraxas, but she only knew to call him because he gave her his number after she responded to his call. There's no way for this plot to actually get rolling. I would have liked it more if the cold opening was him encountering the dying Cabraxas somehow, she discovering he's a time traveller, and then whispering to him "Then you can help me." Boom, straight to the memory worm scene, no paradox needed. Moffet is overly fond of impossible plots.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:04 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have used Directv's captions for every episode so far this season. It's the only way I can understand the dialog.
posted by wittgenstein at 2:47 PM on September 21, 2014


As soon as the Doctor directed them to think of what they wanted most, I'd pretty much figured out they were there to rescue someone, and once it was said the Teller was the last of its kind I knew who. But it was still a fun ride. I do like the standalone episodes without constant continuity callbacks.

And as far as the sound goes, British TV has always been terrible. My family used to joke 30 years ago, whenever one of us would mumble: "Speak up, you're not on the BBC." It was like microphone technology was way behind over there. So not being able to hear what anybody's saying, while still annoying, is at least nostalgic for me.

And, yes, Pater. I'm about ready to count the number of Steven Moffat episodes that are "resolved" by a time-loop paradox. I'd bet money it's over 70% of them.
posted by rikschell at 3:30 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Kind of a Rogue/X-Men thing going on there with Saibra, but I liked her character and was pleased she hadn't actually died.

This is another heist movie with air ducts conveniently sized to fit a human. I guess they're kind of like the sonic screwdriver or some other bit of handwavium--part and parcel with the kind of story being told. Still, after seeing The Brothers Bloom it's become even harder to take air duct scenes seriously.

This one's also in keeping with heist movies in painting the heist victim as someone who really deserves it. I'm curious if, as Juso No Thankyou suggests, the Doctor really did set up the heist just to one-up Clara's date. Because I think kittens for breakfast has a point; the Doctor could have gone back even further in time and prevented the Teller being taken hostage altogether (and also prevented various people getting their brains turned to soup).

The Teller's makeup was generally good, though I thought the legs on the suit looked wrong in their last scene as they were walking away. But probably no one watches Doctor Who for the special effects.

The makeup on old Carabraxas was not great; the edge of one of those prosthetic makeup pieces was clearly visible by her mouth.
posted by johnofjack at 4:29 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wow, I'm surprised by the lukewarm response here. This was the best episode in years! So much fun, so many good ideas, so many good character moments, such good sci fi. It reminded me a lot of a mix between The Doctor Dances and the Phillip K Dick story Paycheck.

Uh, I guess if she felt that bad about holding the Teller and its mate prisoner she could have, like, asked the Doctor to go back even further in time and keep her from taking them hostage?

This is one of those fixed timeline, "you can't change the past" episodes, which I much prefer. Doctor Who is inconsistent: sometimes it uses fixed timeline time travel and sometimes it uses multiverse time travel. This was fixed timeline time travel, and it was consistent throughout. The Tellers were in the bank just before the sun went supernova. So the only time the Doctor could rescue them was at that point. Trying to rescue them before then would have been doomed to failure; he needed to break into the private vault at that very moment.

One think I don't like: another impossible time paradox. This whole thing started because the Doctor got a call from Cabraxas, but she only knew to call him because he gave her his number after she responded to his call. There's no way for this plot to actually get rolling.

Causal loops aren't paradoxical. In fact, I think that this might one the only time travel movie or TV episode I've ever seen where nearly everything makes sense. It's not only not paradoxical: the Doctor knows how fixed timelines work, and his motivations are perfectly sensible. I've been on the lookout for a plot like this for at least five years and I haven't seen one. Honestly, that is quite a writing coup.

Couldn't he have just... gone to the private vault on time?

Yeah, this was a slight problem... they just strolled into the private vault, which made it seem like there was no need to have broken into the main vault. It's a one-line fix though: they could have said something about how the private vault is only accessible through the main vault or from the Security Chief's office (or something like that).
posted by painquale at 7:15 PM on September 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


What's with the Doctor giving Psi the "call me" gesture?

I think that was just a throwaway gag. Psi says "Hey, Doctor, if you ever need help robbing a bank again..." Clara tells him "That's not really his line of work," but behind him the Doctor is like "Call me, we'll see what we can get up to."

I thought it was funny, but its placement in an episode that had a more weighted "Call me" gesture makes it feel more significant than I think it is.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:23 PM on September 21, 2014


I hope that Psi becomes a companion after Clara leaves. He seems like a good fit, and he wouldn't be yet another companion from our era.
posted by painquale at 7:28 PM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I believe Jonathan Bailey, who played Psi, is the first actor to appear on Broadchurch before appearing on Doctor Who. David Tennant, Olivia Colman, David Bradley and Arthur Darvill were on Who prior to being on Broadchurch.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:02 PM on September 21, 2014


The one thing I really like about Moffat is that he actually does play with the time travel aspect of the show. I don't want Doctor Who to become Primer but the Tardis can be used for so much more than just dropping them off at interesting locations and whisking them away at the end.

That's why it was too bad he made River Song wear out her welcome. That idea of having someone encountering the Doctor in a different order than he is meeting them is a great one. So is having a future Doctor help out a past one in The Day of the Doctor or a previous Doctor phoning a companion to help her cope with a regeneration.
posted by Gary at 10:01 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm still not sure how I felt about the plot of this episode, thanks to the terrible sound editing which resulted in my missing a lot of dialogue unless I constantly rewound or put up with out-of-sync subtitles. The sound editing's normally not great, but I don't know if it was objectively worse this time or just more frustrating because the whys and wherefores of heist plots are so exposition-dependent.

Hear, hear.
posted by homunculus at 11:49 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was rewatching Listen the other day with the subtitles on and found that they missed one of the gags:

"An anti-climax once in a while is good for my heart."

So perhaps even the subtitling staff are having trouble with the sound.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 12:16 AM on September 22, 2014


because it made me think about "what is the one thing the Doctor wants more than anything?" I was really curious about what his payoff for the heist would be.

I interpreted it to mean that what he wanted more than anything was Clara. Or to impress Clara, at least.
posted by lollusc at 1:09 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Or to impress Clara, at least.

Well exactly. Because I'm sure he can see the signs already that Clara's potentially going to be off soon, if Mr Pink is a more compelling use of her time. And with this regeneration's dis-ease with things like hugging, I can't think that he's exactly looking forward to recruiting her replacement. But boy, is that recruitment scene (assuming they go in that direction) going to make compelling TV or what?
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 1:19 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Painquale, the uncaused cause may not be a paradox, exactly. But as a solution to every problem it's a storytelling cheat. It was novel in Blink, and I'd be willing to swallow it once of twice a season, if Moff could put a different spin on it now and then. But it's become so freaking predictable, and it takes away the agency of the characters. They don't actually have to figure anything out or solve any problems, they just have to wait for it to become clear that they've already saved themselves from the future. Moffat's problem seems to be that he can write a helluva 2/3rds of a script, but then has no idea (apart from the causal loop) how to get himself out of what he wrote himself into. It's the sort of writing that would be acceptable as a handwave to get out of a cliffhanger (back when they had cliffhangers), but doesn't really work dramatically as a climax/solution.
posted by rikschell at 4:37 AM on September 22, 2014


Watching through the episode a second time helped me understand how the pieces fit together.

First, I assume the fixed time line explanation for why he couldn't just go back even further in time. Second, there's a line of dialogue that explains why he didn't just fly the tardis to the vault: the solar storm messes with the navigation, so he wouldn't be able to land. Of course, he could have flown the tardis there earlier.... and, of course, he did. All of those briefcases from the architect are proof that the doctor used the tardis multiple times over to break into the bank.

So, the only real question is: why not just fly the tardis into the vault before the sun storm and wait?

And, I believe, the answer is this. They needed to get the teller into the vault, so they could save it. The whole break in was designed to get the teller out of forced hibernation and get it to follow them around. They don't break in to break in, instead they break in to get the teller in the vault with them.
posted by meese at 4:44 AM on September 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


I'd be willing to swallow it once of twice a season, if Moff could put a different spin on it now and then ... Moffat's problem seems to be that he can write a helluva 2/3rds of a script, but then has no idea (apart from the causal loop) how to get himself out of what he wrote himself into.

I'd agree with you if Moffat wrote scenes like the one in Bill and Ted's where they leave a key to the prison for themselves, but I don't think he ever really does this. The only causal loops that come to mind since Blink are the ones in the Big Bang and in The Wedding of River Song, and maybe last week's Listen. But the loops in the Big Bang were mostly played for goofiness (the central plot actually involved changing the past). The loop in Listen was there for thematic purposes, not because it was central to the resolution of the plot. The Wedding of River Song was a mess, I'll admit, but I'm pretty sure that was the intended resolution of the story from the beginning. I don't think Moff ever uses causal loops to get himself out of a jam that he's written himself into; the loops are all essential to the story he's telling from the get-go. It's an especially great trope for a heist movie.

I also disagree about causal loops taking away from the agency of the characters. You could write a scene where that happens, but I don't think that any of the characters in Time Heist are less of agents in any way because of time travel shenanigans.
posted by painquale at 6:21 AM on September 22, 2014


I didn't have any significant problems with the sound, but I was watching with head phones with no distractions about. And, thanks to hearing disabilities as a child and therapy I received, I can sometimes understand accented speech easier than most (my parents lived in England for three years and still turned on the subtitles for BBC stuff - I remain mystified).

As for the episode's content, I was satisfied, but I didn't turn the tv off excited for having seen it or wanting to watch it again. I appreciated that it generally left no major threads hanging, unlike last week's episode ( THERE WAS A CREATURE ).

Besides the point that made me want to groan over the pun of the Teller's name (A monster that can tell what you're thinking...named Teller IN A BANK), I thought it was an interesting creature. I figured that if they kept it locked up to start with, it was probably not there by choice, and it's freedom would probably be involved in the resolution of the show. The Doctor isn't one for oppressed/enslaved peoples/aliens/etc.

An interesting point is the Doctor and the teleport devices. He would have had to consciously design them to look like the vaporizers (or whatever they're called) to trick himself into believing they were exactly that when he lost that memory. I kind of admired the several points which relied almost entirely on the expectation of forgotten memory. Likewise, his selection of the Psi and Saibra, also made me wonder if he chose them specifically to help them get what they desired most, or did he find those things and put them in the bank as a means to entice them? (Which, when you think about it, is kind of harsh).

I think it's fair to assume the Doctor planned part of the heist entirely as a means to one up the date with Rupert, but not in a romantic rival way. I think in the "She's my companion and she's drifting away!" type of way. By all indication of next week's episode, that appears to be a good premise. You might say that the Doctor's constant dismissive nature toward Clara is done in kind of the, "I'm upset because you're leaving me, so I'm just going to be a bit rotten towards you," manner. It's the attitude one might see if someone is getting married and their best friend is having trouble coping with this major change in their friend's life, but also theirs.

Overall, I'm still getting use to this new Doctor, because he's definitely a different direction from our last two. I'm enjoying Capaldi, but it may take a while before I adore this version. As an aside, was Moffat inserting commentary about the Doctor's appearance with the throw away joke about going for minimalism, but may have ended up too much magician?
posted by Atreides at 8:11 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think this episode had the best pre-credits cold open of any episode. The chaos that ensued right after the Doctor picked up the phone was delightfully enticing. What are the other contenders for best Doctor Who cold open? (This doesn't count.)
posted by painquale at 8:40 AM on September 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Watching this episode, I got nostalgic for Captain Jack. Too much baggage, I know, but this would've been a good story for the character.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:57 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


That cold opening was a clever bit of writing that justified any amount of the silliness that followed. In a few dozen seconds we had crash-cut to an unfamiliar location, been introduced to 2 new characters (including their names and defining characteristics), and the general premise explained to us in a fairly intriguing way.

Also notable was the first scene with the teller, where The Doctor has no clue what this new creature was or what it did. Normally in nu-who, The Doctor instantly explains the problem to the companions (and the viewer), but not knowing really raised the stakes.

Really nice practical effects in this episode as well.
posted by AndrewStephens at 10:55 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have to agree that the opening on this was one was nicely done. I also really liked the sunken heads; it was both gross and great.



I appreciated that it generally left no major threads hanging, unlike last week's episode (THERE WAS A CREATURE ).

ROFL. I want to say, "what creature, Atreides?" However, I have a sinking feeling most people would agree with my statement. Even The AVClub didn't mention it. The Doctor isn't crazy.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 11:04 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Really nice practical effects in this episode as well.

Yeah, the Teller and the worms and the robot headgear were great. I'm OK with those worms becoming a new recurring Doctor Who plot device (like the psychic paper) because they look so squicky and gross. They're going to want to reuse those props, so expect more memory wipes in the future. Even the locations were notable. I liked that they distinguished otherwise identical corridors with different colors of lighting. It was cheesy but visually arresting.

Over the past few years I had started to think that Doctor Who wasn't really for me any more, but these last two episodes really drew me back in. And the synopses for the next three episodes (light spoilers here) make them sound pretty good too.
posted by painquale at 12:05 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Moffat's Causal Loops:
Blink: Sally has to collect up the info and give to the Doctor so he can inform her what she needs to do.
Time Crash: The Doctor remembers how to fix the Tardis since he's seen himself do it.
Forest of the Dead: How does he know he has to give her the screwdriver? Because he's already given it to her.
Big Bang: He gets out of the Pandorica through a complicated causal loop plan.
Space/Time: See Time Crash
Wedding of River Song: I can't even...
Angels Take Manhattan: River has to write the book, because she wrote it, etc.
Snowmen: The Doctor sets up the Web of Fear
Name of the Doctor: Clara knows she enters the time stream because she already has (split up into many incarnations)
Day of the Doctor: The Doctor stops the Doctor from pushing the button, even though he will end up thinking that he did push it
Listen: Clara causes the thing that's creeping out the Doctor
Time Heist: here we are

And he's overseen quite a few more, for instance Journey to the Center of the Tardis.

Some of these are crucial plot elements, others are mostly comic relief. But at their worst (see Journey to the Center of the Tardis), they are just a big friendly button that the Doctor only knows to make because he's already been given it. I don't understand how that doesn't destroy agency. No one decides to take action, they just follow instructions. Is it possible to get more deus ex machina than that?

Like I said, I don't mind a clever one once in a while, but the doctor isn't much of a character when he's just coloring inside the lines that have already been drawn for him.
posted by rikschell at 2:06 PM on September 22, 2014


Hm, I'm not sure I agree that all of those involve causal loops. I don't think that Angels Take Manhattan, Day of the Doctor, or Journey to the Center of the Tardis do. They either don't necessarily presume a fixed timeline, or if they do presume a fixed timeline, they don't involve causal loops. (e.g. River didn't write a novel to the Doctor because she knew that she would a novel to the Doctor. She wrote a novel to the Doctor to send him a message.) But point taken, it's more common than I thought.

I guess I just prefer stories with casual loops.

I don't understand how that doesn't destroy agency. No one decides to take action, they just follow instructions.

If characters just followed instructions from a future self, then I might agree with you. But it's only really in the shorts (Time Crash and Space/Time) that this is done. In both of those it's played for laughs. Most of the others episodes involve the characters making decisions. They refuse to just follow instructions. In the Library episodes, the Doctor won't give River his screwdriver until he understands why his future self gave River the screwdriver. We still see him struggling and figuring things out, and he only acts when he understands his future self's reasons. He has agency throughout. In The Snowmen, the Doctor doesn't even remember encountering the Great Intelligence before.

It's really only in Time Heist where the gang is just following instructions. They're being coerced by someone with knowledge of their future actions. But they don't know that: from their perspective, they're just being coerced. So they obey, but they do so somewhat grudgingly. They have to be convinced to take part, and their motivations make sense. If the Architect had turned out to be just some smart guy who had kidnapped them and planned the heist really well, their agency would have been no more and no less compromised.
posted by painquale at 4:21 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Doctor Who And The Convolutions Of Time (originally broadcast on Radio 4 on the 8th March, 1978)

The Doctor Who theme tune plays

Narrator: Doctor Who And The Convolutions Of Time. Written by Douglas Adams, and starring Geoffrey McGivern as Doctor Who, and Simon Jones as Arthur.

The theme tune fades out as Doctor Who begins to speak.

Doctor Who: Look, I don’t know where you got your strange ideas about time from, but it wasn’t from me. It just wouldn’t make sense to meet yourself. Time would have to be crystalline in structure, everything fixed like some sort of rigid multidimensional molecule. How tedious!
Arthur: I don’t really see why that would follow.
Doctor Who: Of course it follows! If you met yourself than either you or your other self, depending on which way round it was, would have to do everything exactly right from that point on to ensure that that thing happened. It’s absurd. The chances of all that happening by chance are so vanishingly remote as to be irrelevant. I’m telling you, it’d have to mean that the universe is one big time crystal.
Arthur: Well, maybe it is?
Doctor Who: Don’t you want free will?
Arthur: I’m not sure it matters at all what I want.
Doctor Who: Very good. And anyway, that’s not all. Say you did meet yourself, what then? What if you gave yourself something from the future, which you then kept with you into the future, until you went back into the past to give it to yourself?
Arthur: Like what?
Doctor Who: Oh, I don’t know. Like this 50p someone’s left on the worktop. Here!

We hear the 50p being flicked into the air, and Arthur catching it.

Doctor Who: Now then, how old is that 50p?
Arthur: It says it was made in 1974. So… wait, what year are we in now?
Doctor Who: No, no! I mean in our example. I’ve given it to you, now you go back one week, and give it to me. How old is it by the time I give it back to you.
Arthur: Two weeks?
Doctor Who: Yes, very good. But then, you go back in time, give it to yourself, who then gives it to me, who then gives it to you, and so on and so on and so on, until…?
Arthur: It becomes… infinitely old.
Doctor Who: Yes, see, like I told you, absurd. There’s no way round the infinite age paradox. If cyclical time travel like that was possible we’d have infinitely old atoms everywhere and then where would we be? Or when! We’d never know.
Arthur: So you’re telling me that you’ve never gone back and met earlier versions of yourself.
Doctor Who: Of course not. The universe is in a constant state of flux. Everything affecting everything else in cascades of absurd complexity. It’s beautiful and wonderful. Everything you step outside the TARDIS it’s into a whole new adventure. Never the same creatures, never the same planets. Always something wonderfully bafflingly beautifully new!
Arthur: But what about those photos you were showing me of all of you together that time?
Doctor Who: Anomalies.
Arthur: Anomalies? You can’t expect me to believe that.
Doctor Who: I could expect you to believe anything.
Arthur: Doctor, please, I’m English.
Doctor Who: I bet you’ve never even built yourself a toy time machine.
Arthur: Well, no, but…
Doctor Who: But…?
Arthur: Look, it’s just… It doesn’t sound right. If everything’s always changing, what’s the point of doing anything? What’s the point of trying to change things?
Doctor Who: What’s the point of not?

An old fashioned mechanical alarm clock starts ringing.

Doctor Who: Right, we’re here! Hurry up, Arthur.

The doors of the TARDIS creak open.

Arthur: Doctor, where are we?
Doctor Who: Victorian London, of course.
Arthur: Victorian London? That sounds quite nice.
Doctor Who: Nice? What if it's a Victorian London populated entirely by clockwork vampires?
Arthur: Oh, I don't know… Also, Doctor, about that chaotic universe stuff… Does that mean now we’re in Victorian London I can never go home again because everything will have changed? Hey! Hey, Doctor? Where are you going? You’re not going out there are you?
Doctor Who: Listen!
Arthur: What?

A bell tolls again and again in the distance.

Arthur: They’re just church bells, Doctor.
Doctor Who: Exactly. Now why would there be church bells in a city of vampires?
Arthur: Doctor, are there really clockwork vampires? Doctor?

We hear a high-pitched scream.

The Doctor Who theme tune begins to play especially loudly

Announcer: Next week on Doctor Who.

Doctor Who: This is fascinating. Look at that monitor. Arthur! What are you doing? Look, will you put that 50p down and come over here.

A 50p piece can be heard being slammed down onto a worktop.

Arthur: Doctor, I can’t see a thing on this screen.
Doctor Who: No, not that one. How could it be that one? It’s covered in vampire oil, for god’s sake. That one!
Arthur: Doctor, that can’t be right. It says we’re in an older version of the TARDIS.
Doctor Who: Yes! Well, a slightly newer version, technically. A TARDIS from a whole week ago!
Arthur: It’s impossible. Surely if we were here then, we’d have noticed us?
Doctor Who: Quiet! Someone’s coming. We better hide. It might be the Daleks.

The theme tune plays fairly loudly.

Narrator: Tune in next week to discover what happens in... Doctor Who And The Unexpected Turn.
posted by dng at 4:34 PM on September 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


painquale: "I think this episode had the best pre-credits cold open of any episode. The chaos that ensued right after the Doctor picked up the phone was delightfully enticing. What are the other contenders for best Doctor Who cold open? (This doesn't count.)"

If webisodes count, the cold open for Night of the Doctor was delightful, though mostly for extranarrative reasons. Others that leap to mind are "Human Nature," "Blink," and " The Angels Take Manhattan". Oh, and "Let's Kill Hitler"'s pre-credits scene was my favorite part of the episode, though it's not really a cold open with the "previously on" tacked before it. I would rate "Time Heist" as outdoing all of them.
posted by bettafish at 5:23 AM on September 23, 2014


Hmm, the more I think about this episode, the less I am impressed. I think the problem is that this episode promises things it can't really meet. The most secure bank in the universe should be much larger, grander, than the show can really afford, and as such is just a series of corridors connected by air vents. Also, ideally heist films should sketch out their location carefully so you can place characters, but this show absolutely doesn't do this, to the point where at one point when the Doctor is apprehended, we jump cut to another room, and then jump cut to them riding somewhere else, and then they are in the private vault (where Cabraxas is apparently just chilling out in her big vault of money. I guess thats what rich people do). Similarly, there is an initial sense of peril and pace that immediately gets dried out as the characters wonder around. The Teller turns up occasionally to be scary, but mostly they are just chilling.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 5:37 AM on September 23, 2014


One of the things that annoyed me about the Matt Smith years--even though I liked a number of the stories--was that Moffat seemed to have shunted the show over into some bubble universe where people were 99% white. Apparently he rethought that decision for Series 8, and while the casting isn't perfectly representative I'm still glad to see more diversity onscreen.

To me it seems like the characterization is generally more thorough as well, with even one-off characters acting more like actual people than plot devices. Clara throughout Series 7 seemed like less of a person to me than Saibra, Psi, Journey Blue, Morgan Blue, or Danny Pink in the short amount of time they've each had.
posted by johnofjack at 5:38 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Clara throughout Series 7 seemed like less of a person to me than Saibra, Psi, Journey Blue, Morgan Blue, or Danny Pink in the short amount of time they've each had.

I'd agree with that. Characterisation in this series has been a looot better.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 6:07 AM on September 23, 2014


We've done "don't blink" and "don't breathe", so today it's "don't think". We're running out of things to not do.

Don't forget "don't look" at the creepy thing under the blanket.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:29 AM on September 26, 2014


Elsewhere, I saw the suggestion that a future episode will have to be titled simply "Don't."

INTERIOR, CREEPY LOCATION.
Doctor: Clara, if this is what I think it is, it's really important that you don't-
They are interrupted by a CREEPY THING.
Clara: What? Don't what??
Clara stands motionless, terrified. The CREEPY THING moves closer.
Doctor: Just don't. Whatever you do, don't.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:48 AM on September 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


No idea what all the audio fuss is about. Maybe there's something about the sound in translation to US TV? It seems fine to me, but maybe I'm just used to it.
posted by Magnakai at 9:29 AM on September 26, 2014


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