Previously, on Doctor Who: “Listen”
“Time Heist” is a Classic Who-type standalone episode in which, thanks to self-induced amnesia, our heroes must figure out how to rob the most impregnable bank in the universe based on clues left by “The Architect” throughout the heist. As a result, we don’t know the goal or the why until the final 10 minutes.
Kicking off the caper, as usual the Doctor has parked the TARDIS in an inconvenient place in Clara’s apartment and is brainstorming ideas for the day despite the fact that she’s dressing for a date, to which he pretends obliviousness. The TARDIS phone rings, and although she tells him not to answer it, he says, “Nothing happens when you answer the phone.” Next thing we know, the pair are sitting at a table with two other people, yelling in surprise at the giant memory worms they’re holding in place of a phone. See, this is why I never answer my phone: giant worms.
It seems the team, nicknamed Team Not Dead by the Doctor, has voluntarily agreed to a memory wipe before a shadowy recording of The Architect tells them that they’re to break into the bank of Karabraxos, a bank so secure it holds private star systems and other treasures in atomically-locked vaults. Our other two players: Psi, and augmented hacker/robber/gamer with the ability to download information and delete his own memories if necessary, and Saibra, a human mutant capable of shapeshifting by touch. As they learn upon entering, security is deadly—the Teller of this bank is no coin counter. Managed by the head of security, Ms Delphox, it’s a large alien beast who locks onto thoughts, detects potential guilt, feasts on the thoughts and memories of its victim, then liquefies its brain. Account deleted.
Saibra takes on the identity of a bank customer and Team Not Dead blasts through a vault floor with a dimensional shift bomb just as the alarm sounds. Descending into the bank, they find yet another suitcase with an exit strategy, six “atomic shredders.” As they explore, they stumble into the Teller’s hibernation cocoon, and, with all her secrets, Saibra unfortunately attracts his attention and must use her shredder as the rest of the team escapes. Delphox releases the Teller into the tunnels while Team 1-Quarter Dead have Psi plug into a grid to open the vault and then split up to minimize brains signals. It zeroes in on Clara, and after she clears her mind of thought, she accidentally runs by the thing. Psi quickly plugs in once again, downloading a database of criminals and “guilt” (including past Who and Torchwood villains) to attract the Teller and then sacrifices himself as well.
Team Half Dead now approaches the vault but the unlocking fails as the final layer is atomic. The Doctor searches for some logic in the Architect’s plan since he would have known it would be impossible, and it presents itself soon enough: a solar storm blows into the system, tripping the security. He realizes that this could only be set up by a time traveler for that exact moment, the only moment when the bank would be compromised and the TARDIS unusable. They search through the deposit boxes for coded items from a single card the Architect provided: a Neophyte Circuit, to reboot any lost system, which Psi must have wanted to regain his memories; and a gene suppressant, undoubtedly for Saibra. Before the Doctor and Clara can figure out what they’re here for, listed only as PV for Private Vault, the Teller breaks in.
Delphox has them hauled to her office momentarily, telling the guards to take them out, but the guards are surprisingly the rest of Team Not Dead—the shredders were actually transporters. They go back down to the Private Vault finding priceless treasures and Karabraxos herself, the original of a series of clones managing the bank including Delphox, whom she “fires” by sending literally to the incinerator. As the bank begins to burn from the solar flares, the Doctor realizes it was he who set up the heist from the future and hastily writes down his TARDIS phone number with the message “I am a time traveler,” telling her that in the future when she’s old and full of regrets, to give him a call, figuring whatever the reason, it must be related. He invites the Teller to scan his brain and unlock the memory block, seeing Karabraxos call him on the TARDIS phone as an old woman with a final regret. He allows the Teller to unlock the last vault which holds its mate, the last pair of their kind.
Team Not Dead tumbles home in the TARDIS. In a rather hokey moment, they release the Tellers onto an empty planet for peace at last, and the creatures literally walk into the sunset. Hope they eat more than just regrets. Then Psi and Saibra, and finally Clara in time for her date.
Relevance to season mythology: none
Apart from a quick mention that the phone call could be from “the woman in the shop” (Missy), there is nothing tying it to the season arc.
Things that make you go hmm:
- Psi reassures Clara twice that memories are a good thing to have even with regrets. The repetition made it seem important, but of all the characters this season, Clara seems least likely to need this reassurance.
- What’s up with the orange space suit obsession on this show? Did they get them on BOGO?
- This new Doctor has gone a long way to show that not only is he oblivious to Clara’s looks but is determined to call her out on any effort as trying too hard. His final line, however, brings this whole game into question: “Robbing a bank. Robbing a whole bank. Beat that for a date.” Well, well. Methinks the Doctor protests too much.
Doctor: My personal plan is that a thing will happen quite soon.
Psi to Clara: It’s very obvious you’ve been with him for a while. Because you are really good at the excuses.
Doctor: Shutitty up up up!
Clara: Don’t rob any banks.
Doctor: Don’t rob any banks what.
Clara: Without me.
Doctor: Course not, boss.