Previously on Doctor Who, ‘Time Heist’
Clara is having major trouble balancing her time between The Doctor and their adventures and work and dates with Danny, often arriving breathless and harried. “I can’t do it!” she tells herself in the mirror, but she can, because she’s the Impossible Girl. So she’s super relieved when the Doctor says he’s going off on his own for a bit, although highly suspicious.
Turns out, it’s not so much of a break. He’s really going undercover as a Caretaker at the Coal Hill School where Clara and Danny work, drawn to the area by a hidden Skovox Blitzer, a soldier robot, who takes out a policeman before being lured to the school after hours by the Doctor’s cloaking watch.
During school hours, the Doctor plants chronodyne generators (“time bombs”) around the property, mistakenly dubbing the bow-tied nerdy English teacher as Clara’s boyfriend… On the Good Ship Whoufflé in his mind, anyway, because it’s pretty clear he sniffs out what’s going on with Danny by his continual derisive insistence that Danny is a PE teacher. And, you know, the fact that he looks exactly like Orson Pink.
But Danny isn’t easily cowed and goes back at night to snoop around after noticing repeatedly that Clara knows more about the Doctor than she’s saying. He discovers the suspicious devices easily and gathers them as he follows the Doctor, so unfortunately when the alien shows up, the Doctor can’t open the vortex properly. Danny stumbles on the robot firing all over the school auditorium and drops the devices. The vortex dispatches the robot, but it’s not deep enough: the Blitzer is due back in 2.5 days.
Naturally the Doctor is as furious and insulting as Danny is bewildered. After gauging how Clara adjusts to the situation, Danny at first thinks Clara is a “space woman” traveling with her “space dad.” The Doctor stubbornly wonders what she’s doing with a non-bow-tie-wearing soldier PE teacher. “I love him!” she protests, to their surprise. Well, that escalated quickly! They christen Danny into the wonders of the TARDIS before she shuffles the poor guy home. “And when this is all over, you can finish the job. You’ve explained me to him, but you haven’t explained him to me,” the Doctor calls after her.
Danny tells her that you can always see what a person thinks of another by the lies they’ve told—here she’s had this amazing life full of adventure and he just wants to know who she is, so she offers a solution: put on the cloaking watch and observe her on the TARDIS. The Doctor busts them immediately, and upon hearing the term Time Lord, Danny goes off, calling out the Doctor as an officer with a superiority complex who puts everyone in danger while soldiers like Danny clean up the mess. The Doctor orders him out of the TARDIS and Danny mockingly salutes him much to the Doctor’s fury. On his way out the door, Danny points out that THIS is what the Doctor is really like. He’s probably the, what, fourth person to point out a personality aspect she’s in denial about? As abrasive as this scene was, I didn’t mind it: They’re both alpha males with a major stake in her life, and they’ve both had traumatic experiences in dealing with the other’s “type,” so it didn’t hurt anything to let them hash it out in their own way.
It seems the Doctor’s time vortex estimate was a bit short. The Blitzer returns in the middle of parents’ night, and both Clara and Danny rush away from their conferences. The Doctor asks her to distract the Blitzer but orders Danny to shut up and stay out of the way—again, obnoxious, but it serves as a test to see if he really is “just” a soldier. Once in the caretaker’s shed, Clara barely escapes the robot’s gunshots while the Doctor straps on a Ghostbuster-like backpack. He ain’t afraid of no Skovox Blitzer!
He whips out a microphone and orders the robot to stand down in its clipped, simple-directive language. It recognizes him as its superior, but when the Doctor misses a shut down code, it begins a self-destruct countdown. As the desperate seconds tick away, Danny calls its attention, literally FLIPPING OVER the firing Blitzer, landing perfectly to shield Clara. What in Flying Wallendas hell just happened?! Who. Is. This. MAN?!
Finally, the Doctor inputs the right codes, shutting the robot down for good. It’s not important that the Doctor likes or hates him, Danny explains in the aftermath, because he was behind Clara every step of the way. He understands why the Doctor is angry: he’s worried that Danny might not be good enough for her. The Doctor allows that he’s right, acknowledging that he did save the world just now and cracking a tiny smile as he allows, “Good start.” See? Friends.
Afterwards, the Doctor takes a particularly inquisitive student, aka “disruptive influence” humorously upgraded from “very disruptive influence” from last year, Courtney Williams, for a peak at a nebula, which ends in barfing.
At home, Danny admires how Clara did everything she was asked with no fear, but says he’s known men like the Doctor and they can ask too much sometimes. He gives her an ultimatum: tell him if that happens, because otherwise, he can’t be there for her. She agrees. Danny seems to have found his footing again in his role in Clara’s life, comfortable in the action, in helping protect the world, in dragging out the truth, and it looks good on him.
Lastly, we find the policeman being interviewed in a white room by a processor about his encounter with the Skovox Blitzer. He suddenly realizes he can’t remember how he escaped. It seems he didn’t, and he is now, of course, in the Promised Land, or, the Nethersphere. Missy glides down the hall, glancing over her shoulder. This is the first time we’ve seen someone in the Promised Land that did not voluntarily sacrifice themselves, although one could certainly argue that being a policeman on the job is heroic enough. What is the combination that earns this trip to the Nethersphere? Robot encounters plus heroism? Does the Doctor need to be involved? The processor notes they’ve had a few in from Skovox Blitzers, so has he been hunting them between adventures? Or is he not a necessary component?
Phrase of the season: “It’s a roller coaster with you, isn’t it?!”
Next time: A giant face-hugging spider is on the moon and you know what that means: More orange space suits!