Title: Doctor Who S8.E05 “Time Heist”
Released: 2014
Series:  Doctor Who

Previously on Doctor WhoThe Doctor examines humanity’s mutual fear of the dark—and Clara gets a glimpse at her future.

This series has featured a lot of nods to pop culture—from Fantastic Voyage to Robin Hood, and now heist plots like that of Ocean’s Eleven. As a fan of pop culture, I approve. But, as a curmudgeon, I find that I have to ask: Are there really no new ideas?

Here We Go Again

Clara’s getting ready for a date when the Doctor pops in to ask her to go somewhere with him. As she’s telling him no, she has plans, the TARDIS’ phone rings. The Doctor answers, even though Clara warns him not to, saying that nothing bad can come from answering a phone.

The two “come to” sitting at a table with two strangers, touching large, pale worms. No one knows what’s going on, but a case on the middle of the table tells them that they’ve all agreed to a memory wipe, and the two other people at the table are Psi, a computer-augmented human, and Saibra, a mutant human.

The case on the table opens and plays a message from a mysterious figure who calls themselves The Architect. The message explains that their memories have been erased by their own choice, and tells them about the supposedly impregnable Bank of Karabraxos, which they’re going to break into. Guards bang on the door, telling them to open up. Psi, quickly downloads information from the case into his brain, and the group escapes out the back door just ahead of guards sent by the bank’s head of security, Ms. Delphox. While the group is on the run, we learn that Psi is a hacker/bank robber and Saibra can shapeshift into anyone by touching them. The Doctor realizes that the DNA that was in the case—and Saibra’s gift—is their way into the bank.

Saibra transforms into customer (an old white guy, natch) and the four head into the bank. (Queue the so-mo swagger.) Soon after, the banking floor locks down, and the four are worried that they’re about to be caught before they can even start. But guards leads a giant, chained up creature onto floor and toward another man. Delphox talks to man about being guilty, and tells the Teller to scan his brain. The Teller finds something it doesn’t like, and so Delphox tells the Teller to go ahead and feast … on the man’s mind. The man’s brain turns to soup, and he’s taken away for his “close-up.” Oh, and his next of kin will be informed, and incarcerated, too. (That’s some serious security.)

The disguised Saibra leads the team into into a deposit room, where she tricks the DNA filters into bringing up the man’s property. A case arrives, with what looks like a bomb in it. The Doctor figures that the Architect wants them to blow through the floor. He places the bomb, but instead of exploding, it merely sends a section of the floor to another plane.

The four slip through to a service floor—again, just ahead of the guards—and find another case. Inside are six vials. No one knows what they are, except the Doctor, who lies regardless. Psi needs to recharge, so The Doctor and Saibra leave him and Clara to go look around. When they’re gone, Psi tells Clara about his time in prison, and how he erased all his memories of friends and family in order to protect them.

While they’re alone, the Doctor explains to Saibra that the vials are an “exit strategy,” which both assume to mean a high-tech cyanide pill (i.e., immediate death). They discuss Saibra’s mutant abilities, and she explains how it actually kind of sucks, because she can’t touch anyone without transforming, and no one likes to look into their own eyes. Clara and Psi catch up as they pass by a bunch of cells, one of which houses the man from earlier with the now concave head. They’re pondering why he’s still alive when a warning alarm sounds, so they run … straight into the Teller’s holding pen. The Teller locks on to Clara, but she’s able to break free. As they run, it locks on to Saibra, and she’s forced to use the vial from earlier, which the Doctor explains is an atomic shredder. Before she goes, she tells the Doctor he’s a good man.

The three find themselves at vault, with a new case nearby. Inside is more information for Psi to download and a card with some codes on it. As Psi sits down to hack, Delphox releases the Teller into the tunnels. Clara and the Doctor take off to cause it confusion As the door begins to unlock, Psi runs to tell the others. Clara gets caught by the Teller (of course), and Psi causes a distraction to save her. (Did anyone notice the flash of Captain John Hart in the mix with the other burglars?) He uses an atomic shredder, too, before the Teller can turn his brain to soup.

Clara and the Doctor meet back up at the vault door, which is stuck on the last lock. The Doctor tries to sonic it, but can’t. With near perfect timing, however, a solar storm begins. The Doctor realizes that the only way someone could have known when it was to hit was if they were a time traveller, and had sent them back in time to rob the bank. The storm messes with the bank’s systems and the vault door opens. Clara and Doctor enter and realize the codes on the card from the last case are box numbers. They find what would have been payment for Psi—a Neophyte Circut that could repair his memories—and Saibra—a gene suppressant. They head toward the private vault where their payment is, they assume, but they’re stopped by the Teller.

In her office, Delphox explains to the Doctor and Clara why the Teller works for them—everything has its price—before leaving them to the mercy of the guards, who turn out to be Saibra and Psi; the atomic shredders were actually teleportation devices. The group heads to the private vault, where they come face-to-face with Director Karabraxos, who looks exactly the same as Delphox. Karabraxos explains that she clones herself to be her heads of security at all branches of her banks. And because Delphox failed her, she plans to incinerate her. As everyone looks shocked at the proposition, the Doctor gives Karabraxos a note with his phone number in it and “I’m a time traveler” written on the top. The solar storm intensifies, and Karabraxos leaves. As she goes, the Doctor warns her about regret.

The Doctor begins to figure out the whole plot, but needs his memories to put the pieces together fully. So when the Teller arrives, the Doctor lets it scan his brain. It breaks the mental block, and he flashes back to the beginning of the whole adventure: getting the phone call from Karabraxos, on her deathbed, who tells him that there was one regret that she thinks he could help her with. His memories zoom through the plotting and planning of the heist in which he gets the team together, plants the boxes, tapes messages “from the Architect” and gets them all in the room with the worms. Back in the present, the Teller release the Doctor and opens a safe on the other side of the room.

The safe opens, and the Doctor reveals the real reason why the Teller worked for Karabraxos: a female of his species is chained inside. They release her, and then (apparently) get back to the TARDIS. The group releases the Tellers on a quiet planet, then have post-successful heist Chinese food while the Doctor tells jokes. They drop both Psi and Saibra off, and then the Doctor takes Clara home.

Don’t Blink or We’ll Exterminate

At the beginning of the episode, I think we were meant to assume that the Architect was the monster of the week. He’d put the gang into the predicament they found themselves in, one that was fraught with danger and they knew very little about. One could also assume that the Teller was another villain—I enjoyed the “don’t think” (rather than “don’t blink”) aspect of dealing with him.

But when all was said and done, it was obvious that Karabraxos was the evil behind it all. And even then, she wasn’t mindlessly evil, like the Daleks or the Cybermen, but just evil because of her lust for power and wealth. That’s an even scarier type of evil in my mind. I think the twist about her staffing her security teams with her own clones was pretty great, too. (Side note: I never really saw Delphox as a villain; she always seemed more like a pawn in the larger game.) Goes with her personality pretty perfectly.

The New Face

I wasn’t quite sure until the end of this episode, but “Shut Up” is definitely this new Doctor’s catch phrase. I think it fits him quite well—his snippy nature and ability to switch between thoughts in the space between seconds. He’s got a lot going on in that noggin of his. And although I figured out who the Architect was a bit before he did, I loved that it was him all along. He’s quite smart, when he wants to be.

I didn’t, however, really like the bit at the very end of the episode between him and Clara. He called her Boss, somewhat jokingly, but then comments to himself that robbing a bank was a better date that whatever she had planned? I’m not quite sure what was meant by that quip, but it seemed … off … to me.

My favorite Doctorisms of the episode:

Psi: “Still don’t understand why you’re in charge.”
Doctor: “Basically, it’s the eyebrows.”

Doctor: “Come on then, Team Not Dead.”

Doctor: “Why? There’s no immediate threat.” *warning sounds* “I should stop saying things like that.”

Doctor: “Sorry, I thought we were getting on famously. Am I, like, misreading the signals or something?”

Doctor: “Tell me. What do you think of the new look? I was hoping for minimalism, but I think I came out with magician.”

Companion Annoyance Level: The Ponds

Companion Annoyance Advisory System

Clara: Severe Risk of Annoying Entitlement

Martha: High Risk of Ridiculous Mooning

Donna: Significant Risk of Overbearing Bossiness

The Ponds: General Risk of Bothersome Smothering

Rose: Low Risk of Irritating Smugness

  • Clara wasn’t particularly off-putting this week, but there were a couple of things that I noticed that serve as complaints about her character in general.

  1. Why was she so immediately connected to Psi, but not Saibra? Was it because he shared with her his story about erasing his memories? Or was it because he was a hot guy?
  2. Once again, Clara got herself into a pickle—getting snagged by the Teller—and had to be rescued by someone. Sigh.

  • Psi and Saibra were fun additions to the gang. The Doctor obviously picked them for their talents, but their personalities fit in well, too.

Keep Moving

Overall, I’m super pleased with how this series has gone so far. The episodes have been fun, creepy, inventive, with a bunch of nods to all that’s come before. But what’s the end game? It seems weird to me that we were given hints of something bigger—Missy, The Promised Land—so much in the first couple of episodes, but now, nothing? Maybe I’m just trying to rush things.

What did you think of “Time Heist”? Did you figure out what was going on before the Doctor did? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Next on Doctor Who: The Doctor takes a side job as the caretaker at Clara and Danny’s school, and Danny begins to prove himself worthy.


Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.