I’ll be the first to admit I went into “Time Heist” with pretty modest expectations. The writer, Steve Thompson, has contributed two middling Who episodes – decent but not great. The overall standard of writing this season has been indifferent, and the premise seemed a bit of a stretch for Doctor Who – Oceans Eleven goes Gallifreyan.
On balance, then, it would be fair to say my expectations were more than met. This was a good, solid episode that was superficially at least free of any “big bad” entanglements (which is a rarity under Moffat). It was certainly better than “Robot of Sherwood” in every way. The supporting cast was likeable, the premise interesting enough – and best of all, there were no Mary Sue heroics from Clara, who for the first time this season was slotted into a supporting role rather than elbowing her way into the lead.
Just as Clara is preparing to meet Danny, the Doctor shows up (that’s becoming a trend) and the phone on the TARDIS rings. Next thing you know they’re sitting at a table with two strangers and some very strange “memory worms”. The strangers are Psi (Jonathan Bailey), a bank robber who’s augmented his brain in a very particular way, and Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner) who has a genetic abnormality which allows her to transform into anyone she’s touched. They’re shown a voice-disguised message from “The Architect” which tells them they’re to rob the most secure bank in the universe – but given as everyone’s memories are wiped, no one knows why. Also making an appearance is Keeley Hawes (who’s apparently quite a big deal in Britain) as the bank’s security chief Ms. Delphox, and another character we’ll meet later).
It’s a pretty convoluted plot when push comes to shove, but it does come together in the end rather nicely – and it’s good to see the Doctor involved in a caper that’s designed to serve two purposes, doing a good deed and having a good time. It’s nice to see the series lighten up a bit and it’s nice to see the Doctor acting like the guy in charge, and the guy who should be. I do find it a little disturbing, though, that even galactic banks who uses mind-pulping telepathic aliens who look like a cross between Admiral Ackbar and a rhinoceros for security still practice racial profiling.