Sunday, September 21, 2014

In Which I Review Doctor Who (8x5)

A bit of up front honesty: I didn't much care for this episode of Doctor Who. I understand the overall philosophy that there are truly no new ideas, only the sames one being repeated over and over, but this weeks episode, "Time Heist," was a mix of previous Doctor Who episodes and I think I'm struggling to enjoy it because, thus far, every Doctor Who episode has been a variation on past themes. A monster that feeds on strong negative emotions, in this case guilt? Sounds a lot like The Minotaur from The God Complex in Season 6. A being that can be used to take memories that the Doctor willingly offers up? Sounds a lot like the Sun-Planet-Eater thing of The Rings of Akhaten of Season 7. And the entire episode is a riff on movies like Ocean Eleven where a team of elite experts are assembled to rob a place that is "impenetrable" and somehow succeed. Of course the denouement of the episode is what makes this episode different from other high stake bank robbing movies because it's not really a bank robbery at all, so I'll give credit where credit is due there. But on the whole, I thought the episode was rather obvious and relied heavily on Moffat-flavored effect leading to cause instead of the typical other way round. Moffat didn't even write this episode but it's easy to see that the writers on his staff have take their cues from him.

Is there a higher level analysis to be had with this one? I don't particularly think so. This episode, like I said above, is more an homage to classic bank robbing movies and the cliches are rife. There's a big bad sheriff that enters the scene in slow motion, people running in circles and getting split up, and a ticking clock. So instead of dwelling on the plot for too long, I want to talk about the Doctor and Clara. In the season premiere, the new Doctor who has finally managed to get himself sorted, tells Clara that he's not her boyfriend. And yet, he's acting like a wounded puppy who can't believe that Clara would rather go out on a date (which he doesn't understand the concept of) than go on an adventure with him. It's annoying because it feels like a retrograde, as if the Doctor has changed his mind about what is going on between him and Clara. That was my first impression; my second viewing gave me a different take. I think the Doctor is still very lonely but this time, his loneliness scares him. Last week's episode "Listen" opened with the Doctor almost maniacal, talking to himself having traveled alone for some time. This week, he's trying to convince Clara to go out with him, to do anything really, rather than attend her date with Danny. At the end of the episode, the Doctor is rather smug that his adventure with Clara--robbing a bank--must be more rewarding than the date she's going on with Danny. It's this self satisfaction that's the most troubling because this Doctor, the one who isn't a hugger and is more emotionally detached, shouldn't care if Clara has a boyfriend but this is the second episode in a row where he has expressed some sort of dismay over Clara's personal life. Thus, taking it all together, I think that the Doctor fears loosing Clara and being on his own once more. Silly Ol' Doctor. Don't you know that you always find a new one? I know. I know. In the end they break your hearts, but you're being a bit clingy. I think this season is setting up a choice for Clara: the normal life or the fantastical life. Problem is, of course, this is the choice Amy and Rory eventually had to make and we already know that in the Doctor Who universe, the companions will eventually choose the normal life. So this choice before Clara is already pre-determined which means I am less interested. Moffat could throw a curve ball and kill Clara because that keeps being hinted at, but I somehow doubt it. Never forget, at it's core, Doctor Who is a children's program. Killing a companion--actually killing them without any sort of wibbly wobbly timey wimey nonsense--is exceedingly rare. Adric is remembered for a reason, folks.

The overall plot of this episode is fairly straight forward and I would be amazed if people didn't guess it from the start. Raise your hand if you knew the Doctor was somehow the Architect from the beginning. A mysterious figure who has put into place a grand plan to rob a bank and manged to have everything perfectly aligned? Of course it was the Doctor. The memory worm should be the first big hint: why would you need to erase your memory before robbing a bank? Because this event has already been written and the future is guiding you. Well who is from the future? The Doctor with his time machine. The Bank of Karabraxos is impregnable and ruled by a Madame Karabraxos and her head of security Miss Delphox. Hats of to Keeley Haws for this role. She was probably my favorite part of the episode; sly and cunning and ruthless, like any good villain. The Head of Security employs "A Teller" who can sense guilt and once it is determined that the guilty party is in fact guilty, turns their brain into soup. Another clue that there is something different about this bank robbery is that the Teller is wearing a prison jumpsuit. It obviously isn't doing this because it enjoys its work. Was there another prisoner in this episode? Yup, Psi, the enhanced computer-human who was a former prisoner and erased all memories of his loved ones so that the interrogators couldn't locate his friends and family. Parallels, people. Parallels. So once you realize there is a linkage between the Teller and Psi, it's pretty easy to figure out that the Teller is only doing this job for Miss Delphox because it's protecting the ones it loves.

There are some twists along the way like self-sacrifice that turns out to not be self-sacrifice. The mate of the Teller is being kept in a vault to elicit cooperation from the Teller in the jumpsuit. And Miss Delphox is a clone; the only real one is Madam Karabraxos. The Doctor tells her that someday she'll have many regrets and give her his phone number because, "I'm a time traveler." So when the phone of the TARDIS rings in the early stages of the episode, it's Miss Karabraxos phoning the Doctor to ask for his help in fixing her gravest sin, locking up the Tellers. The bank robbery was all staged from there. I don't think the story is neatly put into place because I have several questions about logistics of the heist and the planning, but since, in the end, it's not really a bank robbery but a rescue mission, I guess I'm not supposed to ask those. I do like that the Doctor took a more central roll this episode; it was beginning to feel like the Clara Oswald show and while I find Clara an okay companion, it's the Doctor I tune in for. There is also something to be said here about the Doctor and heroism; he arranged all this hullabaloo in order to rescue a creature. Gruff, dark, emotionally detached and still trying to save everyone. That hero label doesn't go away so easily.

Miscellaneous Notes on Time Heist

--This episode didn't make me laugh as much as the previous ones. Not as many good one-liners. But a small sampling:
"Question one: robbing banks is easy with a TARDIS so why am I not using it." "Question two: where is the TARDIS?" "Yeah, that probably should have been question number one."
"Do you like the new look? I was going for minimalism but I think I came out with magician."

--Psi and Sabre are obvious graduates of Charles Xavier's School for the Gifted

--Anyone else getting tired of the Doctor insulting Clara's looks and clothing choices? It was cute at first but now it's starting to feel a bit misogynistic. 

--The various levels of the vaults and their colors were annoying. Yellow, red, green...was it supposed to mean something?

--"Shutitty up up up." Ok, writers we get it. Peter Capadli played Malcolm Tucker to the English world's delight. Stop that homage now, please.

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