Sunday, September 21, 2014

Time Heist

I enjoyed Time Heist.

You know what it reminded me of? The Gunfighters. 

Stick with me with this. I'm not entirely mad.

Half the enjoyment in The Gunfighters - which a lot of people who like things serious miss - is the fact it is as much a parody of western television stories and films as well as being a Doctor Who story. Time Heist is as much as stylistic parody of television series like Hustle as it is a Doctor Who story. Douglas Mackinnon's direction - cuts, lens flares and slow motion etc - reflects that. And Mackinnon's direction is rather lovely. And was in Listen too.

This is the first story of the season where The Doctor leads the story and Clara gets to play the 'traditional' Doctor Who assistant. This is a Capaldi episode through-and-through and he's rather fantastic throughout. He gets great lines, delivers them with style and is rapidly setting a high standard that rises above whatever material he's given.

I'm not sure it's the most original script in Doctor Who ever but perhaps that's part of the point but I think there's a danger of over-analyzing these stories. Original ideas are hard to come by and the heist genre has its rules, which is fair enough. But there's a certain pattern emerging in this season, which is starting to irritate me mildly. It's the lack of proper villains. I'm all for 'shades of grey'. I'm all for villains who don't think that their plan is 'evil' but for heaven's sake does every story have to be like this? It's like a reverse Season 8 problem : instead of the villain being the Master every week, now we've got no villains. It's not a terminal problem but it's just getting a bit samey, particular when the ending of this story feels so much like that of Hide.

There's a lot of talk about plot holes from people that criticise The Moff's style of writing and I've argued that you'd struggle to find any Doctor Who story free of plot holes. It's just a question of what we're prepared to accept. Normally I don't really care about them unless there's an absolute gaping hole so big you could drive a tank through it. But there's one moment in this story that I found myself on. [SPOILER FOLLOWS]

And that's when Psi and Saibara turn up to save the Doctor and Clara disguised as guards in Ms Delphox's office. When The Teller is there. This is a creature that we've been told can detect guilt but doesn't notice Psi and Saibara...but maybe there's so much distortion going on as the - very - guilty Doctor and Clara are standing in the room. Perhaps I've been unkind. Perhaps not. Maybe it matters. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe I'm just looking for reasons to pick holes in something that I quite enjoyed. Who knows. Who. Knows.

Psi and Saibara were interesting additions to the 'team' and make a change from the Paternoster Gang. Neither character is spectacularly original : the half-man, half-computer and the shapeshifter but they're played well enough by Jonathan Bailey and Pippa Bennett-Warner. I get the feeling this isn't the last we'll see of either character.

I mentioned it above but this is the least Clara episode of the season so far. She's under-used - which some of the Clara 'haters' might have enjoyed - but I kind of think it is a waste of a good actress.

Kudos should also go to Keeley Hawes, who is brilliant as Ms Delphox. I'm not sure how they decided on her 'look' and who had input but I think someone in the production team - going back a while - has a thing for women in glasses and suits. Or eye-patches and suits. Or women in suits full stop. But Hawes is fab. It's another example of an actor doing a small-ish part in Doctor Who that makes you wish they'd been given something meatier and semi-regular.

The Teller looks great too. Surprisingly realistic and alive, which brings a certain charm along with it. The exterior shots of the bank also look fab and then it is nice to see we find ourselves inside a lot of Doctor Who corridors. In that sense - again - it feels very Classic Doctor Who.

Anyway re-reading what I've written I seem to have found less in it to enjoy that I my actual level of enjoyment would indicate. It was enjoyable. Not as much of a fun romp as Robot of Sherwood - which I found the most fun of the season so far, even if it isn't the best story of the season or perhaps it is - but fun enough. Not hugely original but that's not necessarily the worst of crimes (despite what some people seem to think.)

As I've said before the fundamental rule of Doctor Who for me is that it should be fun. Sometimes it's so fun that it over-rides all my standard adult analysis but sometimes it's just about fun enough. And that's how I feel about this story.

But still: Capaldi. Brilliant.

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