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Doctor Who Recap: “Time Heist”

Doctor Who Recap: “Time Heist”
  • On September 23, 2014

Welcome to my obsession. Spoilers ahoy. All the recaps are here.

Who doesn’t love a bank heist? Weird people, that’s who. I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the new Who series and I have to wonder–are they watching what I’m watching? Whatever. Haters to the left, this is a hell of a lot of fun.

Time Heist opens with Clara getting ready for a date by wearing a somewhat feminine equivalent of a Men in Black outfit. I approve of this outfit. The Doctor is trying to get her to come with him to some fun place and is right put out she has somewhere else to be.

Srsly though great outfit.

Srsly though great outfit.

For once he doesn’t comment negatively about her appearance, just in a confused “why are you so happy-looking” way.

Before she can get out the door, the phone on the TARDIS rings. She asks the Doctor not to answer it because we all know what happens when you answer the TARDIS phone.

Side note: I dug up that clip when I was looking for the Empty Child phone ringing moment but I like it better because we learn for the first time about the “woman in the shop” that gave Clara the Doctor’s number. They’ve been talking about that woman all this season. We still have no idea who she is.¬†

Clara: Don’t.

Doctor: Why not?

Clara: Because if you answer it something will happen.

Doctor: What

Clara: A thing.

Doctor: It’s just a phone Clara. Nothing happens when you answer the phone.



Just kidding, when you answer the phone, you suddenly appear in a room with your memory wiped, holding a worm. It’s a memory-wiping worm. Rule one–the Doctor lies.

We find Clara and the Doctor sitting with two other people, a cyborg-type human guy (Psi) and a “mutant” woman (Saibra). No one has any idea how they got to the room. A recording of all their voices plays, telling them they’ve agreed to the memory wipe of their own free wills. Saibra has the greatest eye makeup of all time. Cue credits. (cough I still really love the new credit sequence cough)

Who the fuckity fuck are you people?

Who the fuckity fuck are you people?

They watch a video (it’s in that briefcase on the table). A person calling themselves “The Architect” (with disguised voice and face) tells them they’re in the most secure bank in the galaxy. They explain the security procedures of the bank (scary) and that they are unauthorized to be on the planet. The Architect suggests they follow instructions, and tells them to rob the bank they’re in.

As the video finishes up, a security team begins banging on the door trying to get in to arrest and probably incinerate the intruders. There is some panicked scrambling, then the scene briefly switches to a woman (who looks a little like Missy but isn’t) in a very white office asking her officers to report in.

Good luck with that, bank lady.

Good luck with that, bank lady.

She heads into the next room which is way less sterile and says they will need the “Teller.” There’s a creature in a tank we can’t really see. She asks him if he’s hungry, leaving us to wonder what he eats.

Our intrepid bank robbers run down a hallway, then pause to figure out who is good at what. They find that Saibra can make herself look like anyone else she wants as long as she can touch their DNA. The Doctor says he has a DNA profile from the briefcase, probably a customer’s. She turns into a silver fox kinda guy in a pinstripe suit.

They make their way to the main lobby of the bank, headed for the safety deposit box they learned about in their instructions. The Doctor wonders–why wouldn’t I use the TARDIS to rob a bank? They realize they don’t know where the TARDIS is. That’s discomforting.

The bank locks down suddenly. The woman from the white office emerges with “the Teller,” a psychic creature that can read guilt right out of your mind. The Teller scans a nearby man’s thoughts, discovers his guilt, then “eats” the rest of his brain. His head caves in. It’s freaky.

Mmm tasty brain.

Mmm tasty brain.

Bank lady also tells him his family will be incarcerated for good measure. We never do find out what he was guilty of. Poor flat headed dude. The crew of bank robbers watch the whole thing, trying really hard not to think about the fact that they are super guilty also.

They make their way into a safety deposit box where they are retrieving items. Saibra uses her silver fox DNA to open the vault. Psi projects a bank schematic on the wall and they discover they’re supposed to bomb a hole in the floor to enter a service corridor.

Elsewhere there’s a brief exchange between security and bank lady where we discover they caught the wrong guilty guy. The woman figures she’ll be fired. With pain.

Setting off a bomb in close quarters makes the team… uncomfortable. They do some arguing. The Doctor points out that they’ve agreed to this for a reason, even one they can’t remember, and that probably the thing they want most in the world is in the bank somewhere. Most likely, that’s how they’re being paid. The team reluctantly agrees to the bomb.

Psi: I still don’t understand why you’re in charge.

Doctor: Basically, it’s the eyebrows.


Hoooole in the floor.

It turns out to be a “dimensional shift bomb” that moves the particles of the floor somewhere else. Handy. The team slips through and the floor particles re-appear just before security gets there.

Side note: The Doctor keeps complimenting the Architect’s methods. That’s pretty funny later.

Saibra asks what’s next. The Doctor says “my personal plan is that a thing will happen soon.” Saibra is not comforted. Soon they find another briefcase waiting for them. Clara points out the obvious–if the guy can break in and leave briefcases for us, why doesn’t he just rob the bank himself? No answer for that one, but they have bigger things to worry about since the bank detects guilt and they are all super guilty right now. Best to keep moving. In the case, they discover six devices the Doctor won’t explain.

Psi tells the team stress is running his batteries low. The Doctor suggests he interfaces with a wall unit to recharge (we’ve all been there).

Saibra: Do we have time for this?

Doctor: Why not, there’s no immediate threat?

Alarm: goes off.

Doctor: I should really stop saying things like that.

USB, charger of the future.

USB, charger of the future.

The team splits up, Clara stays with Psi. We find out that Psi had to manually delete his entire family and friends from his memory to keep them safe. Now he remembers no one in his life. Clara asks why he would do that. He tells her he must have loved them very much.

Saibra asks the Doctor what the devices were. He tells her they’re an “exit strategy of sorts.” Saibra tells him that she hates being a mutant, because no one can touch her. No one, she says, wants to look into their own eyes. She really wants to not be a mutant anymore.

The team meets up in a hallway full of brain-eaten people. Saddest hallway. The alarm goes off again, and the team winds up hiding in the room with the Teller’s tank. The Doctor tells them to be quiet, but the Teller wakes up and winds up psychically locking onto Saibra (he tries Clara but she is able to clear her mind enough to lose his interest).



Saibra asks the Doctor for one of his “exit strategies” and he reveals that it will basically atomize her. No pain, and no living on as a person with no brain in a corridor. She takes it, and uses it. Before that, she asks the Doctor to kill the Architect. He says he hates him, but he won’t promise to kill him.


But he’s not happy about any of this.

The remaining team members emerge into a hallway with a vault at the end, their goal. There’s a really great interchange:

Clara: Are you okay?

Doctor: No, I’m an amnesiac robbing a bank, why would I be okay?

Clara: Because of Saibra.

Doctor: Saibra is dead. We’re alive. Prioritize if you want to stay that way.

Psi: Is that why you call yourself The Doctor? Professional Detachment.

Doctor: Listen, when we’re done here, by all means, you go and find yourself a shoulder to cry on. You’ll probably need that. Till then, what you need is me.

His face though. Gah.

His face though. Gah.

Clara: Underneath it all, he isn’t really like that.

Psi: It’s fairly obvious that you’ve been with him a while.

Clara: Why?

Psi: Because you are really good at the excuses.

BURNITY BURN DAMN. Good writing. I like.

Scary bank lady instructs security to release the Teller in to the tunnels to ferret out the team. She mentions again that getting fired would be Very Bad.

Psi plugs himself into the vault’s locks and begins to hack them with his brain. The Doctor and Clara split up, running in separate directions to confuse and draw the Teller away from Psi. The Doctor gives Psi an exit strategy, and Clara begs him not to use it. Eventually he gets the locks unlocking and runs away himself.

The Teller heads for Clara first. Maybe because he had a taste earlier, or something. She tries to clear her mind but the dude is coming right for her and it’s hard.

I'm in ur brainz, getting ready to eat them.

I’m in ur brainz, getting ready to eat them.

Psi hears her get caught, and uses his computer-augmented brain to somehow psychically project not just his own guilt but the guilt of all the criminals in history. The Teller decides yeah, that would be better than Clara so he goes for Psi instead. Before he uses his exit strategy, Psi tells Clara it’s okay, because he doesn’t remember anyone loving him and so he’s not losing all that much anyway. Awfully heroic for a criminal bank robber sort.

Meanwhile, the vault gets stuck on the very last lock. It turns out to be an “atomic seal,” unbreakable. Clara makes the observation that Psi died for nothing since they can’t get in. The Doctor promises her that the Architect must have a plan or they wouldn’t be there.

It's fine. Probably. Yeah.

It’s fine. Probably. Yeah.

Above ground, we discover there’s suddenly a massive solar storm that is tripping the bank’s systems. The Doctor figures that the storm will open the last lock, and Clara asks how the Architect could have known when a storm like that would hit. That’s when the Doctor figures it out: it’s a time travel heist. The Architect must have dropped them off in the past, at the exact moment he knew a storm would hit. Huh. Who would do such a thing?

In any case, the storm makes the vault open. Hooray.

Lots of vaults. LOTS.

Lots of vaults. LOTS.

The Doctor mentions that the storm explains why they’re not using the TARDIS. She wouldn’t have functioned properly either.

Clara has some codes that were in the last briefcase, box numbers. They go searching and find a special circuit that should bring back Psi’s memory, and a serum that should cure Saibra of her mutant gene. They collect the things, even though their teammates are gone. The Doctor and Clara’s reward is in “PV”–private vault. The one belonging to the owner of the bank (whom everyone is terrified of, especially her employees). That sounds like a safe place to go, right?

They try to head there but before they can, the Teller finds them. Instead of immediately eating their brains, he takes them to the bank employee lady. (Why? Don’t ask questions. Maybe she wanted to kill them via sharks with laser beams on their heads instead.) Bank lady explains that they keep the brainless Teller victims around to warn others. Creepy. She also tells the Doctor that the Teller is the last of his kind, and that the bank forces it to obey through some kind of “price.” She also mentions that she can’t quit her job because “her face fits.”

Instead of having the Teller eat their brains, she tells the security guards to “dispose” of the Doctor and Clara then leaves the room with the Teller. Why? What did I tell you about asking questions?!

The security guards turn out to be… Psi and Saibra! Woohoo!

When he makes that face I imagine him saying "what the fuckity fuck fuck is going on?"

When he makes that face I imagine him saying “what the fuckity fuck fuck is going on?”

The “exit strategies” were pretend death machines but were actually teleporters. That way, the Doctor thought they were dead so the Teller also thought that. Brilliant. Genius. Clever even. The Doctor is kind of adorably annoyed they’re alive. Like–how dare they have caused him inner turmoil and now be there? What even? He had FEELS, damn it. I understand this Doctor on a deep level.

He passes out their presents with a decidedly Wizard of Oz flair and tells them they can come finish the mission with him. They all head for the private vault.

When they get there, they discover a woman who looks just like the other bank lady surrounded by tons of stuff (her vault reminded me of the Collector on Star Trek).




She calls for the Teller (and we all wonder why the other bank lady didn’t just do that but whatever we don’t ask questions). We learn that the bank owner, Karabraxos, makes clones of herself for employees because she’s the only one she can trust. She fires the other bank lady, in the literal sense of the word. All the clones go in the incinerator.

The Doctor has a clever moment and figures out between the clones and Saibra’s power that he is, in fact, the Architect. He realizes that he put himself here, with no memory, for probably a pretty good reason. He gives Karabraxos his telephone number. He mentions that he’s a time traveler, and that someday in the future she will probably want to call him. She thinks he’s nuts. She’s probably right, but before she can do anything else the storm intensifies. She has to get out of the building before the bank locks down (or maybe gets destroyed? I’m not clear.)

You're weird and I don't like you but I have no time to care, goodbye.

You’re weird and I don’t like you but I have no time to care, goodbye.

He strongly urges her to call him someday. She’s like “whatever, weirdo.”

The Teller bursts into the room and the Doctor figures out that he can use the Teller to regain his memories. If the Teller scans the Doctor’s brain, he’ll be able to remember what the worm made him forget. Why does this work? Why doesn’t the Doctor get his brain eaten? How on earth does the memory scan return lost memories?


We get a flashback, where old lady Karabraxos is calling the Doctor from her death bed. She asks for his help with one of her deepest regrets, so she can die with that regret erased. All of this, we discover, was engineered by the Doctor to help her resolve that one regret.

Maybe you weren't as weird as I thought.

Maybe you weren’t as weird as I thought.

The Teller, I guess, also experienced these memories, and the Doctor says hey–everyone is gone and you can do exactly what you want to do now. Woo! The Teller goes to another locked door in the corner of the vault and opens it with its mind. Inside is a little room holding another of the Teller’s species–he’s not the last of the species after all, they are the last two. (She’s female. Handy.)

The next thing we see is the Doctor and Clara delivering the Teller and his companion to a quiet, empty planet together. Free at last. It’s really quite nice.

People in dorky rubber suits are my jam.

People in dorky rubber suits are my jam.

The bank robbing team goes for Chinese and to hang out for a bit, then the Doctor returns Psi and Saibra home with their greatest wishes in hand. Saibra is all fixed, and can give hugs and that is pretty cool. The Doctor gets Clara back in time for her date. There’s a stupid fat/calorie joke I hate. Grr.

The Doctor does a little private brag once she’s gone: “Robbing a bank, robbing a whole bank. Beat that for a date.” He’s a little bit like his old self here, and I’m kinda glad because seeing him so dark and nasty all the time is tough. It’s nice to see he’s still a big old softie, even a little insecure.

In any case, that’s the end of the episode. Next week, he insinuates himself into her work life!

(Screencaps from

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