It’s watching episodes like this that makes you wonder, “How has this not been done before?” It’s such a simple but enthralling idea, the Doctor robs an ultra-high-security intergalactic bank, the basis of what could only be a wonderfully fun and gripping story, that you wonder how it’s taken Doctor Who 51 years to make it. I’m pleased to say this episode more than delivered on its promises. It’s a fun, thrilling, adrenaline-fuelled ride oozing with danger and real mystery. It entices you almost from the get-go, when the Doctor answers a curious phone call and suddenly finds himself breaking into a high-security bank. The thrills never let up at any point in the episode, and the stakes climb frighteningly higher when the Doctor and his accomplices see the kind of private security they’re up against: the terrifying Teller, which reads minds and turns brains into soup. Wonderfully realised, the scenes in which the Teller scans the brains of its victims are genuinely gripping, heart-in-mouth stuff.
What held my attention, though, was the mystery of what this was all about, and who exactly the Architect was — it’s less compelling the second time round, now that I know the end of the story, but I remember vividly being just desperate to know what was going on when I first saw it. I was slightly disappointed by the resolution to the mystery, that it was the Doctor all along and he was helping free the creature, the Teller. I suppose it was entirely predictable, but I guess I was hoping for something more significant, like progress on the Gallifrey arc (given that this was a time heist, I was expecting Time Lord involvement; and especially given the tease of what the Doctor’s “reward” could possibly be). I suppose I should have known that the show wasn’t doing the serialised arc-heavy storytelling, à la Series 6, that I loved any more.
Nevertheless, in a way, the actual resolution was quite nice. It affords the Twelfth Doctor some genuine character development, showing us that, volatile and stripped-back as he might be, this is still the same Time Lord with a passion for justice and right, who’ll still go out of his way in pursuit of any small measure of justice. Although I admit I’d have loved the Doctor’s reward to have been the co-ordinates of Gallifrey or the identity of another living Time Lord or something, what he got was very fitting: the chance to save a beautiful creature from captivity, and the chance to give redemption to an old soul filled with regret (now who does that sound like?) There are a couple of moments you question the Doctor in this episode, where the Doctor makes you uneasy, like his callousness over Saibra’s “death” and his apparent lack of regret over Psi’s sacrifice (just watch Clara’s reaction when the Doctor seems to display no remorse when it looked like Psi had died for nothing). But the revelation that the Doctor did this favour to Madame Karabraxos to free the Teller and its mate tells us more about our new Doctor than any of the Doctor’s questionable behaviour in this episode.
Some final thoughts. I thought Psi and Saibra were very engaging characters. It wasn’t just their “special powers” (which were pretty awesome, to be honest), they were just endearing characters, written and acted in a way that made me invest in them. It was a little surreal to see Olly from Broadchurch as an “augmented human” robbing a sci-fi intergalactic bank, but I totally rolled with it. Keeley Hawes made an entertaining Ms Delphox/Madame Karabraxos, and it was patently obvious she was having delightful fun playing the slightly camp villain in this episode. As exciting as it was, I thought the episode could have benefited from being a two-parter that followed the group as they gradually broke their way deeper and deeper into the bank; at the pace it was, it all seemed a bit too easy, and we didn’t really get a sense of the alleged sheer impregnability of the bank. Peter Capaldi gets what’s easily the best line in the entire episode (maybe the entire series), which is worth quoting in full: “Shut up. Just shut up, shut up, shut up, shutitty up up up.” He’s channelling Malcolm Tucker again, to hilarious effect (here’s hoping we see more of it in Series 9). Christopher Eccleston had “Fantastic!” David Tennant had “Allons-y!” Matt Smith “Geronimo!” And Peter Capaldi? “Shut up.” Brilliant.