It’s the fifth episode of series eight and you’d think that by now, after a streak of reasonably good episodes, that Doctor Who would be getting back into the swing of having pretty consistent quality in terms of episodes. Nope. We’re presented with this mid-series turd.
The premise of this episode is simple and exciting enough, “Doctor Who robs a bank” what could be more exciting? (Incidentally, anyone who feels like commenting “It’s The Doctor not Doctor Who” should go take a look at themselves in the mirror and see what you’ve become.) But it was so poorly executed. They set up this bank as the hardest place to break into in the entire Verse, so why is it that they went though a couple of vents and popped out in the main vault? Seriously, why do all these wealthy people trust this bank? The only thing I saw in the bank that may have hindered robbers is the corridors all looking identical. (I thought Doctor Who had a bigger budget than that these days?)
Well there is The Teller, which is some wonderful creature design, proper weird, even if it is a little Admiral Akbar-ish. I loved the slo-mo shot of it walking into the hall, chained and bound. Almost like an old Western. (Oddly enough though, the creature looked far better in its straight jacket than it’s naked form at the end, which just made it look a little naff.) Despite this, I feel that the creature’s ark was just copied and pasted from last series’ Hide (which incidentally was also awful).
But don’t worry! The monster is just a monster, we have a villain too! Played by Keeley Hawes! This is fantastic! But alas, no. Both her characters feel like stock “rich-baddies” and her acting talents are woefully under-used. (A thing that Doctor Who has an annoying habit of doing actually. I would love to see more Simon Pegg in Doctor Who, but no, he was The Editor for about four minutes in the first revived series.)
As a result of the seemingly non-existent security and weak antagonists this episode feels entirely risk-free, suspense-free and fun-free. Poor show from Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat. Poor show. (In addition, do you think we have another Moffat trope on our hands? That is: memory. This episode is full of people losing memories, or having them read. When the Doctor invites the Teller to take his mind and many memories I am reminded of a similar scene in Rings of Akhaten. And let’s not forget about the Silence, a memory based monster. Also Oswin/Clara wiping the Dalek’s memory of the Doctor in Asylum of the Daleks. It would seem the Moffat era is teaming with not only re-writing the past, but re-writing or destroying memories.)
Though the writers are not entirely to blame for how bad the episode is, it was also put together rather poorly, which I suspect is a joint venture between the writers and the director Douglas Mackinnon (who did so well on last week’s Listen). Here it was poor, from attempts to make the scenes more dramatic than was possible (see: the four characters walking in slo-mo, a la Hustle) or dumb, stock transitions in a poor attempt to convey the passage of time, while the viewer sits and thinks “why don’t you just do a normal, jump cut?”
You may have noticed by now that I have not yet mentioned the two supporting characters introduced in this episode: Psi and Saibra (I had to google their names). That’s because there’s nothing to talk about. I don’t feel sympathetic towards these people, I don’t want to know them, I don’t care who they are, if they die, they are just there seemingly to save the Doctor and Clara in that one scene. Otherwise they seem almost pointless.
Overall, I did not enjoy this episode and I hope to god that next week’s is better.
(PS, apologies for all the asides and parentheses. I’m not sure why there are so many today. My mind is all over the place. Perhaps I touched one of those worms.)