Doctor Who Recap
By Edwin Davies
September 30, 2014
Of course, they don't actually know what that something is, at least initially. After an introductory scene in which The Doctor tries vainly to dissuade Clara from going on a date with Danny (to what looks like a school disco night, judging by Clara's attire), he receives a call on the TARDIS phone. Since hardly anyone has that number, The Doctor decides to answer, only for he and Clara to find themselves in a darkened room, sitting opposite Psi and Saibra, holding disgusting grey worms and with no idea of how they got there. The worms, The Doctor informs us, have the ability to wipe memories, and they learn that they have been brought together by a mysterious figure known as The Architect in order to carry out the aforementioned robbery.
It won't be easy, though, since they have to fool the bank's DNA recognition software (which is where Saibra's shapeshifting comes in), work around their security protocols (which is where Psi's augmented hacking skills comes in) and evade the bank's most formidable defense: a psychic minotaur called The Teller who can sense guilt, then cause his targets' heads to collapse in on themselves. (Doctor Who continues to be excellent at generating nightmare fuel. I didn't even know I was afraid of concave heads until today!) All in all, it's a pretty tall order, not that that's ever stopped The Doctor from doing anything.
Continuing this season's theme of dropping The Doctor and Clara into different genres and seeing how they fare, this is Doctor Who's version of a heist movie, right down to the way the music at times resembles the cool yet vaguely nervy jazz that has become synonymous with sleek cinematic heists.
While the memory wiping serves a narrative purpose - by removing their memories, the team members are able to remove their guilt and avoid, at least for a time, The Teller's attention - it also removes all the usual set-up and planning that goes into these kinds of stories. They start in media res, then get down to carrying out the heist, which makes for a swift and entertaining episode, and adds an air of mystery as well as we wonder why they're breaking into a bank and who they are working for. The script, co-written by Moffat and Stephen Thompson, does a nice job of inverting the typical heist movie structure, while also using that inversion to create dramatic stakes and also peppering it with sharp dialogue and scenes of tension as the team tries to figure how to outsmart the bank's defenses.
In the end, it turns out that The Architect was actually The Doctor in a hoodie, which isn't that big of a shock (well, okay, the hoodie was), and that he was the one who orchestrated the entire enterprise. What was surprising was the reason behind it all, and it reaffirmed the idea that the show is committing to telling stories that aren't about saving the galaxy on a weekly basis. Throughout the episode, the team members are competing against the bank's malicious owner, Madame Karabraxos, as well as her copy Ms Delphox (both played by Keeley Hawes, best known to fans of vaguely smutty prestige dramas for co-starring in the BBC adaptation of Tipping the Velvet, and to gamers for frequently voicing Lara Croft). When they confront her, right as a solar storm is about to destroy the bank, The Doctor realises something, hands her his phone number, and says that she will call him when she is old and full of regret, which she does (or did, depending on your perspective).