A bank robbery with a time travel twist. That’s new.
Doctor Who has always been about crashing into different genres. The Doctor meets Shakespeare, the Doctor meets Frankenstein, the Doctor meets James Bond. The show is specifically built to be a different category of story each week; it could be a mystery or an action adventure or a horror tale, etc. etc. And ever since The Time Meddler way back in the Hartnell era it has been about genre mash-ups, so why not a heist with a bit of timey-wimey stuff thrown in for good measure?
It’s odd that a robbery story hasn’t been attempted before, seems like a pretty obvious thing to do now that it’s done. And now that it’s been done I’m pretty glad they did it. This was, for me, a thoroughly entertaining hour of television and proves that Doctor Who is at the top of its game and continues to write the rules of that game over and over again.
Yes, yes there are some nitpicky things that can be said about this episode. There are some plot holes (how did the Architect/Doctor get in to place the suitcases?) and some production flaws (the same corridor over and over with just a different filter) and, let’s face it, this is the same conclusion as Hide just a year ago. But to be honest I really didn’t notice this until a second viewing. The show was well paced and the dialogue was witty and I simply just took the ride and enjoyed myself. So far that’s the gist of this season. Five episodes in and it is still just a ride.
I can say wholeheartedly that I am enjoying that ride but if I’m to be honest, not as much as past years. This is a thing that is okay. I am of the mind that you can like something else more without hating the current thing.
I only mention this because if you surf around fandom a bit you will hear a chorus of doomsayers touting the inevitable demise of the Doctor. They seem to think that if the status quo (i.e. what they personally want) is not adhered to the program will be cancelled. On the flip side you have the fans that are unwilling to say anything bad about the show for fear it may be cancelled. Both notions are wrongheaded.
So I will say again that I am enjoying this season so far but it is not my favorite. And that is okay. I can simultaneously enjoy something while acknowledging that other seasons were better. I can be complicated that way. I haven’t quite warmed to Capaldi’s Doctor yet, but that does not mean that it is somehow a return to the Colin Baker era. None of the stories so far have overwhelmed me as in years past, but that does not mean they are not well written and entertaining.
Look, Doctor Who has always been about experimentation. The best stories have been when the program steps outside its normal routine, when it tries something different. And yes, at times that experiment falls flat. But even then, if nothing else, it is fun to watch.
This season is no different. And we are not even half way through. The experiment is still ongoing, there is a good chance that when the season arc is revealed all the disparate pieces and dangling plot threads will come together and change my opinion completely. I could happen. Even if it doesn’t the ride to get there is still interesting.
Bottom line, I am still loving this show. Pine as I might for the past it continues to be innovative and creative and sets the bar really high for genre television and TV in general for that matter.
The show continues its long, existential exploration of identity and the deconstruction of the hero. The Doctor hates himself, this is a notion used in the Matt Smith era most notably in Amy’s Choice. In every episode so far the Doctor has questioned his “goodness” and if he really is a hero. We also get Madam Karabraxos’ hatred of her own clones (and by extension herself) and Saibra’s comment about “looking into your own eyes” making people uncomfortable. I have found this thread extremely fascinating from the start and am really hoping it plays out to a satisfactory conclusion.
Abslom Daak is apparently canon now, so that’s cool.
Next Week: Back to Coal Hill School