After the crisis of confidence that arrived with the dawn of his new incarnation, the Doctor we see in “Time Heist” is settling fully into his new, slightly flinty character, and clearly starting to enjoy himself.
He’s just as argumentative as always but with a deep sense of compassion that has been previously kept well-hidden. And if it’s well-hidden things you want, a bank is a decent place to start.
Here are a few things to keep an eye out for, the next time you watch:
Director Douglas Mackinnon said that his interpretation of the script came from an abiding love of heist movies, telling the Daily Record: “I’ve watched virtually every heist movie there’s ever been, and it incorporates things into it, but because it’s Doctor Who, time travel is involved… In traditional heist style, you get a gang together and each has a skill. One of the big things is, when the phone goes, they all arrive in this place and none of them can remember how they got there. They have to discover that as they travel, as they’re involved in a bank raid but they don’t know what they’re trying to find.”
On first encountering the Teller, the Doctor claims that he “hates” not knowing what it is. This is in marked contrast to some of his former selves. While the Eleventh Doctor agreed that he also does not enjoy being kept in the dark, the War Doctor said he’d “certainly hope” to find out things he didn’t already know, in “The Day of the Doctor,” while the Tenth Doctor admitted, during “The Fires of Pompeii,” that he was rather enjoying having to find stuff out, saying: “I don’t know. Isn’t that brilliant? I love not knowing. Keeps me on my toes. It must be awful being a prophet, waking up every morning, is it raining? Yes, it is, I said so. Takes all the fun out of life.”
There’s a Broadchurch crossover in this episode, in that Jonathan Bailey, who plays Psi, is the local reporter Olly Stevens in Chris Chibnall’s police drama, which also stars former Doctor David Tennant and current Doctor Jodie Whittaker.
The character of Psi was inspired by the similarly mentally enhanced title character from the movie Johnny Mnemonic, starring Keanu Reeves. As he shows information on the past criminals, we can see a few choice villains from Doctor Who’s past, across various media. There’s a member of the Slitheen family, an Ice Warrior, Kahler-Tek (from “A Town Called Mercy”), a Terileptil (from “The Visitation”) and a Sensorite (from “The Sensorites”).
Outside of Doctor Who the TV show, there’s an extra treat in that section for fans of Doctor Who comics, we also see the face of Abslom Daak, a popular character from the Doctor Who Weekly comic series “Abslom Daak… Dalek Killer” in 1980. There’s also the character of Captain John Hart (played by James Marsters), as seen in the Torchwood stories “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” and “Exit Wounds,” and The Trickster from The Sarah Jane Adventures.
And while we’re on comics, the character of Saibra was inspired by two X-Men. She has the shape-shifting abilities of Mystique/Raven, and the physical proximity abilities of Rogue, in that she has to touch someone in order to become them. Rogue battles the feelings of isolation that she’ll always be alone, thanks to her mutant abilities, and so does Saibra, noting: “No one can touch me. If they do, I transform. Touch me, Doctor, and you’ll be looking at yourself. I am alone.”
The Doctor may not have experienced a bank full of clone staff before, but his former companion Bernice Summerfield, from the Big Finish Doctor Who adventures, came across something similar in “Glory Days.” She also arrived at the bank with the intention of stealing something.
Hats off to actor Clem So, who has an uncredited role as one of the bank’s customers, with a painting to deposit. A regular member of Doctor Who‘s repertory cast, he played the potter in ancient China who wrote “Yowzah!” on what would become a priceless vase (“The Angels Take Manhattan”), a Japanese tourist at the Tower of London in “The Day of the Doctor” and a Mongolian warlord in the Season 7 prequel “Pond Life.” He was one of the clockwork androids in “Deep Breath,” one of the trap street aliens in “Face the Raven,” a bystander on the frozen Thames in “Thin Ice,” one of Rafando’s guards in “Extremis” and a villain in “The Husbands of River Song.” And in “Oxygen” he was the corpse on the Chasm Forge who touches Bill Potts, thereby making her a corpse too.
Keeley Hawes (Madame Karabraxos) will have been well-known to British viewers not just from her role in Spooks, the show known as MI-5 in some countries, but also from the leading role in Ashes to Ashes, the time-traveling sequel to Life on Mars, which starred fellow Doctor Who star John Simm. But that’s not the only link to the Master from this story. The part of Madame Karabraxos was originally offered to none other than Michelle Gomez, now best known as Missy.
As we see Madama Karabraxos reclining in her private vault, the music she is listening to is a section of the opera Singspiel Die Entführung aus dem Serail (“The Abduction from the Seraglio”, or “Il Seraglio”) by Mozart:
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