"I know men like him. I've served under them. They push you and make you stronger until you're doing things you never thought you could. I saw you tonight, you did exactly what he told you. You weren't even scared, and you should have been."
For this season of Doctor Who, Ross Miller and Kwame Opam will be sounding off on each episode in a series of emails we'll be publishing on the site. This week it's "Time Heist" (warning: spoilers ahead). Check out our previous recaps: "Deep Breath," "Into the Dalek," "Robots of Sherwood," "Listen," and "Time Heist."
It's paradoxical that I feel less enthused to write about Doctor Who when it's had a series of good episodes. Last night's episode was all about getting Danny Pink — and, indeed, the Doctor — up to speed on Clara's life. I don't know why Clara constantly thinks it's better to make up elaborate lies, but at least that's a consistent trait throughout the series.
The monster of the week was an absolute bore, and I think that was the point — it was just a plot device to explore the dynamic between three key characters. (It's been a long time since I've been able to say "clever monster took a backseat to character study" about any Doctor Who episode, so I'm gonna appreciate this one for a moment longer.) Of course the Doctor thought Clara's boyfriend was bow tie and frumpy haired Matt Smith lookalike, but still I enjoyed that confusion.
The big theme here, now that Danny is caught up (and assuredly will go on adventures) is a theme we've heard quite a few times. The Doctor hates soldiers but "weaponizes" every companion. Danny was a soldier... is a soldier... and he sees in The Doctor someone who can inspire people to reach out of their comfort zone and risk their life for whatever unclear plan he has. We see people die all the time — remember Ross from "Into the Dalek"? — and in some ways, Clara has just been lucky. Whether her fate is ultimately one of tragic death or just getting fed up and leaving before it's too late, we'll probably find out soon.
Oh, well let me dig in a bit here. I'm with you in that I couldn't care less about the Skovox Blitzer, but I thought there were some thoroughly crackerjack character interactions here. It was fun and mostly light-hearted, but there were some pretty cutting moments that really has me rooting for the show as it carries on.
The idea of how we see ourselves and how others perceive us was crucial here, and was the heart of the Danny-Clara-Doctor drama. We first see that with Clara, who's doing double duty with the Doctor and Danny and keeping her relationship with them compartmentalized, presumably because being a time-hopping Companion isn't compatible with being a normal girlfriend. We also see that with the Doctor, who's metamorphosed from a pseudo-love interest for Clara to more of a curmudgeony father figure.
But this was really Danny's episode more than anyone else's. He's the one who exposes a little bit in each of the former while giving himself a chance to look a little badass in the process. (Not all of us can flip over a laser gun-toting killing machine just to draw its fire.) As his and Clara's relationship is starting to bear fruit — she says the L-word and everything — they have a pretty heavy conversation about the Doctor's needing her. For it to go anywhere (as opposed to, say, Rose and Mickey way back when) she needs to know that he's there for her, won't be cast aside for an adventure or two, and won't take well to her over-extending herself for the Doctor's sake. And his exchange with the Doctor was a powerful one, since he can so early on see through the Doctor's facade. The Doctor's a Lord. The kind of guy who sends people into the fray to do his dirty work. We've seen that time and again, and we know that's true. That even if he doesn't fancy himself a hero, he's an authority figure, the guy who saves the world despite the terrible cost that comes with it. We even see that when he assigns himself the role of General to the Skovox Blitzer at the end of the episode.
All told, I like the idea that all these characters need each other for very specific reasons. It's works well enough to overshadow the throwaway monster.
There's more of course. The end, where we finally return to the show's sinister version of Heaven. I'm really curious about how people get sent to that place. Is it their consciousness trapped in some temporal bubble? Does it all have to do with people the Doctor failed to save? If that's the case, how many people are in that place?
Oh! And I'm just gonna say here that Courtney Woods would make a wonderful companion. We need more of her.
For a second I was worried I wouldn't have anything to complain about, and then you reminded me of that flip. That stupid, impossible flip. If this was Matt Smith era, he'd be given a silly oversimplified nickname like "The Impossible Flipper" or "The Boy Who Flipped Out." Also, if the Blitzer really was a threat to the kids, how the hell did he miss so many shots? I wouldn't even bet on him in a game of BattleBots (BioHazard would destroy him).
Otherwise, I kind of agree with everything you've said here. I'm completely disinterested in the Promised Land scene. The one takeaway is that people do think of it as an afterlife, but the tease out is so minimal and it really was just tacked on to an otherwise unrelated episode. I almost wish they saved it as a callback for a mythology-heavy episode.
So... where's your Batman / Robin analogy? C'mon, I'm waiting for it!
Yeah, for a killing machine, that thing had terrible aim. And was slow. And really wasn't that menacing. I mean, we're talking about a series where trashcans with plungers for arms are supposed to be the Universe's greatest threat, and they too have terrible aim. So Blitzer really had nothing going for it.
And... I'm struggling here. I wouldn't exactly say he's Barbara Gordon, but I suppose it makes sense. But then you have to wonder what his fate will be long term. Will he suffer some horrible accident at the hands of the Big Bad? Will a Cyberman shoot him in the back? Will he wind up with a really cool modernized costume? Time will tell, friends. Time will tell.
Also, I really rather like the idea of Peter Capaldi being a janitor. "There's a sinister puddle" is such a great line.