Sunday 21 September 2014

Time Heist (time shift)

At every action, no matter by whom performed, make it a practice to ask yourself, 'What is his object in doing this?’  But begin with yourself; put this question to yourself first of all.
- Marcus Albus Dumbledore Aurelius

Or (if you want to be all obvious about it)

I received a call from Mimi Du Jour, she wanted me to come to the club right away. Since I had no idea where the Club Rightaway was, I suggested we go to the Club Flamingo. She agreed.  Well, you take a big chance getting up in the morning, crossing the street, or sticking your face in a fan.
- Sergeant Frank Drebin (Detective Lieutenant Police Squad)

Me:  Right.


In Star Trek there are some… ‘rules’.  One is that any character you’ve not seen before, if they’re wearing a red shirt when beamed down to a planet, isn’t going to make it through the mission.  They’re just there to act as collateral damage so that a listed character can bellow “NOOOOOOO!” in slow motion’-1

Him:  But you hate Star Trek.

Me:  TV Star Trek and all the odd-numbered films are universally sensorite. That’s just the rule.  They’re pants.  The even-numbered Star Trek movies are all right.  Now-

Him:  Although, you hate all of them equally.

Me:  No, no, no.  The even-numbered films are okay.  By and large.  And some moments in the 'Doc' Abrams lensflare series are alright too.  Now, with Doctor Who, there’s also a quality control ‘rule’.  If it’s got ‘Time’ in the title, watch a different one.

Him:  What about Time and the Rani?

Me:  Exactly.

Him:  You love that one.3

Me:  Time Flight?

Him:  You’re just listing ones that you love.

Me:  Timelash?

Him:  Well, Arc of Infinity doesn’t have ‘Time’ in the title, and you still hate that one.

Me:  No, no, no, it’s just a rule: “If it’s got ‘Time’ in the title then-”  Actually, Invasion of Time’s alright.  Nice twist, just a bit too long.  Having said that, End of Time Parts Un and Deux, of course.  Time Crash doesn’t count.4  All of which brings us, shudderingly, to Time Heist.

Him:  The Time Meddler!  I take it you thought that was awful?

Me:  No, I didn’t.  The Time Meddler’s really good.

Him:  Ah ha ha!

Me:  It’s just an arbitrary rule-

Him:  Ah ha ha.  Ha ha.  Ha ha ha.  Ha ha.

Me:  -that I’ve used as an introductory prologue to our ‘review’.  Most of the 'Time'-titled stories in question are let down by their production, rather than their scripts, so-

Him:  Ah ha.  Ha.

Me:  Time Heist then.  I thought it was very good, with flaws.  What did you think of it?

Him:  Why don’t I answer that…

Me:  Ha!

Him:  …in the form of a question?  What did you think of Time Heist?

Me:  Well...  Okay.  I thought the production design was brilliant.  I think Douglas Mackinnon’s a very, very good director and I liked some of the choices that he made.  The colours that run through it are glorious, you can almost taste them.  It’s beautiful.  The way that it cuts from location to location’s very nice.  I liked the way that one shot crashed into another, but there’s more to be said about that.  The Teller looked magnificent.  Peter Capaldi was, as usual, great.  Jenna Coleman, likewise.  Keeley Hawes… was much better in one role than the other.


What did you think of the Teller?

Him:  What did you-

Me:  I’ve said.  I thought it looked amazing.

Him:  You didn’t think it looked too much like something from Star Trek?

Me:  No, I didn’t.  What did it remind you of?  You said something while we were watching it…

Him:  I just said it didn’t look particularly… Doctor Whoish. 

Me:  Why Star Trek?5

Him:  Look at stuff from Star Trek and you'll see.

Me:  I’m sure you mentioned minotaurs.

Him:  No.  That’s not how it looks, that’s how it acts.

Me:  Oh, right.  So you got a The God Complex/“Praise him” type of vibe?  And when it's locked onto you…

Him:  And being really slow and everything, yeah.

Me:  God, that’s something I’m going to have to come back to.6

Him:  “Don’t bother running.  You’ve got ages.”

Me:  “It’ll take forever.”  Yeah.  It walks in slow motion everywhere.  I know that’s supposed to add the illusion of weight as well as quoting aspects of the generic visual language found in recent crime dramas, but it was…  How long was this episode under-running?  Why did they need to slow so many scenes down?  Was there another missing scene dragged and dropped into a recycle bin somewhere in the BBC?  What’s going on there?  An awful lot of Time Heist didn’t remind me of Ocean’s 11 or Ocean’s Twelve.  It didn’t remind me of-

Him:  Original or remake?

Me:  Nice one.  It didn’t remind me of any of the slick remakes born after Sexy Beast, with all those Snyderesque slow-slow-quick-quick-slow 'Floorshow'7 moments.  It didn’t remind me of – well, apparently there’s a show called ‘Bustle’ or ‘Rustle’ or Hustle or something.

Him:  ‘Muscle’.

Me:  That’s the one, ‘Muscle’.  It didn’t remind me of that.  Didn’t remind me too much of Spooks, which I think Keeley Hawes was in for a bit.  What it reminded me of, more than anything else, was A Touch of Cloth.

Him:  Ha!  Yes!

Me:  And all the way through those walking montages I was thinking…  Anyway.  I was going to say that I didn’t think that Psi had been directed very well, because Jonathan Bailey added some touches that were really good, but I have a suspicion that the problems I’m going to highlight actually come down to the script.  Also, there were a couple of directorial decisions that were a little bit clunky.  Tell me what you think about this... 


It felt to me…  I think that script was written, mostly,8 before Peter Capaldi was cast.  I don’t think they knew who was going to play the Doctor.

Him:  Well, no, because Steven Moffat said he’d already decided Peter Capaldi was going to play the Doctor.

Me:  Yeah, of course he's going to say that.  I felt to me like a Matt Smith episode.  There’re some poor dialogue choices in the Time Heist script.  It’s all well and good having a character called the Architect but when the writer’s left some of the-

Him:  Yeah, some of the bits did feel more ‘Peter Capaldi’.  They could easily have been added afterwards.

Me:  Oh, I think you’re right.  The line, "I look like a magician," that’s come from some of the comments that were made when the first promo photo of Peter Capaldi was made public.  Remember?  The one where he’s standing and pointing?  Fans photoshopped images of him pulling hats out of rabbits and-

Him:  ‘Hats out of rabbits’?

Me:  Yeah, I got that right.  Ha!  And the…  The bit about the scarf and the bowtie and the whole “That was all silly…”  That bit.  The Doctor’s mentioned the scarf before.  That’s an intentional thing.  I like the story, don’t get me wrong.  I think the story’s really good.  It reminds me of a lost Time Twister story or an unused Future Shock pitch or something.  I like the way it keeps pulling the rug out from under you.  

Him:  Why is it that the bank so secure and yet a solar flare’s enough to destroy it?  Why’d they build it right next to a sun?

Me:  I think it’s a very powerful solar flare.  You can even see it flashing in rooms without any windows.  I thought that was impressive.

Him:  Especially in a place with no cameras.  Why were there no cameras?

Me:  It’s not that there weren’t any cameras…

Him:  The cameras are all watching the people that don’t have brains!

Me:  Just in case they drool too much.  Some of it…  Part of the reason it reminded me of Matt Smith was…  Some of that episode was too slack.  They were running on things they’ve done before and going back to doing things the way they used to do them.  Some of the performances in Time Heist are far too big.  Recently, there’s been a lot of under-playing, the acting’s been more subtle and reined-in.  In Time Heist there’s slightly too much, “LOOK AT ME, MUM!  I’M PERFORMING!”  Which is…  Do we have to do that? 

Him:  Especially Murray Gold.

(Longer pause than a sea badger trying to blind an event horizon.)

Me:  I’m going to get on to-

Him:  He returned.

Me:  Yeah, he came back-

Him:  With a vengeance.

Me:  -with a brown vengeance.  The music was all over the place.  And some of it was appalling.  Really bad. They’ve had four weeks of doing the music really, really well and then this week they go and mess it all up.  We’re straight back to turning on the Lloyd-Webbenator.

Him:  Who’s Lloyd Webber?

Me:  Don’t worry.  You’ll encounter him as you get older.  In the next time trailer, they’re using the Matt Smith-

Him:  ‘The Sun’s Gone Wibbly’.

Me:  Yeah.  Or, ‘I am the Doctor’.  Apart from the disrespect it shows to Capaldi, it’s lazy.  There’s no need for it and it’s hugely disappointing.  Especially after how good it’s been.  In fact, there was quite a bit of recycling in that one.  We’ve already seen the Teller’s character arc in Hide for a start. 

Him:  Yes.

Me:  And, apart from bringing back arch performances and Murray Gold’s music-by-numbers setting – by which I’m tremendously disappointed, he’s built up a lot of goodwill over the past few weeks and that went quite some way toward knocking it back down, - it was nice to see the Countdown Dalek’s borrowed the Doctor’s voice-alterfying device and gone freelance. 

Him:  Yeah.

Me:  One of Keeley Hawes’ performances was indistinguishable from Sarah Lancashire’s as Ms. Foster in Partners in Crime: the Nanny of the Adipose.  It’s played almost exactly the same, down to the glasses and the walk.  Not only that, tonight we had another ‘Madame K’.9  First there’s Madame Kovarian – as played by Frances Barber – and now we’ve got Madame Karabraxos. 

Him:  They even look the same!

Me:  I know!10  Now, obviously Steven Moffat’s contributed enough to the script to warrant a writing credit on the episode along with Stephen Thompson.  That can’t just be because of the bit at the start, the ongoing Danny and Clara story.  Lovely though that is, it’s just too brief.  


The opening shot, with the Doctor’s head spinning around while he stares into the untempered schism part of the rinse-cycle-

Him:  It’s a toilet.

Me:  Ha!  It’s not a toilet!  It’s not a vanishing goldfish’s POV either!  But, yeah, that bit.  “The Satanic Majesty of Jagger” or whatever he says at the start – that bit was great.  But then the tone lurches with Murray Gold’s rush of blood.  It’s like when you put your foot down and it turns unexpectedly causing you to miss the kerb and end up breaking your ankle.  It was the dramatic equivalent of hobbling the audience with music.  And that’s not a good way to start off an episode.

(Pause to wipe off the spittle.)

Later on, you said, “Why are we having all this triumphant music?  What’s going on?”  Everyone’s standing around and it’s just parping away - the BBC must pay that orchestra danger money – parping away in the background.  Did you know the Doctor was going to be the Architect?

Him:  I did actually figure that bit out.

Me:  Uh-huh.

Him:  About half-way through.  At the start I was thinking, “Okay, he’s probably the same character because this is Steven Moffat,” and then more and more things pointed towards it.  Like the fact he’s a time-traveller and the Doctor hates him.  And stuff.

Me:  That was somehow both overdone and underdeveloped.  Which is a weird mix.  They jumped to the conclusion without properly setting up the mystery.  Some of it felt really disassociated.  That’s partly due to the music, but not totally.  The scene in the vault where the Doctor’s talking to Madame Karabraxos-

Him:  How did it start?

Me:  Eh?  Oh, the spinning and then the answering of the phone-

Him:  No.  How did the bank heist start?

Me:  What, how did they get in there?


I dunno.11  They must’ve beamed down from space or something, we probably just missed that bit.  Alright, we’ve talked about Steve Moore and Abslom Daak already.  Oh!  There is one more thing.  I thought it was quite cool that the Teller turned out to be a panda.  And when the Doctor drops them off in Edinburgh Zoo at the end, I thought that was lovely.  And it ties in with what’s been going on in Scotland this week. 

Him:  If they ever do decide to bring them back, I really think they should keep the straitjacket.  They're kind of rubbish otherwise.

Me:  I don’t think so.  I thought they looked good.

Him:  Really?

Me:  I did. 

Him:  They’re like half tree, half slug.

Me:  With rhino feet.  I liked them.  The section where the Doctor tells his Leaning Tower of Pisa joke-

Him:  “Ha ha ha ha.”

Me:  Yeah!  And then it should’ve frozen for the credits, like in Police Squad.14  With everyone standing there.

Him:  “I guess we’ve learned today that cheerleaders and dynamite don’t mix.”

Me:  The Police Squad theme tune is basically what's playing through most of Time Heist.  Just with a less-fretty, slightly slappier funk bass.  So, are we going to make barnyard noises or shall we just sing the Police Squad theme?

Him:  No, you can make Teller noises.

Me:  Rather than Penn?  Hmmm…  Tricky.  I thought the effect of turning people’s brains to soup was gross.  I didn’t know that the brain held up the skull.

Him:  Ha!

Me:  Actually, the fontanelle never heals over, so if your brain leaks out through your ears, or if you cry it out - we’ve all done maths questions that have that effect – then your whole forehead’ll fold in and you’ll have to wear a hat for the rest of your life. 

Him:  Is that why you wear a hat?

Me:  No.  I’ve got a hind brain, but it’s in my head, which is why I’ve got a weird bump.  I’ve got a double-decker brain.11

Him:  I thought it was an ear.

Me:  I keep my spare ears on the back of a mouse.  And on that bombshell! 

Him:  Make Teller noises.

Me:  “ffuffuffuffuffuff”


Him:  Do that again?

Me:  “ffuffuffuffuffuff”

1.  We’ll be coming back to slow motion.  You might want to put the kettle on.

2.  Before you write in, don’t forget that A) This may be exaggerated for comedic purposes and B) We don’t do that joke any more.

3.  The Him’s veering slightly off-message here, you’ll note.  I’m trying to build up an edgy persona and he keeps stealing its feet to make pottery.

4.  VAM, y’see.

5.  I’m not sure that the Him’s not got his Space Cowboy franchises fuddled up here.  In fairness, he really, really, really, really doesn’t like Star Wars.  As I’ve said before, all nappies should all have ‘ALWAYS START WITH A NEW HOPE’ printed on them.  Oops.

6.  Kettle boiled yet?

7.  Rise and reverberate, Sisters.

8.  “They mostly come at night.  Mostly.”

9.  Blah blah blah they’re actually all the Master blah blah rhubarb blah.

10.  Just so we’re clear, this isn’t a criticism of the actors, it’s an observation about the writing.

11.  I’ll be surprised if 2000 AD in general (rather than just Future Shocks/Time Twisters in particular) isn’t being bandied round elsewhere online,12 so I’d better mention Memento, 12 Monkeys and Looper here, just to make sure someone has.

12.  Possibly even by people who haven’t got a clue what they’re typing about.13

13.  Other than me.

14.  IN COLOR!

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