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Time Heist

Story synopsis

The mysterious ‘Architect’ instructs the would-be bank robbers in Time Heist (2014).

”THIS IS A RECORDED MESSAGE. I AM THE ARCHITECT. YOUR LAST MEMORY IS OF RECEIVING A CONTACT FROM AN UNKNOWN AGENCY: ME.” The Architect

Psi (Jonathan Bailey) and Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner).

Thhe Doctor is offering to take Clara on a new trip when the TARDIS telephone rings. The Doctor answers it – and the next thing he knows, he’s in a darkened basement clutching a memory worm. Clara is with him, sitting around a table along with a man with computer augmentations called Psi and a woman called Saibra. They have all lost their memories but recorded messages inform them that they willingly agreed to have their memories wiped.

Responding to their voice prints, a case on the table opens, revealing a screen, on which a hooded.figure appears. A modulated voice introduces itself as “the Architect”. He tells them they have agreed to rob the Bank of Karabraxos, the most secure bank in the galaxy. A team is already on its way to terminate them.

A few minutes later, Ms Delphox, head of bank security, is contacted by a member of her team. They have all lost their memories, courtesy of the memory worms. Ms Delphox decides that if they have intruders at liberty in the bank, she will require the services of the Teller.

The Doctor, Clara, Psi and Saibra run. Psi is a hacker and bank robber, while Saibra has the ability to replicate other people. She adopts the form of a man in a suit and they enter the bank reception.

Delphox enters with the Teller creature bound in chains. It has the ability to read minds. It detects criminal intent in the mind of one of the customers and turns his brain into soup.

The Doctor and his companions enter a deposit booth where Doctor opens the case given to them by the Architect. It contains a bomb, but rather than exploding, it sends the floor particles to another dimension. They escape through the hole, then restore the floor. In the basement they find another case left by the Architect, who must have broken into the bank before them.

Inside are six hypodermics. An alarm sounds and they hide in the room containing the Teller. It locks onto Saibra and the Doctor hands her one of the hypodermics, explaining that it is an “atomic shredder”. She uses it on herself and disappears.

The others escape through a ventilation duct. The Doctor finds another case by the door to a vault. The Doctor and Clara split up while Psi unlocks the vault. He hears Clara cry out as she is caught by the Teller. He downloads every famous burglar in history into his mind to lure the Teller away from her, then uses the atomic shredder and disappears.

The Doctor and Clara return to the vault but it has an unbreakable atomic seal. Then a solar storm hits the planet and trips the system. Whoever the Architect is, they’re in the future. The Doctor and Clara enter the vault but are captured by two of Delphox’s guards and taken to her office. Delphox leaves them alone and the guards reveal themselves to be Psi and Saibra. The atomic shredder was really a teleporter to a spaceship.

They enter the private vault to find Director Karabraxos waiting for them. She orders Delphox, one of her clones, to send her the Teller. The Doctor now realises that he is the Architect after all and gives Karabraxos his telephone number. She exits as her bank faces destruction.

The Bank of Karabraxos.

The Teller enters and starts to feast on the Doctor’s mind, removing the block on his memories. The Doctor remembers speaking to Karabraxos in her later years, where she told him she needed his assistance. The Doctor then tells the Teller it is free and it opens a safe to reveal a female Teller. They use the teleporters to return to the TARDIS and the Doctor delivers the Tellers to a deserted planet. He drops off Psi and Saibra and returns Clara in time for her date with Danny.

Pre-production

Intruders in the bank are incinerated.
Steve Thompson, the co-writer of Time Heist.

Doctor Who robs a space bank. What more do you need to know?” was how Steven Moffat promoted Time Heist, the series’ entry into the crime caper genre, on the BBC website. This was an idea which had been developed into a full script by Steve Thompson, one of Moffat’s writing colleagues on BBC One’s series Sherlock.

Thompson himself had previously contributed to Doctor Who during Moffat’s tenure as showrunner, writing both The Curse of the Black Spot (2011) and Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (2013). “Steven has had, for years, a yearning passion to write a bank heist story involving time travel but he couldn’t work out where to go with it until now”, Thompson told Doctor Who Magazine. Knowing that Thompson enjoyed complex, labyrinthine narratives, during 2013 Moffat asked him to consider such a story for the new Doctor – prior to the announcement of Peter Capaldi’s casting in the role.

Before starting to plot, Thompson went back to Moffat with a few concepts to discuss; the first of these was the bank heist would involve the Doctor and his gang confronting company security in the form of telepaths who could sense criminal intent among customers. Developing this together, the pair devised a telepathic monster which would be the ultimate sensor for the bank’s security system. Thompson also knew that the genre generally relied upon a gang being assembled from a range of different talents and skills, and recalled particularly the 1960s/70s American television series Mission: Impossible in which one expert was a ‘master of disguise’ such as the characters Rollin Hand or the Great Paris. This translated into the requirement for a shapeshifter who could adopt the form of others via contact with their DNA. In more recent examples of the heist genre, there was also generally a ‘computer whizzkid’ figure who was able to hack into security software; this gave rise to the idea of a man who had a computer implanted in his brain.

For the creation of Ms Delphox, the head of bank security, Thompson was thinking in terms of Lt Garber, a character played by Walter Matthau in the 1974 thriller movie The Taking of Pelham One Two Three; Garber led a team which attempted to anticipate the moves of a gang who had taken hostages aboard a New York tube train and were demanding a ransom.

By the end of November, the script – entitled Time Heist – had been placed as the fifth episode of the 2014 series and was to be made during Shooting Block 2.

When Draft 3 was issued on Tuesday 26 November 2013, there were considerable differences to the finished programme.

This version opened with a scene from the point of view of someone having their blindfold removed and seeing four people seated around a table. The voice of the Architect told them that silence is their only weapon. Each guest had their hand in a box containing a memory worm, and the voice told them that they had signed a contract to obey him for a single job. They were shown Fortuna- Vega, the greatest bank in the galaxy and told of its security procedures. As the Architect’s voice welcomed the four to the heist at the end of the pre-credits, two of those present were revealed as the Doctor and Clara.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) size up the bank they’re about to rob.

Agent 00 was a savage half-human, half- Zygon female, Agent 01 was the Doctor, Agent 02 a young cyberdude and Agent 03 was Clara. The Architect would transmit the plan once they were inside the bank. The four boarded a space shuttle; the autopilot prepared the team for sky drop with the team leaping out on winch lines… and landing in the midst of a guard patrol which opened fire on them. Hiding in a warehouse, Clara had dropped the communicator through which the Architect was to send instructions. Ms Delphox was originally in her 50s and – alerted by the guards’ report – donned a respirator to visit the Teller in its office where ‘a luminous mist pervades. Like a reptile house at the zoo – dank, steamy atmosphere. Something alien surely inhabits here’; the creature (‘a glistening exoskeleton; wriggling antennae; razor talons’) sat in a chair. Rather than go back for the communicator, the Doctor reasoned that they could deduce the plan around their talents; in the warehouse they found a suitcase marked 00 containing everything Sabra (Agent 00) needed to take somebody else’s identity and demonstrated her Zygon shape-changing skills.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Doctor Who Magazine continues its exhaustive chronicle of the show’s production with a volume dedicated to four memorable episodes of Series 8: Time Heist, The Caretaker, Kill the Moon and Mummy on the Orient Express. Andrew Pixley’s meticulous behind-the-scenes coverage – reproduced in magazine format for the first time – examines every aspect of the stories’ development, from scripting through to transmission and beyond. Richly illustrated with rare and previously unseen images, this collectors’ edition is the essential guide to the series that charted a new course for the adventure in space and time…