This originally went out on the first day of a holiday in the Norfolk Broads, and so my first experience of the episode was as one of four people huddled round an iPad in a houseboat. Perhaps not the most ideal circumstances, but I do recall liking it, although the details were very sketchy.
Despite this, it was very clear to me from the start that the Architect would turn out to be the Doctor all along – I’m not sure whether that was a resurfaced memory, or whether it was just really obvious. There’s only one person in the universe clever enough to pull this heist off, so who else could it be? As soon as it became clear that time travel was involved, I thought that would be the moment he realised, but the big reveal didn’t come until the climax, by which point surely everyone at home will have figured it out.
Nevertheless, the bulk of the heist action is solid, and the direction wears its influences on its sleeve. I liked the Doctor’s assembled gang of useful freaks; with this being Doctor Who, you anticipate them meeting a sticky end, so it was a surprise when it turned out that they hadn’t. But still, the scenes in which the Doctor is seemingly handing people suicide devices are very dark indeed, thanks to Capaldi’s ability to go much scarier than the majority of his predecessors.
In retrospect, the Twelfth Doctor is still finding his feet at this point, but even so I really like the harsher, angrier version of these early days. A callous exterior is something Capaldi clearly does extremely well, and this episode is the closest he gets to Malcolm Tucker, when he’s telling people to “shuttity up”. It’s certainly a different type of Doctor than we’re used to, but underneath he’s still the same hero who fights for what’s right, he just goes about it in a different way.
The happy ending with the lady monster could well have been schmaltzy, but I found it rather lovely, and I think it’s the contrast with the Doctor’s darker elements that make it work. It’s the same reason “everybody lives” works so much better with Eccleston than it would with Tennant, who was usually that happy anyway. Furthermore, it helps us come to terms with his newfound unfriendliness, reassuring us that even if he does some dubious things, he’s doing them for the right reasons. He is a good man after all.