In the Doctor Who season 8 episode Time Heist, the team of bank robbers find a case of 6 small items. The Doctor initially claims not to know what they are; when Saibra accuses him of lying, he admits to knowing they are an "exit strategy of sorts". He later reveals they are disintegrators, offering Saibra and Psi

quick and painless deaths rather than having their brains melted by the Teller.

Later still it is revealed that

they're actually teleportation devices,

which seems to surprise the Doctor as much as Clara when they discover

Saibra and Psi are still alive.

So did the Doctor actually believe they were disintegrators or did he know what they really were all along? If the former, why did he 'recognise' them as such (and why was he so detached after Saibra 'died')? If the latter, why was he so surprised later on? Neither quite seems to make sense.

For those of you who can access it (those in the UK?), the episode is available on BBC iPlayer here.

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    Remember: The Doctor lies. A lot. Pretty much all the time. For all we know he told them they were disintegrators to make them perform at their peak, knowing if they failed, they died. It is hard to like the Doctor knowing he would lie to you if it suited his purpose... – Thaddeus Howze Feb 19 '15 at 23:09
  • Yes, at first I just assumed he was lying. But why was he so surprised to find them alive? Also remember Psi's words, "You think we're dead, so the Teller thinks we're dead, and we play the creature at his own mind games", suggesting the Doctor really thought they were dead, rather than lying at this stage too. – Rand al'Thor Feb 19 '15 at 23:11

Yes, the Doctor did recognise the devices but he thought they were "atomic shredders". The original show script makes this pretty clear:

THE DOCTOR and the others join him.

There is a box containing six small tubes with protruding needles and plastic caps - like fat digital hypodermics. Atomic shredders

PSI : What are they?

THE DOCTOR : (Pocketing them) Not a clue.

On SAIBRA, scanning his face, shrewd, eager.

SAIBRA : Interesting.

THE DOCTOR : (Sharply) What is?

SAIBRA : You're lying.

Later, his surprise that his co-heistees aren't dead is 100% real. He genuinely seems to have felt that these devices were solely useful for painless suicide (his "exit strategy"):

THE DOCTOR - just staring. Pop-eyed with disbelief, a world-rocking moment of astonishment. Barely a voice when he speaks ...

THE DOCTOR (OS) : ... Saibra?

The other GUARD now speaks with a familiar voice.

PSI : What looked like death -

Rips off his helmet to reveal PSI.

PSI : ... was actually a teleporter!

CLARA : Oh my God!

PSI : It's good, eh? You think we're dead, so the Teller thinks we're dead! Play the creature at his own mind-games.

THE DOCTOR, still bug-eyed, still trying to process.

THE DOCTOR : No, no, wait, wait! . Sorry, what?? You, you, you're alive?

SAIBRA : Yeah, we're alive. Look at us, all alive.

THE DOCTOR : No, no , no, no. Not dead, alive.

At the end, we learn that this is all an elaborate deception and that the person who set up the heist was...

The doctor himself.

Since that's the case, it's hardly surprising that the devices were so cleverly disguised and fooled the Doctor

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  • Thanks - excellent answer! Do you have a link for the quotes you provide? – Rand al'Thor Feb 19 '15 at 23:33
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    @randal'thor - I got the script for a slightly dodgy source. If you google the words (in quotes), I'm sure you'll find it easily enough. I'm sure there's a torrent of information about Doctor Who (2005) Seaon 8 Leaked Scripts – Valorum Feb 19 '15 at 23:35
  • @Richard ... That doesn't seem dodgy at all :P – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Feb 19 '15 at 23:37
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    @Paulster2 - My subtlety knows no bounds. – Valorum Feb 19 '15 at 23:43

I think he knew all along, but chose to withold that information. Think about it. If The Doctor told Saibra and Psi that the devices would teleport them away to safety, they would've gone all "ok thanks. See ya!".

Remember he recognized the bomb that drilled the hole in the vault as "Time Lord technology". I think it was his first clue that the "Architect" was him all along (at the time, I jumped on my seat and figured The Master was back. Kind of jumped the gun there, as it turned out).

This Doctor is more cold and detached than his previous incarnations. Two episodes later, in "Mummy in the Orient Express" it was explored with more detail. If he actually thought Saibra had died, that would be a normal reaction for him (think back to the Soldier who died in "Into the Dalek"). If he knew she was teleported safely to the TARDIS, it was the perfect cover for that reaction.

I don't know if that makes sense. In summary, it's a normal reaction for the Twelfth Doctor, but not for Ten or Eleven.

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  • All of this makes sense, except that in the scene where Psi and Saibra reappear, he really seems to have believed they were dead - to the extent of fooling the Teller, and almost gibbering in his surprise at seeing them. – Rand al'Thor Feb 19 '15 at 23:19
  • The script makes it pretty clear that he didn't know what they were. – Valorum Feb 19 '15 at 23:46
  • Yeah, now I know...I was writing from memory. I was going to re-watch the episode and edit with actual quotes, but you saved me the work... – tilley31 Feb 19 '15 at 23:50

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