In the Doctor Who season 8 episode Time Heist, the bank robbers frequently raise the question:

If [the Architect] can break in here and plant this thing, then why does he need our help?

This never seems to be answered properly, even when the Architect's identity is revealed. Towards the end we see clips of him planting the cases in various places; but if he can infiltrate the bank to do that, why not just do the whole operation on his own rather than recruiting the team as he did? OK, he needed the solar storm to be able to access the vaults, but why not get into the places he could infiltrate before the storm and then wait for the storm to hit before breaking into the vault?

I have a feeling this should all make sense clearly, but can't quite make everything match up in my head. I hope someone will be able to articulate a good explanation!

  • 2
    Hopefully, the dude with the script in your other question might give us a clue. I remember wondering about this myself, so I'm looking forward to the answer.
    – tilley31
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 23:41
  • 2
    My gut instinct is that he's doing a bunch of jobs all in one go, roping in various unfortunates under the guise of doing a bank job, but in reality just playing a part for his own amusement while he helps them out. When you've got a time machine, it's easy to go back and correct any errors made.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 23:57
  • I'd had the idea that the TARDIS couldn't get them into the vault for some reason, but I can't for the life of me now remember where I got that thought.
    – Radhil
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 0:31
  • 1
    @Radhil "It explains why we're not here in the Tardis. The solar disruption would have made navigation impossible. The one time the bank is vulnerable is the one time we can't just land." So he couldn't use the Tardis during the storm, but why not use it to get as far as the vault entrance and then break into the vault during the storm?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 9:43
  • 1
    @rand - Probably because nothing prevents security from putting a TARDIS on a trolley and sticking it in a secure cell while they're sitting and waiting for the storm.
    – Radhil
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 13:22

2 Answers 2


I see there being two distinct possibilities:

  1. It's a Moffat Loop: the Doctor needed a team because the Architect "recruited" the Team, so the Doctor/Architect recruited a team, because he sees the Architect (himself) recruit a team. He needs to do it because if he doesn't do it it will create a Paradox.

  2. Because landing there with the TARDIS (before the solar storm) is non-viable, because the Teller will detect them when the TARDIS couldn't take off and then it's brain soup all round.

Personally I favour the first option.

  • Option #2 is quite sensible as well. The doctor is pretty risk-averse about leaving the TARDIS where it might fall into the wrong hands.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:43
  • Yes,that could do too
    – Kmi
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 22:21
  • Both of these make sense (I like the second option better) - answer accepted!
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 0:01

First of all, there the Doctor can only get into the vault during the solar storm for one of the following reasons, likely both:

  1. He needs the solar storm to damage the lock to the vault.
  2. If he finishes his job too early, he cannot properly initiate the time loop by giving Madame Karabraxos the paper with his number at the right time.

Thus he needs to smoothly break into the bank at the right time.

why not get into the places he could infiltrate before the storm and then wait for the storm to hit before breaking into the vault?

Risk of detection: Not only is there the teller, but they could have all sorts of security mechanisms such as flooding the entire facility with lethal radiation from time to time. It is, after all, the safest bank in the universe. A case is much less vulnerable and less easy to detect than the Doctor.

if he can infiltrate the bank to do that, why not just do the whole operation on his own rather than recruiting the team as he did?

We actually never see that the Doctor was completely on his own when depositing the cases. Thus the placement of every case could have been a similarly complicated undertaking as what we are shown in the episode.

Moreover, all of the cases seem to be located in a position where they could stay for at least some time (let’s say a few days) without being detected – in particular if some security systems that could detect them are bypassed (e.g., cases are positioned outside the view of security cameras; cases are equipped with some cloaking device that switches off at the right time; some help from the old Madame Karabraxos):

  1. The first case has be deposited in the vault itself, which could have happened years before.
  2. The second case is on some remote platform within the support structures of the bank, which does not look as if people would get there often.
  3. The third case is somewhere at the access terminal to the vault (we do not see where it is located – the scene cuts to the Doctor holding it in his hands). While an important location, people do not seem to go there very often either, judging by the lack of decoration.

So, the Doctor could have positioned those cases at whatever time is suitable for doing so, e.g. when the bank is closed. In contrast, when the actual heist happens, he does not have the luxury of being able to choose the right moment and thus needs the cases (because otherwise the teller could tell or security mechanisms would find them).

  • Nice and detailed answer. I'll have to think about whether to change my checkmark...
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 22:38

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