I’m not going to lie: last week’s episode was one heck of a bastard of a slog before we got to the good bit. But what a good bit, eh? The problem now, dear, wonderful, undeniably charming readers is what does it all mean now? With Clara Oswald flying off the handle so, and The Doctor put so firmly in his place you might as well have riveted his feet into the ground does this mean the end of their relationship? Is this truly the end of how we’ve come to know these characters and their fantastical adventures? Was it all on moral dilemma too far? Not to throw all this into the bin labelled ‘moot points’ but Clara and The Doctor are back up their old tricks again this week, but at what cost? Keep on using your peepers to find out in our review of episode eight, ‘Mummy on The Orient Express’. –
If a title such as ‘Mummy on The Orient Express’ doesn’t immediately cause your eyebrows to rebel against gravity and suddenly rise, then there is no way Doctor Who can appeal to you. If that was the case, why are you even reading this? I’m seriously at a loss to figure out why. Shoo. But for those of us otherwise inclined, it’s a gaudy neon sign of things to come. This is an ‘everything you need to know about Doctor Who’ kind of episode that, whilst not necessarily strong enough to convert the non-believers (hissssss), is still more than capable of producing chills, thrills and a third rhyming word that harks to adventure.
As a form of farewell to his emotionally-wrought companion, The Doctor takes Clara on a fancy-Dan train ride on The Orient Express but seeing as this is Doctor Who, The Orient Express is actually a train flying through space. Whilst I doubt this train is even going anywhere near The Orient, nor is it attempting to do so with any particular haste it is still quite the Whovian image. There’s also some singer I was supposed to have heard of making a cameo as light entertainment, but she’s in it for so little an amount of time it’s remarkable that so many people talked about it let alone devote a whole 46-word sentence to them. Oh well.
So the marriage of spacey spectacle and turn-of-the-century aesthetics is quite nice, and it’s all very Agatha Christie-levels of fancy. That’d be fine if it wasn’t that whenever ANYTHING is Agatha Christie-levels of fancy, people are gonna get got. And in this case it’s by a mummy that can only be seen by its victim for 66 seconds before they snuff it. And snuff it people do. The Doctor really can’t catch a break, can he?
After the mummy claims a couple of victims, The Doctor starts to develop a hypothesis about a being known as The Foretold: a piece of Egyptian folklore that matches the being that stalks the train nearly exactly. This hypothesis is confirmed when The Doctor realises most of the train’s passengers are top archeologists and scientist types, and confirmed even further when the train’s A.I, Gus, reveals the train to be a lab and his intention of sacrificing everybody on board in service to study and understand The Foretold.
With The Doctor stuck in the labs, Clara is separated from him in the baggage train with another passenger and spends most of this episode venting her feelings about her situation to said support character. Does she stay with The Doctor despite his tendency to inadvertently threaten her life with amazing escapades, or be with the very bland and inert bloke that she’s been dating for the past while but who won’t take her on potentially one-way adventures? We’ve all been there ladies, am I right?
While girl-talk goes down, The Foretold strikes again and The Doctor uses the last dying seconds of a man’s life to describe what only he can see. It’s cruel, but with only 66 seconds to use there really is no time for mourning and in the hands of another Doctor nothing would get done. Thank swearwords for Capaldi. The Doctor determines that the mummy is targeting the weakest people on the train and finds out that Clara’s buddy in the cargo hold is next on the list. He somehow convinces Clara to lie to her new friend to get to the ex-lounge-now-a-lab as they need to be able to see what she can see.
Using a dangerous bit of electronic-emotion flippy-wippy-ness, The Doctor tricks The Foretold into locking onto him, testing out a theory of his that he could solve this thing in less than 66 seconds if only he could see the thing. What a way to test it, man.
As it turns out, The Foretold is actually an ancient soldier full of faulty teleportation technology, who has been guarding a heavily-tattered piece of flag that has been encased for study on board The Orient Express. When The Doctor formally surrenders to the creature, it salutes and falls apart. Satisfied that the entity known as The Foretold has been explained, evil train A.I Gus drains all the oxygen and blows up the ship. Like most dastardly swines who threaten to suffocate and explode others, Gus doesn’t do it fast enough, giving The Doctor enough time to rig up The Foretold’s old teleporter and get everybody back onto The TARDIS. Admittedly all the humans pass out from oxygen loss first, but ultimately The Doctor saves everyone, again.
Throughout the episode it was clear just how unravelled The Doctor and Clara’s relationship has become, with him telling her of the indescribable majesty of the universe and its wild planetary contents. What with this Doctor being all of a grump, to see him bare his adoration of the universe as part of a supposed farewell just goes to show that despite it all, he’s still a man in love with these galaxies he’s travelled through. If only someone else could just see it too! You can’t imagine him saying that just to pass the time. It’s more than that, man.
At the end of the episode, when The Doctor tells Clara that he can’t promise to save everyone, but that he’d try, it’s just the kind of personal push that Clara needed. To do what? Well to lie to Danny Pink and The Doctor so as to keep her present double life of school ma’aming and adventuring,of course! It’s a bit of a cop-out given how distraught she had been in the last episode, but they’ve got three more episodes of this series and a Christmas special to go, y’know. Can’t have her leave before then, can we? Even if it does jar the entire situation like it was a precious jam.
Oh and before I forget, Frank Skinner was in this episode. Thing is though, he was such an ancillary factor to the entire series of shenanigans that befell our heroes that I only just remembered he was even in the bloody thing. Is that a good amount of Frank Skinner? I honestly can’t say, but I’m sure there’s a quota written down somewhere…
So, yeah, at the end of the day it was a pretty darn decent episode. Jarring motivations and surplus characters aside we had a good rollick with a spooky mummy on a space-train, with all the aplomb we can expect from Doctor Who at this point. It’s the base line that Doctor Who should start from and it’s nice to see it can find it again after falling so stupidly in the last two episodes (cough-cough Courtney Woods cough-cough).