REVIEW: Doctor Who – ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’

The Doctor, along with a group of scientists and experts, try to figure out how to stop a murdering Mummy on the Orient Express.
The Doctor, along with a group of scientists and experts, try to figure out how to stop a murdering Mummy on the Orient Express.

So what happened?

Under the premise of it being their last hurrah together, The Doctor takes Clara along with him on a ride on an exact replica of the Orient Express, which just happens to be hurtling through Space. As one has come to expect with this show, things aren’t all that they seem and the journey has already been disrupted by the death of an elderly lady, who everybody believes died of a heart attack, but in actual fact was the victim of a Mummy-like creature who nobody else was able to see. Telling his companion that there’s nothing to worry about, Twelve begins to investigate the death on his own and comes across the train’s chief engineer, Perkins (Frank Skinner), who’s already started making enquiries into the strange goings-on. Together with fellow passenger and Space myth expert, Professor Moorhouse (Christopher Villiers), they play detective after one of the chefs dies in a similar manner, but are hindered by the train’s captain, Quell (David Bamber), who becomes suspicious when he uncovers The Doctor’s disguise as a mystery shopper and goes so far as to arrest him, only to let him go seconds later when a member of the crew dies in front of them complaining that he too is being stalked by a sinister Mummy that’s visible only to him. It’s then that the scales are pulled from their eyes and the person who called The Doctor and implored him to take a trip on the train reveals itself to be a sentient computer system that has brought these experts together to solve the mystery of how to defeat the ‘The Foretold’; it’s ruse complete with ‘hard holograms’ that disappear as soon as the deception is revealed.

Maisie (Daisy Beaumont), the grieving granddaughter.
Maisie (Daisy Beaumont), the grieving granddaughter.

In the meantime, Clara has tagged along with the deceased lady’s granddaughter, Maisie (Daisy Beaumont), and they’ve managed to get themselves locked in a luggage car along with a suspect looking sarcophagus. The good news is that they soon realise it’s empty, the bad news, however, is that Twelve has figured out that the Mummy picks on weakness in order to choose it’s victims, and after Quell dies, it looks like the grieving woman will be the next target. Eventually convincing Clara to bring Maisie with her more or less as bait for the monster, as predicted the Mummy appears to her and the 66 seconds she has to live start ticking down. Thinking on his feet, The Doctor absorbs the woman’s anguish and turns the creature’s attention on himself, rattling through a number of possibilities to stop it from killing him before settling on a last resort, telling the 5000 year old soldier that he surrenders. Instantly ‘The Foretold’ stops in its tracks, salutes Capaldi’s character and crumbles into a pile of dust on the floor.The danger doesn’t end there though, and deciding that he no longer has any use for the passengers, Gus starts to deoxigenate the train, but once again Twelve saves the day by getting them to safety and dropping them all off on a nearby planet, and then waits for Clara to wake up on the beach where he’s let her sleep. When she awakens it’s there that they finally resolve the argument they had at the end of the last episode when he tells her, “Sometimes the only choices you have are bad ones. But you still have to choose.”

Back on the TARDIS, Perkins admires the mechanics of the time machine and Twelve offers him a permanent job to keep it ticking over, but he declines, leaving The Doctor and Clara alone to say their goodbyes. However after taking a call from Danny, the companion has a change of heart and decides she can’t give up this part of her life.

'The Foretold', a mummified soldier, visible only to those it's about to kill.
‘The Foretold’, a mummified soldier, visible only to those it’s about to kill.

Monster of the Week

Danielle: It’s hard to know whether the Mummy/’The Foretold’ was the real monster this week, or if Gus, the computer drive that amassed everybody with their various expertise on the train, was. Yet again we’ve been faced with a foe that wasn’t outright evil, but rather just following an innate need to stay alive and/or follow orders. Gus, on the other hand, was downright ruthless in it’s attempts to figure out who or what was causing the deaths, allowing and facilitating many more unnecessary ones in it’s quest for the truth. Perhaps we’re meant to draw parallels there with The Doctor as it looks increasingly likely that he’ll be at least partially responsible for Clara’s untimely demise, but it’s still too early to say.

Marieke: Holy shhhh, what a scary looking mummy! That was no toilet roll! I thought it would be cheesy looking at the trailer, but the added ‘only the dying can see it’ surely helped. I reckon reading Agatha Christie’s novel will be a whole lot less exciting now.

Creep Factor

Danielle: Major props to the writers and crew for creating a truly frightening alien this week. Not only did it’s silent, invisible threat ramp up the tension as it dragged it’s foot along creepily, but the fact it’s attacks took place within a certain time frame also heightened the sense of claustrophobic anxiety in such an enclosed space. Carrying on with the dual-monster hypothesis, it has to be said that Gus’ chirpy tone as it casually allowed people to die was spine-tingling. The dead catering staff floating in Space by the train’s window was truly eerie.

Marieke: Also big props to the atmosphere factor this week. They truly captured the Orient Express vibe which made it look very appealing. Flapper on!

Mystery

Marieke: Well Missy is still Missy-ng. So is Chrissy. I do wonder, do the people who got killed by the Mummy end up at Chris Addison’s unknown character’s desk? Does it have to do with the recurring theme of soldiers and orders? Is it going to be resolved any time soon? Will we be asking questions forever? Will the Skovox Blitzer ever return? Is your answer to that question no as well?

Danielle: I guess the other question is, does Gus have something to do with that heavenly other world we’ve seen glimpses of this series? Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

Frank Skinner as Chief Engineer, Perkins.
Frank Skinner as Chief Engineer, Perkins.

Familiar Face of the Week

Fanboy meet fanboy. Frank Skinner was the obvious familiar face this week. As Perkins he knew a lot about engineering and even saw the slight troubles the TARDIS might be having. You could see the sad look in Frank’s eyes when Perkins decided to leave the TARDIS. You just know Frank wanted to stay! We have to add, he was obviously also the bad actor this week. But hey, his bucket list is a bit shorter now!

Foxes giving a rousing rendition of 'Don't Stop Me Now'.
Foxes giving a rousing rendition of ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’.

The Verdict?

After the disappointment of ‘Kill the Moon’, thankfully there was a lot to like this week, not least of all Foxes’ jazzy rendition of ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’. With Capaldi’s shout-outs to both Classic and New Who, (the jelly babies particularly favoured by Tom Baker’s incarnation, and the “Are you my Mummy?” line taken verbatim from ‘The Empty Child’), coupled with great execution of an intriguing storyline and a deliciously creepy reworking of the whole Mummy genre, we expect this might become a fan favourite in years to come. The conversation between Twelve and his companion time-traveller on the beach was enough to ensure that alone. One slight niggle with this episode, however, was the murmur of unresolved sexual tension between Clara and the Doctor. No doubt it wasn’t intentional with Moffat’s desire to put that kind of dynamic to bed, so to speak, but it was there nevertheless, seemingly proving that the writers still don’t have a handle on exactly what it is they want to do with that relationship. On the whole though, a fabulously solid outing which we hope they can replicate for the rest of series 8.

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