*WARNING THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*
Okay so going into this episode I was a little suspicious because a few days before the episode aired The BBC released the synopsis for Mummy on The Orient Express.
The interesting part being that at first a synopsis was released revealing Clara would be joining The Doctor on this adventure and would see him at his most ruthless. Then not too long after, The BBC changed the synopsis leaving Clara out, confusing fans and the media. In fact The BBC told all media outlets, newspapers, websites etc. not to reveal whether or not Clara was in the episode or not. When I heard The BBC didn’t want any of the media to spoil details about the episode I had one thought “curiouser and curiouser.” I thought there was something strange going on and this is a minor spoiler, but Clara is in fact in this episode (which left me extremely disappointed). Never the less I still very much enjoyed this episode, okay so let’s talk about Mummy on The Orient Express!
So if anyone remembers as far back as 2010, in the series 5 finale of Doctor Who titled The Big Bang, The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) received a phone call in his TARDIS about an escaped mummy loose on The Orient Express, and we assumed that was going to be the plot of that year’s Christmas Special, alas it was not, instead we got A Christmas Carol (which is still a very good episode, feel free to disagree). So anyways when it was revealed through details being released about the series 8 scripts and casting that The Doctor would be travelling on The Orient Express, everyone was wondering if this was the same Orient Express mentioned briefly at the end of The Big Bang. Answer: yes this is the same Orient Express and it makes for quite an interesting episode!
Okay, so quick summary of the episode. An old woman is killed by a mummy on The Orient Express, except only she could see the mummy.
The Doctor (in full First Doctor garb!) takes Clara (looking especially gorgeous) on The Orient Express, the interesting part being that this train travels in space! Clara and The Doctor talk about The Elephant in The Room, which is how Clara left things at the end of their last adventure. Clara admits she was angry at the Doctor for weeks, but that she does not hate him. Clara tells The Doctor she loves travelling with him, but she cannot do it “the way he does it” (interesting…) Clara tells The Doctor this is their “last hurrah,” before she stops travelling with him for good. The Doctor keeps trying to change the subject not wanting to talk about how Clara feels, when a guard on the train mentions about what happened to an old woman on the train earlier. The Doctor and Clara are intrigued and The Doctor begins to figure out what might have happened (by talking to himself in a room haha). The Doctor thinks it was a mummy called “The Foretold,” and meets the Chief Engineer Perkins (English Comedian Frank Skinner). The Doctor then decides to talk to a Professor of Alien Mythology, Emile Moorhouse. The Doctor asks Doctor Moorhouse what is the most interesting part of the myth about The Foretold. After Doctor Moorhouse mentions a few different things, he finally mentions how you cannot run from it, and once you see it you only have 66 seconds to live, which is oddly specific. The Doctor talks about the legend and believes The Foretold supposedly appears to those who are about to die and they only have 66 seconds to live once they see the mummy. The Doctor opens up a cigarette case and offers Professor Moorhouse a Jelly Baby! (a reference to The Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker)
A clock appears on screen and a cook in the kitchen sees the mummy and it’s clear he is going to die. The Doctor investigates once the passengers on the train are freaking out that another person has died. Meanwhile, Clara and Maisie (the grand-daughter of the old woman who died earlier) are trying to get into a room, so Maisie can see her grandmother’s body, feeling guilty for her death. Clara and Maisie end up trapped in the room with an Egyptian sarcophagus, while The Doctor continues to investigate.
The Doctor goes to talk to Captain Quell (Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice) who is in charge of security. The Doctor uses his psychic paper and Captain Quell thinks he is a mystery shopper haha. The Doctor tries to convince the Captain to figure out what is killing all of the passengers, but he refuses to help. The Doctor is able to talk to Clara with a device resembling a cell phone and finds out she is trapped, and tries to save her.
The Doctor is arrested briefly by Captain Quell when he finds out that The Doctor is not on the train’s passenger list and is not a mystery shopper. However another person is killed and it occurs to The Doctor that someone orchestrated the whole train ride and they are listening to all of the passengers. The Doctor realizes that all the passengers, including Professor Moorhouse are all experts in different fields, and suddenly the train’s interior changes to a laboratory with different scientific equipment and the voice of the train GUS says that they are all there as part of an experiment. They are tasked with finding out why the Foretold is killing people and what its true nature is, so it can be captured. The Doctor realizes that is what the sarcophagus that Clara discovered is for. According to GUS, there is an ancient scroll (which he highlights with a spotlight) and for some reason The Foretold appears within the vicinity of the scroll. The Doctor finds out through old records with the help of Clara that many other people have tried and failed to figure out The Foretold’s true nature and subsequently died. Every time a new person sees The Foretold, The Doctor uses this as a way to get as much information about the mummy before they die.
Professor Moorhouse is the next victim and tries to give The Doctor as much information as possible but tries to bargain with The Foretold before he is killed. The Doctor though obtaining information of the previous victims realizes that The Foretold is killing the weakest passengers first. The Foretold then kills Captain Quell, and Perkins asks if they can take the time to mourn but The Doctor says “people who have guns to their heads cannot mourn!” Finally we get an understanding why Twelve does not mourn those who are about to die, because it doesn’t help the situation and he is a pragmatist.
The Doctor tries to understand why The Foretold takes 66 seconds to kill its victims, and scans Captain Quell and realizes his body has been drained of all its energy. The Doctor believes the mummy has been alive for centuries because of ancient tech that has kept it alive and with the help of Perkins figures out that The Foretold takes its victims out of phase to drain their energy, explaining why it takes 66 seconds to kill its victims and why only people about to die can see it! (Wow, that’s pretty cool)
The Doctor finds out that Maisie is the next victim and gets Clara to convince her that he can save her (which is a complete lie, showing just how far this Doctor is willing to go). Clara discovers that The Doctor had a feeling something strange would happen when they boarded The Orient Express, even mentioning how the computer GUS tried to entice him with free tickets and even phoned The TARDIS once! (a clear reference to The Big Bang)
Clara is visibly upset with The Doctor having lied to her yet again, and Maisie begins to see the mummy! The Doctor feeling bad that he upset Clara and led Maisie to her death takes the scanner he used on Captain Quell, scans Maisie’s eyes then is able to transfer her guilt and grief using the scanner on himself and make it his own thereby making The Foretold think The Doctor is Maisie! The Doctor walks towards The Foretold and tries to figure out its motives even asking “Are you my mummy?” Haha (a reference to two Ninth Doctor adventures, The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances)
The Doctor tries to figure out The Foretold’s motives and guesses that the scroll is the mummy’s flag and he is a soldier who fought in a war thousands of years ago and he just wants to die, but the technology in him is malfunctioning and has kept him alive for centuries. The mummy is about to kill The Doctor when it stops and all of the passengers including Clara can see The Foretold, and the mummy salutes and disintegrates. Even though The Doctor figured out The Foretold’s true nature, GUS says no survivors are needed and begins to take the air out of the train and all the passengers begin to suffocate and the train explodes!
Clara wakes up on a beach on some rocks and The Doctor is seen drawing lines in the sand and Clara asks what happened. The Doctor tells Clara that GUS blew up the train but the teleporters started to work in time for him to save everyone including her, and get them on The TARDIS and drop them off on the nearest habitable planet. The Doctor also tried to figure out who was controlling GUS to no avail. The Doctor admits he couldn’t tell Maisie or Clara his plan otherwise GUS would have figured it out and Clara thinks The Doctor was “pretending to be heartless.” The Doctor asks Clara if believing that would make things easier for her, which makes me think he may be lying about what really happened. This scene is very interesting because you aren’t sure if The Doctor is lying or not, and I for one do not know if The Doctor really saved all those people. The Doctor admits to Clara that sometimes when you are faced with an impossible decision there are only bad choices to make (wow that’s very deep and profound Doctor).
The Doctor returns to The TARDIS with Clara, and Perkins is seen examining The TARDIS’s engines, when The Doctor extends an invitation to join him in The TARDIS. Perkins declines saying it’s the sort of thing “that could change a man.” The Doctor agrees and smiles, not fully understanding how Perkins meant it (at least that’s how I interpreted it). Clara is seen talking to Danny on the phone on the TARDIS and he asks her if it’s done, clearly referring to her travelling with The Doctor and we do not see the rest of the conversation, but instead see Clara talking to The Doctor. Clara asks The Doctor if he likes making the impossible decisions equating it to an addiction, but The Doctor says you don’t know if it’s an addiction until you give it up and Clara tells The Doctor that she still wants to travel with him, claiming that it was Danny’s idea for her to stop travelling (I really do not buy that, sorry Clara). Clara says that Danny wasn’t okay with it, but he changed his mind just now (Still not buying it Clara, sorry), and The Doctor is surprised she changed her mind so quickly, but is visibly excited, and gives Clara a nice big grin. Clara tells The Doctor as long as he gets her home safe and sound, everything will be fine, and tells The Doctor “shut up and show me a planet!” ending the episode.
Overall, I really enjoyed this episode (I enjoyed it much more on my second viewing), I thought the idea of the whole train being a lab, and it being a race against the clock to find out what the mummy was was very exciting! Unlike some critics I really liked the clock showing up on screen everytime the mummy was about to kill someone, it made those scenes more scary and suspenseful. As I mentioned earlier, I was very disappointed to see Clara with The Doctor on this adventure, it’s nothing against her character, I just feel it cheapened the ending of Kill The Moon. I was kind of hoping Clara was a hologram, illustrating to us how much The Doctor needs Clara, but we didn’t get that. Clara was on the sidelines most of this episode anyways, this very much a Doctor-centric episode, which was needed.
The part of this episode that I really enjoyed was trying to dig deep to understand what makes Twelve (Peter Capaldi) tick, and whether or not he is a good man. I think Twelve’s motives are questionable at best, and the scary thing is we do not know for sure if The Doctor saved everyone on the train or just saved Clara and Perkins. This just seems too odd to me that The Doctor is just a little bit darker, I think he is headed down a very dark path (Valeyard anyone?), and his morals are very grey right now. I want to trust Twelve, but he is just too unpredictable and scary for me to trust him (kudos to Peter Capaldi, he is just killing it right now as The Doctor!) The whole The Doctor having an addiction to time traveling was also a nice touch, as far as I know they have never delved that deep into why he travels. I also found it interesting that Clara seems to be aware of her addiction to traveling with The Doctor, and I have a strong feeling that this will not end well for her. I liked Frank Skinner in this episode and thought he was a great “potential companion” for the episode and I loved how The Doctor really respected him, because he was actually coming up with good theories to figure out The Foretold’s true nature. Perkins was a welcome addition to the episode and he was a very enigmatic character and I was almost expecting him to be revealed as a secondary villain. I love how we are delving deep into who (no pun intended) The Twelfth Doctor really is! Mummy on The Orient Express was a fantastic episode with a great villain, a great script (kudos to Jamie Mathieson, Being Human, for an incredible script) great suspense, great action, great acting, great directing (kudos to Paul Wilmhurst, who did an incredible job directing after his phenomenal work with Kill The Moon) and an amazing score by Murray Gold! Mummy on The Orient Express was everything I wanted in an episode, and that’s why I am giving it a 9/10!
What about you, did you enjoy the episode? Did you like the villain? Did you like Capaldi? Whatever your thoughts let me know!