Previously on Doctor Who: The moon turns out not to be a moon—thanks, Doctor Wan Kenobi—and Clara’s forced to make a big decision.
It’s costume party time—complete with killer mummies!
Here We Go Again
The episode opens with a timer counting down from 66 seconds. Passengers wearing 1920s garb on a train are seemingly enjoying themselves, until an old woman begins to make a fuss about seeing a mummy that no one else can see. The mummy reaches the old woman, and she dies. As her daughter calls for a doctor, the camera pans out—and we see that the train is in space!
The TARDIS arrives on the train, and the Doctor and Clara get out, dressed appropriately snazzy. The Doctor explains that they’re on a recreation of the Orient Express (but in space). Something’s not quite right with the two of them—as one could expect from the ending of last week’s episode—but they seem somewhat amiable? When they reach one of the more populated cars, Clara tells him that she hated him for weeks, but finally came to terms with it. She also says that she can’t do what he does, like he does it, any longer.
The daughter of the woman who died at the start of the episode overhears part of Clara and the Doctor’s conversation, and calls the Doctor a liar. The commotion she makes attracts the captain of the train, and he questions what kind of doctor the Doctor is. Of course, he’s ready with a quip, retorting that he’s a doctor of intestinal parasites. The captain tells them about the mummy, but the Doctor is pretty sure it’s not a thing.
The Doctor and Clara go walking, and he mentions that he’d hoped that this adventure would make for a good last hurrah. Clara agrees, but seems worried that he’s acting like they’ll never see each other again. (Obviously, she’s not really up to speed on companion history, eh?) The two go to separate bed cabins, and Clara talks to Danny on the phone while the Doctor talks to himself about the mysterious mummy. He quickly comes to the conclusion that it is, indeed a thing, and so goes to investigate.
Clara, too, finds herself interested about the mummy, and meets up with the young woman from before, whose name is Maisie. Maisie tells Clara about the old woman, who was actually her grandmother, and her guilt at previously wishing her dead. Maisie is looking for her gran’s body, but they instead get stuck in a cargo car … along with a high tech sarcophagus.
The Doctor goes to the bar car, and begins interrogating a professor about something called The Foretold, which, legend has it, is a mummy that people see 66 seconds before they die. Meanwhile, a chef in the kitchen car sees the mummy, and dies 66 seconds later.
The Doctor launches a deeper expectation with the helps of Chief Engineer Perkins and the professor. He calls Clara to fill her in on the details, and she tells him she and Maisie have been trapped in the cargo car. The Doctor attempts to free them, but something’s blocking the sonic screwdriver. As he’s attempting this, the sarcophagus opens—but there’s nothing inside but lights and bubble wrap. The mummy is elsewhere on the train, however, killing an officer.
The Doctor finally makes the connection between the type of passengers on board—scientists, professors, etc—and the mummy. The train comes to an abrupt halt, and the cabin most of the passengers are in turns from sumptuous decor to a high-tech lab. The train’s computer announces that they’ve all been brought together to figure out the Foretold. Soon after they’re locked in, the professor sees the mummy, and describes him right before he dies.
The Doctor, who seems to be the only one really attempting to figure out the Foretold, then realizes that the mummy is picking people for a reason. The people who’ve died have had medical issues. The Captain realizes that because of his PTSD, he’s likely next on the list. And, lo and behold, the mummy comes after him next.
The Doctor—again, the only one really doing anything—figures out that the mummy is likely some sort of tech. It’s draining people of their energy. The doctor asks for medical records for all of the remaining people on the train, and figures that Maisie is next. The Doctor somehow releases Clara and Maisie, and they head to the lab car. When they get there, Maisie can see the mummy. The Doctor, however, transfers her grief to himself so that he can see what she does.
He quickly takes note of certain aspects about the mummy that no one else has noticed. He determines that the mummy is soldier from forgotten war, and surrenders. The mummy stops, salutes, and disintegrates. The Doctor finds a piece of malfunctioning tech inside, and starts tinkering with it as the train’s computer announces that although they’ve done well in figuring out the Foretold, no survivors are required. He begins to suck all of the air out of the cabin, and people begin passing out. The camera pans back out into space, and the train explodes.
Clara wakes up on the beach of a planet. The Doctor explains that he was able to get everyone off the train and into the TARDIS before it blew. It’s in this moment, apparently, that Clara realizes he’s not entirely heartless. (Really? Really?)
When they’re back on the TARDIS, Clara asks the Doctor if he’s an addict, if he’s addicted to situations in which he’s forced to make the impossible choice. He says he doesn’t know, but that he’s also never tried giving it up. The two make a show of saying goodbye.
Danny calls, and, as they finish talking, Clara decides that she hasn’t had enough of adventuring with the Doctor after all.
Don’t Blink or We’ll Exterminate
When I eventually meet my demise, I really hope it’s a peaceful death, rather than one in which I am stalked by a mummy only I can see. Although he was a typical mummy—slow, wrapped in bandages, and more than a little rotten—he was still pretty freaky. And the fact that the object of his affections were the only ones who could see him made him even more frightening.
The New Face
This Doctor is enjoying the wardrobe in the TARDIS more than any other. That floppy bow-tie tux? Super snazzy. He also continues to be both awesome and kind of a dick—which Perkins totally called him on. (Even if he did just shrug it off.)
My favorite Doctorisms of the episode:
Doctor: “But, there’s also a planet made completely of shrubs!”
Doctor: “It might be nothing, old ladies die all the time. It’s practically their job description.”
Perkins: “You know, Doctor, I can’t tell if you’re a genius or just incredibly arrogant.”
Doctor: “Well, on a good day, it’s both.”
Companion Annoyance Level: The Ponds
Companion Annoyance Advisory System
Clara: Severe Risk of Annoying Entitlement
Martha: High Risk of Ridiculous Mooning
Donna: Significant Risk of Overbearing Bossiness
The Ponds: General Risk of Bothersome Smothering
Rose: Low Risk of Irritating Smugness
Someone needs to tell Clara that it’s not nice to make people get their hopes up and then dash them like that. I knew this wasn’t really the end of her time with the Doctor, but a girl can dream. Regardless, the fact that she’s gone from enjoying being with the Doctor to hating him to being OK with leaving to being wholly on board with adventure again in the space of three episodes is giving me whiplash.
Although I’m really enjoying Peter Capaldi’s cranky Doctor, the companion dynamics so far this series leave a lot to be desired. Clara’s character is better than she was in the second half of series seven, but her relationship with the Doctor is broken—and it only seems to be getting worse. I know there are rumors of Jenna Coleman leaving at Christmas, but must the showrunners play the “Will she? Won’t she?” game until then?
But, what did you think of “Mummy on the Orient Express”? Now that we’re past the halfway mark (I think), how are you feeling about the season so far? Let’s discuss in the comments.