This is one of the better episodes exploring if the Doctor is a good man. What are his motivations? What drives him to make his decisions? This episode really captures the alien parts of that and pushes us closer to Clara’s leaving. It also provides a good mystery that keeps with the soldier theme of this series.
“Mummy on the Orient Express” was written by Jamie Mathieson, directed by Paul Wilmshurst and produced by Peter Bennett.
The premise is the Doctor is taking Clara on a last adventure for her to say good-bye, which also gives him a chance to explore why the mysterious “Gus” has kept offering him free tickets as far back as “The Big Bang” on the Orient Express. We soon learn that they are test subjects as the mummy kills them in a pattern. From here the story unfolds as Clara considers whether this should be good bye for good and the Doctor’s reasons for the things he does are revealed.
Here is the assessment of the episode:
The Pros: The Orient Express – I really like the setting in the episode, it is classy and at the same time a prison. We see this when Gus drops all illusions on the train to have them appear in a lab and begins killing customers because they aren’t figuring out how to stop the Mummy, who kills people once they see it, in 66 seconds. For this reason there is constant tension throughout the episode as the Doctor and other doctors work to figure out how to stop it.
Captain Quell – He is the first soldier we meet on the train (this is a theme of the season and the episode) and we see that experiences PTSD when he was the only survivor of an attack. This leads to his lack of action until 3 crewmembers die. He goes down fighting and alive though, when the Mummy targets him for his PTSD and he dies whole. David Bamber was good in this role, as it takes a lot for him to come around to the Doctor. The Doctor has to earn his trust.
Perkins – Is the engineer who it hints at, may no more than he leads on. He targets the Doctor when the Doctor dismisses the deaths of the captain, the mythologist and others as he’s told they don’t have time to morn, they need action to find out how to stop the Mummy so their death’s weren’t in vain. Perkins eventually gets this and is on the TARDIS at the end and realizes the nature of the TARDIS forces a person to change, which leads to the Doctor mentioning how it has changed him, many times. He was a good minor character and Frank Skinner did a good job.
Professor Moorhouse – This is the character who is all about data, which the Doctor uses to his advantage to learn about the myths surrounding the Mummy, and to get information from him when the Mummy is about to end his life. He is serious about his work and is up until the end, though he does start trying to make deals and reason with the Mummy as others tried to do in the myths, which doesn’t save him. Christopher VIlliers was good for playing this gentleman.
Clara – A major part of this episode is exploring Clara’s relationship with the Doctor. They hinted at her not being in this episode, which I wouldn’t have minded…but her being there did advance her arc with the Doctor. In this one she is his soldier lying to Maisie to get her to the room with all the equipment. The Doctor does save her when he tries an experiment and we are shown the Doctor is like Maisie’s grandmother…sometimes well intentioned, but cold and cruel. She calls him out on doing that, but he mentions that it was the only way to try to save her and she calls him a good man at the core…until the Doctor foreboding brings up the other part. He was as detached when he risked his life for Maisie as he was when Moorhouse and the Captain were killed. This is going to play a part later though Clara embraces the adventure now, knowing the Doctor will always try to do the right thing even if it isn’t coming from the right reasons.
The Mummy – Is a soldier from a future war. The reason it isn’t seen is because of cloaking technology, and it targeted them one by one to destroy the weak first so there wouldn’t be distractions and so it could take their energy. It had no choice to stop fighting until the Doctor surrenders. It was a really cool concept, and like Captain Quell’s PTSD showed another dimension to war. It dies saluting the Doctor and it’s core is used to beam everyone into the TARDIS before Gus destroys the train.
The Doctor – This episode is Capaldi in his element. We truly see the Doctor more fully and can better understand his motivations. He does the right thing or tries too, but it’s with detachment and he isn’t attached to caring about people beyond the present moment. We also see his investigative side in action as he solves the mystery of the Mummy and risks his life to find out the truth. He’s calculating, but also willing to take a chance on a whim if it will help someone and help him solve the case. He tries to find out who Gus is too but Gus destroys the train, which also put folks at risk when he did that from inside the train. The Doctor and Clara decide to take the next adventure together but the Doctor is questioning now since Clara was ready to say good bye and her change of heart has him confused since he knows he’s still the same person who made and makes her angry. For this reason, we are that much closer to Clara leaving, even if she isn’t aware of it.
The Cons: Maisie – Couldn’t get into her character. She was mostly there to draw illusions to the Doctor and Clara’s relationship through the relationship she lost and to give us a new perspective on the Doctor. She was a plot device.
This was a great episode and another one of my favorites this season. It was better than “Deep Breath” and a lot of fun. My only issue would be how much we don’t know about Gus and if he is connected to the Missy arc or not. I’m also waiting for an enemy that is generally bad and evil and isn’t a Dalek. Most enemies this season have just been misunderstood slaves or soldiers….or really cheezy villains like in “Robot of Sherwood.” I definitly recommend this episode and think that when Clara leaves, we’re going to feel it.
Final Score: 9.5 / 10