Doctor Who’s latest episode was a complex psychological thriller in which the weak are picked off one-by-one from a soldier clad in bandages. That is what it is. What it isn’t is all that good. ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ was plagued with problems. It dragged throughout the middle, the recurring shots of the Foretold stalking its prey were overused and repetitive, and Clara was missing for most of the episode.
It wasn’t all bad, we must stress. The production values of the shambling, harrowing stalk of the Foretold were exceptionally realised on screen; The Foretold, as a threat and a monster, will be remembered. Shame about the reveal, is all I can say. The fact that the Foretold was a soldier probably ties into the overarching theme of series 8 (aside from the Missy one, that is), of the Doctor disliking soldiers. Perhaps this was done to make the Doctor feel some empathy towards soldiers, and in turn Danny? But the reveal of the Foretold being a soldier from an advanced race bizarrely bound in bandages ruined the entire threat. Like much of series 8, the focus has really been upon the Doctor and Clara’s relationship, and as such the threats have taken a secondary position. Whilst not necessarily a bad thing overall, it is when it happens week-upon-week.
A jaunt to the Bank of Karabraxos in ‘Time Heist’ was really about the Doctor’s callousness when faced with death; the Doctor taking a job at Coal Hill School during ‘The Caretaker’ was all about Danny meeting the Doctor; and a trip to the moon in ‘Kill The Moon;’ was really used as a backdrop to have Clara part ways with the Doctor. Individually, this works. But after having three (and now four) episodes of this in a row, it is beginning to grate a tad.
But back to this week. The scenes shared between Capaldi and Coleman are the best. Clara is having one last hurrah with Twelve before departing ways forevermore. Until she admits she wants him to come visit for food sometime. It’s clear instantly that Clara won’t be leaving him, and come the episodes end she has reverted to earlier in the series by keeping her relationship with the Doctor a secret from Danny. It seem’s she really is addicted to that life. But her lies will come back to bite her in the ass, we’re sure. Series 8 is surely going to end with Clara choosing Danny, with the Christmas special baring their ultimate final hurrah before she departs.
Capaldi is now firmly cemented in his role of the Doctor, and questions of his goodness manifest once more. Maisie implores that she thinks the Doctor must be a good man, but after making Clara lie to her the same cannot be said of the audience. We all still think he is pretty impure. I have a feeling we will only come to accept him as a good man once he finally ceases ties with Clara. Only then will he be good by doing the right thing. Like most companions, their relationships with the Doctor become toxic after a while, and Clara’s certainly has done so. As much as I love Clara, it is time for her to depart. Before we all start hating on her.
Like ‘The Curse of the Black Spot’ and ‘The God Complex’ before it, ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ featured a juxtaposing middle section which revealed that all we knew before really wasn’t what we thought. This time Gus the computer (whom must be tied in with the Missy arc, surely?) has brought together a group of so-called ‘experts’ (most of whom do sweet fuck all) to cease the Foretold’s actions.
Aside from Perkins (in a surprisingly good part by Frank Skinner) the rest just stand and gawk. But this is all about the Doctor being the Doctor. He does what he does best, and he risks his own life to ascertain the threat of the Foretold. Once the Doctor risks his life, you know that everything is going to pan out alright.
‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ was surely a follow-up to the end of 2010’s ‘The Big Bang’ in which Matt Smith’s Doctor received a phone call about an Egyptian goddess running amok on the Orient Express. The Orient Express was beautiful, both the interior and exterior shots, and it really felt like a 1920’s jaunt into the past. Equally, Foxes cameo singing a jazz rendition of Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ was beautiful. Hopefully a full-length version will be released on iTunes promptly.
So whilst ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ wasn’t brilliant, nor was it a complete waste. Yes, the Foretold did grate after a while, and yes Twelve was a miserable git again. But we just have to accept that that is who he is. Was anyone else genuinely creeped out when Capaldi grinned towards the close of the episode?! It was so jarring with his previous emo demeanour. And as a final note, the Doctor carrying a cigar case of jelly babies was one of the best shots of the entire series. He loves him some jelly babies.