A return to form after Kill the Moon threatened to derail this series of Doctor Who.
This week saw the Doctor trying to save the passengers of a space version of the Orient Express from death by invisible mummy. After filling the Stranger Views website with rage following last week’s episode of Doctor Who, it’s great to be able to review an episode I enjoyed watching. The Mummy on the Orient Express was pretty much everything I look for in a Doctor Who episode; funny, mysterious, compelling and a little bit whacky.
**** This is not a spoiler free review*****
Monsters of the week
There were two monsters this week, one we see and one we hear.
The first and most obvious monster is the eponymous mummy, also known as the Foretold. Throughout cinematic history the mummy was always the most ridiculous of monsters, and the only one that had to worry about being unravelled by an unruly dog. However, the Foretold was the scariest mummy seen on screen since Norman Bates’s. Only the person about to die can see the mummy and the mummy always kills after precisely 66 seconds; giving this episode some moments of sphincter clenching tension.
In the end, the mystery of the Mummy was perhaps a little prosaic but was still in keeping with the episode as a whole. The second monster in this week’s show was the Computer GUS, who I’m going to give a whole section too.
Who the hell was, or was,behind GUS?
It may be that GUS was a one-episode wonder, but he certainly piqued my interest. He, or whoever was behind him, had enormous power as well as the phone number to the Tardis. I can’t help but wonder if he is not going to come back into the story again or, at the very least, be referenced in relation to the whole Missy plot. I would love to hear if anybody has any ideas as to what he was or to what G U S could stand for, so feel free to leave guesses in the Comments section.
At the moment I have:
Gerbils under Surveillance
Gandalf’s undeserved success
Great unified super-intelligence
Or an anagram of ‘I am the Master’.
The last one may need work.
I was chatting on Twitter with someone who suggested that Perkins (Frank Skinner) may have been behind it all. While I have to admit to wondering this, all of us Brits know there is no way Frank Skinner is coming back into the show, and he will certainly not be asked to pull off any heavy duty acting. He’s a good stand-up comic and works well as a cheeky chappie, but that is about the limit of his range.
The main story
The episode opens on the Orient Express as it hurtles past black holes while aping the flapper style of the original 1930’s train. Cleverly we are immediately thrown into the action as within the first 66 seconds we see the eponymous mummy kill a grandee it is hard to feel sympathy for. It is a pity that the trailer had made it clear this episode was in space, because otherwise the reveal of a train going through space would have been dramatic rather than redundant.
Much of the plot is given to the Doctor being forced by the shipboard computer (GUS) to lead an investigation into the Foretold. This set up makes The Mommy on the Orient Express a real pressure cooker of an episode. During the investigation the Doctor is portrayed as heartless for being rather blunt with those who have seen the Mummy, telling one “hard cheese” before pumping him for information for the final minute of his life. One of the other characters refers to the Doctor’s lack of bedside manner, which calls back to Psi taking the Doctor to task for his ‘professional detachment’ in Time Heist. Although the writers clearly want us to make something of this new ‘harsher’ Doctor, the fact is had it been either of the previous two doctors those people still would have died and the Doctor would still have used their deaths to gain more information. They would just have said “I’m so, so sorry” and made their eyes go all big.
Of all the supporting cast a special mention must go out to Frank Skinner, who managed to spar verbally with the Doctor in a way no other character has been able to this series. Capaldi himself gives another strong turn as the Doctor in the Mummy on the Orient Express. Always acerbic, his energy fills the screen and while capable of hamming it up when necessary he can also give plenty away with a look and a raised eyebrow.
[custom_headline type=”left, center, right” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true”] Clara and the Doctor[/custom_headline]
I don’t want to go into too much detail about Clara not leaving the Doctor here as I enjoyed this episode and I don’t want to end the review with a moan. Suffice to say she didn’t leave and I wish she had. I’ve got nothing against Clara as a companion, but she is simply not working with this Doctor. In fact, this episode would have been even better had she not been in it all.
Mummy on the Orient Express rating
4/5 stars- only problem was the whole Clara subplot, which is becoming an issue with the whole series.