October 15th, 2014


Doctor Who: “Mummy on the Orient Express”

I don’t have much to say about this week’s Doctor Who episode, “Mummy on the Orient Express.” Shocking, I know! Especially given the lengthy screeds I’ve been writing about episodes for a while now. “Mummy” is the closest to a classic-era Doctor Who episode we’ve gotten so far this season: outer space, a monster, a mystery to solve, and an enclosed setting. No timey-wimey crap, no “secret origins” for the Doctor or Clara, just a welcome, straightforward adventure. It’s a good one, too. One of the better episodes this season.

The train in space conceit is stupid, and basically only exists because they needed something that sounded exotic when the setup was first mention at the end of the 2010, Eleventh Doctor episode “The Big Bang,” but it’s not so stupid as to be distracting. (Except maybe for the occasional train-snaking-through-space establishing shots, which put me in mind of the Soul Train animation more than anything else.)

I’m still having trouble getting a handle on Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. I liked who he was in the first four episodes of this season, but then suddenly they started writing him as manic and kooky, which doesn’t work for this Doctor. He needs to be more grounded, and he needs to stay grounded. In “Mummy,” he’s a little bit of both, and it’s no surprise to me that the scenes where he’s grounded and in control are the better ones.

**Very minor spoilers follow**

I also don’t quite understand Clara’s actions at the end of the episode when she decides to continue traveling with the Doctor. There’s no reason for her to lie to Danny about it except to force more narrative tension into the plot. Why not have her own her decision and then let Danny decide for himself how he feels and if he still wants to be a part of her life? Imagine how much better and more mature that scene would be than whatever inflated “confrontation” that waits for us down the line. Also, why lie to the Doctor about Danny being okay with it? The Doctor obviously wants her to stick around and doesn’t necessarily care if Danny is okay with it or not. It all feels very forced.

The TARDIS Data Core mentions there were a couple of deleted scenes for this episode, including one that “revealed that Maisie was present near the campfire on the beach in the end, explaining that when the Doctor implanted Maisie’s pain and trauma into himself, he took them away from her for good.” I think they should have kept that scene in. It would have gone a long way toward explaining how Clara found it in herself to forgive the Doctor for the way he acted in “Kill the Moon.”

No real neepery this time around, except that the Doctor offers somebody some jelly babies and says at one point, “Are you my mummy?” Sadly, the lack of a reference to the classic 1975, Fourth Doctor serial “Pyramids of Mars” is a missed opportunity.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.