Doctor Who: Mummy On The Orient Express (S8E08) Review

mummyontheorientexpress*SPOILERS*

This series of “Who” really seems to be hitting its stride, so the choice of song for Foxes’ smoky jazz cover couldn’t have been more appropriate. “Don’t Stop Me Now” indeed.

Because we are having a good time. Capaldi is absolutely rocking the character of the Doctor now and the setting is quirkily off yet familiar: very “Doctor Who”. The story is great, with a neat mix of comedy, suspense and more great moments for the 12th Doctor. The eponymous monster is fantastically creepy, skirting the very limits of what a family show can get away with, even at its later running time. The guest cast is very good, especially David Bamber as the blustering Captain who worst nightmare is a mystery. The other notable treat is Frank Skinner, who is actually fantastic as the deceptively sharp and wise chief engineer. Striking a more serious note than might have been expected, he’s nearly a match for the Doctor – except at the end, when he’s on the TARDIS set and you can practically hear the squee-ing in his head and his inner fanboy’s geeking-out shines unmistakably from his eyes.

The dialogue is peppered with great moments, especially the Doctor’s asking of the shambling horror ‘are you my mummy?’, Clara and Maisy’s sly reference to the Bechdel test when they’re locked away and the Doctor’s ambiguous promise to save Maisy’s life in order to get her where he wants her: manipulative, yes but no more than his Seventh incarnation was. The cigarillo case of jelly babies was a delight and the conceit of having only 66 seconds to live after seeing The Foretold (who’ll only be visible to you) is a great twist on the concept and mined for plenty of dramatic tension. The diagnostic questioning of doomed victims, especially the Doctor’s fellow scientists, is both thrilling and chilling and surprisingly affecting.

While the Captain’s fear of mystery shoppers is funny, his change of heart after another death is refreshing and more credible than Clara’s abrupt and, frankly, infuriating volte-face regarding leaving the TARDIS. We’ve been through three whole episodes of her crisis of conscience now, a trilogy of whining and lecturing and then it’s all washed away in an oddly unearned moment of caprice. Why couldn’t she have had this epiphany at the beginning of the episode and we could have been spared having the Doctor and Clara’s pending divorce weighing down the episode and getting in the way of the cracking story. I enjoyed Clara as a companion but was accepting of her imminent departure but now I’m counting down the moments. Not even Rose Tyler tried to make it all about her this much.

If it weren’t for Clara’s bleating and sudden betrayal of the principles she’s been banging on about for half a series now, this would have been another perfect 10. As it is, I’m dinging it one point for not making the most of the brilliant premise. Oh, and did you notice how much of a big deal was made of the mysterious individual who arranged the whole onboard mystery only to be left hanging? And the soldier theme returned in a none-too-subtle way. I wonder if it will all link back to Missy…..

9/10 TARDIS 9

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