TV Review: Doctor Who Series 8: Mummy on the Orient Express

Mummy on the Orient Express by Jamie Mathieson

Warning: Spoilers!

First a quick statement of intent. As I’m covering Series 1-7 retrospectively I’ll try to keep reviews of series 8 as spoiler free for the previous seasons as possible. I’ll do some catch up reviews for the first half of this series as soon as possible.

Now for this week’s episode…

‘Many trains have the name ‘Orient Express’ but only one…in space’
It’s an ambitious setting for an episode – fortunately the effects don’t let you down. The space background, the train and the mummy itself all look superb. The guest cast are all decent – even if some of them deserved a bit more screen time. David Bamber is particularly good value as Captain Quell and Frank Skinner’s joy at appearing in the program is evident throughout. Jamie’s Mathieson’s script isn’t that complex, but this works in his favour as he tells a straightforward tale with elements of horror (the Mummy) and a few sci-fi twists (the train is actually a test environment to study the Mummy).

The episode shows the fractured nature of the Doctor and Clara’s relationship, she stills loves the travelling – but doesn’t trust the Doctor anymore and wants to stop. Her decision at the end to keep going, despite him abusing her trust TWICE (by already knowing the train was a potential trap and not warning her and THEN by forcing her to lie to a doomed passenger – something clearly against her nature) can’t end well. The episode compared travelling with the Doctor to an addiction – and it seems Clara is well and truly hooked.

Clara has little to do in the episode itself; the Doctor mainly interacts with the passengers and crew of the Express, but given how involved and crucial she’s been so far this series it feels like a one-off exception to the rule, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

After several episodes this series have focused on character pieces it was refreshing to have one which was primarily plot driven, as the Doctor gets locked in a race against time to discover the Mummy’s secrets before it wipes out the passengers and the crew. That said, Capaldi’s Doctor is at his darkest here, merely observing and learning as passengers are struck down by the monster, without any compassion for their demise. His behaviour basically says to sacrifice some now so he can save more later – logical, but very, very cold and not something you could imagine Smith or Tennant’s Doctors doing so callously.

The ticking clock element works well to inject some tension into the episode, but while there was never any doubt the Doctor would save the day I did wonder as the body count racked up how many people he’d sacrifice in the process. There’s always a sense of unease with this Doctor – you never know what he’s going to do next – and you often find yourself doubting his motivations.

Overall a good episode, not the best but like the rest of series 8, I can’t fault much of it.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Next time: Jamie Mathieson’s second entry of the series: Flatline…

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