TV REVIEW: Doctor Who - Mummy on the Orient Express

 After last week’s trip to the moon, (read Becky’s review here), Doctor Who went all Agatha Christie this week, although naturally there was a non-Earthly twist or two.

‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ provided yet another state the obvious title, although admittedly quite a charming one. Dressed in a gorgeous 1920s flapper dress which I don’t even need to Google far to know caused many a Whovian fan-boy heart to flutter, Clara (Jenna Coleman), joined The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) for what turned out to be their ‘last hurrah’, despite last week’s colossal, and completely called for, row. Anyway, as this was an episode of Doctor Who, and not Downton Abbey, despite what the lavish surroundings would suggest, all is not quite what it seems on board the beautiful space train.

In actual fact, and again you probably got this from the title, there is a Mummy on board, picking off victims one by one, with one particular grandmother murdered even before the opening credits. Phewf. From the moment the victim sees the Mummy, and they alone see it, as, chillingly, it is invisible to everyone else, they have exactly 66 seconds to live. A little specific, The Doctor is quick to establish. Perhaps this is more than just your average Ancient Egyptian monster?

In typical murder mystery fare, it turns out there are plenty of smart alecs aboard who are willing to help, including professors, doctors and ex-soldiers, continuing the running theme of the series. Also on board is Frank Skinner, in a star turn as chief train engineer Perkins. Whilst it wasn’t necessarily  a bad job from the comedian, far from it, he could happily turn up again and it would totally work, you couldn’t help but feel that, unlike other guest turns or even the tiny cameo from the uber cool singer Foxes at the start of the episode, the show was doing more a favour to him as a Whovian than it was to audiences. But ho hum.

Whilst ‘Mummy…’ was good fun, and certainly one of the more visually memorable situation specific episodes of recent times, it didn’t really contribute a whole lot to, well, anything really. As I mentioned earlier, Clara’s ‘wobble’ of last week, is all but ignored as she walks straight into shot just a few minutes in, virtually arm in arm with The Doctor. Her later U-turn on her original feelings, whilst not remotely surprising given her evident reluctance to walk away as the episode went on, did her a disservice as a companion shaping up to be just a little tougher, and more confident in her own mind than previous doe-eyed travel pals have been. She’s had quite a few chances to shine in recent episodes, and all credit to Jenna Coleman for some really cracking performances, it just that this wasn’t one of her character’s better moments.

The monster, and indeed its architect, whilst clever in concept during the middle chunks of the episode, weren’t really explained by the end, leaving us wondering, and perhaps hoping, that something more will come of them later. This was another episode lacking in the Missy department, so perhaps they’re in some way connected with her? 

All that said, the episode did deal well with the elements of this new, slightly reckless Doctor that we’re still getting used to just as much as Clara is. In what was probably one of the best scenes of the episode, Clara, having once again lost her faith in this Doctor who blatantly lies to her face and asks her to do the same, awakens to find herself on the beach of a far-off planet, wrapped in a chintzy blanket. (Perhaps it will turn up as a blouse later?) Still not entirely sure what’s happened, when she asks about their fellow passengers survival, she’s met with exactly the sort of darkly sarcastic reply that only Capaldi can really pull off: ‘No, I just saved you. I let everyone else suffocate’. Whilst a brilliant line in itself, this also showed a wonderful awareness of The Doctor’s increasingly callous attitude, and isn’t a line we’d really have heard from any other recent incarnation of the character.

So, whilst I had a few issues with ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’, and its brushing under the faux 1920s carpet of several key things, I’m not going to argue too much with an episode that included the line Are you my Mummy?, to a mummy, in what was generally an excellent script from newbie Jamie Mathieson.

Next week’s ‘Flatline’ looks like quite a Clara-centric episode, which might give us some much-needed answers as to her future in the police box and stop me harping on about it too much.

But Becky will be telling you all about that, so keep an eye out for her review!


You can check out Becky’s thoughts on Time Heist  here.

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