Recap: ‘Doctor Who’ – The Mummy isn’t the only ancient thing on the Orient Express

10.11.14 3 years ago


After a heavy-handed unplanned pregnancy metaphor last week, Clara decided she”d had just about enough of traveling with the Doctor. It”s one thing to befriend a madman in a box, it”s quite another to clean up the messes of a cavalier madman with a tenuous grasp on the idea that other people have thoughts and emotions.

But will this be the last we see of Ms. Oswald? The trailers last week showed Twelve traveling by train. The last time he did that was as Tennant during a fairly companion-free episode (“Midnight”). Perhaps the trend of the Doctor traveling solo on trains will continue? Let”s find out!


We open cold with quick cuts. The number 66, an old incandescent lightbulb, a mummy, a clock.  Look down. We”re on a train in the 1920s. Was this episode written by the Old Spice guy?

An old lady and what appears to be her granddaughter are enjoying the dining car when suddenly the old woman is like “Do my old eyes deceive me or is a risen dead shuffling towards me?” Everyone else on the train thinks she”s having a senile moment right up until the mummy kills her by placing his hands on either side of her head. As everyone freaks out thinking the old biddy just had a heart attack – still no one else can see the mummy – we pull back. The train is in space. Because of course it is.

By the way, this is the second Monster-Of-The-Week this season to utilize “liquifying” brains as a method of incapacitation. Coupled with the constant allusions to people/things that have outlived their welcome and a theme begins to emerge. Perhaps there”s no overarching Bad Guy™ this year because the villain is the fear of living too long?

The TARDIS has landed in the baggage car of the Orient Express: Space Edition, and out steps the Doctor…and Clara? Both in full 1920s regalia. Any time bedazzled dresses with art deco designs and dropped waists want to come back into style is totally cool. Just saying. But delightful fashion aside, I guess they made up? Did we just skip over the hard conversation that led up to this adventure? 

Twelve is rambling on about the Orient Express being an exact replica of the original…except larger…and in space. Clara says this is a good adventure to “end it” on. Ohhhhhh. This is the Time Lord equivalent of when you”ve broken up with someone but the sex is really good, so you keep coming back until you wean yourself off of the relationship. Got it.

Over a fantastic jazz rendition of “Killer Queen” – which is this available for download on iTunes and if not, WHY NOT!? – the Doctor uncharacteristically continues to ramble about the planets or space trivia while Clara “malfunctions” by smiling while sad. She gives the scathing line said many times, by many people, trying to cleanly break up with someone: she doesn”t hate the Doctor, because hate is too strong of an emotion for someone you don”t even like. 

Twelve is gonna need some ice for that burn.

Still discombobulated from watching Grandma bite it while screaming about mummies, the blonde lady overhears the Doctor babbling about some space thing that was destroyed thousands of years ago. “That man is a liar,” she says. Oh, from the mouths of one-off characters.

The blonde is escorted away from the group before she can have hysterics, by one Captain Quell. It is at this point our heroes learn about the incident with the mummy.  Quell asks the ever important, if rarely asked question of what Twelve is a Doctor of…but of course the Time Lord lies because obfuscating is like breathing to him. We also learn the Orient Express is fair bursting with doctors and professor this trip.

Something is up.

On the way to their rooms, Clara is understandably miffed. This was supposed to be a drama-free last hurrah, and now there”s an invisible mummy murdering old women on the Orient Express. “Did a wizard put a curse on you?” she asks Twelve. I don”t know Clara, but if it did, verily that wizard was from the moon. 

It”s also worth noting that Clara – unlike the Ponds – was under the impression the Doctor would definitely still be popping back to visit her even if she wouldn”t be traveling. You know, Twelve would come around for dinner because that”s what friends do, right? They certainly don”t drop a friend of YEARS like a bad habit and abscond into the night like a thief, right?
The Doctor totally dodges the question and runs away to have a conversation with himself in his sleeping car about the mummy. Maybe it”s real? Maybe it isn”t? This isn”t just out-loud talking though…it”s borderline split personalities having a conversation. Twelve, are you okay?

Meanwhile Clara is in her room, on the phone with Danny. WHAT CELL PHONE COMPANY ARE THESE PEOPLE USING BECAUSE I WOULD LIKE TO SIGN UP! Danny asks how the break-up trip is going, and Clara says it”s actually kind of boring. I guess not constantly being in fear for your life means the adrenaline high isn”t scratching the itch.

Without alerting Clara that the game is afoot – RUDE – Twelve sneaks off to see if he can find any clues about this mysterious mummy. His search takes him back to the baggage car and the creepy Orient Express engineer, Perkins. This guy has all the hallmarks of a disreputable character, but he points out the Doctor was the one skulking around the Life Extender of a deceased old lady and they call a truce. 

Not knowing the Doctor ran off to adventure without her, Clara goes to knock on Twelve”s door when the blonde appears. Her name is Maisie and she is walking down the hall in the dead of night in her nightgown, wielding a high heel like a weapon. I like the cut of Maisie”s jib. Turns out the old lady wasn”t her Grandma…but her mom…and the train crew won”t let her see the body and she”s had just about enough of that and is breaking in by destroying the control panel with her shoe.

Back out in the dining car, the Doctor has spotted one Professor Villiers, an expert in alien mythology. How convenient. In true Twelve eccentric fashion, he sits down and immediately starts pumping Villiers for information on The Foretold. Luckily the Professor is an academic, and no stranger to weird quirks, and follows along just fine. We discover the mummy is a 5,000 year old myth in which the monster kills you within 66 seconds of seeing it. Some say you can stave off inevitable death by bartering with it or saying the right secret phrase. This is all going to be on the test later, so write it down I guess?

Lights, clock, mummy…chef. In the kitchen of the Orient Express one of the chefs has seen his demise and it looks like a B-Movie monster. The little countdown clock in the bottom right corner of the screen rolls down from 66. The chef runs into the freezer to no avail while the rest of the kitchen staff desperately try to figure out what he”s running from. In what must be the most time accurate countdown on TV ever, the clock hits 0 and the chef dies.

Captain Quell is on hand to make sure everyone on staff understands this was a heart attack. Nothing more. A heart. Attack. And if they even hint it was something else, they will be fired instantly.

Back in the room with Maisie and Clara, the latter is trying to break them out since the control panel is busted. Thanks, Maisie. The blonde flapper laments that she needs to see her mom/grandma”s body because she feels guilty. She”d been wishing for years that the old bird would die and now she has. Trust me girl, if you could wish people to death, they”d be dropping like flies all the damn time.

Displeased with Captain Quell”s handling of the mysterious deaths, Twelve breaks out the psychic paper which reveals the Captain”s worst nightmare…is secret shoppers. What? The Doctor tries to convince Quell to actually do something, but the ex-military man is having none of it. People drop dead. He”s not getting involved in anything that might upset his cushy retirement job. Twelve leaves in disgust and right outside waits the creepy hobo engineer who helpfully states the Doctor isn”t on the passenger list.

Still trapped in the room with a creepy sarcophagus because shattering the control panel with a high heels irrevocably breaks the door, Maisie pumps Clara for information about the Doctor. She wants to know who he is and if they”re seeing each other and wouldn”t life be easier if you just liked the people you”re supposed to like? Clara continues to play the mouthpiece of the audience by declaring it”s stupid that they”re trapped in a room and all they”re talking about is some man. Clara is cranky this conversation isn”t passing the Bechdel test. But then she plays along by saying you “can”t end on a slammed door,” to which Maisie is like “Um, yes you can.” Preach it, girl.

Engineer Perkins, the Doctor, and Professor Villiers are watching the security footage from when the old lady died, trying to discern what the hell happened. To no avail…until the Doctor looks at some paperwork and decides it”s a good time to sonic screwdriver a steampunk device into a cell phone. In typical Doctor fashion it takes him a good long while to stop talking and hear Clara when she says she”s trapped but as soon as the words register he is on the move with light speed to her rescue. Unfortunately, Gus the computer voice is still pissed off at being attacked with a stiletto heel and is decidedly stubborn enough to resist the sonic. Clara points out the Doctor might want to hurry because the sarcophagus is beginning to open.

Lights, clock, mummy. 

The sarcophagus pops open and inside is…bubble wrap and red LED lights? Huh. Captain Quell and Perkins appears before Twelve can pop the door and are all “You aren”t a secret shopper” and arrest the Doctor. Maisie and Clara are going to spend the rest of their lives in that train car, I guess.

Or perhaps not. In the dining car, a bellman is firing blindly at nothing. Well, he”s firing at the mummy but since no one else can see it, it just looks like he”s unloading his gun into the ceiling and then dying of a brain hemorrhage. At this point Captain Quell is like FINE SOMETHING WEIRD IS GOING ON, and takes the handcuffs off our hero.

Finally the Doctor is able to reveal what he saw on that paperwork. There”s something strange about the passenger list…it”s all experts in alien biology and mythology. It”s almost like someone put together a team to figure out something. Someone powerful. Someone listening to them, right now.
On cue, the train engines cut out and the facade of the Orient Express drops away to reveal a laboratory. Certain passengers pop out of existence as their holographic images are no longer needed. Gus the computer voice booms into the room that it is up to these scientists to capture the mummy and reverse engineer its power. To what end remains a mystery.

The Doctor points out the mummy is already on board, so why do they need to catch something Gus has already been able to capture? The answer? The mummy isn”t captured. Gus just knows it always shows up wherever this ancient scroll on the wall is. NOW GET TO WORK.

Lights, clock, mummy. 

Professor Villiers” time is up. As everyone in the room watches, Villiers desperately tries to be scientific about his imminent death. Under the Doctor”s instruction, the alien mythology expert tries to describe the mummy as it advances towards him. In the end, he crumbles under the panic of knowing the Doctor can”t save him and tries to barter with the monster. It doesn”t work.

“Grief counseling is available,” Gus offers helpfully. 

Clara calls the Doctor to let him know she and Maisie figured out the sarcophagus is a stasis unit. Probably where Gus wants them to put the mummy once they catch it. And there”s another thing they discovered. This is not the first group of scientists Gus has put on the Orient Express…and no one has gotten off alive. 

At this point Gus is like “GET OFF THE PHONE!” but the Doctor is listening. So Gus jettisons the lunch room! Complete with all those poor kitchen worker Red Shirts. If the Doctor or anyone else lollygags again, the computer will continue to murder less valuable passengers and eventually just decompress the whole damn train. 

The threat give the Doctor an idea, because he thrives under pressure. How is The Foretold picking its prey? A quick background check reveals what the victims have in common: weakness. The old lady was older than dirt, the chef had a blood disorder, the bellhop was using synthetic lungs, and the professor suffered from panic attacks. Using the powers of deduction, they figure Captain Quell is next for suffering from PTSD.

“That”s good to know,” says the Doctor, because is he literally incapable of candy-coating anything in his current regeneration.

Lights, clock, mummy. 

Captain Quell is a real trooper. He shoots at The Foretold and let”s everyone know it doesn”t even flinch. The Doctor stands in front of the mummy and Quell dutifully points out it goes right through him. The Foretold teleports and Quell proves he is a military man at heart, describing shit right up until he drops dead on the floor.

Everyone is rightfully freaking the hell out. But Twelve is all “There”s no time to mourn!” which is completely an alien thing to say and Perkins calls him on it. Is no one questioning why the engineer is even here? I posit a hypothesis: Perkins works for Gus and Gus is an extension of the Master.

Eureka! The Doctor has deduced what the 66 seconds and the lights dimming is all about. It”s ancient tech powering up. Now he just needs the next victim to test this theory. Unfortunately the next victim is Maisie and she”s still trapped in the sarcophagus car with Clara. Risking Gus”s wrath, the Doctor calls Clara is tells her to get Maisie up to the dining car, no matter what. He even admits he can”t save her, but Clara needs to lie and say he can…AND SHE DOES IT.

Clara, no.

They finally manage to bust out of the room, but Gus has put up a forcefield around the TARDIS. So Clara is forced to lead Maisie to her death instead of to safety. Up in the lab, things get worse when the Doctor accidentally confesses that Gus has been tempting him here forever. Clara is all “THIS IS WHY I”M LEAVING YOU, YOU LIYING LIAR PANTS” and good for her. Not only does the Doctor lie, but now he”s made Clara lie for him.

Lights, clock, mummy.

With no way to know what was about to happen Maisie is losing it. But the Doctor has a device and tells her to focus all her rage and grief and fear into it and somehow it transfers to the Doctor because TECHNOLOGY and now The Foretold is after the Time Lord instead of the flapper, so I guess he did save her. You sneaky shit.

“Are you my mummy?” asks Twelve. Well played, Capaldi. Once more proving he thrives under pressure, the Doctor talks his way through the problem. The scroll is a flag and the mummy is a soldier. A soldier that has been augmented with tech and it won”t let him die, won”t let him stop. Twelve sympathizes. And he finds the magic words, “I surrender.”

Freed after untold centuries, The Foretold immediately disintegrates into dust that everyone can see, leaving behind a weird piece of tech. But Gus is pretty pissed they killed the mummy instead of capturing him and as punishment, immediately begins decompressing the entire train. Right before she passes out, Clara tells the Doctor to hurry up with whatever he”s doing with the mummy”s “heart” to save them all.

The Orient Express explodes.

Clara awakens on a rocky shore. The Doctor is cagey, but says he saved everyone. He just dropped them off in that city in the distance. I”m not entirely sure I believe him. Which I suppose is the point. Twelve does say he would”ve let everyone on that train die to beat Gus though, because sometimes all the choices you have are bad ones.

Sometime later, Perkins is looking at the inner working of the TARDIS and Twelve is asking if the engineer would like to stay aboard. Perkins declines the invite and I still don”t trust this guy. Don”t let him look under Sexy”s hood!

As Clara says good-bye to traveling with the Doctor for the final time, she asks him if he likes making the impossible choices, if it”s an addiction. She tries to talk him down, says it doesn”t have to be his life, but obviously the Doctor is never going to stop because he is TOTALLY addicted to the adrenaline rush.

Danny calls to see how things are going and for some reason Clara lies to both her boyfriend and her Doctor. She says Danny is totally cool with her continuing to travel with the Doctor and tells Danny she”s wrapping things up with Twelve. Then with a devilish smile proclaims her desire to leave the TARDIS was a “wobble” and where are they going next?

The Doctor isn”t the only one who lies.

So what did you guy”s think? Is Engineer Perkins a little to creepy to be on the up and up? Is Clara going to regret lying to the men in her life? 

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