Sunday, October 12, 2014

Doctor Who 8.08: "Mummy on the Orient Express"

“Sometimes all you have are bad choices. But you still have to choose.”
- The Doctor

So if you believed the Doctor and Clara at the start of this episode, the adventure of the week was to be their last hurrah. Clara was going to step away from the TARDIS and travelling with the Doctor. She expected he’d still come around for tea or dinner but we know the Doctor really doesn’t do that. He barely wanted to stay for Christmas dinner at the end of ‘The Christmas Invasion”. And their (maybe) last adventure is a non-dangerous ride on the Orient Express space train made up to look like the original from Earth. But before they arrive, things prove to be not so safe. An elderly woman dies screaming about a mummy trying to get her. No one else can see it and it looks like a heart attack.

Once the Doctor and Clara arrive, they are drawn to the mystery of the elderly woman’s death. One of the men on the train is a professor of mythology and the Doctor starts talking to him about a monster called The Foretold. That would supposedly be the mummy, by the way. The Doctor doesn’t get the answers out of the professor he’s hoping for (what the most interesting thing is about the Foretold). And the Doctor also upsets the granddaughter of the dead woman when he’s telling Clara about all the planet that used to be where a black hole is now. That conversation is a bit tense because Clara keeps having a sad smile. She admits that she can’t hate him but she can’t keep travelling with him the way he does it. Just another reason he’s not her Doctor anymore.

The Doctor talks to himself and ends up developing a hunch. He doesn’t wake Clara (who’s talked to Danny and assured him the trip isn’t dangerous) and goes off to investigate his hunch. He ends up examining the life support device on the old woman’s chair and meets the chief engineer, Perkins. Perkins turns out to be quite the asset for the Doctor on this little mission. He brings the Doctor passenger manifests and design schematics without the Doctor even asking. Additionally, while the Doctor is snooping, Clara ends up bonding with Maisy, the dead woman’s granddaughter. They kind of bond while being locked in a room. Clara is trying to decide whether to keep travelling with the Doctor or not (despite her earlier assertions that she was done).

The Doctor is about to go free Clara when one of the chefs sees the Foretold and dies. I did find it interesting that they put up the counter of 66 seconds each time as a handy visual reference. That definitely increased the urgency for me. The Doctor gets called out by the conductor as not being who he said he was (the psychic paper listed him as a mystery shopper) and the Doctor starts getting haughty and angry. But he does start trying to figure out what is going on. He realizes that the train is full of doctors and professors and other people who have specific types of expertise. Everyone on the train is there to do an experiment of sorts. The train’s 1920s façade falls away and we are left in a laboratory. Holographic people disappear (they were only there to fill the train and make it look real).

The group assembled is now to see what they can learn about the Foretold and try to capture it. The Doctor tells Clara that he remembers getting free tickets and that someone phoned the TARDIS once. I have to say I totally knew that happened during Matt Smith’s era. I think it might have been on one of the special mini episodes on the DVD set for series 6. Given Moffat’s current trend of referencing past happenings, I was quite happy. The Doctor calls Clara and she finds manifests from other trains with information about the passengers (one train everyone died and was marked as poor and another where four died and was marked as promising) the entity behind the experiment gets testy and decompresses a portion of the train. They won’t be talking on the phone again. The professor sees the Foretold and starts telling the Doctor what he sees so at least they have a little data to work with. Unfortunately, the Doctor can’t save him. Perkins becomes rather helpful in looking through the manifest to find a common thread between all the dead people and it turns out both emotional and physical issues draw the mummy. It’s picking off the weak first. Maisy appears to be the next target and the Doctor orders Clara to bring her to the lab. He says of course Maisy will die but instructs Clara to lie to get the girl where they need her to be.

Clara and Maisy get to the lab and the Doctor uses a device to steal all of her emotional baggage so that he can see the Foretold and deal with it. Through a few other deaths they figured out it was a soldier wrapped in old bandages. He does get to yell ‘are you my mummy” which was a nice little “Empty Child” reference. The Doctor surrenders and that defeats the mummy. It disintegrates and leaves behind a phase teleporter. It’s the reason no one else could see it when it attacked and why it took 66 seconds to kill. It had to charge up to steal energy from people. But at least he didn’t needlessly let Maisy croak. The entity behind the experiment is pleased with the defeat of the Foretold but doesn’t need survivors. So it sucks the air out of the train compartment. Clara blacks out as the Doctor fiddles with the teleportation device. The next thing we see is the train explode. They won’t kill the Doctor and Clara so we know they survive. It turns out the Doctor got the teleporter to work just in time and saved everyone else.

Given the way the Doctor acted towards these people, like their deaths didn’t matter and that he’d let as many die as he needed to in order to find the answer, should have put Clara off. But, like an addiction, she can’t seem to step away. She even lies and says Danny is fine with her continuing to travel. That I not a good way to continue her relationship. Lying to him clearly didn’t work before so I don’t know why she’s doing it now. But I suppose we will find out soon enough if she actually stays on travelling or steps away and leaves the TARDIS for good. It wasn’t my all-time favorite episode of the season, but it wasn’t terrible. I do wish that Clara would make up her mind, though.

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