Doctor Who - “Mummy on the Orient Express” (Season 8, Episode 8) Recap/Analysis | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Doctor Who - “Mummy on the Orient Express” (Season 8, Episode 8) Recap/Analysis

BBC America, Saturdays 9/8 Central

Oct 13, 2014 Web Exclusive
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[Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen the latest episode of Doctor Who, then read no further.]

Lately I've been celebrating the fact that Doctor Who has been successfully pushing itself forward by pulling the science fiction stuff back a bit to reveal a captivating character drama, but this week's episode succeeds by delivering one of the most quintessential Doctor Who episodes this season. All the working components are therea monster, science fiction, a bit of history, jelly babiesand yet, it comes off as fresh as anything else Moffat has done lately.

The Doctor and Clara agree on one last hurrah, one more knockabout among the stars, and The Doctor settles on a train ride through space on The Orient Express. Of course, there's more than just a leisurely ride with galactic scenery, as passengers wind up dead after seemingly hallucinating a mummy. The Doctor figures out that the passengers are all scientists lured onto the train to figure out the mummy thing themselves, while also being slowly picked off by the monster's ticking time bomb.

Clara's presence in this episode was a bit of a surprise, given her final words with The Doctor at the end of "Kill the Moon." It was obvious from the get-go that this wasn't really the last hurrah, but we needed to see how Clara was going to work that out, and she needed to work it out on her own, without The Doctor and without Danny, so putting her in a boxcar with Maisie fulfilled that particular storytelling requirement. Maisie's mum was the mummy's first victim in this episode, and pairing her grief over losing a loved one with whom she had a difficult relationship gave Clara a chance to reflect on her increasingly complicated relationship with The Doctor, which she eventually decides to continue, but more on that later.

The story moves along at a swift pace, helped along by the on-screen timer every time the mummy makes an appearance. The train setting helps illustrate the inevitability of each victim's demise, with The Doctor stepping in as the immovable object that its unstoppable force must reckon with. I'm not sure what the mummy was exactly, other than a riddle, and more importantly one that The Doctor solved. What's more compelling, and will probably be left unanswered, is the story behind the villainous computer "Gus," who turns out to be unimpressed with The Doctor's wit and tries to kill everyone on board anyway.

Again, Clara sees this Doctor coldly react to a character's potential mortality and again she's reminded why she decided to call their adventure's off. The Doctor is essentially playing out the old utilitarian philosophical question about actively killing one person to save many people, with a few tweaks of course, but he does confess to Clara at the end that he would have continued on to the next one, and the next one. So far, Capaldi has given us the sense that The Doctor really does perceive reality slightly differently than his companions, and that the overall insignificance of one life might not be as valuable in his grand scheme. Thankfully, he appears to disprove that theory at the end of "Mummy on the Orient Express" by claiming to take on an unsympathetic façade as a way of playing his cards close to his chest.

Which only leaves us with the purposefully anti-climactic ending. It felt abrupt to suddenly tie things up with Clara's second thoughts about travelling with The Doctor, but the question now is that as she postpones the inevitable confrontation, who will be on the receiving end of her dismissal? The Doctor, or Danny Pink? The Doctor seems like the obvious choice, given that she nearly "dumped" him right here, but then again, she's not addicted to her relationship with Danny in the same way she is addicted to adventuring through time and space. (www.bbcamerica.com/doctor-who/)

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Author rating: 8.5/10

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