Once a week, we have an unapologetic Doctor Who geek-out here to discuss the latest episode. I’ve just finished watching the 7th episode of the 8th season of the rebooted Doctor Who called Mummy on the Orient Express (<—that’s a recap from BBC America’s Anglophenia.)
Fair warning now: this is not a summary, just an off-the-top-of-my-head response, and it does contain spoilers. Of course it does – we have to talk about this stuff! So let’s begin, Whovians…
My apologies for being a bit late with this response. It was Thanksgiving here and so I didn’t get a chance to watch until late Monday night. Hoping to be a bit more on the ball and have something up for us by Sunday at the latest this weekend. xo
I’m just so happy that they finally made this episode. I’ve been waiting for it ever since the end of Season 5 when the Ponds were finally married, running away to the TARDIS with the Doctor (after rebooting the universe, natch) but the Doctor answers the ringing phone with the words “an Egyptian goddess running loose on the Orient Express? in space? Give us a mo’.” So we’ve been waiting a while for this one. Well, that and anything to do with Agatha Christie and the Doctor is always a good go, amirite? Only thing that could make it better would be Donna.
So after last week’s epic row, I was sure this episode would not feature Clara but instead, there she was just wandering out of the TARDIS – and looking mighty fetching in her Gatsby garb and bob, I might add. Once we heard about the “last hurrah” it makes a lot more sense, of course, but even so it was a bit jarring given her last scene with the Doctor.
This is one episode where I can really say that I loved the side-characters for once. Lately, we haven’t seen very compelling one-time companions – that was my complaint with Time Heist and even Kill the Moon – but both Perkins and Maisie were interesting and sympathetic to us. Here’s to Perkins turning down an invitation to the TARDIS – “that could change a man” he wisely discerns and walks away. It’s not too often we see someone size up a life with the Doctor and decide to stay put. I mean, granted, he was an engineer on the Orient Express in space so he’s not exactly hurting for a glimpse of something more wonderful than a temp from Chiswick but still.
Bless her heart, Clara really thought he might come around for supper now and again. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Doctor – in all incarnations – it’s that he sucks at good-byes. Life exists for him within the TARDIS, anyone not in the TARDIS is rarely on his mind. I recall one of the Tenth Doctor’s first episodes School Reunion when he met up with Sarah Jane Smith after all those years apart. She rips him a new rear end because he got in the TARDIS and left her behind – seemingly forever. But this is simply the way of things – Rose realises it eventually, Martha knows it, it was River’s great sorrow. Once you leave the TARDIS, he keeps moving.
I found myself actually really glad for the concept of the last hurrah – and disappointed when it didn’t pan out. Almost all of our companions leave us in a way that is UTTERLY DEVASTATING to us and so the idea of someone simply choosing to walk away was refreshing (Martha did this but of course she didn’t actually leave the whole alien-work itself or return to ‘regular life’ as Dr. Jones).
Yet at the end, we see that not only is the Doctor “addicted” to this life but Clara is thoroughly addicted now, too. Which does not bode well, my friends. Cue the ominous version of the music for good old Clara Oswin Oswald.
A few episodes ago, she struggled to articulate her reasons for travelling with the Doctor to Danny and now we know why: she just can’t stop. She simply can’t leave him, however conflicted she feels about him. Even her resignation when she realises he knew something was probably likely to happen and how he made her an accomplice in his lying is telling. It simply is what they do.
And sure enough, she lies and tells him that Danny was the one who wanted her to stop travelling with him and he’s changed his mind when really, she just can’t bring herself to step out of the TARDIS forever. Now that she knows it’s a forever-decision, she can’t go stone-cold sober. But she lied about it.
And yet they are both so overjoyed at her decision to stay. “Shut up and show me a planet” – that’s music to his ears.
The whole setting – a train in space, an exact replica of the Orient Express, crazy concept, clock ticking – this is the kind of stuff I love about this show. It’s completely fantastical and yet just plain awesome. The premise was so good, too – good and scary.
Loved the resolution this time around, too. It was just a delight to see the Doctor surprise us by saving Maisie (I honestly didn’t think he would, I don’t really trust him at all anymore) by taking her memories and then confronting the Mummy himself and solving the entire puzzle within the 66 seconds. Watching Peter Capaldi act the living crap out of that scene was incredible. It was absolutely thrilling. Goodness, he’s good.
So here’s the big question of the episode: who is Gus? Short for “sarcophagus” which was what Clara and Maisie sat beside in that car? Anyone else have a flashback to the Fourth Doctor’s adventures with The Pyramids of Mars? Some little part of me was hoping that Gus would turn out to have something to do with that good old Sutekh. No such luck.
Fun bits for us: The Doctor talking to himself in his cabin sounded an awful lot like Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor, right? And then opening his cigarette case and seeing jelly babies. Dead on the floor. and of course, as he’s engaging with the Mummy he asks, “Are you my mummy?” I barked out loud in delight. I love how this show gets funnier the longer you watch it.
As a note to both of those incidents, I notice that when this Doctor references his past lives, he goes way back to the Classic doctors. He’s quite separate and distinct from the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, almost as if he is deliberately doing so. If I had to pick one Doctor, I’d say he’s almost more like the Ninth Doctor perhaps than any other but with a bit of that Third Doctor disinterested scientist thing going on. What do you think?
I think that’s part of why I find the reference to addiction and his line “People with guns to their heads don’t have time to mourn” so interesting. These two things both show how this Doctor in particular views the world. He’s got a sense of urgency that I haven’t seen from the Doctor in the reboot, a sense of being held hostage by his compulsion to do this. But regardless, it seems that just as his TARDIS has been stripped down to essentials and originals, his outfit has been stripped down to essentials, and even his “veil” as Madame Vastra would put it has disappeared. The god is no longer insisting on the face of a 12-year-old, as River would say. It seems to me that perhaps this Doctor is a more core-version, without the accoutrements or veils that we’ve come to love and even expect. And I have to admit, he is still growing on me. He seems more raw and essential, this Doctor.
I still miss liking him but I think I’m starting to understand him – even as he seems to not understand himself most of the time.
Overall, I loved it – exciting, interesting, fascinating, and plenty of fun.
Now what do you think? Did you like the episode? Any theories or ideas or highlights? Have at it – I love your comments and can’t wait to get the conversation going.
(And as a note, I did finish the Beginner’s Guide to Doctor Who – here’s hoping it’s useful to you as you try to convert your friends and family to your own Who-addiction.)