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…

Doctor Who response

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.)

Read More:

Episode 1: Deep Breath 

Episode 2: Into the Dalek

Episode 3: Robots of Sherwood

Episode 4: Listen

Episode 5: Time Heist

Episode 6: The Caretaker

Episode 7: Kill the Moon

 Episode 8: Mummy on the Orient Express

Episode 9: Flatline

Episode 10: In the Forest of the Night

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  • JennaDeWitt

    I definitely enjoyed this episode more than 1. any other this season (with Sherwood being a solid second) and 2. more than I thought I would from the teaser.

    Loved Clara’s hair cut and clothing style. Points to the costume department!

    The “solider” thing just keeps getting bigger. Is it just a natural theme after revisiting his actions in the Time War or do you think they are building up to something major (either in plot or, more likely, character development)? Or maybe it’s just to emphasize his darkness/dangerous side in contrast to 11’s boyishness.

    • You’re right, I missed that connection with the conductor about how he was a soldier with PTSD. I don’t know if they’re building up to something major, its been a bit all over the place for major story arc. It’s not like we’re seeing cracks in the fabric of time every episode, is it? We had Missy and now she’s pretty much gone entirely and then we have the soldier thing now, who knows?? Moffat. *shakes fist*

    • Tawny Burgess

      Yeah, the soldier thing seems to be a common theme with every episode. I wonder what it will mean for the overall theme. It reminds me that Gallifrey is still missing and that the Doctor should go ahead and find it. Finish the war.

    • Karen Morti Charles

      Even the mummy had been a soldier – and The Doctor understood him because of it.

      • Tawny Burgess

        That’s so true!

  • Brenda P

    I absolutely LOVED the 66 seconds where the Doctor worked out the puzzle and saved everyone! I feel like that restored a little of my faith in him, especially after I sympathized with Clara’s initial anger that he intentionally brought them into a dangerous situation. I think I’m having a hard time coming to terms with this Doctor because I don’t like the darker sides. I liked the fun, quirky, endearing side of him that came out in the previous two Doctors.

    It did feel jarring to have Clara be there right away. I know she said it’s been a couple of weeks for her, but it was only a week for me and I’m still mad.

    I still have all kinds of questions about who that voice in the sky was. And I’m itching for a story arch. It feels like it’s been too long since a story that kept putting puzzle pieces in place and doing the cool wibbly wobbly stuff. I’m also ready to find out about Missy and “heaven.” I want to see how this Doctor acts in a story arch like other Doctors have had.

    I also felt very vindicated when it turned out the soldier wanted a surrender, because I had an inkling that it might be something like that, something that no one had done yet.

    • That’s how I felt about that 66 seconds. I could totally have seen David Tennant doing that exact thing so maybe that’s why we loved it. I don’t mind the darker sides – they were always there – but I felt like Ten was way more aware of that side and battled it while Eleven just pretended they weren’t there (he “forgot” as The Moment said). Now we’re dark as a stack of black cats, it seems.

      And yes, the voice in the sky is weird because it’s an unsolved mystery along with about two other big ones we’ve had so far. Here’s hoping they’re all connected. And good on you for figuring out the soldier bit! I never saw that coming and was on the edge of my seat!

      • Karen Morti Charles

        Voice in the sky? I don’t remember that. Can someone refresh my memory or will I “have” to watch it again?!

    • Tawny Burgess

      Yeah, I agree about Clara. I was a bit mad that she was back because I too was still upset with him. Though it does make sense that she was ending it on a good note with the Doctor, but still. I totally agree with you.

  • Maybe it’s because I’m not binge-watching them, one right after another, so I don’t have hours of things to digest, but I’m just not satisfied with this series. I keep feeling like maybe the next episode will be better, but so far, it hasn’t. I feel like there’s never TRULY a resolve. That things just build and build and you’re expecting an amazing climax with a great, mind-blowing effect. But really, you just get a HUGE build up and a poor climax in which they try to explain everything, but in my opinion fail ultimately and usually against cannon. I always feel like there should’ve been something more in an hour-long show. It leaves much to be desired these days. I never felt this way with Eleven, but perhaps that’s because we saw his relationship and story with Amy and Rory. These two were just thrown together; we don’t really know much about their relationship. Clara and Twelve are really static, having more growth now, but not seeming to really learn from each other. They seem to be addicts who like this one thing, but really don’t care for each other now. I really, truly hope Danny comes on as a companion. I think the dynamic would be lots better, even if the writing isn’t.

    PS- My dad freaked about the jelly babies too!

    • True. Watching the show week to week (with horrid commercials breaking up the tension) really takes away the urgency of a binge session. I am really hoping for Danny, too!

  • Shane Deal

    I liked this episode quite a bit, though to be honest, the mummy was a bit creepy. I would be lying if I said I didn’t see him popping up in my imagination throughout the rest of the day.

    I liked how the reunion of Clara and The Doctor was handled, though I was a bit startled by not seeing the actual ‘reconciliation’ moment.

    I’d like to know who or what this great intelligent being that The Doctor referred to as gathering together the experts to study the mummy. A person who has no qualms about destroying people, apparently, even seeming to enjoy their cruelty. I’m also curious as to whether that ties in at all to the heavenly plot-line.

    Yes to his resemblance to nine and three! (Come to think of it, twelve is what you get when you add nine and three.)

  • Paul Wesley

    Well I loved this one; certainly my favourite of this season. Such an enjoyable story with a very satisfying conclusion.

    Paul Wilmshurst once again did a fine job from the directors chair, and he made the tight confines of the train delightfully claustrophobic.

    The ensemble cast were particularly good in this episode and it was great to see a couple of Doctor Who alumni making appearances as the Mummy’s next meals. The Mummy, by the way, really looked the goods.

    I particularly loved the scene where the Doctor saved Maisie. It was a beautiful moment where he stood in the gap between the living and the dead. Up until that point it was all about risk calculation, but when he felt he was close enough, he made that leap of faith to prevent any more people from meeting an untimely demise.

    I felt that this episode knocked off a couple more of this Doctor’s hard edges, and I found the scene on the beach rather endearing. His true character and courage shining through that rather awkward exterior.

    All in all, this was a magnificent debut for James Mathieson and I can’t wait to see what he gives us this week, Flatline looks fascinating.

    • Yes, you’re right, Paul, it did go a long ways to making him sympathetic and heroic again. That Mummy was insane. So often the monsters are a let-down or side-story to the real plot development but that one was actually properly scary and I even loved his name, The Foretold. So creepy. And yes, Flatline looks fascinating. Can’t wait for that one.

    • Tawny Burgess

      I completely agree with you. I loved how you said, ” It was a beautiful moment where he stood in the gap between the living and the dead.” <– that's beautiful writing right there.

  • Meghann McKnight

    First, I loved the twist on the mystery in Agatha’s Orient Express. Everyone in “fancy dress” in a sense and the one/versus everyone (but reversed).
    I liked this one overall, except Clara’s response at the end, which just made me sad. She lied to both the doctor and to Pink. Lying to Pink–which, based on previous conversations, pretty much guarantees that she has killed that relationship–means she has chosen the Doctor over Pink. A man who is still living the soldier’s life and who will use her as necessary to do what needs to be done versus a man who loves her and cares for her and would pull her from the fire. I feel like Clara was one companion who could hold her own against the doctor, stand up to him and even in some ways match his intellect (not completely, but closer than previous companions). And yet, she is allowing the addiction to take over–and that does not bode well for either a character’s moral development or future.
    I feel like this Doctor is more consistently willing to sacrifice the one for the good of the many–except in Kill the Moon. Other doctors did it, but they seemed more conflicted about it. I agree, this doctor is strong and powerful and deep, but not particularly likeable.

    • Good point about the lying.

    • Tawny Burgess

      Yeah, it was really hard seeing her lie to the Doctor and also to Pink. I don’t know where their relationship is going to stand now that she did lie. She chose the Doctor over Pink whether she wants to admit it or not. She definitely has an addiction problem and I wonder how Pink will deal with that.

  • Rea

    This episode was a delightful reminder of the show that I fell in love with. Great story, great ensemble, some good lines, and a bit of a mystery left hanging (who is Gus?!) That said, I thought the scene where Clara wakes up after the rescue seemed a bit random. I don’t really like it when instead of showing us what happened the Doctor just stands there and says “Well, I did this and then I did this.” But then again, maybe the whole point was that just like Clara we have to decide whether we believe him or not. Is he still the Doctor who will put everything on the line to try to save every last person, or is he the Doctor who calculates the costs and makes decisions that seem frightfully cold and logical? We’ve been told over and over again that Rule #1 is “The Doctor lies.” But we are being really beat over the head with it this season, it seems. (Random thought…Gus is almost an extension of this doctor. Coldly calculating, solving a problem no matter the cost, willing to lie to achieve his ends. It’s almost what the Doctor would be like without the humanity of the companions to reign him in. What the Doctor would be like without a soul.)

    • JennaDeWitt

      Rule #1 came to my mind with this episode too. Funny how in the RTD era rule #1 was “don’t wander off.” Right? Or did I miss that with 9 and 10? I’m pretty sure the first I heard of “The Doctor lies” was from River. Though, of course, the other Doctors surely did lie to save others, I find it telling that over time it’s become so accepted as to be the “rule.”

  • Jeanetta

    I have adored PC’s Doctor since he was fresh out the box. And you are right the only thing that could have made this more perfect was Donna. Oh Donna! I am intrigued by the “soldier” theme but confused by Missy and the way she pops in and out of the season. It’s like they just throw her in every now and then and it doesn’t seem consistent. Isn’t flowing with the season’s arch. But I am constantly indeared by the refences to Classic Who. Jokes and what not that my kids don’t understand because they refuse to watch the old episodes. Pffft total dweebs. 12 is pulling all of Doctor Who together and not just relying on recent Who News to keep us interested.

  • Clearly this entire episode was written for the line, “Are you my mummy?”

  • anonjack

    I liked this episode alot, though it is clear that Clara doesn’t really understand the Doctor very well at all if she doubts him so much. Does she not ask about his past off camera? (Personally ever since I got into DW I have felt that he is playing an extremely long game with humanity.) Instead it seems like she just judges him without even trying to comprehend what its like to be him.