‘Mummy On The Orient Express’
Weird as it may sound, but it’s a pity that this wasn’t the ‘last hurrah’ for Clara and The Doctor. Not because the show would be better without her (it wouldn’t) or because we need a new companion (we don’t), but simply because it feels like that’s naturally where the show is heading, and it’s just a question of when, not if Clara leaves; the ending tonight was surely a stay of execution.
That last line was the premise behind Mummy on the Orient Express. On board a space Orient Express, people are being killed off. The lights flicker, then 66 seconds later, a person dies, and only they can see the ‘mummy’ that killed them. Naturally, the Doctor lands Clara and him slap bang in the middle of the action, and it’s up to him to figure out the mystery behind ‘the Foretold’, the ancient monster stalking the passengers.
The episode in general was fairly simplistic; what you saw was what you got – a full-blown murder mystery, with the Doctor taking the role of one moustache-twirling Belgian, just with a few added ‘futurisms’. The mix of such a famous story, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, with Doctor Who’s own zany stylings, worked fairly well, creating a coherent, if slightly shallow episode.
The ‘whodunit’ element was both central and irrelevant – central in inviting the audience to figure out the culprit, but irrelevant in that, given this is Doctor Who, a show which last week revealed that the moon was an egg, no-one was ever going to get the right answer. The resolution was fairly logical, but again, everything was on the surface, with a total contrast to the allegory presented in Kill The Moon.
This was perhaps the single conceptual point. To present the perfect situation to give Clara her dilemma; in the immortal words of Mick Jones, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”. What started out as the break from the mould, just a nice trip on a beautiful antiquated train as a goodbye, turned out to be exactly what Clara wanted to leave behind – the Doctor’s addiction to life-or-death situations and to being the centre of attention. What’s more, he had straight up lied to get her there, as it turned out that this was simply the last in a series of invitations to finally defeat the mummy. And in Clara following suit, lying to Maisie to lead her to her seemingly inevitable death, she ended up being more like the Doctor than she’d like.
All of which leads to the end revelation – that Clara isn’t leaving the Doctor after all. It doesn’t feel permanent though, after all, she had some genuine misgivings about how the Twelfth, if not every, Doctor lives his life. But it did show a further parallel between the two; just as he is addicted to the lifestyle, so too is she – lying about having Danny’s blessing (though granted he essentially implied as much), and flying in the face of her own problems because she simply can’t walk away.
The episode naturally relied on the performances of Capaldi and Coleman, but at this point singing their praises is a foregone conclusion. So, with great performances and a simple storyline, Mummy on the Orient Express was good fun, but not much more. Next week: Deadly Banksy’s!