Television

Published on October 13th, 2014 | by Brad

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Doctor Who – Mummy on the Orient Express review

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“Start the clock.” After last week’s emotional climax, the Doctor and Clara get together for one last hurrah, taking a ride on the Orient Express. In space, obviously. But all is not what it seems; an ancient mummy is appearing to passengers on the brink of death, and horrifying their final 66 seconds on this mortal coil. And, as multiple passengers are being picked off, it’s up to the Doctor to solve the mystery of the Mummy on the Orient Express.

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This isn’t the first time that Doctor Who has taken on Agatha Christie, with the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble having met her previously, but where that episode was more a riff on Cluedo (albeit with a giant wasp disguised as a vicar), this has more of the structure, and the Twelfth Doctor slips into the role of detective very easily. The twist here is that the denouement, where all is revealed and the villain exposed, comes about halfway through the story. The Doctor, it transpires, is one of a number of experts, corralled together in order to study this mysterious mummy, known as The Foretold, so that those behind the circumstances, represented by the train’s on-board AI Gus (voiced with chilling joviality by John Sessions) can capture and weaponise it.

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Mummy on the Orient Express features a damn good cast. Particularly of note is the work of David Bamber as Captain Quell, imbuing what could have been a stock, uninteresting performance (see: Geoffrey Palmer in Voyage of the Damned. Or don’t, that episode sucks) with a real humanity. Christopher Villiers and Frank Skinner have both worked on Doctor Who-related things with Peter Davison before, Villiers in The King’s Demons and Skinner in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, and they’re both very good. Skinner, in particular, knocks a role which could have become very annoying (see: Lee Evans in Planet of the Dead) and makes it very charming.

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman go from strength to strength together, as their strange, crumbling relationship takes another twist. Where last week Clara was all fire and brimstone at being lied to, this time the anger quickly gives way to resignation. And then, at the crucial moment, she can’t quite walk away. And the Doctor’s expression says it all; he knows she’s probably made the wrong decision in staying with him, but he’s so happy to have his friend back, he lets it slide. In an episode punctuated by countdowns, the final scene starts the countdown to a major reckoning between the Doctor and Clara. Start the clock.

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Stray observation

The fourth ancient AI repeating its protocols long after the point of its own usefulness this series. Coincidence? It’s entirely possible. But what if it isn’t?

Brad

Brad

Consumer. Scribbler. Occasional drunkard. Nice beard, though...
Brad

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