Television: Doctor Who, "Mummy on the Orient Express"

The Doctor takes Clara on a "last hurrah" trip on the Orient Express, a 1920's themed train that travels through space. But passengers are dying (of course): each one sees a mummy shuffling toward them 66 seconds before they die.

There is a myth of a Foreteller, a creature only someone about to die can see, though the lights apparently flicker right before the mummy appears to its victim.

Things go a bit off the rails, so to speak, when it turns out the train is really a laboratory and most of the passengers are scientists and doctors of various kinds. "Gus," which is basically a bit like HAL, insists they figure out what is going on with this Foreteller.

Clara spends most of the episode locked in a cargo car with a crazy woman named Maisie whose grandmother was killed by the mummy, while the Doctor heads the team of scientists in the laboratory. They discover that most of the victims are suffering from some medical condition: panic attacks, synthetic lungs, etc. The mummy targets the weakest person and works his way through the passengers that way.

And of course the 66 seconds is important. Why 66? An oddly specific number. They figure out that it is 66 seconds because it takes that long to pull the victim "out of phase," which is why only the victim can see the mummy. The victim is pulled out of phase (whatever that means) and then the mummy drains them of their energy at the cellular level, resulting in fatal cardiac arrest as a side effect.

When it is determined that the next likely victim is Maisie, Gus unlocks the door to the cargo hold they're stuck in and allows them to join the Doctor and the others so that the team can gather more data by watching Maisie die. But of course the Doctor plans to save Maisie; he takes some of her memories, and more or less takes on her mental instability so as to make the mummy believe he is Maisie. Then the Doctor makes a huge leap in logic—there's a flag, you see—and figures out the mummy is a modified ancient soldier. So as his 66 seconds winds down, the Doctor tells the mummy, "We surrender!"

It works. The mummy salutes and dissolved into a pile of ash, leaving behind only the bit of malfunctioning ancient technology that was prompting him to assassinate people. Gus congratulates them and begins evacuating the oxygen from the train, thus suffocating the remaining passengers. But the Doctor rewires the mummy's tech into a short-range teleporter, gets everyone aboard the TARDIS and saves them. Alas, Gus blows up the train before the Doctor can hack in to determine who was really behind it all. (Missy, one supposes?)

With everyone delivered safely to the nearest civilized planet, the Doctor is ready to take Clara home. She takes a call from Danny, who expects this to be her last trip with the Doctor. But after hanging up, Clara lies and tells the Doctor that Danny has changed his mind, he's fine with her continuing to travel, and so long as she gets home safe and on time, she wants to keep going.

On the whole, a pretty standard episode that sets up the coming confrontation with a "big threat" (that is, whoever or whatever is behind Gus) as well as complications for Clara as she tries to maintain her relationship with Danny and her travels with the Doctor. As the saying goes, something's got to give. It might be more compelling if we didn't already know Clara is slated to vacate the job of companion soon. It's not a matter of if she goes so much as how. And then, of course, the question becomes: Who's next?


Christine Rains said...

I have no idea how the Doctor jumped to the conclusion he did, but it felt like it came out of nowhere. A few hints in that direction would have been nice. I'm wondering if the next companion might be male.

M said...

I wondered at one point whether Danny Pink would end up as the companion . . .