Marvellous. Absolutely and utterly marvellous. A wonderful cast, a witty script, a plot that – aside from some science hand wavium – actually holds together without the need to squint, stick your fingers in your ears or call the story an allegory.
While I’ve really enjoyed a number of stories this year, I think this is the first episode where all the threads and themes of previous stories come together. We have the callous cold Doctor who also gets to play the hero. We have an episode that’s a near perfect mix of fun… it’s the Orient Express IN SPACE!… and horror… the mummy deaths are tense and gut wrenching without a drop of gore and the shot of the kitchen staff floating in space is so very sad. And we have a story that moves both the story arc – was Missy behind it all? – and the character arc – Clara finally comes to terms with this Doctor.
About thirty five minutes in I started to have my doubts as to whether Jamie Mathieson was going to land the dismount. And when the Doctor did the heroic, but predictable thing, of becoming the weakest in the crew by somehow taking on Maisie’s guilt my doubts grew. But the revelation that the Mummy was a soldier who could only stop killing once the enemy surrendered was just brilliant. Not only did he land the dismount but Mathieson did that rare thing of provide an explanation and ending that was actually unexpected.
If only the episode had ended there. If there’s one weak point to Mummy On The Orient Express it’s the final scene between Clara and the Doctor. Unlike the fantastic intensity of last week’s final moments, this discussion between the two stretched credulity. Clara goes from doubting the Doctor to blaming those doubts on Danny to deciding that now that Danny is OK with them travelling together there’s no need for them to stop.
I understand that the intent of the scene is to show that Clara is addicted to the adrenalin rush of travelling in the TARDIS. Her near whiplash change of mind is symptomatic of that addiction. It’s just it’s so abrupt and sudden it feels less like an issue with addiction and more like Moffat deciding to abruptly end this character arc. Having said that, if Facebook is anything to go by my thoughts on this scene are in the minority.
At the end of the day, whether that final scene works or not doesn’t effect the genius of the episode as a whole. In a season that’s definitely shaping up to be the best in New Who’s 9 year history, Mummy on the Orient Express is a genuine contender for best episode of the year.
Oh and Peter Capaldi’s channeling of Tom Baker was magnificent.