Several weeks after the events of “Kill the Moon,” the Doctor is taking Clara on one last magnificent trip in the TARDIS. For their “last hurrah,” they’ve chosen the Orient Express. Well, they’ve chosen the space-faring version of the Orient Express. Natch.
Of course, even a supposedly carefree trip with the Doctor isn’t going to go as smoothly as anyone hopes. The Orient Express is being “haunted” by the myth of the Foretold – a mummy that can only be seen by the person it’s about to kill. Once seen, that person has only 66 seconds to live. The Foretold is killing passengers and crew alike, starting with an old woman, followed by a young cook and one of the train’s attendants.
After the third victim, things start to get real. Literally. The train’s computer drops the simulation in the dining car to reveal that everyone who’s actually onboard the train is either crew or some sort of expert who can help to capture the Foretold. They learn that the Foretold is picking off the weakest first, which holds true as the mummy appears to the train’s captain and then the foremost expert on alien mythology. The next victim is slated to be Maisie Pitt, the granddaughter of the first victim. The Doctor tells Clara to lie to Maisie in order to get her to the dining car with the rest of the passengers. If she’s going to die, at least they’ll be able to observe and learn just a little more. Clara looks shell-shocked that the Doctor would not only lie, but ask her to do the same, and about a woman’s very survival.
It turns out that Maisie’s chances aren’t the only thing the Doctor has been lying about. He told Clara that he had no idea something fishy was going on onboard the Orient Express, but he’s forced to confess that the computer has been trying to get him on the train for quite some time. Clara is not amused, but there isn’t a lot of time to hash that out, as Maisie sees the mummy shortly after their arrival in the dining car/lab.
The Doctor finds a way to transfer the psychic energy of Maisie’s grief to himself, taking her place as the Foretold’s next victim. He works out that the mummy is a soldier from a long-forgotten war, kept alive by broken technology that requires life energy at very specific intervals in order to keep working. The Doctor “surrenders” to the mummy, effectively ending the war. The tech finally allows the Foretold to die, and the day is saved.
Except not quite yet. Now that the mystery is solved, the computer doesn’t see much need for any of the people left on the train. It starts decompressing the compartment, but the Doctor is able to transport everyone onto the TARDIS and get them safely to a nearby planet before the train self-destructs.
Now that Clara knows the Doctor always intended to save Maisie, she has a little more faith in him again. A conversation with Danny ends up changing her mind about leaving all of the adventure behind, and she and the Doctor are off once more.
Not a bad episode, but not one of my favorites. Frankly, that’s been my feeling about most of this season so far. It’s not a bad season, but it’s definitely not my favorite. It feels like I’m still waiting for Capaldi’s Doctor to finish his regeneration period. His character doesn’t seem quite set yet. I’m hoping that this is something we’ll settle into before the end of this season.
Side note: Is it me, or are there a lot more callbacks to Davies-era Who this season? Don’t get me wrong. I adored Davies-era Who, but the frequency of the references is starting to feel like the writers are trying to make sure that we know it’s still the same show. We’ve had 50 years to wrap our collective heads around the concept of regeneration. I think we’ve got the idea by now.
The Doctor: “Are you my mummy?”
Things to Ponder
- Who was actually behind the whole mystery? The train only blew up once the Doctor tried hacking into the system. I’m guessing Missy.
- It didn’t sound to me like Danny was all that cool with Clara continuing to run around the universe. Maybe I don’t speak ex-soldier as well as she does and missed a nuance or two.