Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Doctor Who: Mummy on the Orient Express – review

Director: Paul Wilmshurst

First aired: 2014

Contains spoilers

The latest incarnation of Doctor Who managed to get my attention back. Other than the Vampire of Venice and the Rings of Arkhaten - both of which were vampire episodes (the second an energy vampire) – and the special that contained the death of the Doctor, I was pretty much cold on the Matt Smith era.

the Doctor and Perkins
This wasn’t the fault of the actor, who really did play an old man in a young body exceptionally well, but more to do with the writing and direction. However the actor behind the new Doctor, Peter Capaldi (Lair of the White Worm), has long been a favourite thespian and so I gave this incarnation a chance and I was impressed by the way the actor (and thus the writers) have taken the character – perhaps not as impressed as I should have been, but I’ll explain that in a short while.

Clara and the Doctor
So Clara (Jenna Coleman) and the Doctor are having relationship problems since his regeneration and much of that (beyond the fact that he is older in appearance, and there has been a suggestion of that level of shallowness) is down to the fact that the Doctor no longer really knows who he is. The Time Lord has passed his maximum regenerations (having been given perhaps limitless regenerations by the hidden people of Gallifrey) and seems – finally – to be coming to terms with the incarnation known as the War Doctor. Thus this season has seen repeated mentions of war, of leadership, of the ambiguity of heroism – indeed this has been further embodied in Clara’s new boyfriend Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson). So, as a last hoorah, the Doctor takes Clara onto the Orient Express.

the Foretold
However, this is a replica that flies through space and we have already seen a passenger (Janet Henfrey, Doctor Who: the Curse of Fenric) killed by a mummy. Only she could see it and a counter started for us. The creature is The Foretold (Jamie Hill) a mythical Mummy who appears to those about to die at its hands but is invisible to everyone else. The counter signifies that it takes exactly 66 seconds to kill its victim. The Foretold appears wherever a specific scroll is and it turns out that those on the train are all scientists enticed aboard so that they can be forced to study it.

draining a victim
So, you might ask, if it is a mummy, why are we looking at this? The Doctor, working primarily with the train’s chief engineer Perkins (Frank Skinner), realises that the 66 seconds is significant. The Mummy puts the victim out of phase and powers up a device that drains their energy, in fact Perkins actually suggests that it is a vampire – metaphorically. What we have is a soldier from an ancient forgotten war, who was killed and resuscitated by tech that will now never let him die but needs the energy of the living to keep the tech running…

Jelly Babies
This was a fun episode that had some nods to earlier incarnations. The Doctor asks the Foretold, “Are you my mummy?” repeating a line from the Christopher Ecclestone incarnation episode The Empty Child. He also offers out a jelly baby bringing the Tom Baker era straight to mind. The series generally has been better than Who has been of late and this is primarily down to Capaldi and the way he and the writers are exploring the character. However I do think it could be stronger as I find some of the in season writing a little weaker than it might be. There is a new dark edge to the character but that edge is not being exploited as much as it might be. However, this is the BBC.

That said, I enjoyed this episode. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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