Doctor Who: Mummy on the Orient Express Review

doctor-who-mummy-on-the-orient-express-headerIf you’re The Doctor, there’s no such thing as a quiet vacation. You can’t just TARDIS into a quiet little corner of time and space to relax. Something always goes wrong. Often it’s homicidal robots. Sometimes, it’s homicidal aliens. This time, it was a homicidal mummy that could only be seen by the intended victim. For not getting any time to relax, The Doctor doesn’t look too bad for 2,000 years old.

Last week, we left Clara so angry with The Doctor that she had basically sworn off ever dealing with the man ever again. So how does this week’s episode start? With Clara walking off the TARDIS as if nothing ever happened. So much for teasing a falling out between the two.

I know that Clara said that this was going to be their last adventure but it never really looked or felt that way, even considering that there were four episodes left this season. Even with Clara giving out to The Doctor about putting her in danger again, it was if she completely forgot about it just minutes later.

If anything, it felt like this week served as a reset button on The Doctor and Clara’s relationship. Even though it looked like Clara was ready to walk away from the TARDIS forever because of Twelve’s superiority complex (though is it a superiority complex if he actually is superior… maybe it’s a loneliness complex of some sort), a little adventure made her more than willing to stick around for another few weeks. I can almost understand why Clara would feel betrayed when her safety blanket took off in the TARDIS but the turn-around in attitude makes no sense to me in context.

Saving this episode was the monster and mystery of the week. The titular mummy was certainly the highlight of week. There’s something to be said about the power of practical effects in creating a great visual. Just look at how many more people like the look of the original Star Wars trilogy and what most thought of the prequels. Or how about the last couple of weeks’ worth of monsters compared to the Teller and the mummy? The practical effects win the day compared to CGI.

The look of the mummy was only part of the strength of it. If a monster of the week is a bit of a joke, it doesn’t really do much to contribute to the drama of an episode. A monster that only the victim can see, picks its victims seemingly at random and gives 66 seconds notice before the intended victim dies turns out to be properly scary. After all, how do you defend yourself from something that you can’t see and when you do, you’re as good as dead?

The use of the 66-second clock on-screen worked wonderfully for the pacing and tension of those scenes. Even if they showed a clown doing tricks for those 66 seconds, it would have still been dramatic because you’d be looking at the clock, listening to the countdown, hearing the music ramp up and the tension would build and build and you wouldn’t care about the nonsense on the screen. That’s just a lovely bit of writing and directing in this episode.

The biggest mistake this episode made (well, besides hitting reset on The Doctor and Clara) was missing the obvious call back to Missy and the afterlife. I wouldn’t have minded forgoing Missy’s appearance in The Caretaker if she showed up here. Looking for a way to harness the power of death and connecting it to Missy would be a bit obvious and probably kill any mystery surrounding her intentions but it seems like the obvious episode to remind us that she’s still out there.

Still, this was a really fun episode. It reminded me of Robot of Sherwood because it’s rather inconsequential to the overall arc of the season and the characters. When your show bounces between serialized storytelling and a series of episode that are self-contained without any noticeable long-term implications, it’s hard to set your expectations and know what to expect. Is next week’s episode a little side adventure that doesn’t build to anything or something that’s building us for weeks down the line?

Other random points of note:

  • As much as I loved the Don’t Stop Me Now cover, I would have loved it more if we got a Shaun of the Dead-esque “Kill the Queen!”
  • Seriously, though, that cover was awesome but I’m a sucker for jazzy/crooner type music. It’s too bad that Foxes’ other songs tend to edge toward pop-ish. I assume that music recommendations are coming in the comments. I’m also fond of ska so feel free to throw some of those recommendations in there too.
  • Just like the Robot of Sherwood episode, it seemed as though someone with a Y chromosome was in charge of picking out Jenna Coleman’s dress this week.
  • You know who should have made a cameo in an episode about a mummy? Brendan Fraser. Does he still act?

Next week, we go to a world of two dimensions. Well, not voluntarily, anyway. Someone is stealing the third dimension and locking victims into two dimensions on the floor or walls. It’s up to The Doctor and Clara to save the third dimension in Flatline. Mind you, my waistline wouldn’t mind losing a dimension.

Cross-posted from et geekera. For more from et geekera, follow us on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Tumblr, Steam and RSS.

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