Doctor Who Recap: “Mummy on the Orient Express”
Welcome to my obsession. All the recaps are here. Spoilers should you venture forth.
This was a good episode, and I’m really glad. I had majorly mixed feelings about Kill the Moon. This, I liked. To the recap!
The show opens with an Edison bulb, a stopwatch, and a mummy. We are watching a clock count down 66 seconds. The scene switches to a train car. Everyone is dressed in fantastic 1920s era outfits, flapper dresses and the whole thing. An older woman asks her dining companion if there’s a fancy dress thing, because there’s a mummy behind her and she does not approve. It’s all very English.
Only the old woman can see it. As the clock ticks down, the mummy creeps closer and the older lady starts freaking out (can’t blame her). She’s kind of angry at first, threatening people’s jobs, then gets scared, then the mummy puts his hands on her head and she dies. The woman with her calls for a doctor and some beardy dude rushes forth. The scene pulls back, and we see that they are on the Orient Express, but also that the train is in space.
Side note: Space train. Motherfucking mummy on a space train. Excellent.
Post credits, the Doctor and Clara exit the TARDIS onto the train. Clara is dressed in a fabulous flapper dress and I didn’t know this was going to be a fashion series but Clara has dressed in some great outfits hasn’t she?
The rails of the train, he says, are hyperspace ribbons. There’s a quiet moment, then this interchange:
Doctor: You’re doing it again
Clara: Yeah, I’m smiling
Doctor: Yes the sad smile. It’s a smile but you’re sad. It’s confusing, it’s like two emotions at once. It’s like you’re malfunctioning.
Doctor: I just thought this would be a good one to…
Clara: To end it. Yeah. It is, it’s a good choice. A good one to end with.
Side note: This feels like a terrible last date death knell thing and I’m as uncomfortable with my feels as the Doctor is with anyone’s. I do like that they wrote in another moment of discomfort with emotion that he actually says out loud. Up until now, a lot of his discomfort has been written on his facial expressions. Good to see I was reading that correctly. Also I love this character trait, extreme discomfort with emotions. It makes him make more sense.
There’s a little more discussion of their impending break up, it’s sad and kind of beautiful. It’s a total freaking relief that the Doctor seems to CARE. He keeps trying to change the subject, but he isn’t mean. He’s plainly sad. Clara says she can’t do “this” anymore, not the way he does it. The way she pauses on the word “you” makes it pretty obvious she’s saying she liked Smith’s Doctor a whole lot better.
The Doctor tries to change the subject again, and they are interrupted by the dining companion of the old lady from earlier. She’s in shock, for obvious reasons. She accuses the Doctor of lying because of timey wimey things and then they drag her off to “rest.” Good to know upset women are still treated like they’re hysterical even in the future.
Clara and the Doctor meet the captain of the train, and they have a pithy little interchange about what he’s a doctor OF. They ask what happened to upset the blonde (Ms. Pitt), and the next scene is Clara wondering if the Doctor can ever get on a regular damn train. Why do his trains always have mummies? He suggests the old lady was hallucinating. Clara in no way buys the explanation because duh. It’s the Doctor.
They have another awkward break up conversation wherein she asks if he’ll ever come around for dinner. He gets cagey. We all know he doesn’t really do that once he leaves his companions, except for that one Christmas with Amy and Rory. But they’re his in laws so it seems required.
Side note: I would have loved to see that phonecall after she told him to not come back. Awkwarrrrrrd.
The scene shifts to the Doctor having a conversation with his most trusted confidant, himself. He is debating whether the mummy is something or not. This scene is interspersed with one where Clara is talking to Danny about dumping the Doctor. Danny recommends she enjoy her space train trip. The Doctor decides he recognizes the “mummy only one person can see” story, and pats himself on the back for being so clever. He goes to get Clara, but then thinks better of it and goes off to investigate alone. Clara gets up, knocks on the Doctor’s door, then decides to go out exploring on her own too. Peas in a pod, these nerds.
The Doctor winds up investigating the old lady’s wheelchair. He’s intercepted by a suspicious engineer. They have a little dance of a conversation, then discover they both think there’s something mysterious going on here.
Meanwhile, Clara runs into the young Ms. Pitt who is holding a shoe. She chases her down and asks what’s up. Miss Pitt, who is named Maisie, wants to see the body of her old lady. The door won’t open on its own but when she jams her shoe in the electronics of the lock, it opens no problem. Clara follows her in.
The Doctor wanders into the dining car and asks a seemingly random man who looks like Tom Hanks what the most interesting thing about the “Foretold” is.
Tom Hanks: I’m terribly sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met.
Doctor: You know. The Foretold, mythical mummy. Legend has it that if you see it, you’re a dead man.
Tom Hanks: Yes, I know what it is. You see, I happen to be–
Doctor: Emil Moorhouse, professor of alien mythology. I’m the Doctor, pleased to meet you. So, the most interesting thing about the Foretold. Go.
Emil “Tom Hanks” Moorhouse: Uh, well, it would have to be the time limit given before it kills you. I can’t think of another myth where it’s so specific. How does it go? Um, The number of evil twice over, they that bear the Foretold’s stare have 66 seconds to live.
Side note: Wait, the number of evil is 6? or 33 maybe? I did not know that. Is that a thing?
The Doctor says no, that’s cool and all but the most interesting thing about the Foretold is actually that it appeared on the train where a leading professor in alien mythology happens to be traveling. During his little “I am super clever speech,” he pulls out a cigarette case filled with jelly babies, which might be my favorite thing so far this season.
He also mentions that in some myths, there’s a secret word you can say to stop the Foretold. Seems like that would be good to know. As they talk, the scene shifts to the kitchen where the Foretold has appeared to a cook. Everyone else looks on, confused because they can’t see anything. The cook traps himself in the freezer to get away, but the mummy teleports in there with him. I go to get my anti-monster blanket from my bedroom for reasons. Sixty six seconds on the dot, the mummy kills the cook.
Clara is meanwhile trying to fix the door lock because apparently, she and Maisie are locked in the room they were in. At the far end of the room, there’s a huge Egyptian-looking sarcophagus. Maisie confesses she didn’t like the old lady very much–her grandmother–and now she feels guilty because the woman is dead. Clara mentions that difficult people can make you feel bad, but that Maisie didn’t kill anyone. She just died of old age. Or the mummy. Whatever.
The Doctor tracks down the train captain. He identifies himself as the captain’s worst nightmare, then flashes the psychic paper. The captain says “a mystery shopper?!” Low standards there, cap. The Doctor wants to talk about the deaths, but the captain is reluctant. The Doctor is judgmental of the captain’s former military service and his choice to have a cushy job as a recreational train captain. He says he’s sorry (but clearly isn’t), but the dream of an easy retirement is over now that people are dying on his train. The captain does not appreciate the Doctor’s tone, but seems to take his point. The Doctor leaves in an annoyed huff.
Perkins the engineer appears outside the captain’s office to deliver some paperwork to the Doctor–passenger manifests, etc.
Doctor: Great work Perkins. Maybe too quick.
Perkins: Yes sir, I’m obviously the mummy. Or perhaps I was already looking into this.
Clara and Maisie are having girl talk in the locked room regarding the Doctor. Clara even gets annoyed: we’re stuck in this carriage, probably all night, and all we can do is talk about some man. Maisie decides they should hook up and stay hooked up. Clara is not comfortable with that idea. I like Clara’s eye makeup.
Meanwhile, the menfolk are discussing the Foretold. Moorhouse says the Foretold is immortal and unkillable. Perkins asks for a new expert. Perkins is awesome.
The Doctor calls Clara and he keeps interrupting her with his clever talk about train food and mummies so she has to shout at him that she’s trapped. He runs to her aid, asks the computer to open the door (gee, why didn’t she think of that). The computer, named Gus, tells the Doctor the door can only be opened by executive order. The computer is sort of saucy about it.
The Doctor tries the sonic but discovers some kind of anti-sonic field. He can’t tell what kind, because he can’t use the sonic. They get into another tiff about whether he should have woken her up and I swear to god this is a very accurate “trying to be nice and friendly still” break up. Clara asks if maybe they could not fight right now. She mentions the sarcophagus, the lights flicker (which heralds the Foretold). The Doctor freaks, starts trying to jimmy the door but the sarcophagus is only filled with lights and bubble wrap.
Before he can get her out, the captain shows up and says he checked and the Doctor is NOT a mystery shopper but a lying stowaway! The train people get Clara and Maisie out and drag them all away, the captain suggesting that maybe the Doctor is behind the deaths. Meanwhile in another car, someone is shooting holes into the wall and trying to kill an unkillable mummy. It doesn’t work, he dies.
The captain says it turns out it’s 3 people that have to die before he stops looking the other way and pretending it’s just really weird and coincidental. The Doctor tells everyone on the train about the Foretold. He also says that’s not the strangest thing about it. He says the passengers are all experts in alien biology, physics, mythology and that someone with a lot of power has put them all on this train for a reason. Someone who is listening.
The train stops in mid space, and half the crew disappears because they were actually holograms. What’s left is a lab and a bunch of super smart scientists.
Gus the train douche tells them that their job is to figure out what the Foretold is, capture it, and “reverse engineer” its abilities.
Side note: what? Like, backtrack and figure out how it appears then kills people then disappears? Why would you need that, you have a magic train full of holograms and can obviously kill people however you want? Are you just all-powerful and curious. Oh hell–is this where the Doctor is headed if he doesn’t get his damn conscience back soon?
The train mentions that the Foretold often appears near the scroll he has conveniently hanging in the corner of the room, but they can’t get to it because it’s surrounded by some kind of field. Clever jerk. I think I’ll call him Blaine the Mono from now on. Moorhouse asks what if they all refuse? Blaine says fine, fine, just enjoy dying by mummy.
Before they can do much else, the mummy appears to Moorhouse (aw, Tom Hanks). The Doctor asks him to to describe the mummy, give him as many details as possible so they can help “the next one.” Moorhouse says “wait the next one?” The Doctor demands he describe the mummy but Moorhouse ignores him and starts trying to find the right word, the magic bargain word to get the mummy to stop. Sadly, it doesn’t work and Tom Hanks dies scared. Blaine goes ding, hey now you have new data, yay! Blaine is a major pain.
The Doctor suggests they get to work pretty quick like. He calls Clara to have a chat about the paperwork in the room where she was trapped. They find out there were other ships that are now missing, suggesting that this is not the first Foretold experience. As they’re talking Blaine gets seriously tetchy about the Doctor being on the phone. He tells him to get off a couple times, then ejects the “less valueable” kitchen staff into space.
The Doctor wonders aloud how it chooses. Perkins tries to explain that scientists are probably more valuable than kitchen staff but the Doctor says not Blaine, the Foretold. So they gather all the records of all the dead people and start going through to find similarities. Eventually they discover that the mummy is picking off people in order of worst medical condition. The old lady was really sick, the chef had a rare blood disorder, the guard (shooting guy) had synthetic lungs and Moorhouse had severe anxiety.
The captain looks pretty freaked, and tells the Doctor he’s probably next because he has PTSD from his wartime. He still takes pills for sleep. The Doctor says it’s good to know that he’s next, the captain begs to differ but before he can really get mad the lights flash again and the mummy is back. The captain does some more describing than Moorhouse did, tries to shoot it (no good), thanks the Doctor for “waking him up,” then dies.
The Doctor uses the information from the captain and starts thinking out loud about what kind of tech could teleport, render someone ghost like and take 66 seconds to do something.
Perkins: A man just died in front of us. Can we not just have a moment?
Doctor: No. We can’t do that. We can’t mourn. People with guns to their heads, they cannot mourn. We do not have time to mourn.
He says if he could have a minute with the creature, he’d figure it out no problem. Perkins accuses him of either being a genius or incredibly arrogant, the Doctor says both. He goes on to realize that the creature must be kept alive by some kind of tech that drains energy, and that the people are dying because the energy of their bodies is being sucked out to keep the Foretold going. It’s some kind of ancient technology. But why take 66 seconds to drain the energy? Perkins contributes that it takes about a minute to move energy out of phase. The Doctor agrees, says that’s why only the victim can see it, the mummy is pulling them out of phase.
They figure out that the next victim is probably Maisie due to her nervous breakdown over her grandmother’s death. The Doctor wants Clara to bring Maisie to the lab so they can watch the mummy in action. Clara says how, and the Doctor suggests she lie and tell her he can save her.
Clara is Not Happy, but manages to lie (which is impressive but she is a terrible liar) and Maisie buys it immediately. Hooray! The Doctor will save her, see he’s not so bad. Clara tries to take her to the TARDIS instead of the lab, but there’s some kind of field around Sexy too.
Clara asks the Doctor how the train knew what the TARDIS was. The Doctor admits that he’s been getting invites onto this train for a while, even got a phone call about it. Clara goes off on him, tells him this kind of shit is why she can’t travel anymore–she can’t handle it, the danger and the lying. Maisie, overhearing, asks Clara when exactly she lied and Clara tells her she is “so sorry.”
Side note: Remember when the Doctor used to say that? Now his companion has to be the remorse part of him.
And cue the mummy. Maisie is freaking out, as you’d expect, and the Doctor uses a… thingy… to suck up Maisie’s mental illness and zap it into his head (oh my gosh do I want one of these thingies, except to inject mental illnesses into deep space away from suffering people). Now the Doctor looks like Maisie and the mummy goes after him instead.
No kidding, he goes “are you my mummy?” Die.
As the mummy advances, he notices something under the bandages, a flashing piece of tech. He figures out that the scroll is actually a flag, and the mummy is a wounded solider from a forgotten war. He has a personal teleporter and other things inside him and he’s just sort of going on draining energy despite his death a long time ago., and there’s only one word that can stop a war:
The mummy stops, salutes, and disintegrates into dust. Everyone breaths a sigh of relief. They’re all safe now, right?
Well, sure, except for the psychopathic train. The train speaks up and says hey, he doesn’t need all these scientists or anything anymore, and starts to suck all the air out of the train. Luckily, the wounded soldier had a teleporter along with other tech and the Doctor can fix it, maybe. One by one, people pass out from lack of air including Clara, while the Doctor uses the sonic to try to fix the teleporter before they all die.
In the next scene, Clara wakes up on the beach to the Doctor drawing in the sand. What is he drawing?? He says he tried to hack Gus after getting everyone on the TARDIS but before he could, Gus (Blaine) blew up the train. Dick.
Clara: So you saved everyone?
Doctor: No I just saved you, and I just let everyone else suffocate.
She asks him–were you only pretending to be heartless, when we lied to Maisie?
Doctor: Would you like to think that about me? Would that make it easier? I didn’t know if I could save her.
He tells her he would have kept trying until he beat it. “Sometimes, the only choices you have are bad ones. But you still have to choose.”
Back on the TARDIS, he’s let Perkins peek around some. He offers Perkins a job, working on the TARDIS. Perkins says no, says a job like that seems like it would change a person. I had a very brief flash of hope that a sarcastic dude would be the next companion, but it died immediately. Tragic.
Perkins leaves, and Clara asks the Doctor if he loves what he does, being the guy who makes all the hard choices. They speculate it might be addictive, and the doctor concedes it might be but he’s never tried to give it up so he doesn’t know. He tells her “let me know how it goes.”
Danny calls, she tells him she loves him and the break up is all done. The Doctor asks what he wanted, and Clara. Clara lies.
Clara: He’s fine with it.
Doctor: I’m sorry?
Clara: Danny! He’s fine. The idea of me and you knocking about. It was his idea we stop but he’s decided he doesn’t mind and neither do I. That was a hell of a last hurrah let’s keep going.
Doctor: That’s a big change of heart.
Clara: Yeah, they happen.
Clara: Look, as long as you get me home safe and on time, everything is great. I am so sorry I’ve had a wobble, it’s a big wobble but it’s fine, forget about it. Now shut up and give me some planets.
Side note: This is foreshadowing right? This is bad, bad bad bad baaad foreshadowing right?
And that’s the end–Clara has a common sense malfunction. Happens all the time around the Doctor. How can you go back to normal life after mummy on a space train? Sarah Jane said you just don’t, didn’t she?
Welp, can’t watch that without feeling feels.
Next week, 2D aliens or something? And where the hell is Missy/God/Mary fucking Poppins?!
(screencaps from http://www.kissthemgoodbye.net)