Mummy on the Orient Express
|249 – "Mummy on the Orient Express"|
|Doctor Who episode|
Promotional image featuring characters of the episode
|Directed by||Paul Wilmshurst|
|Written by||Jamie Mathieson|
|Script editor||David P Davis|
|Produced by||Peter Bennett|
|Executive producer(s)||Steven Moffat
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Originally broadcast||11 October 2014|
"Mummy on the Orient Express" is the eighth episode of the eighth series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who, written by Jamie Mathieson, and directed by Paul Wilmshurst. The episode stars Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, with Frank Skinner guest starring.
In the weeks following the events of "Kill the Moon", Clara has come to realise she does not hate the Doctor for taking her into dangerous situations, though her boyfriend Danny Pink urges her to stop traveling with him. Clara allows the Doctor to take her on one "last hurrah". They arrive via TARDIS in the future aboard a space-bound train that has been modeled after the Orient Express, with many of its passengers in period outfits.
They learn of the death of the elderly Mrs. Pitt, who died after claiming to have witnessed a mummy attack her. The Doctor, posing as a mystery shopper, talks to Perkins, the train's engineer, who is also curious to her death and is suspicious of the train and its automated computer system, Gus, and provides the Doctor with various manifests to study. Meanwhile, Clara speaks to Maisie, Mrs. Pitt's granddaughter who is traumatised by her death, and has been trying to see her body. In their search, they become trapped in the storage car, where a sarcophagus sits, and the two bond as they wait for rescue. A chef on the train dies from a heart attack after claiming to have seen a mummy. The Doctor reviews video footage and finds that both deaths occurred exactly 66 seconds after lights flickered nearby; this follows from a myth that Prof. Moorhouse reiterates about the legend of a supernatural being called the Foretold. Clara is able to make contact with the Doctor, but when he goes to rescue her, the lights nearby flicker, and the sarcophagus begins to open. Fearing that Clara is the next victim, he tries to unseal the storage door but is stopped by Captain Quell, who has determined his credentials are fake and charges him with the murders. However, when one of Quell's men dies after 66 seconds, Quell realises the Doctor is innocent and lets him go.
The Doctor addresses the assembled staff and passengers, stating his belief that there is something odd about this train including the large number of scientists aboard the train. The illusion of the Orient Express disappears, as well as several holographic passengers, revealing them to be in a laboratory; Gus informs the passengers they are now to study the Foretold as to reverse engineer whatever technology it uses. The Doctor calls down to Clara, finding that she and Maisie have found documentation that the sarcophagus is for capturing the Foretold, and this is not the only attempt to do so by whatever agency that controls Gus. When the Doctor spends too long talking to Clara, Gus demonstrates its ruthlessness by opening the kitchen car to the vacuum of space, killing the staff, and threatening to kill more.
Prof. Moorhouse is the next target of the Foretold, and the Doctor and Perkins use his death to identify that the Foretold is draining energy from its victims using phase-shifting technology that takes about a minute to complete. Perkins also identifies that the victims have been the medically weakest on the train. Captain Quell realises he is next due to his post-traumatic stress disorder from a war, and when the Foretold comes for him, he is able to retain his senses long enough to provide the Doctor confirmation of his theory. When Perkins identifies that Maisie is likely next due to her trauma, the Doctor convinces Gus to allow Clara to bring her to the laboratory. En route, Clara sees the TARDIS blocked by a force field. By the time they get to the Doctor, Clara has realised that Gus is aware of who the Doctor is, and that the Doctor had purposely brought her here into another dangerous situation. As the two argue, Maisie reports seeing the Foretold; the Doctor quickly draws on her memories to trick the Foretold into targeting him instead. In the 66 seconds the Doctor successfully identifies the Foretold as a modified stealth soldier of a long-ago war, and offers their surrender as to make the Foretold believe the war is over. The Foretold becomes visible to all, salutes the Doctor, and then disappears into a pile of dust, leaving behind its phase-shifting device.
Gus congratulates the passengers on their success and then evacuates the air on the train as their services are no longer needed. While Clara and the others pass out, the Doctor rigs the phase-shifting device into a short-range teleporter and evacuates the surviving passengers to the TARDIS before the train explodes. On a nearby planet, Clara regains consciousness while the Doctor explains he has returned the passengers to a nearby city, and regrets that he could not hack into Gus in time to find who was responsible for the train before the attempt triggered the train's destruction. Clara and the Doctor talk about his actions and his apparent heartlessness towards the passengers he could not save. The Doctor explains that doing the right thing sometimes means making hard choices, and that he was only being arrogant to ensure that Gus doesn't find out what he was doing. As they prepare to leave, the Doctor offers Perkins, who he has come to respect, a job maintaining the TARDIS, but Perkins politely declines. Danny calls Clara to ask if she has said her final goodbyes to the Doctor. As she hangs up, she lies and claims to the Doctor that Danny accepts her continuing to travel with the Doctor, and tells the Doctor to "shut up and gimme some planets".
The Doctor confesses to Clara that the mysterious force which enticed him to the Orient Express "even phoned the TARDIS once", recalling the final scene of "The Big Bang", where the Eleventh Doctor answers a call concerning "an Egyptian goddess loose on the Orient Express, in space".
The read-through for Mummy on the Orient Express took place on 1 May 2014. Shooting started on 20 May and finished on 10 June. The episode was primarily studio-based in filming, however the scene with the Doctor and Clara on the planet was shot in Limpert Bay in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Christopher Villers previously appeared in the classic serial The King's Demons, and Janet Henfrey previously appeared in The Curse of Fenric. Frank Skinner considers himself a die-hard Who fan, and previously had appeared in the special The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
Broadcast and reception
Overnight ratings show that this episode was seen by 5.08 million, a 22.1% share of the available audience and third for the night. The episode was watched by 7.11 million viewers according to the final viewing figures. On BBC America this episode was seen by 0.97 million viewers.
The Guardian columnist Dan Martin was positive towards the episode and praised the Mummy, saying, "At last, a proper new scary monster to get us behind the sofa," something he felt had been lacking so far in the current series. He called it "a triumph of production design matched with imagination," and praised first time writer for the show Jamie Matheson for blending "cool monsters" and "awkward Tardis dynamics." He did however feel that the reveal of the monster's true nature was "underwhelming." Ben Lawrence of The Daily Telegraph was positive toward the episode and awarded it four stars out of five. He praised the style of the episode and its ability to make the viewer a part of it: "as a viewer you felt hemmed in by the train’s narrow corridors, stalked by an invisible creature that could strike at any moment." He believed that Skinner "started well," but more impressive was David Bamber, describing his performance as "poignant," and praised the development of the relationship between the Doctor and Clara.
Morgan Jeffrey of Digital Spy praised the episode, giving it four stars out of five. He praised the chemistry of the two leads: "Capaldi and Coleman remain an utterly magnetic coupling on-screen," citing the final TARDIS scene and the beach scene as "magic." He felt that the main problem of the episode was the decision to keep the two apart. He was positive towards Frank Skinner's "genuine love for Doctor Who", which meant he was "practically beaming throughout," and called him "an endearing replacement" for Clara in the episode. He thought that the episode, like the previous one, had a Hinchcliffe vibe too, and that "'Mummy' is a joy, with excellent production design and a roster of perfectly-pitched performances all adding up to create an enchanting atmosphere," and believed it had a "wonderful mood," which felt like "vintage Doctor Who." Tim Liew, writing for Metro, was positive towards "Mummy", calling it "another strong standalone story. ... [The] period costumes helped create a distinctive look and feel, the mummified Foretold was well realised and the repeated use of the 66-second countdown clock injected a real sense of pace and jeopardy." Neela Debnath of The Independent praised the guest stars, Foxes and Skinner, saying Skinner "acts his socks off." She remained critical of Clara, arguing that "her poorly conceived and written character fails to charm," despite praising Coleman's acting. Overall she felt that the episode was "a delightful outer-space romp."
Forbes gave a positive review. They praised the "fantastic core principle" to the plot. However, they were disappointed with the run time, believing it would've benefited from another five minutes, citing some areas that could've been explored further, particularly the escape from the train. They praised the cast and the lead, reflecting that "The Doctor infects Capaldi’s performance. Drawing on his love for the series I could see the influences of many of the previous actors to take on the role," and praised the development of the Doctor and Clara's relationship. They called Mathieson's script "an impressive debut." The A.V. Club also heavily praised the episode, awarding it another perfect "A" grade. They said, "When the time comes to write the final accounting of the 12th Doctor—and hopefully we won’t need to do that for a little while yet—'Mummy On The Orient Express' will loom large. This episode is a triumph for Peter Capaldi." They added that it was "the latest superb episode in a strong season" and that "Peter Capaldi’s performance is enough by itself to elevate this story to classic status, but Jamie Mathieson’s script provides him excellent support".
- "Mummy on the Orient Express: Fact File". BBC. 11 October 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
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- "UK TV Ratings", Twitter, 12 October 2014
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- "Doctor Who season 8 episode 8 Mummy on the Orient Express: gone in 66 seconds", Metro.
- "Doctor Who Mummy on the Orient Express: Foxes & Frank Skinner make memorable cameos", The Independent.
- "Doctor Who series 8 episode 8 review: Mummy on the Orient Express", Forbes, 11 October 2014.
- "Doctor Who Mummy on the Orient Express", TV club, AV club.
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