Good evening! I’m
a lizard woman from the dawn of time and this is my wife and I’m* reviewing the latest episode of Doctor Who, “Mummy on the Orient Express,” with Alexandrina Brant from Miss Alexandrina. She’s a pretty cool blogger and we have more than a few interests in common, including books, photography, and Quidditch!
*SORRY NOT SORRY. I saw my chance and I took it, all right?
P.S. You can find previous collaborative reviews of Doctor Who‘s eighth series here.
Alexandrina Brant is a second-year psychology and philosophy student at Reading University, England, which means she alternates between planning experiments and critiquing history. When not polishing her fantasy romance novel about time travel, she’s cosplaying steampunk, singing, and playing Quidditch for the university team. She has authority in writing this review because she’s River Song’s doppelganger, hair and all. You can catch her blogging at Miss Alexandrina. She tweets prolifically @Caelestia_Flora. Yes, her Twitter username is Latin.
Warning: Spoilers ahead, sweetie!
Hey, Engie here. We didn’t do anything particularly special (such as a list) for this episode review, but I hope you’ll like it anyway. Oh, and Alex’s thoughts are in italics.
I have a lot to say about this episode, and that’s because I have a lot to criticize. I’m not going to beat around the bush – the writers tried to do a lot, and they didn’t reach the mark.
My main irritation? Clara. What happened to all that lovely character-building her job as a teacher at a London comprehensive gave her? Now she just wants to bang about with the Doctor some more. Companion fever.
Yeah, I didn’t understand her character motivations in this episode at all. She just had a HUUUUUUGE argument with Twelve, but now everything’s fine? It was resolved quite poorly, and in my mind it nearly destroyed most of the character-building she’s accumulated thus far in series eight.
Actually… not too long ago, I found this awesome fandom-y blog called Forever Young Adult and their review of “Mummy on the Orient Express” really said it all. Allow me to quote a paragraph or two because it is just so spot on:
“Someone needs to tell Clara that it’s not nice to make people get their hopes up and then dash them like that. I knew this wasn’t really the end of her time with the Doctor, but a girl can dream. Regardless, the fact that she’s gone from enjoying being with the Doctor to hating him to being OK with leaving to being wholly on board with adventure again in the space of three episodes is giving me whiplash.
I know there are rumors of Jenna Coleman leaving at Christmas, but must the showrunners play the ‘Will she? Won’t she?’ game until then?”
And then the equally wonderful blog Feminist Fiction had this to say:
“It was just yet another example of the show’s complete inability to follow through on its emotional narratives. The general quality of this season had me hoping we were past the days when Amy and Rory lost their baby and then never seemed to worry about it again, but apparently not. The overarching story is not allowed to interrupt the Monster of the Week. The story wanted Clara here, and so Clara was here.
It wouldn’t even have been hard to be consistent. Open with a montage of time passing and Clara missing the Doctor. Have the Doctor show up and insist that he needs her help.”
I didn’t originally intend to quote so much of others’ reviews, but I read them and was just like… YES. Writers, please make up your minds about Clara because this isn’t fun anymore. I watch Doctor Who for the fun space adventures. I don’t watch it because I want to see people yelling at each other, only to get back together very soon.
Twelve lacks Ten’s grounding. Ten may have had youthful eccentricity, but he also knew when to say something straight out. As in “Robot of Sherwood,” Twelve tried to be funny by bringing argumentative comments into basic conversation. I don’t find this funny. Maybe I did once or twice: Eyebrows. Not noticing when Clara changes her appearance. “I’m not your boyfriend.”
But if this act was tiring by episode three, it was going to be tired in episode eight.
Agreed. I don’t even know how to describe it, but… well, Nine is my favorite Doctor and he’s also a little rough, a little argumentative. But he never irritated me as much as Twelve has so far. I do like some aspects of Twelve’s character, but he also seems to pick a lot of fights over NOTHING. I guess that’s the difference between the two incarnations of the Doctor. One is angry because the world is ending; the other is angry because his companion has a boyfriend and occasionally wants to live a normal life.
Whilst the script had strength to it, the Orient Express wasn’t the right location for those dynamics (anger, but restrained and kept together, in the way Clara is great at doing). Plus, there’s that scene when they talked whilst trapped in the carriage – that was almost a third draft I’d write. OK, cruel comment. But the thought stands – Doctor Who gripped me more when there were less emotional complications. Even Martha put the alien-fighting before her feelings.
On the other hand, I liked the character of the mechanic Perkins. Great character. Very rounded. Very witty. His choice to walk away is very poignant – reflects Clara and her ‘return,’ and foils past companions. I’m always intrigued by the lives and deaths of these almost/non-companions.
PERKINS! While I didn’t appreciate/notice him much at first, by the end of the episode he was definitely one of my favorite parts of that particular story. I loved the companions written by Davies, but have never liked (let alone loved) Moffat’s companions… instead, I always get way too attached to the almost-companions. I wish Perkins had decided to stay…
The concept of the Foretold was an idea I didn’t like at first, but it was nice to later have some solid proof, instead of phantoms and this Foretold legend nonsense. Even if the sarcophagus wasn’t a real sarcophagus as we know them, it helped with the tension – there was dramatic inversion there, too, with the fact that something from which Egyptian mummies are said to awaken is only on the ship train for the purpose of capturing this ‘mummy.’
I expected this episode’s villain to be really cheesy and ridiculous, but… it was actually quite interesting. I guess I’m intrigued by seemingly supernatural creatures/objects that actually operate using plain old science. I mean… it appears to only one person for a few seconds because it’s charging itself (like a battery!) using their energy! Cool!
I felt that there was so much unresolved in the episode. Let’s start at the beginning:“Is there some sort of fancy dress thing?” says Maisie’s gran. I don’t know. If this is the future, you’re technically all in fancy dress. If they’re all dressing up for fun, why not have them break character, especially whilst they die? And if it’s the future why are there solely humans?
Excellent questions, Alex, but since I really have no answer I’m going to talk about something else because, um, I want to fit it somewhere in the review.
Specifically, I want to talk about THIS:
I’m not sure whose idea it was to have a jazz cover of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” on the show, but… it actually worked? It was interesting, and amusing, and the full version (shown above) is actually quite pretty, so why not listen if you haven’t already?
(Also, I think one can make the case that the song really describes Clara at this point. I mean, think about it. She’s furious at the Doctor, but at the same time I think she’s rather addicted to this whole time-traveling lifestyle. She doesn’t want to stop…)
(…I just really like finding songs that describe characters, OK? It’s a writer thing.)
I felt the setting was a cop-out. I only knew that it was in the future when I went to watch the episode again and BBC iPlayer’s description said “speeding among the stars of the future.” How poetic. The writers are using their openings for flash and drama, but no in media res landings. I wonder what the episode would have been like if the Doctor and Clara arrived on the train only to be faced with a dead body.
That would have been an interesting change, to be sure. And probably a better one? The setting was very flashy and dramatic, but there wasn’t much substance. Which describes most of the episodes since, like, series seven at least. They all have beautiful cinematography and lots of explosions and people running about, but nothing DEEP happens. The characters do a lot but they never seem to do anything important.
I guess that for me, the best thing about the setting was Clara looking cute in her flapper-ish dress. And OMG THAT HAIR. But still. Contrary to what you probably all think, I don’t watch Doctor Who for pretty girls. If they’re in an episode, that’s a plus, but what I really want are decently-written plots. Preferably with in media res landings, Alex, now that you mention it.
Engie here. Time for the conclusion, and for our thoughts on this episode overall!
The more I think about “Mummy on the Orient Express,” the more I want to write huge paragraphs of why I didn’t like it. I’m overexaggerating, but I was disappointed.
Overall, there was too much exposition, too much let’s-talk-about-this-again blah. The beginning and most of the story were better the second time around – the ending just infuriated me further. I do wish it would have been any space train, for the use of the Orient seemed a cheap trick to dash off the aesthetic of the era. I might have been more impressed if it the train was the background art, not the forerunning piece.
I feel bad for giving it three out of five stars, but it was one of the lesser episodes of this series.
Indeed. I feel like “Mummy on the Orient Express” was an OK episode on its own, but in the context of series eight as a whole, it was terrible. Clara’s motivations and development weren’t handled well, and Twelve was an arrogantly, poorly-written jerk, and I guess I’d hoped things would be better than this at this point in the series. Blergh.
Oh, and one more thing before we wrap up this review: Alex, who do you think Missy is?
I originally was leaning towards the view that she was the TARDIS, even before I heard of that theory on the web, but now I’m not convinced. With the inclusion of Chris Addison’s character at the end of “The Caretaker,” she seems more like the head of a (semi-)physical institution at least. I’d love for her to be someone from Classic Who, like Romana or The Rani, but that’s unlikely. I currently think she’s someone new.
Yeah, I’d love to find out that she’s someone from Classic Who, but I have no idea, so… I don’t know. We’ll find out soon enough, anyway. Just a few more weeks until the finale!
Thanks for reviewing with me, Alexandrina! It was fun!
What is YOUR opinion on “Mummy on the Orient Express?” I’d love to know!