This week’s Doctor Who review is for Mummy on the Orient Express. This was one of my favourite episodes this season because I think it managed to hit on a lot of the themes of the Doctor and Clara’s relationship in a very effective and clear way. It’s not without its problems but it was generally an enjoyable romp and was immensely colourful.

The Foretold, Mummy on the Orient Express

We begin with the eerie death of an old woman on the space-travelling train. She sees the ghastly mummy figure as it reaches out to take her. Sixty-six seconds and the creature kills, though nobody but the victim can see it. An intriguing and mysterious adventure begins.

The Doctor and Clara are having one last adventure, a goodbye trip so that they don’t end on the big blow out of Kill the Moon. I wasn’t sure about this angle at first, but given how Clara acts I can see a sort of sense in it. The fact that other characters also comment on the fact that this is a strange thing to do is good as it points out that it is strange. The dynamic between them is worrying and one does get the sense that Clara’s desire to join the Doctor is born out of something like an addiction – she pushes herself to extreme lengths to be able to go on these trips and puts herself and her health in danger constantly. She perhaps feels like she needs the adventure to feel special. I will come back to this in the finale.

The Doctor reacts with some confusion to Clara’s sad-smiling. A point I had to raise an eyebrow to because I am pretty sure that Doctors Nine and Ten would do the same thing; perhaps the Doctor’s many years on Trenzalore have made him forget what it was like to have such complex emotions. Or perhaps the Doctor likes to pretend to be oblivious to avoid confronting his own emotions.

As soon as the Doctor realises what he’s up against, he begins to investigate in earnest. He fishes for information from the various experts who are coincidentally onboard the train, he mingles with the chief engineer, Perkins (Frank Skinner), and he challenges the authorities to do something about the danger. He goes to any lengths to stop the Mummy, or The Foretold as it is called.

The Doctor lies. He lets people die just on the off chance that he can learn something about the Foretold. He makes Clara lie for him. All in a desperate attempt to stop the monster. Which leads to an interesting question – why does the Doctor want to stop the Foretold? If he’s willing to let people die, even putting his own life on the line in the end, what is he doing it for? To prove that he can? To save other lives? To save the lives of however many others it might kill?

The episode is remarkably colourful, bright, and filled with music. The plot moves smoothly and the whole thing feels very much like the characters are dancing to the same tune. Things just fall into place in this episode where they previously had been only brushing up against one another. Clara and the Doctor start to understand one another more and neither of them are without blame. Though the Doctor is the one with most of the power here, let’s not forget, and he very much strong-arms Clara into her questionable actions.

I got the feeling that the Doctor was desperate for Clara to understand him, for her to realise what it is he does and why. The Doctor stops the monsters, but at what cost? Is that cost too high? He may save people, but is he slowly destroying himself? Is he poisoning his friends?

Clara points out that it seems the Doctor likes to put himself in impossible situations, where there are no good choices. It’s part of his identity and the decisions he makes do often make him seem heartless. Which is strangely curious given some things Steven Moffat has said about the Doctor in the recent past…

“When they made this particular hero, they didn’t give him a gun, they gave him a screwdriver to fix things. They didn’t give him a tank or a warship or an x-wing fighter, they gave him a call box from which you can call for help. And they didn’t give him a superpower or pointy ears or a heat ray, they gave him an extra heart. They gave him two hearts. And that’s an extraordinary thing; there will never come a time when we don’t need a hero like the doctor.”
– Steven Moffat

As nice as this quote is, it really does not ring true of how he has written the Doctor. He has, it seems, tried to remove the Doctor’s hearts. It seems as if the Doctor forgets why he does what he does. As if he is out to beat the monsters because that’s his job – he’s the man who stops the monsters (as he says in Flatline), the man who saves people. Before I often felt that the Doctor was someone who saved people because he couldn’t help helping. He saved people because he cared about people, not because it was his job.

Much as I enjoyed this episode, it does leave some worrying questions about the Doctor as a person, about what motivates him and what he is trying to ultimately achieve.


Deep Breath / Into the Dalek
Robot of Sherwood / Listen
Time Heist
The Caretaker
Kill the Moon