Doctor Who Review: Mummy on the Orient Express

doctor who mummy on the orient express review jamie mathieson paul wilmshurst frank skinner foxes title sequence jenna coleman

Don’t stop me now, I’m having such a good time, I’m having a ball! Oh, don’t stop me now, yeah, I don’t want to stop at all…

One of my favourite TV shows ever is House. I’ve never really written about it on the blog, which is something I’ll have to correct one day, but I absolutely love the show. It’s a fantastic Holmes adaptation, and there’s some wonderful, wonderful drama to it.

My favourite thing about it is, perhaps obviously, Hugh Laurie as House. I think he’s brilliant. Every second he’s on the screen is properly compelling; House is, in short, a fantastic creation. The best part about the character, or the bit that stands out to me at least, is the fact that that he’s very single minded in his attempts to help the patients – House doesn’t give a damn if he upsets people or offends them or even hurts them, because he knows without a doubt that it will, in the end, help.

So I was, it must be said, quite pleased to see Jamie Mathieson, who wrote the episode, naming House as an influence.

The-Doctor-as-House thread running through the episode is one of my favourite parts of the episode. This is, I think, probably the best way to pitch a more callous, brusque Doctor without him becoming a different character altogether; it highlights the fact he’s an alien, but it still keeps to the basic idea of the Doctor helping people.

doctor who mummy on the orient express review peter capaldi twelfth doctor clara oswald jenna coleman pink sky you still have to choose

There’s a wonderful, morally ambiguous sort of thing going on with regards to the responsibilities the Doctor takes on when he’s travelling. It’s typified when, at the end, he says “Sometimes the only choices we have are bad ones”. I loved it, and I loved the way it was a bit more reflective than usual. It’s something I’d love to see explored a little more, and given some more time; it seems quite well suited to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. Older, wearier, and very keenly aware of the burden upon him. This is a really fantastic interpretation of the Doctor at this stage in his life, and it’s the sort of thing that’s making me really love Twelve.

But, as with House, not everyone is willing to put up with the Doctor. Following on from last week, we’ve got Clara back again, and it’s their last hurrah.

I really quite liked this plot thread – surprising me a little, actually, because I wasn’t that impressed last week. But there was a real sense of melancholy, actually, in the interactions between the Doctor and Clara. The arc that Clara went through, from hating the Doctor last week, to an apathy at the start of this episode, to finally realising just what she loved about travelling and accepting that the Doctor still did good in his approach to things was brilliantly pitched and absolutely note perfect. Beat by beat, moment by moment, everything was completely on the nose.

It was another brilliant showcase for Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi. They’re so amazing together, it’s really compelling to watch, especially in episodes as well written as this. My favourite moments for the pair, actually, were the quietly awkward little exchanges towards the beginning; they’d both be trying to be nice, but then one of them would say something, and the facades would drop, and the sadness would be obvious. Moments like that were really touching, actually.

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Another thing worth commenting on is the background characters; Perkins, Moorhouse, Quell and Maisie. They were all remarkably well drawn; in a fairly short space of time, they all felt pretty real. What I particularly liked actually was how they each got their own stand out moments, as it were; I quite liked Maisie’s bit about hating her grandmother, and wanting her to die, except not really wanting it to happen. It was a fairly small detail, but it really did make her stand out far more than if she had just been the character who’s grandmother died.

Frank Skinner was another stand out, and he’s definitely going to go down another should’ve been companion. One of the more memorable characters here. Brilliant writing brought to life by brilliant acting. Can’t ask for more than that really. (In the DWM where I read the House quotes, incidentally, Jamie Mathieson said that he based Perkins on a friend. I’d be willing to bet the real life Perkins was chuffed!)

Finally, I loved the Mummy. That’s a sort of important thing I haven’t mentioned yet, isn’t it? The Mummy is in the title, after all. It was quite a scary thing, actually, and it tapped into the fear of other people not seeing what you’re seeing. When that was then flipped on it’s head later on, to become the scientific observation scenes, it was remarkably clever and added another dimension to the whole thing. Brilliant stuff.

So, all in all, that’s a pretty bloody fantastic episode. Definitely one of the best ones of the series – strong 9/10 for me, I think. Really looking forward to tonight’s! (Which is… starting right now.)

Related:

Doctor Who series 8 reviews

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