Doctor Who, S8 Ep8 — Mummy on the Orient Express

“Mummy on the Orient Express,” Doctors Whos 8th (already?!) episode of the 8th Season, is one of those “in Space” episodes — you know, there was The Titanic in Space, Big Brother in Space, and on and on. They’re usually not top-flight episodes you remember when you think of Doctor Who, like “Blink” or “Midnight” or “Closing Time.” “Mummy” is, as you might expect, a murder mystery episode, but the question isn’t whodunit — it’s who’s next, and why.

The episode opens with the first kill, the victim being a 100-year-old woman having dinner on the train with her granddaughter. The woman sees a mummy coming for her that no one else sees, and in exactly 66 seconds, she’s dead.

Minutes later, The TARDIS arrives on the space train, and The Doctor and Clara in a flapper dress emerge. If you’ll recall, Clara left the TARDIS and The Doctor, telling him never to come back, the last time we saw her. It appears fences have been mended, but on closer inspection, not much has changed. Clara is there, but she seems distant, and The Doctor notices. She tells him she can’t do it any more. The Doctor is OK with that, but when he mentions that this will be her final trip, she looks unsure about ending her adventures.

When they learn about the mysterious murder, Clara is sure it’s a “thing,” another space mystery to solve, but The Doctor is nonplussed. Or, at least, he acts as if he is. He leaves Clara on her own to investigate, armed with his trusty psychic paper. Things don’t go exactly as planned — when he shows the psychic paper to the Captain, describing himself as his “worst nightmare,” the Captain moans that he’s a mystery shopper.



After talking to Danny, Clara goes to investigate too, and meets Maisie, the granddaughter of the first victim, who is trying to break into a locked room where she believes her grandmother’s body is being kept. Instead, they find a sarcophagus inside (uh-oh) and accidentally lock themselves inside. Meanwhile, The Doctor meets the train’s Chief Engineer, Perkins, who is a genius. Perkins helps The Doctor throughout the episode.

Actually, most of the people on the train are geniuses, top-flight scientists and doctors, and even an expert on the mummy’s curse, gathered together for reasons unknown.

The Doctor seeks out Emil, the expert, who tells him that, once a person sees the mummy, they have exactly 66 seconds to live.

As the bodies start to pile up, video surveillance confirms the 66 second rule. The Doctor calls the attention of the people in the dining car, and explains the scenario: whoever sees the mummy is next to die, in 66 seconds. He says they have all been brought together for a reason, and that someone is likely observing their every move.

At that, the posh carriage turns into a cold lab, and anyone who isn’t one of the chosen (mostly the service workers) disappears. They were all holograms. The voice of the train’s computer (called GUS) tells them they have been chosen to find the mummy’s weakness. All anyone knows, aside from the 66 second thing, is that the mummy (called The Foretold) follows an ancient scroll wherever it goes. Oh, and just before the mummy appears, the lights flicker. Which they do just as they’re standing there. Emil, the mythology expert, is next.

The Doctor sees opportunity. He asks Emil to explain what he sees, but Emil is too terrified and pleads for his life instead, before falling down dead at the 66th second.

Captain Quell

Captain Quell

The Doctor comes up with a theory to help them predict who might be next. The mummy seems to be going for those with physical or mental illness. Upon hear that, Captain Quell looks alarmed, and tells The Doctor he is a war veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress. Lo and behold, he’s next. During his last 66 seconds, he gives The Doctor some new information: the mummy can teleport. Teleportation means technology, The Doctor reasons, after Quell’s dropped dead. Maybe the mummy is using humans as an energy source to run its ancient technology?

The next most likely victim is Maisie, who is still with Clara. The Doctor calls and gives Clara the news, asking her to bring Maisie to him to they can study her as she is attacked. Clara is appalled, especially when The Doctor tells her to lie to Maisie and tell her she’s bringing her to him because he can save her. Surprisingly, she does. I can’t help wondering if Courtney would.

In any event, Maisie goes to The Doctor, hopeful that he can save her. When she sees the mummy, The Doctor pulls a last-minute surprise and transfers Maisie’s grief and guilt to himself, causing the mummy to disappear for her, but appear for him.

After an “Are you my mummy” joke, The Doctor tries reasoning his way out. Maybe the scroll is a flag. Maybe the mummy is an ancient soldier. The Doctor reasons until the last second, before shouting “We surrender!”

The mummy stops, salutes, and crumbles to the ground.

The mystery solved, GUS the computer no longer needs any of the survivors, and starts to release the oxygen from the train. Clara passes out. When when she wakes, she’s on a beach on a distant planet. The survivors have been saved. After returning to the TARDIS and saying goodbye to Perkins, Clara apologizes to The Doctor, and tells him she wants to keep traveling with him (as long as he gets her home on time).

“Mummy on the Orient Express” isn’t as thought-provoking as “Kill the Moon” or “Into the Dalek” or as creepy as “Listen,” but its up there with those three. And as more people die, the more the silent Promised Land storyline is mysteriously built up.