I’ll be honest with you, my heart sank at the sight of Clara stepping out of the Tardis. I was hoping the Doctor was doing what some people do when relationships break up, and had found a new companion who just really looked like his ex-companion – but no, like a wet weekend, there was Ms Oswald. Still, at least she spent a large part of the episode locked in a remote carriage, for which some of us will be thanking writer Jamie Mathieson wholeheartedly.
He’s done a great job on the rest of the story too, with the added plus that the Doctor isn’t being given Eleven’s dialogue here (though I adored the clever use of “Are you my mummy?” – who’d have thought you could get two separate jokes out of one originally chilling line?).
The episode looks absolutely gorgeous too – the train and passengers are a feast for the eyes and the mummy is suitably grotesque.
[Spoilers below the line, as per…]
The story? The Doctor has brought Clara to this recreation of the Orient Express which ‘steams’ among the stars as a last hurrah. Unfortunately (and I don’t honestly think the Doctor was conscious of the danger, judging from his sleepless indecision) they’re not the only stowaways on the train – a mummy is killing the passengers, a mummy who can only be seen by the victim and for the last 66 seconds of their life.
Not all is what it seems, of course. Half of the passengers are hard-light holograms (a phrase which always makes me reminiscent for the best days of Red Dwarf) and the other half are experts who’ve been unwittingly enticed aboard the train to solve the mystery of the mummy (also known as the Foretold).
Can the Doctor solve the mystery before everyone dies? Well, of course, he can – with the help of chief engineer Perkins (a pitch-perfect performance from Frank Skinner) – a man smart enough not only to help solve the problem of the Foretold, but also to turn down a stint in the Tardis (though I’d have loved to see him travel with Twelve for just a little while).
I like it when the Doctor not only puts his money where is mouth is and sticks himself in the firing line (“If only I could see this thing … one minute with me and this thing it would be over!”) but then also lives up to his declarations – Peter Capaldi gives us a particularly excellent 66 seconds of acting in the face of the Foretold.
Tiresome as this series banging on about soldiers is, in this instance at least the eternal soldier awaiting new orders made sense. I, for one, will be mightily glad when Steven Moffat has got this theme out of his system.
Two other things that I liked: the cigarette case containing jelly babies and the psychic paper backfiring (“Your worst nightmare is a mystery shopper?”).
You will know by now what I didn’t like – Clara’s change of heart, although if it comes with a change of attitude as well, perhaps she’ll be less annoying.
And one other thought to end on. We’re always hearing how Sherlock is supposed to have Asperger’s, but actually Twelve has been displaying more autistic traits than the great consulting detective. It was the line about the sad smile (“It’s confusing, like two emotions at once, it’s like you’re malfunctioning.”) that made me prick up my ears. (I still don’t like it when he’s so brusque. It’s behaviour that I’d make some allowances for if he were on the spectrum, but otherwise it is just rude.) That it was almost immediately followed by him wanting to discuss planets rather than Clara’s feelings was also rather familiar. I know I may be guilty of looking for reasons to excuse the unlikeable behaviour of a much-loved character, but I’d be interested to know what other people living with people on the spectrum think…
In the meantime, see you same time, same place next week…