“Mummy on the Orient Express” replaces “Listen” as my favorite episode of series 8 Doctor Who. It does almost everything right, including a cover of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Foxes. It lasts only a few seconds in the episode, but thankfully BBC uploaded the full song to YouTube:
The song sums up the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his relationships with Companions over the years, including the problem with Clara (Jenna Coleman). He’s on a rocketship to Mars, and he’ll make a supersonic man/woman outta you.Comparitive Geeks has a great article on Clara’s character, and the best I can do is repeat one of their points: Clara falls flat because she’s only traveling with the Doctor as a hobby. Someone – I suspect the new writer, Jaime Mathieson – realized Clara slows the story and does not connect with the audience. So as soon as possible, Clara accidentally locks herself in a train car far away from the Doctor and lets him get on with the episode, on board the Space Orient Express.
The lack of a real Companion has made the 12th Doctor one of the most human. Despite his brusque manner, Capaldi softens the Doctor just enough to be likeable, and since he can’t connect with Clara he has great moments with other characters on the train. The banter between the Doctor and Chief Engineer Perkins (Frank Skinner) is great. The stories told by Professor Moorhouse (Christopher Villiers) and Captain Quell (David Bambers) frame the overall story of the group trying to understand and stop the Mummy. Moorhouse travels to see amazing things, much like the Doctor. Quell is a soldier, recovering from PTSD on an easy assignment. The Mummy kills both.
I think the Doctor is forced to learn and change his attitude toward soldiers, as the two most sympathetic victims – Quell and the Mummy itself – are both soldiers. Though the Doctor liked Moorhouse, the professor tries to bargain with the Mummy and dies uselessly. Quell acts like the Doctor and tries to solve the problem even as the Mummy kills him. His last words indicate that he feels an obligation to try every solution he can think of, though he’s not as smart as the Doctor: “I wouldn’t be much of a soldier if I died with bullets in my gun.”