Sunday, 19 October 2014

Review: Doctor Who 8.8: Mummy on the Orient Express

From The BBC
It would be unfair of me to say that I didn't enjoy this week's episode, even if I'm still a little tired of the show's whole setup at this point. Initially I thought this episode would be another nod towards Agatha Christie, but despite some aesthetic similarities it was more of a fascinating execution of a sci-fi idea, littered with some interesting side characters and strained painfully through our two leads like a concrete enema. And, while it was nice to see a sci-fi idea not completely and totally butchered like last week, I'm feeling something missing in the core dynamic which sours the whole experience.
      As their "last trip" (not this bs again, please...), The Doctor takes Clara to The Orient Express, in Space. The train is being haunted by The Foretold, an ancient alien mummy who appears only to his victims and then kills them exactly 66 seconds later. The Doctor is intrigued, Clara is not, she ends up spending half the episode off-screen anyway so idek. As the ship's population slowly decreases, the mummy picking people off based on physical and psychological weakness, The Doctor realises the journey's true purpose. The ship's intelligent AI takes over and explains that the passengers are there to experiment upon and aim to capture The Foretold, at least until everyone on board is dead. This pisses off The Doctor, who takes it upon himself to fool The Foretold into thinking he's the next victim. He works out in his 66 seconds that the mummy is an ancient soldier, and by surrendering he frees it from its servitude. The AI says he's going to finish up by killing everyone on board but we suddenly cut to a beach and The Doctor tells Clara all is well. She ends up going away with The Doctor on more adventures.
     I got a little tired of "last adventures" back in the Amy and Rory years, where that came up every other week near the end. It reached the point with them where I no longer cared whether they stayed or went, and despite the attempts to give Clara some personality, I'm almost at that stage with her. She comes across as someone who consistently doesn't want to be in the TARDIS, and the show as a whole is presenting travelling with The Doctor as something nobody in their right mind would want to do. That seems antithetical to everything Doctor Who should be about - the popular appeal is that escapism, the idea that The Doctor could arrive and whisk us away from our lives at any moment. Plus, if you're going to address the disconnect between Doctor and companion as it does with Clara, then you could at least have the two together for the majority of the episode instead of literally shoving Clara in a cupboard until the end.
Oh yeah, Frank Skinner was in this episode.
From the BBC.
     The idea behind the episode brushed again with the theme of soldiers and devotion to a cause, but rather more namechecking it than actually examining it or deconstructing it in any particular detail. More focus was put onto The Doctor's sherlockian cleverness than on the themes presented. One such avenue that the episode could have focused on was the choosing of the victims from weakest to strongest, and the way that psychological issues were just as much as a weakness as physical infirmity. While this was addressed in the episode, the mechanism of the episode's artificial tension meant that these issues disappeared within a minute of them arising. And the rubbish ending certainly didn't help. It felt silly, like a lot of this episode's explanations, and it rendered a lot of the episode hollow as a result.


NEXT WEEK: Someone dingled the whatsit dangle and the thingy is happening! It's Flatline.

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