SPOILER ALERT: Don't read ahead if you haven't watched Doctor Who series 8, episode 8: Mummy On The Orient Express
Last week's episode of Doctor Who 'Kill The Moon' was a triumph. Considering this season's narrative inconsistency that basically resulted in me defaulting my expectations to extremely low for 'Mummy On The Orient Express'. One of my biggest critiques at the beginning of the season was towards narrative repetitiveness, however the producers have clearly been experimenting with more writers than usual, which has led to more diverse story lines.
'Mummy On The Orient Express' treated us to the Foretold, a dual, terrifying creature that can only be seen by those whose life it's about to claim. The true monster however was 'Gus,' the computerized puppet master behind the Foretold. The episode left Gus's identity conveniently unidentified, which makes me think of two possible scenarios. Either Gus was one of the passengers of the train, most likely Perkins who clearly had too much information about the incidents occurring on the train. Or Gus somehow fits into the larger narrative of the season along with Missy, Nethersphere and the mysterious woman trying to keep Clara and The Doctor together (which as many suspect, could very well be Missy). My money is on the latter theory since it's unlike The Doctor to just let go of the villain who's lead to the death of so many passengers.
Which brings me to the overall disposition of The Doctor in this episode. The show's main struggle has been with Doctor's goodness and his stance on making the hard choices. This episode continued with the 'Doctor can't save everyone' theme, but this time we saw a level of regret and distress in him that we have not seen much of this season. Whether or not that repentance came because of Clara's decision to leave The Doctor, we can definitely see that there has been a change in Doctor's approach to life or death ordeals. This is most clearly expressed in the pseudo-sacrificial chain that is set in motion once The Doctor identifies the link amongst the mummy's victims. Each dying man gives Doctor more information to face off with the mummy, and in line with some of the past acts of the season The Doctor takes advantage of those sacrifices. But unlike his past negligence for human life, in this instance The Doctor is doing it just for show in order to distract Gus's manipulation and save Maisie despite lying to Clara that he couldn't.
The strongest part of 'Mummy On The Orient Express' is that it makes The Doctor a center of the narrative again. For the past few weeks the show has been Clara's story, and I've absolutely loved an increased focus on a phenomenal companion, which really gave Clara the opportunity to become more three dimensional and complex. However the show is called 'Doctor Who' after all and The Doctor can't be much of a hero or an antihero if he's not doing much and constantly relying on the companion to save the day. In a perfect world we would have equal parts action from both, but till then this is pretty close to perfect, especially as we dive into Danny's revelation that Clara hasn't stopped traveling with the Doctor after all.
Did anyone else notice that the planet Doctor and Clara landed on was oddly similar to "New Earth," where the Doctor took Rose on a date?
"Doctor Who" airs on Saturdays at 9:00 pm EDT on BBC America .