I’ve purposely held back on reviewing Mummy on the Orient Express, partly because I needed to watch it again (and have only just had the chance) and also because I wanted to see if anyone had mentioned the “throwbacks” I was thinking of including. In fairness, the word “reviewing” should probably have had the inverted comma treatment as well, because I’m not blessed with the ability to offer the kind of prosaic critique that I’ve read elsewhere... but I can apparently be funny every now again.
First things first, I thought this was a belting episode. More brilliant interaction between Jenna Coleman (who looked stunning in her 1920s dress) and Peter Capaldi, who has assumed the role with such assuredness and apparent ease that comparisons with new series predecessors are, frankly, unnecessary. I will always believe that Matt Smith’s tenure was (to a greater or lesser degree) compromised by storylines that became so intertwined that the average viewer – me and the man on the Clapham omnibus – couldn’t see through them. Smith was an excellent Doctor... Capaldi may well be even better.
It’s not necessarily the big scenes and big speeches that showcase the best of the current incarnation; more the subtle moments viz. his double take at the psychic paper when it had made him a mystery shopper, or the gesture that forced a reluctant Moorhouse to shake hands. Forget what I said in the last paragraph... Capaldi must be the best since Troughton....
I’m aware there are series plotlines – and Gus may be part of what is to follow – but they no longer squeeze the life out of an individual story. Mummy on the Orient Express was cleverly constructed, with a good supporting cast... and a “monster” whose fairly gruesome appearance could not hide the fact that it still had straighter teeth than mine.
Of course the Mummy was not the villain... simply the bringer of death (à la Pyramids of Mars... and to think we though those Mummies were creepy!!); presumably we’ve been left to ponder on who or what is (or might be responsible for) Gus, but it was fascinating to see how those fated to die reacted to the 66 seconds they had left. The surprise for me was Moorhouse, who sidestepped the chance to offer the Doctor some real insight into the Foretold, and spent his final moments pitifully offering all his worldly possessions in the vain hope his life would be spared.
I thought Frank Skinner gave a rather good performance as Perkins. The name is very close to Perks, the station master from The Railway Children... who was played by Bernard Cribbins... who played Tom Campbell and Wilfred Mott... see how easy this “throwback” thing is?! Skinner set just the right tone for the character, and I will agree with the many who felt slightly disappointed that he turned down a trip in the TARDIS.
The removal of the train disguise to reveal the laboratory and the all seeing, all hearing, audible yet hidden Gus was a clever touch. A number of passengers disappeared, and who was left...? Well apart from the pretty poor Einstein lookalike, I’m sure I spotted Theodore Maxtible... or was it Professor Kettlewell... not it was definitely Maxtible, Kent’s favourite failed alchemist. Go on, have another look!
There was a hint of predictability about the conclusion. The Doctor was always going to somehow end up in the Mummy’s sights, and obviously our hero would ultimately win the day. That said, the Mummy’s demise was also its freedom and the final salute was actually strangely poignant.
The post-train explosion scene on the contrastingly tranquil rock beach was a surprise however and despite her “last hurrah” assertions, Clara’s adventures – and her story – are far from over. And that can only be a good thing.
9 out of 10