I think this is perhaps the most important episode of the season thus far, based solely on the relationship between Clara and Twelve. Of course, I still have my concerns about the Clara/Danny relationship. I liked this episode overall, though. I felt engaged and not stressed with high-stakes Doctor Who decision-making. Let’s get on to the recap!
Mummy on the Orient Express starts with a timer: 66 seconds. Mrs. Pitt and Miss Maisie Pitt sit having dinner in the dining car. Mrs. Pitt sees a horrible mummy that no one else can see. When the timer runs out, the mummy reaches Mrs. Pitt and she dies.
Clara and the Doctor disembark the Tardis onto said Orient Express. I especially love the “Don’t Stop Me Now” jazz cover that’s happening at that moment. There’s a lovely kind of sadness about their trip– both knowing that this would be their last adventure. Clara smiles in a bittersweet way that makes the Doctor uncomfortable, and they talk in a dreamy nostalgic way reminiscent of an amicable break-up. When they hear of the mysterious death on the Orient Express, the reality of what Clara is giving up seems to hit her.
The Doctor has a conversation with himself, trying to convince himself that Mrs. Pitt simply died of old age. He is unable to talk himself into that conclusion, and goes to investigate. He thinks of waking up Clara, but thinks better of it. He looks into the myth of the mummy, called the Foretold. Another murder occurs in the kitchens.
Meanwhile, Clara wants to investigate. She tries to wake up the Doctor, who of course is already gone. Maisie is wandering the halls going to look for her grandmother’s body, kept in a vault. She opens the vault by slamming her shoe into it. She and Clara get inside but get locked in. The Doctor calls Clara to let her know that they have a mystery to solve, and she tells him she’s trapped. He goes to let her out, but the sonic opens a sarcophagus inside the vault instead. The lights flicker, indicating another murder is eminent. Luckily for Clara, the sarcophagus is full of bubble wrap.
After the third murder, the Doctor notes that the train is full of doctors, professors, experts in the fields that would make sense to investigate the myth of the Foretold. The facade drops away and the train becomes a lab– even the train staff were holograms. A voice on the train’s speakers, Gus, gives instruction.
The professor the Doctor had spoken to before is the fourth murder. Clara calls the Doctor with some research of her own on the sarcophagus, a stasis unit that the voice on the train intends to keep the Foretold in. The voice asks the Doctor to terminate the call and return to work. When he doesn’t, a chamber of the train is decompressed and the window reveals floating frozen bodies. The Doctor hangs up, but has a new theory. He needs to find out about how the Foretold chooses its victims. He learns that its picking off weakness– health and psychological issues. The lights flicker again and the Captain, who has PTSD, becomes the fifth victim.
They scan the captain’s body and find that he is completely drained of cellular energy. They find out the next victim is Maisie, due to the trauma of the day. The Doctor asks Clara to bring her to him so they observe the Foretold in action again. He tells Clara to lie to her and tell her they can save her, which she does.
Clara freaks out at the Doctor when she learns that he may have known of the danger on the train. Maisie sees the Foretold; the Doctor uses a machine to withdraw her sadness, resentment, and grief and implants them in himself. He then becomes the victim, sees the Foretold and asks, “are you my mummy?” Love this reference!
The clock starts. The Doctor works out that the Foretold is a soldier and finally arrives at the words to make it stop: “We surrender!” Everyone sees the Foretold, and the Doctor tells him he’s relieved. He disintegrates. Gus, the voice on the train, announces that survivors are not required for this exercise and air flow is cut from the train. The Doctor searches for a teleporter to rescue the passengers. The train explodes.
Clara wakes up on a beach. The Doctor lets her know the teleporter worked eventually and there were no causalities. He’s dropped them all off on a nearby civilized planet, where they are right now. “So you saved everyone?” she asks. “No I just saved you and I let everyone else suffocate, ha ha ha” he jokes.
Clara realizes that the Doctor had her lie to Maisie so Gus wouldn’t learn their plan. Still, he says, sometimes there are no good choices. Back in the Tardis, Clara asks him if he loves being the man making the impossible choice. “Is it like an addiction?” she asks. He says he’s never tried giving it up, and to let him know how it goes. Her phone rings– for the second time in the episode smart phones are so smart that they work across time and space– and it’s Danny. He asks her if the adventuring is done. She says it is and she loves him.
But Clara changes her mind. “To hell with the last hurrah,” she says. The first genuine smile of the episode spreads across her face. And the Doctor and his companion are off to another adventure.