Since I’m behind on my Doctor Who reviewing, I’m offering commentary on “Mummy on the Orient Express” and “Flatline” in one post. It’s two posts for the price of one!
Mummy on the Orient Express
In the 80’s, the production team wanted to introduce audiences to a more alien, less likeable Doctor who would slowly mellow over time and become more and more liked by the audience. The result was the sixth Doctor and the plan didn’t exactly go, well, as planned. Colin Baker’s era was one of the most polarizing in the classic series run and led to the show becoming the target of a great deal in internal criticism at the BBC and the show going on hiatus for eighteen months.
With the Peter Capaldi era, I feel like that in addition to destructing the character of the Doctor, Steven Moffat has taken on that task of giving us a more alien, less likeable Doctor and is showing us how it could have and should have been done. With “Mummy” we look into the question of just how the Doctor goes about solving the problem or defeating the alien threat facing him in each story. Do the ends justify the means?
In this case, it’s a high body count (nothing new, just watch any story by Robert Holmes) that piles up before the Doctor can come up with a way to stop the Mummy from killing everyone on the train. Does the Doctor have the right to ask each of these various people to sacrifice themselves in the interest of obtaining data on how to defeat the Mummy and Gus, who has lured the Doctor into this particular trap (interestingly, the Doctor has turned down multiple invitations to come on board and solve this until Clara threatens to leave him. More on this later). The Doctor realizes there is a way to stop the Mummy, but it takes data (in this case the death of innocent people) to give him the pieces he needs to solve the puzzle.
Of the stories we’ve seen this year, this one feels like it comes closest to the classic Who model of the “base under siege” story. In fact, I’d say it felt a great deal like the Tom Baker era story “The Robots of Death” with people trapped in an isolated, locked-room location and a force coming to kill everyone on board. Having the Doctor chose to take Clara into what can be summed up as “the most typical of classic Who models” for what she wants to be her last hurrah in the TARDIS is interesting. The Doctor doesn’t give her a tour of the marvels of the universe and all the beauty within it, but instead a classic battle against the forces of evil that he faces. And in doing so, he gives her a bit of insight into who he is now and just how alien he truly he is. He also feeds her addiction to traveling with him — the excitement of the discovery and just how these various monsters are defeated. Continue reading