Sunday 12 October 2014

Mummy on the Orient Express

This story is set on a recreation of the Orient Express in space. It seems a remarkably vivid recreation, because both the crew and passengers are dressed in period costume. Furthermore, they are all human and seemingly British. I think it would have been more interesting visually to do a less perfect re-creation of the period, by having some characters be aliens and some of the passengers wearing non-period costumes. Would that have confused the costume department too much? If they really wanted to do a period drama on the Orient Express, why not have it set on the real train on Earth, with the monster being an Egyptian mummy? This seems a bit like RTD's demand for werewolves, Kung-Fu monks and Queen Victoria in the same story.

I'm not sure why the carriages of the train are swaying, as if on a winding railtrack. If this is a spaceship travelling through space, it ought to be moving straightforward, having no physical obstacles to affect its movement.

I don't think this is how to do a monster story. We get a full reveal of the monster right at the beginning. We see so much of it that it does not stay scary for very long. What is more, the very title gives away the fact that it is a mummy. Could the nature of the monstrous entity not have been concealed for a while? An unknown terror is much more frightening.

The mummy turns out to be a form of alien technology, like several other entities we have encountered in this season. Are we not going to get any proper aliens in these stories? It seems a mundane and dull explanation for the monster. I would much have preferred it to have turned out to be the mummified remains of some ancient alien emperor. This story shares with Pyramids of Mars a misunderstanding about just why mummies are scary. Mummies are not scary because they are wrapped in bandages. They are scary because they are dead things. They are part of the 'uncanny.' A robotic mummy is a bit banal.

I think this story was reasonably well polished and did interesting things with the characters, but it had a lack of imagination and flair.


  1. But was it really 'just' a banal robotic mummy? The fact that it was a once living soldier (at least that's how I understood it) kept alive too long by tech, to fight a war that is long over, felt properly uncanny and horrific to me. That it's another case of the monster not being a true monster -- not a villain with a goal towards wealth, or power, revenge, or destruction -- and yet another case of putting the Doctor in the position of having to deal with a broken soldier, I can see being over-the-top if you're alienated by that theme. But at least seems fit the needs of this episode, and Series 8 so far. Whether that's a good or a bad thing, certainly opinions will differ!

    My secret hope was that the sarcophagus was a direct tie to "Pyramids of Mars" and the mummy was the undying, shambling remnant of Sutekh ... destroying as much as he could with the limited vitality he had left after somehow extending his lifespan beyond the 11,000 years the Doctor imprisoned him in the time tunnel. Probably for the best they didn't do that though.

    Matthew, I think you had mentioned once before that there was far more sexual tension between this Doctor and Clara than there ever was with Matt Smith's. I thought this was another perfect example of that. The chemistry here, and the scenes of each of them in their separate staterooms felt much more like actual unresolved attraction than we ever saw evidence of between Eleven and Clara. Wondered if you saw it that way as well?

    1. Oh yes, there was definitely a lot of sexual tension in this! I forgot to mention that in my review.

    2. Just as you forgot to mention anything other the setting details and how scary the monster was.

    3. The length of my review tends to depend on how the story impacts me. This story did not have very much impact on me at all, hence the short review.