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Doctor Who recap: 'Mummy on the Orient Express'

A classic train recreated in space and haunted by an even more classic monster. What could go wrong?

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Doctor Who Recap
Adrian Rogers/BBC

Doctor Who

TV Show
Sci-fi and Fantasy
run date:
Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas
BBC America
Current Status:
In Season

What happens when you combine a mummy, the Orient Express, a murder mystery, a time traveling crazy man, and some personal drama about the nature of friendship? A hell of an episode, evidently. “The Mummy on the Orient Express” took the best part about all the episodes before it and smashed it together into one rock solid episode that will go down as one of the best this season. But it also might be one of the darkest episodes of the show yet. It might just set the record for most onscreen deaths out of any episode so far, and has many heartwrenchingly disturbing moments crammed together.

In the cold open, a countdown starts. An old woman and her granddaughter sit having dinner in a train straight out of the early 1900s when the old woman sees a mummy coming right for her. But nobody else does—they can’t see it at all. The woman proceeds to get more and more panicked until the mummy causes her to slump over dead with her touch. Everyone else simply sees her die immediately from an apparent heart attack. Oh, and the train is in space!

After the theme song plays we watch, as the Doctor brings Clara on board the spacetrain. It’s a surprise that they seem so pleasant together after the meltdown that capped last week’s “Kill the Moon.” That is until their conversation goes into how this is their last hurrah together because Clara cannot deal with the Doctor as he is right now. So, basically, this is their breakup adventure.

The Doctor doesn’t want to think about that, he wants to enjoy his time with her by regaling her with tales of the stars outside the window. He is rudely interrupted by an agitated Maisie (Daisy Beaumont), the daughter from earlier. The strict and stiff-lipped conductor, Captain Quell (David Bamber), apologizes for her behavior.

Outside of their rooms, the Doctor and Clara speak about it being their last hurrah again. But, as any romantic would have seen coming, they’re talking about two different things. The Doctor is speaking of it as something final, as she wanted, while Clara thinks it just means an end to the constant adventuring, but that the Doctor would still “come around for dinner or something.” They give cheers to it being a last hurrah. (This is quickly becoming the most amicable breakup in TV history.)

Clara calls Danny to fill him in on what’s going on, disappointed that the adventure is relatively boring. The Doctor, meanwhile, channels his inner Gollum to unsuccessfully convince himself that there’s no danger at all on the Orient Express. But he gives in and goes to examine Maisie’s grandmother’s wheelchair. He does this alone because he does not want Clara involved if there is any danger.

He is caught in the act of inspection by Perkins (Frank Sinner), the chief engineer. The two men share their suspicions of each other openly, instantly becoming friends over it and Perkins fills the Doctor in on the Mummy rumor. Clara, meanwhile, runs into Maisie on her way to see her grandmother’s body and follows Maisie into the locked storage car, getting through the spacetrain’s AI, Gus (John Sessions), who sounds like John Cleese with the passive aggressiveness dialed up.

The Doctor goes to the dining lounge to speak to Professor Moorhouse (Christopher Villiers), an expert on the Foretold—the mummy’s official name. The two men expose a few details about the Foretold, most notably it takes 66 seconds from start to finish to kill. During their conversation we see it take a young chef’s life by teleporting into a fridge to get at him while everyone around the chef looks on confusedly since they cannot see the Foretold. The Doctor notes that the professor is present to witness the Foretold in action.

The Doctor confronts Captain Quell, pretending to be a mystery shopper since that’s what Quell is worried about most, of all things. He blasts Quell for not recognizing the issue for what it is and leaves Quell’s office where Perkins comes to him with an armful of information such as passenger manifests and the train’s historical data. It’s a bit odd that the Doctor didn’t hold Quell’s military history against him like he did for so many others this season.

NEXT: Oh, Mummy fiercest, why do you lumber so?