Mummy on the Orient Express

12-episode set
Region A/1
12-episode set
Region B/2
(Doctor Who Story No. 254, starring Peter Capaldi)
  • written by Jamie Mathieson
  • directed by Paul Wilmshurst
  • produced by Peter Bennett
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 49 minutes
Story: For her final trip in the TARDIS, the Doctor takes Clara onto a futuristic replica of the Orient Express train that travels through space. But the passengers are gradually being killed off, each one being the only one that can see a horrific mummy dragging itself towards them during the last 66 seconds of their lives. Can the legends of "The Foretold" have any bearing on how this phenomenon works? What secrets exist amongst the passengers that might explain why all this has come to be?

DVD Extras for this story include:

  • Behind the Scenes featurette (11 min.) with Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Frank Skinner (Perkins), Daisy Beaumont (Maisie),
    Foxes (Jazz Singer), writer Jamie Mathieson, executive producer Steven Moffat, and creature supervisor Dave Bonneywell.
  • "Don't Stop Me Now" music video by "Foxes" (3 min.) containing spoilers for the whole season.

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide to the season instead.

Though it may seem at first that story concepts for Doctor Who are still stuck in the same old less-than-believable ruts for yet another episode, the quality of this particular episode, spearheaded by an excellent script, soon shines through and triumphs. In fact, I might go so far as to say that Doctor Who hasn't done a whodunit bottle story this effectively since it came back to television in 2005.

Initially, I did find it quite cheesy to once again find replicas of past Earth culture trying to operate in space as modern vehicles. It's as if the BBC is fearfully huddling close to what it knows it can do well, instead of even trying to aim for the future. I'd sooner have (and believe in) the Empress from "Nightmare of Eden" (story no. 107) than the Orient Express as a multi-car train in space. But, the train does give us lots of eye-candy, and it is nice to find holographic technology in the episode to support the illusion.

I also wasn't excited about our monster-of-the-week, feeling that it spawned from a formula that had been done to death on this show too many times already. However, it is done so well in this story that this episode becomes one of the few times where this formula is really worthwhile in the end.

Bizarre too is the way that the title sequence barely has time to name the episode and writer, after waiting forever for the TARDIS to spin out of the way. The last story really chopped down the time for its title, while this one has to let the words continue to appear long after the background graphics have disappeared. Oh, for a decent title sequence....

Caveats out of the way, there is little left to do but rave over the rest, which gradually wins me over every time. The TARDIS materializes properly for the first time in a LONG time, and the Doctor and Clara's banter is actually really good and entertaining. This story gave me quite a number of unexpected laughs. The two lead characters for the series are in top form here.

Quite often, the act of squeezing a traditional Doctor Who bottle story down into a 45-minute format means that characters are short-changed and don't become the interesting puzzles that they should be. But this story is full of a good number of intriguing characters, who all seem to get their due. In fact, there doesn't seem to be a single wasted scene in this entire episode - each one gives good information on plot or character or both, and advances the story. Very nice tight writing, and with copious amounts of detail to give the story and characters enjoyable depth and continue to satisfy the audience on repeat viewing.

I'd also venture to say that in this adventure we get the best out of Peter Capaldi as the Doctor for the entire season, both in terms of his performance and in that the character is written correctly - given the right actions and made to appeal to his audience. His problem-solving abilities get the highlight that they deserve, and on top we have all the colourful styles and eccentricities we could want. Top marks.

Directorially, Paul Wilmshurst may not be edging forward as my season favourite, but I think we should acknowledge both the additional hardship of shooting in some extremely narrow sets, which he pulled off well, and salute his very brave choice to actually put a ticking clock on screen and ensure that each scripted countdown actually was 66 seconds long in his edit. That took some doing, and I think the result was worth it.

I also really love the unexpected coda sections, with the Doctor and Clara coming to terms with all that has happened in the episode. It is a very enjoyable re-affirmation of this TARDIS team, and it was done quite nicely.

And I have to say, this episode's long-term intrigue is, for a change, not about the afterlife mistress, which I didn't care for, but instead a mysterious new string-puller codenamed "Gus". I like that a WHOLE lot more, I must say. Two thumbs up there.

Well, though this rather simple story concept doesn't quite have the same big draw as the long-term-character explorations of "Into the Dalek" (story no. 248), it is in the end a much better polished story, and easily shoots its way up near to the top of the season's ranking. And if it leaves us hungry for another tale by this writer, well we don't have to wait long for that at all.....

International Titles:

Deutsch: "Die Mumie"

Magyar: "Múmia az Orient Expressen"

Français: "La Momie de l'Orient-Express"

Русский: "Мумия в „Восточном экспрессе“"

Italiano: "Una mummia sull'Orient Express"

Most of these are as literal as possible, with the Russian word for "Orient" based on "восток" which means "east". For some reason, the Germans decided to leave the Orient Express out of their title altogether.

This story is available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Season 34 Box Set
11 stories in 12 episodes

NEW for
Dec. 9, 2014.

NEW for
Dec. 9, 2014.

NEW for
Nov. 17, 2014.
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
Dec. 9, 2014.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
Dec. 9, 2014.
Blu-ray U.K.

NEW for
Nov. 17, 2014.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Flatline"

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