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Monday, 13 October 2014

Doctor Who S34E8: Mummy on the Orient Express.

Jesus, I'm exhausted. I slept for a good nine hours too, so I don't know why.

Just happens, I guess. Oh, well.

Doctor Who
Series 34, Episode 8
Mummy on the Orient Express.

Okay, let's get the bingo out of the way before we do anything else. Here's last week's bingo: 

As everyone can see, there's only three spaces left to fill. I will hasten to remind people, though, that this doesn't include the first two episodes, which when taken together looked like this:

The most terrifying thing about this is that it means that if I'd discovered this bingo two or even one week earlier, this bingo board, a lot of which is very specific, would have been filled in last week, by the end of Episode 7. Seven episodes to cover an entire bingo board, that's not - great. 

On with the episode. The official cast list for this episode actually said that Jenna Coleman wasn't in this episode: She is, so I have no idea why they did that, the BBC not generally being one for clerical errors. Possibly it's to make her appearance a surprise, but considering that it happens in the first ten minutes without ceremony and is quickly explained, they sure failed at making the most out of that particular idea. 

Nor, for that matter, is she in the official promo pictures. Any of them.

Anyway. In this episode, the Doctor and Clara on the Orient Express - not the regular Orient Express, but one that goes through space. I've said before that I'd be vexed if the Express' destination is not, in fact, Asia (you can get to Asia through space, after all, I promise you that), but they don't actually say where it's going. The idea behind it, anyway, seems to be that it's a kind of historical re-enactment of the Orient Express of the past. Where was I: The Doctor and Clara are on this space express, but all is not right. There's a mummy that can only be seen by the people it's about to kill going around murdering people, with sixty-six seconds exactly between a person seeing it and then dying. 

The last few weeks we've had a couple of contenders for 'worst episode of the series' - The Caretaker and Kill the Moon, both of which I thought were absolutely dire, and which joined Deep Breath in that particular race to the bottom. Mummy on the Orient Express, meanwhile, is in danger of knocking Time Heist of its perch as the best episode of the series, even if it is a rather imperfect episode.

I know, it's alarming for all of us, Doctor.

We'll talk about those imperfections before we talk about what makes it good. Firstly, the return of irritatingly misogynistic Danny telling Clara what to think and feel is back, and only compounded by the ending in which Clara maniacally informs the Doctor that Danny is fine with her continuing to travel with him, as if it's the most normal thing in the world that he should even get a say in it. 

Actually, let's take a moment to talk about this entire shoddily handled plotline as it has stretched throughout the series so far. It's a very Moffat storyline, isn't it. A young woman dislikes a man, but she needs him, and she just can't let go of him - and even if she did, the breathy implications go, it would just be to fall into the arms of another man. It's not even as if it's a new storyline, because we went through something very similar with Amy, who was torn between the Doctor and a more down-to-earth man in Rory, and whose storyline was all about realising that she was utterly devoted to Rory. 

Compare and contrast with Martha: Martha was explicitly romantically interested in the Doctor - not necessarily in love, but interested. She left because her life with the Doctor wasn't making her happy, and because it had led to her being stuck in a rut - and the decision was never framed as a 'choice between two men.' It was a choice between an unhealthy relationship dynamic and just leaving. 

I hate it. I really do. I hate how forced the storyline is, I hate how very misogynistic and Moffatoid it is, I really hate how in the past three episodes Danny has transformed into the kind of man who passive-aggressively rants at his girlfriend about how horrible and dishonest who is, and when she comes to him upset with totally legitimate reason, tells her how to think and feel. I hate all of it. 


American singer-songwriter Foxes, everyone! Do check out her songs.

So, what else was bad about this episode? Well, it failed the Bechdel Test, so there's that. It even seemed to reference the fact that it failed it. Well done, Jamie Matheson. Well done. 

Frank Skinner's character, who was set up in trailers as a kind of one-episode-companion, is great but completely underused. He didn't really need to be there, to be honest. Actually, neither did Clara: Her only purpose here was to serve the aforementioned hated subplot, which is a little annoying. I like Clara as a character, and it's getting annoying having the writers use her as a prop for the Doctor. 

But apart from gaping problems, there was a lot of really interesting stuff here. The premise is an interesting one - and clearly one the Beeb had been planning to use for a while, since we first heard about the Orient Express In Space several years ago now, back in Eleven's first series. The Mummy made an excellent and very scary monster (reports were that the BBC had adjusted the timeslot to account for this - this doesn't seem to actually be the case, they just adjusted it because Strictly Come Dancing was on), and Gus, our true villain for this episode, was even scarier, presiding over events with a cheerful, sing-song voice. While the express exploded at the end, there's the implication that Gus, or copies of him at least, exists on multiple on vessels, so I look forward to seeing him again. 

The set-up of a historical re-enactment train spaceship was also nice, especially with the slightly RTD-oid touch of a jazzy rendition of 'Don't Stop Me Now' by Queen (it was reminiscent of the 'famous old Earth ballad' from the second episode of New Who). 

Overall, I did enjoy the episode. Now, let's take a look at the updated bingo:

Only one crossed off this time, but that leaves us with only two left 'Recycles one of his old monsters' and 'dinosaurs'. That last one might be the only that gets left untouched. 

Next week, we have another Jamie Matheson episode, this time about two-dimensional aliens. So that'll be interesting, although I'm foreseeing it not being one of the best episodes of the series. I could be wrong! 

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