Sunday, October 12, 2014

Doctor Who: “Mummy on the Orient Express” recap and review

by Melissa Parkin

The repercussions from last week’s “Kill the Moon” still linger under the surface as the Doctor ushers Clara off the TARDIS for another adventure. Donned in full-fledged flapper apparel, Clara is clearly in higher spirits since the duo’s previous encounter. Needing several weeks to cool her heels after their little Moon misadventure, she’s come to the conclusion that she doesn't hate the Doctor. However, Clara decides that this will be their last “hurrah” together. If embarking on a ride aboard the Orient Express wasn’t exciting enough, this particular locomotive isn’t on its regular earthly route. It’s in fact a replica of the famed train - in space. Soaring through the solar system, without so much as railways to guide them, this beauty is indeed a breathless wonder.

Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Unfortunately, something (or someone) very unwelcome is aboard the Express, and this entity is plucking off each of its passengers one by one. Similar to the British Isles’ folklore of the Black Dog, this mummified corpse raiding the train appears only to the intended victims to whose life is just about spent. During a precise 66 seconds, this raggedy, cloth-bound creature haunts its prey. Within the train’s confined space, and the mummy’s transportation ability, there is no escaping death’s clutches. The moment the clock reaches zero, the creature rests its hands on the head of the victim, draining said person of all energy until their heart gives out.

Authorities on the train assure the other passengers that the victims suffered from nothing more than hallucinations before their demises, but the Doctor acknowledges the very real danger aboard. When Clara finds herself trapped inside a luggage car, the Doctor struggles on his own to convince the passengers of the immediate threat.

Despite its elegant setting, imagination, and intriguing concept, “Mummy on the Orient Express” still doesn’t quite manage to deliver in terms of execution. Its claustrophobic surroundings, sinister creature-makeup, and superb energy from Peter Capaldi couldn’t redeem the redundant killings and therefore the episode’s dwindling suspense factor. Initially starting off with a thrilling opening death, the plot soon becomes derivative as the body count rises. With the show’s allotted runtime and each victim being knocked off in identical fashion to the previous ones, the suspense in wondering if the next target will survive is completely lost. It’s not until the last ten minutes that any actual suspense is built. Then the climax, which results in the train’s obliteration, leaves the audience on tenterhooks (editor’s note: taut, edge of the seat) as they speculate as to the safety of the remaining passengers. Unfortunately, the escape from the Express is glossed over upon the return from the commercial break.

Credit is due to the effects makeup for the mummy, because it truly is a classically horrifying creature. The revealing of the mummy’s true motives behind the killings was lackluster in comparison to the buildup. One of the high notes is most definitely Capaldi’s performance. His vigor matched perfectly with the scripted quips, particularly with his poor bedside manner and the use of his psychic paper. It’s a fun adventure, but the overall execution prevents this from being one of the series’ bests.

Doctor Who - “Mummy on the Orient Express” Review: B


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