Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Preview Review: Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 8: Mummy on the Orient Express [Spoiler-Free]

 (While this review does not contain major spoilers or specifics, some minor things may be given away. It also draws your attention to hints in the episode. Read at your own discretion. The BBC have asked us NOT to mention if Clara is in the episode or not, so you won't find the answer here.)

Ever since The Doctor got the phone call at the end of The Big Bang, fans have been wondering when we get to see this story, and now it's finally here as he starts to catch up on his calls.

We are faced with the Mummy, known as the Foretold, as it picks off the passengers one-by-one at an increasing rate, leaving The Doctor and the passengers to work out what is going on before they themselves are picked off. While the story may start off, quite understandably, somewhat slow, this adds a great sense of urgency to the story once it really gets going. The idea that only the victim can see the Mummy shortly before death also adds a great sense of urgency and another stumbling block to the story, which works out quite well.

The design of the train is simply wonderful from the decor to the costumes to the CGI all working together, which makes the episode one of the visually strongest of the series. The Foretold's design is also splendid and I'm sure it'll be giving plenty of children nightmares.

Director Paul Wilmshurst returns and provides some top-notch direction, such as the Foretold dragging its feet across the floor, as does Murray Gold for his music, where it's clear where the effort missing from early in the series is going.

As Jamie Mathieson's debut script, this is a very successful start at Doctor Who. While Kill the Moon's script felt like it hadn't gone through enough revisions, Mummy on the Orient Express's script feels like it actually had been fully developed.
It manages to get a perfect view of Capaldi's character, providing him an opportunity to be cold, gloat and to save the day, with Capaldi being much more in the centre of the story over his companion. It provides an excellent story with a good dolloping of horror and a perfectly adequate amount of science fiction.
Both the problem and solution almost work in harmony with each other and are both very solid. It is also fun to see him reference the past in new ways (and yes, of course there's a "Are you my Mummy?" one!). I'd definitely like to see more from Mathieson, especially as he also wrote next week's episode, which looks to be another brilliant episode.

Having said that, there is a certain amount of the story dedicated to the aftermath of last week's Kill the Moon which feels far too quick and makes it seem like nothing actually happened, which is very disappointing. I'd even go so far as to say that whole issue was a waste of screentime, preventing the episode from being the standalone episode it could be.

The main guest star, Frank Skinner, provides a reasonable appearance as the ship's engineer by being the human character aboard the ship fulfilling the role of temporary companion. While the Foxes appearance was a nice touch, it was a little disappointing how unimportant it was, given how important the BBC made it out to be.

This episode is one of the highlights of series 8, with a very solid script and production. Overall, I would rate this 8/10.

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