It’s ironic that this post is coming out a day later than we normally do our Doctor Who Point/Counterpoint, because I actually saw this one forty-five minutes before the rest of the East Coast did at an NYCC screening Saturday night. I can tell you that the crowd went wild for it, and it might be my favorite episode of the season. I’ve been looking forward to getting a chance to discuss it all week, so let’s get down to it. This week Chuck wrote the main piece and I get to provide the counterpoints. He warned me it might be hard since he actually liked the episode too. I guess we’re about to find out! As always, reading any further than this puts you at risk for spoilers, sweetie.
Chuck: This felt so much like a two-parter all the way through. Not because of length or complexity but because there’s such a drastic change mid-way through the episode.
The first few minutes all I could think was “What the hell is going on here!” They finally get around to making a good-looking well-appointed episode (that train is gorgeous!) With a Doctor Who worthy plot, an invisible monster you only see when you’re going to get killed by it, and they waste so much time with this stiff unbelievable who’s crushing on who dialogue. Are they through? Is it over? Intense stares, half-spoken sentences. If this were a show starring two guys they would’ve been ripped apart for an over the top “bro-mance”. It really got to the point that I wanted them to get on with the adventure, move on, or just fall into bed already, the wait for the plot was killing me.
Julie: We’re never going to agree on the relationship angle on this show, I think. I love that Jamie Mathieson (the writer for this week as well as next week’s “Flatline”) takes his time showing how the Doctor interacts with people who aren’t Clara. We get a somewhat different side of him in how he deals with Professor Moorhouse, Perkins, and Captain Quell.
Chuck: When the captain didn’t pursue the fact that he didn’t recognize them, even after they told them they hadn’t known about the first death, I was so disappointed. What a plot hole. He didn’t even ask for a ticket? What we no longer use tickets in the far future on the spacetrain! And this pretty much signifies the where part two of the episode began. Once Capaldi leaves his compartment and goes off on an adventure something in his demeanor, his delivery, it changed. There were still exchanges that were stiff but his interactions with the Chief Engineer (Perkins) were a total 180 from anything this season has shown so far. By 21 minutes into the episode I wanted Perkins the Engineer to be the next companion. And that feeling clarified one of my problems this season. I love Clara Oswald, I love the Impossible Girl, I don’t (or hadn’t) loved her as this doctor’s companion.
Oh that plot hole? They filled it in nicely in yet another scene of excellent acting from Peter Capaldi.
Julie: That scene of the Doctor talking to himself in his cabin? One of my favorite scenes from the entire season. It’s just brilliant in its insanity. And agreed on Perkins, I think he would make an excellent companion.
Chuck: And then my favorite moment, when The Doctor pulls back the curtain and tells us what he thinks is really going on. It was a moment worthy of an Agatha Christie novel. Bravo. Finally with writing that feels like an Actual Doctor Who episode! And then another piece of excellent writing, the TARDIS is trapped, unavailable to be used to escape. But guess what? That fact is tossed to the viewer as an aside, and though it was evident that this was a dire circumstance they didn’t dwell on it, and that was a welcome change as well. The story maintains a great pace for the rest of the episode. The mystery is a good one and the resolution is a good one even though they do manufacture a little unnecessary drama and a cute but silly scene to recap the escape but all in all this was a great episode.
Julie: I love that the Doctor Who team are such Agatha Christie fans that we have another Christie-esque episode (who can forget the fourth season’s “The Unicorn and the Wasp”?). Great resolution that gives us yet another way the Doctor interacts with a soldier (contrast this one with how he reacts to Quell or Danny Pink). And in the end the Mummy salutes him as if he were a superior officer…maybe there’s something to Danny’s observations in “The Caretaker” after all?
Chuck: “Sometimes the only choices you have are bad ones but you still have to choose.”
Julie: Loved this line. And I just felt so damned bad for him when he said it. This is as close as we’ve come to an “everybody lives!” episode since the Ninth Doctor…the weight of centuries of his choices resulting in people dying is really evident on Twelve’s face. I also love how vulnerable he is when Clara says “So you were pretending to be heartless” and he responds “Would you like to think that about me? Would that make it easier?” I think he wants to be the man she believes he was, but he’s just not able to be. And yeah, total Whouffaldi shipper her, I totally think that “I love you” at the end is to the Doctor, not Danny. I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to these two.
Chuck: And in the end when The Doctor and Clara flipped those switches on the Tardis’ console, for just a moment, I saw Rose and 10 (or 9 for that matter) hurtling off on an adventure.
They may have finally found their feet.
Julie: Well, I’ve thought they were on to something the entire season, but I’m glad you’re starting to agree with me. And I feel like that moment with their hands on the controls, they’re restarting their relationship and putting all the bad choices they’ve both made since his regeneration behind them. Love it.
Oh, and of course we caught the Jelly Babies and “Are you my mummy?” (those drew giant rounds of applause from the audience in the Empire Stage on Saturday night, by the way)–what kind of Whovians would we be if we hadn’t? And I have to say, having Foxes sing Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” was a stroke of brilliance.
Next week we talk “Flatline” and I take the lead again. Here’s the trailer for it…Things creeping out of the floors and walls? Clara wielding the sonic like a BAMF? TARDIS life support failing? We’re in.
So what did you think of “Mummy on the Orient Express”? Did we miss some glaring plot hole that was killing you? Caught a reference to an earlier Doctor that we didn’t (I’m still trying to figure out the “beast” that the Doctor mentions ate up all the planets that were there before the Magellan Black Hole…could it be The Beast from “The Satan Pit”)? Got theories about how Gus might tie into Missy and the Nethersphere? Let us know in the comments!