Following all the brouhaha over Kill The Moon‘s implausible science, I was looking forward to getting back to something much more escapist. An old-school Universal Pictures egyptian mummy, on the Orient Express, in space, what’s not to like? And with Capaldi looking very much like a Season Seven Jon Pertwee, I was really looking forward to this one. Along with the prospect of no Clara, who has really gone down in my estimation. Okay so we know she’ll be back and she’s still in the show at Xmas but I find all that Tegan-esque complaining really tiresome – if you don’t like it, bugger off with Sergeant Pinky and stop yer moaning.
The Clara situation was a bit muddled pre-transmission, with photos of Coleman in her flapper outfit alongside Capaldi on the train set but no mention of Clara in the cast listings in the Radio Times, although Pinky was listed. Then they put out the Stuart Manning poster and then replaced it with a version that didn’t credit Coleman.To be perfectly honest, I would have been quite happy if we’d never seen the little madam again after her rant in KTM – if it was my Doctor, I would have gone back for Sarah Jane but there’s no way I would have come back for her, she could be the girl who waited and waited and waited…
This one didn’t hang about with the Mummy seeing off Miss Hardaker from The Curse of Fenric pre-titles. There must have been a tight edit on this one as they cut the titles short to get back to the story that little bit quicker than usual, which is why the title lingers for that little bit longer over the opening scene than before. And if you’ve seen Horror Express then you know how this goes, with people getting bumped off left right and centre before the monster gets stopped. When she stepped out of the Tardis, part of me hoped that Clara would be one of them.
With all the shennanigans over Clara’s involvement in the story, part of me wondered if the Clara in this story would turn out to be another iteration of The Impossible Girl like in Snowmen and Asylum so realising that it was “proper” Clara disappointed me somewhat. That said, she looked well do-able in that flapper frock and the “one last hurrah” scene with her and Twelvy in the corridor was electric. A little over ten minutes in and this ep was already vying for the title of Best One Yet, and all the more so when Twelvy went off without her to investigate!
Okay, so it sags ever so slightly when Clara and the blonde burd are go off together because you just know that they are going to have a conversation that will end up being about the Doctor, without ever mentioning him, which of course they do. But hey, they at least acknowledge that they’re failing the bloody Bechdel test so I’ll let that one pass. And I did like the hard-light hologram line, quite appropriate since Howard Burden used to do the cossies on Red Dwarf!
Things take a slightly unexpected turn when things switch to the lab but it’s here that Twelvy really comes into his own and it’s nice to see that the game Moffat has been playing has actually led somewhere. The resolution when it comes isn’t entirely unexpected and it’s great to see Twelvy do the right thing for the wrong reason, if that’s how you choose to see it.
His complete lack of social skills is a character trait we haven’t really seen since the Fourth Doctor, and it’s brilliantly endearing the way Capaldi plays it when it could have been as irritating as Clara tried to make it seem last ep. And the reason it isn’t, the reason Capaldi makes it work is that he manages to give you the sense that this is a Doctor too busy paying attention to what’s really important to bother with all that bedside manner nonsense, in the way that really clever people tend to lack the social skills the rest of us have. But they can still be endearing and sometimes that can be the very thing you like about them. Which is probably what makes Clara change her mind about him. And in that case, I’m prepared to change my mind about her too. She can stay.
With all the deaths in this ep I was waiting for another appearance from the mysterious Missy but she was a no-show. Frank Skinner’s turn as Perkins was enjoyable and was I the only one just a little bit disappointed that he never went for at least one trip in the Tardis? Still, at least we can add him to the list of Almost Companions and I hope they bring him back. As for who GUS is, it’s clearly connected to Missy as Twelvy said it phoned the Tardis and, as we know, there are very few people in the Universe who have the Doc’s number…
I can’t think of a New Series episode that I’ve enjoyed as much as this one for a helluva long time, and it’s the only one so far I’ve gone back and immediately watched again. With each episode – except for Listen, which was shite – this series has got better and better and I have high hopes for what’s left now that Clara and the Doctor are back to normal. It’s at this point in the run that I can safely say that it’s only now that David Tennant can move over. Twelvy rocks and he’s now my Top of the Docs. Yaldi Capaldi!
NEXT TIME – Flatline. Ooh, now this looks good. Lots of dimensional funny business, Clara doing her best Sarah Jane impression, and this is the one with the shrinking Tardis. Yay!
SATISFACTION LEVEL FOR THIS EPISODE? – 10/10
FRUSTRATION LEVEL FOR THIS EPISODE? – 0/10
ANTICIPATION LEVEL FOR NEXT EPISODE – 9/10
SERIES EIGHT SO FAR?