The Skaro Review
Mummy on the Orient Express
Review by Eddie McGuigan
Yes! Yes!! YES!!!
I’ll cut to the chase. Mummy on the Orient Express is superb. It is, easily, without a doubt, head and shoulders above anything this season has offered so far.
Now, caveats… I’ve got a big spoiler Ninja watching me from the shadows, so I have to be careful what I say here.
The story… the Doctor visits the Orient Express in space in the aftermath of his and Clara’s falling out, but, as usual, it’s not just a casual visit, and he’s soon up to his eyes in death. People are dying. The lights flicker, they, and only they, see a scary Hollywood Mummy lurch towards them and, 66 seconds later, they’re dead.
Impromptu companion Perkins, the Orient Express’s Chief Engineer as portrayed by a brilliant Frank Skinner, is already on the case and the Doctor joins forces with him and others on board to discover the creatures motives and how to stop it, but is scuppered by a surprising “other” bad guy!
This, to me, is the story we’ve been waiting for Peter Capaldi to have. Fully formed, the Twelfth Doctor is a bombastic, infuriating, arrogant, charming, scatterbrained, dark and manic man of action as he takes charge of the situation with absolute ease, despite getting the psychic paper a little wrong and having the “stupid” sonic go on the blink. He even talks to himself, literally, with a fabulous little cameo of sorts which will make you punch the air. And, whisper it, the jelly babies are back!
Director Paul Wilmshurst continues his cinematic vision of Doctor Who and is a revelation in what is a pretty restrictive set, but one thing I hadn’t noticed last week but which holds true then as well as now, is that he gets honest and realistic performances from all the cast. Everyone comes across as real, but the focus is most definitely on the Doctor, and Peter Capaldi chews it up.
I can’t speak highly enough of Frank Skinner, who is controlled, genuine and believable as Perkins. It’s a blinding performance and far less arch than some of the more established actors in earlier weeks. A bit like Robin though, there’s perhaps more to this character than meets the eye, his origins and motives are a little ambiguous and one might wonder if indeed we’ll see him again, perhaps in different colours…
Writer Jamie Mathieson is a fabulous addition to the Who Writers Canon, and absolutely gets the series immediately. It’s so full of Whotropes this adventure will seem to be one you’ve seen before, in all the write ways. It’s a gothic, art deco action adventure of the highest order, with enough mystery and twists to keep the attention of the most cynical of watchers. It’s as creepy as it is thrilling too, but doesn’t scrimp on the character development.
The resonances of Clara’s dressing down of the Doctor echo loudly hear, and he’s definitely taken them to heart. Capaldi’s Doctor is warm, funny, conscientious and very, very honest without losing that ambiguous, dark, alien quality. He absolutely nails it in this episode.
And an honourary mention to Murray Gold who again shapes the music to fit the genre with some great Universal Film motifs which help, especially at the start, to set the scene.
10/10 for this, and I never give scores! I absolutely think we’ll return to some of the themes and characters here too. One to watch.
Which I’m off to do again, right now.