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Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express

Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling

Jennifer says:

This episode was a mixed bag. The first part was very ho-hum: three-legged Bambi, Clara, moping about doing nothing much at all, the Doctor delivering very few good lines (notable exception - ”I remember when all this was just planets”) and a monster that looked good, but was far from original.

Mr Perkins (Frank Skinner) and other boffins in the Mummy on the Orient Express

Yes, the clock countdown was neat, but old ladies die on the Orient Express… we all KNOW that. More baffling was the Doctor’s seeming nervous breakdown as he started talking to himself. Even an actor of Capaldi’s talent couldn’t make this convincing. At first I thought this was going to be some clever plot device – oooh he’s created an out-of-phase temporal clone of himself or something – but no, it was just some writer’s idea of a “quirky tic”.

The big reveal of guest star Frank Skinner didn’t do it for me either. While I was desperately trying to place the voice, which is undeniably recognisable, he stepped out of the shadows and left me a bit disappointed.

Things only started looking up when human Hallmark card Clara got locked in a cupboard! Jenna Louise Coleman is rumoured to be leaving after the Christmas special. Was this a trial run? The only point of Clara in this episode was to stand around looking pretty in a frock and wig.

The Doctor in Mummy on the Orient Express

Doctor, are you talking to yourself again? Oh, that's a phone...

The Doctor in Mummy on the Orient Express. Credit: Doctor Who/BBC

The train as an alien malevolent trickster AI livened things up a bit, but the ending fell flat. It was one of those pull-a-giant-rabbit-out-of-a-massive hat denouements that writers only use after they’ve painted themselves into a corner. Oh right, that’s a flag, he’s a soldier, say surrender and we’ve saved the day. What… wait, how… Oh never mind, there’s just time for a quick “isn’t the Doctor horrible because he knew the train was evil all along” moment, before we’ve back to mawkish Companion-zone again.

Thomas the Tank Engine reject Frank Skinner hamming it up with a nod and a wink almost made me think: “Come back Clara, all is forgiven!” But then she did, and it wasn’t.

The writers had laid it on a bit thick with the “final hurrah” story, but was anyone really buying that? ®

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