After last week’s fiasco of an episode (divisive though it was, I have yet to meet someone in real life who actually liked Kill the Moon), I was seriously putting off watching this week’s outing, Mummy on the Orient Express. For one, they’d once again added the suffix “In SPACE” to give an otherwise fine story a science-fiction twist (this week, the famous train was thundering through the cosmos despite the fact that everyone on the train was still dressed and acted like they were fro the 1920s). And for another, a big deal had been made of the villain, and that sends warning signals sparkling up and down my cynicism spine, as all the really good monsters have come with no fanfare whatsoever. Eventually, with much wincing and eye-rolling, I sat down to this week’s outing.
And I was pretty pleased with the results. For one thing, that Mummy-
-Was genuinely scary. A great to-do was made (by me, on Twitter) about Doctor Who shifting to a half eight slot because this monster was just SO SCARY, and I’ve got to admit that it really was. A great, shambling, rotting creature that only appeared to those who it was about to kill, allowing them sixty-six seconds after it first materialised till their inevitable death. The idea was cool, as with many Who monsters- but for once it was carried off with style, even managing to stick the landing of actually finding out what the creature was and how to stop it, which has been a continual faltering point for writers this series. I’d put this up there amongst the better monsters of the show so far, and not just because they managed to work in an Empty Child joke (“Are you MY mummy?”) for all the fangirls like me who never got over 2005. If you’re going to do scary, do fucking scary; it seems my angry letters have finally reached the Doctor Who writer’s room.
So, the story was solid and surprisingly focused, proving my point about Clara and THIS Doctor working better when seperated once again. I like both this Doctor and Clara, but on screen together they come across as a stroppy teenager and a patronising parent in any combination almost permanently. Frank Skinner guest-starred, four words that can strike fear into the hearts of any British TV fan, and actually proved himself a surprisingly excellent addition. His mischievous cleverness gelled perfectly with the Doctor’s dour investigation, and Skinner acquitted himself admirably, earning a place amongst the best guest stars of the last few seasons. A grand deal was made of an appearance by singer Foxes, which amounted to a twenty-second background musical noodle. Lovely voice, though.
So ye: this was a great episode. But? The jury is still out on this season. And that’s a problem. We’ve had some blindingly good outings- Listen-some above-average exploits- The Janitor, Time Heist, this- and we’ve had some shockingly atrocious bits of television- Kill the Moon, mostly, but I think Deep Breath still has a lot to answer for regarding the all-over-the-place nature of this series. Part of that has come from the fact that Capaldi and Coleman have a very different chemistry than she did with Matt Smith’s Doctor, in a way that apparently wasn’t really anticipated by the writers or directors. They seem keen to wrap up her relationship with the old Doctor, when the new one needs time to establish himself free of the shackles of his predecessor. Broadly, this season has been a disappointment, as they ignored the opportunity to reboot what was a slightly ailing series at this point (would you rewatch any of Matt Smith’s final series out of choice?) and stuck to their increasingly scattershot guns. Watching this series has increasingly confirmed my suspicion that we need a new showrunner, and we need them soon. There’s no doubt Moffat is a genius of television, but he needs something new to breathe life into. Doctor Who fans have seen all of his occasionally impressive shenanigans, and it feels like time for someone else to have a shot at the wheel. A new day, a new Doctor, and preferably a new behind-the-scenes maven to apply electrodes to the show’s genitals. They’ll have you yet, Moffat.