In the eighth episode of the eighth season of Doctor Who, Clara goes on her final trip with the Doctor, only to discover she may not want to leave. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
Trigger Warning: For death, grief.
I didn’t expect for Clara to actually ditch the Doctor and refuse to travel with him again. Come on, there are still four more episodes to go! I wanted to see why she decided to travel with him again after such an angry denouncement of him in the last episode. How would she feel once she let her anger fade away? Would she be done with him, or would she reconsider how she felt?
“Mummy on the Orient Express” opens with a last hurrah. Despite that Clara has decided that she doesn’t hate the Doctor, she knows that she can’t travel with him any longer. He’s not the Doctor she met years before, and his style simply doesn’t work for her anymore. And lord, has she tried to make this work! But after being lied to repeatedly, after being treated with condescension and superiority, and after constantly fighting with someone she used to adore, it made sense to me that Clara wanted to focus on something else.
But I think there’s a hint towards Clara’s eventual characterization within this episode. At one point, she asks the Doctor if he’s addicted to making difficult decisions, and he claims that he can’t recognize an addiction if he truly has one. I’d suggest that the end of “Mummy on the Orient Express” demonstrates to us that Clara herself has an addiction. After Danny brilliantly guides her through her feelings and offers his support to her, Clara contradicts him and lies, telling the Doctor that Danny is totally fine with her travels. Why the change? Why would she lie when Danny’s been nothing but spectacular to her? I suspect that she can’t give up the excitement and the thrill of it all, even when her life is threatened, even when she finds the Doctor to be insufferable and rude. I don’t think this negates her opinions on his recent behavior, but it’s a sign that she’s willing to keep going.
So why now? What is it about the events on the Orient Express that make her feel this way? This is one of the most brutal episodes of Doctor Who, a story about death and finality and science that’s utterly horrifying. I mean, the Mummy Soldier is so terrifying because it’s written as an inevitability. One that timer started ticking down (and bless the show for choosing to display it), we knew that in 66 seconds, someone would die. There was no stopping it. But it wasn’t until Gus was revealed that I truly felt disturbed by this story. The idea that some entity or being or person or WHATEVER set up the train so that a bunch of scientists and experts could solve the mystery of the Foretold is creepy enough. Gus expected these people to use themselves as bait and record their findings as they died. And given that the Foretold remained invisible to everyone and was invincible, it meant that anyone who saw the mummy would certainly die while everyone watched.
I think that it was a terribly fitting case for Twelve because it forced the Doctor into a situation where he had to be cold and detached. That’s been his major flaw this season, one that certainly influenced Clara’s initial decision to stop traveling with the Doctor. During this episode, though, we get confirmation from other characters that the Doctor is just as detached as Clara perceives him to be. Perkins certainly thought so, you know? At the same time, this particular mystery required detachment, and I think that’s something that Clara comes to accept by the end of “Mummy on the Orient Express.” As the Doctor said, sometimes there are only bad decisions available. I think it’s fair of Clara to ask why that seems to happen so often to the Doctor, just as I think it’s fair to acknowledge that sometimes, the Doctor is not left with an easy choice.
I don’t necessarily think that the eventual resolution of the Foretold is the best possible conclusion to this episode. While it’s certainly clever and unique, it’s very, very abrupt. The mummy is gone, the mystery is solved, and we never find out who Gus was. Will we ever know the truth, or will this be one of those stories where it’ll forever be open-ended? Regardless, I think Clara comes to some sort of understanding of the Doctor that helps her move past the way he acts. I don’t think this is the end of this longstanding story, not in the slightest. Given that she lied to Danny, it’s only a matter of time before this comes back around. And what of the Doctor? Is he incapable of changing? There’s a softness to him in that beach scene at the end of this episode that’s been unseen for quite some time. Will we see more of this, or will he remain the same?
I don’t have the answer to that. All I know is that this episode was EXTREMELY fucked up, y’all. So messed up!
The video for “Mummy on the Orient Express” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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