Mummy on the Orient Express Review

(162 comments)


Right. Haven’t even looked at Twitter or e-mail, because they’re both slightly overwhelming, but GallifreyBase, well after both UK and US airings, is 82.66% in the 8-10 range, with 9 being the most popular pick, so this is apparently a popular one. To me, it is, in many regards, something of a baseline episode. It’s not a season highlight, largely because nothing in it ever soars to outright greatness. But it keeps things lively and never screws up. It’s the sort of episode that’s why I ultimately opted against letter grades - because any season of television is going to have a few like this.

What’s interesting to me, though, is that there’s been virtually nothing this season that seems to set out to be baseline. There are things that work better than others, but everything has at least tried to do something new. The only episode you can really accuse of trying to be ultra-traditional is Robot of Sherwood, and it came early enough in the running order that it was innovative in the way that turning a new actor loose on old standards can be in Doctor Who. Other than that, though, the M.O of this season has been trying to find something fresh. Whether it be a new twist on an old standard (The Caretaker, Listen) or something that Doctor Who’s just never really done before (Time Heist, Kill the Moon), the idea has been a real return to Doctor Who being a show that does things that haven’t been done before.

Not everything can be the best. But one really doesn’t get the sense that anything this season has been content to give up trying to be the best at the outset. Everything is trying its damnedest to be the shock favorite. It’s why I’m so inclined to call this my favorite season ever. For the first time since 2005, every episode has felt like it’s written with a hunger and a desperate desire to prove itself. And what that means is that even a baseline episode like this sparkles.

The device of the sixty-six second countdown, forcing the episode into real-time for a sequence, is marvelous. It’s set up and clearly established in the cold open, and then explored meticulously. Crucially, every iteration of it changes the approach or the rules slightly. It’s a fairly high-death episode, but every single death shifts the balance of power or the nature of the problem slightly. We learn new things about the rules of the mummy each time. The episode works like many of the best video games do - it introduces a mechanic and then explores progressive iterations of it. (And the on-screen clock owes no small debt to the visual grammar of the HUD) The fact that the series is now bold enough to casually introduce entirely new visual techniques each week and to take on a new philosophy of what the camera and the screen means is a massive leap forward, and will hopefully be the enduring legacy of the Moffat era.

Also notable and fresh is the train, even if it’s not used quite as extensively as it could be. There’s never a sequence involving chasing through multiple train cars. Nor is there the obligatory “exit the train and ride on top” bit. But there are lots of shots that do pan along the outside of the train, giving a sense of shape and scale of the space. It’s clear someone saw Snowpiercer and went “ooh, that’s shiny,” and they were right. And it’s another great example of Doctor Who nicking things from the surrounding culture.

Under the hood, as with everything else this season, there’s a clear logic of taking things that have worked well on Doctor Who and doing them again. Doing the future as historical costume drama to play to BBC strengths? Check. A traditional base under siege crew? Check. You can point pretty clearly to the specific stories this is borrowing from - Robots of Death would be the most obvious, given the debt to Agatha Christie and the “1920s IN SPACE” approach. But as with previous stories, it’s not a remake so much as a recollection of specific things that worked and a decision to try them again in new contexts. 

And then there’s the real story, which is, of course, Clara responding to the end of Kill the Moon. Which, again, has some great highlights - the way in which the episode takes a short while to explain the status quo, letting there be a mystery as to why Clara is traveling with the Doctor. “Can I talk about my planets now?” And the Doctor’s eventual, pragmatic explanation of his reasoning - that he was going to try to save her, but he didn’t know if it would work, and if it hadn’t, he’d have moved on. 

So, yes, none of that quite feels as brilliant as Kill the Moon’s interpolation of the audience’s affect to provide a moral justification for Clara’s dismissal of humanity’s vote, or as a remake of The Lodger suddenly giving way to “An Unearthly Child,” or as the end of Listen. And there are some things that let the episode down - as understandable as separating Clara and the Doctor is, it means there’s not a ton of room for her arc to actually develop, and her decision to stay on the TARDIS feels slightly unearned as a result. It’s clear that it’s what the episode is building towards, and yet the moment it happens feels slightly swallowed.

In particular, there’s an ambiguity I think doesn’t help this episode, which is whether or not Clara is lying when she says Danny is fine with her traveling with the Doctor. Because he really never has said anything that’s an objection. Indeed, he pointedly declined to criticize the Doctor last episode, and talked Clara out of leaving forever. And her phone call with him at the end could well be a perfectly reasonable move to talk about it later, since that was obviously not the time to tell him that she’d changed her mind. Equally, if Flatline starts up and it turns out she’s lying to Danny about having stopped traveling with the Doctor, it’ll hardly be a surprise. And while I’m fine with that ambiguity in terms of the season arc and season structure, I think the ambiguity undermines the end of this episode in a big way.

I’m also not quite thrilled with the resolution of the sixty-six seconds plot point, which is squared away with some intensely meaningless technobabble that renders the specificity of sixty-six seconds a non-clue (since the audience could not possibly know that it’s the amount of time needed to take something out of phase). There’s not quite enough there, and it ends up as a slightly unsatisfying plot point. 

But these are minor quibbles in amongst an episode that’s mostly fresh and exciting and something we’ve not seen before. As perfectly ordinary episodes of Doctor Who go, this was extraordinary.

  • The breadth of Clara as a character pays off interestingly in the costuming choices. I love that her hair obeys no laws of reality, growing longer and shorter by the episode to compliment whatever outfit she’s wearing in a given week. The Impossible Girl indeed.
  • So. Why is he called Gus? And how is he going to feed back into the arc eventually? I mean, he obviously will, right? Also, the CGI shot of the city at the end looked an awful lot like the usual Gallifreyan city only edited down a bit. Deliberate, reuse of art assets, or do CGI cityscapes all just look the same? 
  • There’s a bit of a disjunct in how this episode was sold and what it actually was. The insistence that it’s not a silly one is warranted, certainly, but it’s still much lighter than the hype would suggest, and while the mummy was a great effect, I wonder if they didn’t overhype that a bit too. Won’t affect the reception for this episode among anyone but the hardcore, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this gets a rougher ride in fandom than with the general public, not least because of fandom’s pathological aversion to silliness.
  • So, the broken down machinery/soldiers theme is getting hit quite hard this season. This isn’t just recycling the same idea at this point, it’s massive thematic emphasis. And yet despite having two broken down soldiers in three stories, I’m still not quite sure how these two threads are going to connect. It’s fascinating, because it’s clear in so many ways what the components of the finale are going to be, and yet the shape of it remains so beautifully elusive.
  • Rankings!

  1. Kill the Moon
  2. Listen
  3. Deep Breath
  4. The Caretaker
  5. Mummy on the Orient Express
  6. Time Heist
  7. Into the Dalek
  8. Robot of Sherwood

Comments

unnoun 2 years, 10 months ago

Are you my mummy?

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Prandeamus 2 years, 10 months ago

Go to your room!

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unnoun 2 years, 10 months ago

I'm here, now. Can't you see me?

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jonathan inge 2 years, 10 months ago

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 10 months ago

Jelly Babies! Bubble Wrap! Bechdel Test!

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nimonus 2 years, 10 months ago

Can I just say, I'm dying for the release of the Williams era book? It is listed on Amazon (with a GORGEOUS cover) with a preview that strategically excludes all the new essays, and no link to buy it yet. Gahhhh!!! ;)

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nimonus 2 years, 10 months ago

Oh, and as a side note, re: your comment about taking your laptop onto a roller-coaster, there is actually a video out there of two people trying to play Super Mario Bros 3 on a roller coaster on the 3ds, which was strapped to both wrists with wii-mote wrist straps. It is bizarrely compelling viewing.

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Scurra 2 years, 10 months ago

Now you see I am in the father-daughter interpretation camp here. The Doctor has spent half-a-dozen stories basically trying to get Clara to "leave home" so that she can grow up. And what happens? She chickens out. I am finding this an interesting and unusual take on the companion story.
But I guess you could read it as the "make-up sex" interpretation if no other relationship dynamic model is allowed?

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elvwood 2 years, 10 months ago

Heh, those were three things that jumped out at me as well...

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prandeamus 2 years, 10 months ago

I see you. Start the clock.
66
65
64...

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Lo-Fi Explosion 2 years, 10 months ago

In Britain it is listed as available to buy. Amazon says mine has shipped and will arrive tomorrow. Truly we live in an age of wonders!

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Alex Antonijevic 2 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, it was really obvious Clara is like "We're failing the Bechdel test here, let's stop talking about the Doctor."

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Sean Williams 2 years, 10 months ago

Another exploring the idea of an unnaturally sustained life, too (much better than the Sherwood, though). Trying to tell us something?

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ScarvesandCelery 2 years, 10 months ago

That was a lot of fun. The story had a great monster, cracking dialogue, and some good character work. The TARDIS travel as an addiction metaphor could work - it's certainly an interesting direction to take. With that said, 'Flatline' was the Jamie Mathieson episode I've most been looking forward to - Moffat said the ending to that script had everyone at the read through whooping and cheering.

Eight from eight for me.

Listen
Kill the Moon
The Caretaker
Deep Breath
Mummy on the Orient Express
Into the Dalek
Robot of Sherwood
Time Heist

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nimonus 2 years, 10 months ago

Looks like I spoke too soon. Amazon and Smaswords both seem to have "broken street date" on this in the US as well now. Just bought it from Smashwords.

When I get my physical copies of the books from the Albion kickstarter, I will probably pick up a paperback edition from Amazon as well, to sit next to them on my shelf. But since I only have the first book in physical form so far, I think I'll wait for that.

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 10 months ago

I think father-daughter is the correct read here, since it's contrasted with Maisy's relationship with not-actually-my-mum.
FOR DISCUSSION: When the Doctor was arguing with himself I think he was intentionally "doing" Tom Baker. Especially "Because you know what this sounds like, don't you?" at 8:55, where there's no scottish accent.

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TheOncomingHurricane 2 years, 10 months ago

I thought they'd already passed the Bechdel test when they started talking about the Doctor. Maybe I'm misremembering.

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storiteller 2 years, 10 months ago

Yes, they had. The scene before with the two of them they were talking about Maizie's feelings about her grandmother.

Totally ridiculous, but one of my favorite parts was the jazz standards versions of Queen songs.

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jonathan inge 2 years, 10 months ago

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Jesse 2 years, 10 months ago

Was this the first time they subverted the psychic-paper idea?

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jonathan inge 2 years, 10 months ago

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Doctor Memory 2 years, 10 months ago

Best episode since Blink? I may have to sleep on this. But I can barely recall the last time I had so little to complain about in an episode.

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Alan 2 years, 10 months ago

Haven't most of the companions been danger junkies? Generally, they only leave once they've had their "moment of clarity." Rose and Donna would never have left but for outside forces, and Amy basically spent years trying to wean herself off the need for "adventures" before she finally left for good.

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Alan 2 years, 10 months ago

Did anyone else have problems with the audio mix on the BBC America broadcast? There were points at which I couldn't understand the dialogue over the background noise and music.

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jonathan inge 2 years, 10 months ago

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Alan 2 years, 10 months ago

Also, does anyone else want Frank Skinner as a companion?

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jonathan inge 2 years, 10 months ago

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storiteller 2 years, 10 months ago

I don't think the point is that Clara is a "danger junkie." Donna is, although I think she was more a "wonder junkie" than a danger one. Rather, I think Clara is exactly what she asks the Doctor if he is - an addict to making the difficult decisions, to being the one in charge and feeling like you're the only one who can save the universe. This calls back to the last episode, which although she's angry at the Doctor's condescending attitude, she knows she can and will make the right decision in the end. While the 10th Doctor was the Lonely God who believes too highly in himself, I suspect that Clara is the Companion who wants to be the savior herself, the Doctor herself. I just hope this doesn't mean she has the tragic end that Donna did when that happened to her.

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John 2 years, 10 months ago

Definitely Capaldi was doing Baker in his conversation with himself. I didn't catch it the first time watching, but rewatching it's as clear as day.

On the other subject, Clara continues to remind me *a lot* of Sarah Jane, and the "Danger junkie" aspect of it seems particularly so. Clara at the end of this episode feels a lot like Sarah at the end of Terror of the Zygons, for instance.

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John 2 years, 10 months ago

This use of the psychic paper actually reminds me of of all things, Nightmare of Eden, where the Doctor pretends to be an insurance adjuster, and eventually gets exposed as a liar.

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John 2 years, 10 months ago

I really wanted him to be a recurring character who was living on the TARDIS doing repair work. He'd not actually involve himself in the stories usually, but we'd occasionally see him around the TARDIS doing maintenance stuff.

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Jarl 2 years, 10 months ago

That would be so cute.

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Jarl 2 years, 10 months ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-OTYT02W7E

Tonight was a really good episode. Also, thinking about it, that's awfully appropriate music...

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Leslie Lozada 2 years, 10 months ago

Has anyone have any thought as to Perkins being one of many 'almost' companions this series?

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nimonus 2 years, 10 months ago

Doctor Who these days is mixed for 5.1 surround sound. Less thought and attention is given to what it sounds like when down-mixed to stereo, so various elements seem out of balance when listened to in stereo or mono. I imagine they don't really have the time to carefully balance two different versions of the sound-track, so they just work on the definitive one and let the transmission station or viewers own equipment downmix it to stereo, with varying results.

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nimonus 2 years, 10 months ago

jonathan inge: "Wasn't that Queen song about drug use? If not, a number of folks still make that connection. Very fitting when applied to our heroes."

Nice catch. Thanks.

Don't stop me now, 'cause I'm having a good time.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 10 months ago

Also in "The Christmas Carol" his claim to be a responsible adult was "a lie too big" for the psychic paper.

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jonathan inge 2 years, 10 months ago

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BerserkRL 2 years, 10 months ago

It didn't seem father-daughtery to me. Danny has to remind Clara that the doctor isn't her boyfriend; after telling Maisie their relationship isn't romantic Clara goes on to describe him in ways that echo romantic-relationship talk; and at the end she's sneaking out on her real boyfriend behind his back to go on with the Doctor.

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BerserkRL 2 years, 10 months ago

Just a wild thought on Gus:

The General Intelligence went by "G.I."

The plural form of G-I would be G-US.

Probably not, though. Gus wasn't primarily interested in the Doctor; Gus wanted to weaponise the mummy.

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Gallifreyan_Immigrant 2 years, 10 months ago

Ironically, in some ways, this episode sounded more "boyfriend-girlfriend" than the 11th Doctor and Clara ever did.

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Gallifreyan_Immigrant 2 years, 10 months ago

Interestingly enough, based on my anecdotal evidence of 4chan's who threads, as well as Gallifrey Base, Kill The Moon was very divisive (basically it's the marmite episode of the series) , while people overall like Mummy On The Orient Express. Or as they say on 4chan, "THE GOLDEN AGE OF DOCTOR WHO IS BACK!"

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William Silvia 2 years, 10 months ago

I'm a little disappointed.

I mean, she said "You're a liar," and he didn't follow up with "Hi, I'm the Doctor. And you are?" That makes me feel like the Doctor was not bringing his A Game.

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Jarl 2 years, 10 months ago

Ah, yes, something like:
GOLDEN AGE
O
L
D
E
N

A
G
E

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

Another season theme, lurking in the Missy snippets but I think not so directly addressed in individual episodes before this: death. I mean, the Foretold clearly represents death - the unstoppable thing that is inevitably going to get you, which picks off the sick and the ailing, which ultimately leaves you only with the choice of how you receive it and all that. Plus the whole walking-corpse Grim Reaper thing of course.

And I think there is definitely something riffing on the five-stages-of-grief model with the way the victims die, though I can't quite make it match up. You have denial (Maisie's grandmother, who insists it's just a man in a costume), anger (the officer blazing away with his pistol), bargaining (the professor) and acceptance (perhaps the captain). Only the other stage is meant to be depression and to come fourth, whereas the other death is the cook, who goes second and whose reaction is basically terror. Alternatively, you could put the captain down as depression (though that seems more like a description of his prior state than how he actually is when he confronts it) and the Doctor as acceptance (he surrenders, and thus conquers it). But that stills leaves the problem of the cook. Still, it seems too close not to be intended.

There could be a related death-of-a-relationship metaphor going on with Clara and the Doctor as well, but I think we probably need to see the rest of the season to know whether that is a runner or not.

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Alan 2 years, 10 months ago

I'm worse -- I have a set of surround speakers in the garage that I couldn't be buggered to put back up after I painted and refloored the living room last year.

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Alan 2 years, 10 months ago

My immediate thought was that repeatedly laying a trap for the Doctor in order to lure him to his death by really to manipulate him into figuring out how to weaponize some inexplicable bit of ancient tech sounds ... Master-ish.

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Alan 2 years, 10 months ago

Learning that 4chan has a positive consensus about this episode actually makes me like it less.

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

"He's not my anything", "Oh, so you're 'just friends'" doesn't cast it in a very parental light either. Not that Maisie actually voices the quotation marks, but they're pretty much a default setting on that expression.

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

two broken-down soldiers in three episodes

Pedantically, it's three in three, as this episode managed to fit in two of them.

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Anton B 2 years, 10 months ago

The theme this week is truth and lies. The lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell each other. And the pain that learning the truth can bring. Pretty much everyone in this episode lies at some point. Except Perkins the engineer and even he, in his first encounter with the Doctor pretends to be lying either to wind up the Doctor or test him, it's left ambiguous. Maisie lies about her relationship to her grandmother who is pretending to be her mother. The guard is lying or suppressing the truth about his PTSD, GUS is lying about his motives, (and working out the secret of his true identity is driving me insane) the Mummy is lying about being a monster (he's really a soldier, the distinction is this series' main arc). The Doctor always lies but this week we catch him lying to himself - "Because you know what this sounds like, don't you?" and channelling Tom Baker. (Love the jelly babies in the cigarette case.) Even the psychic paper produces a lie which even the Doctor can't accept with 'Mystery Shopper', and the train is lying about being a train (it's a research lab) but the main dissembler of course is Clara, pretending she's on a break-up date like someone celebrating giving up smoking with a cigarette. Her addiction to being the one who makes the scary decisions which resolve all the danger is a hard one to kick. She isn't in love with the Doctor, she wants to be him. That final unnecessary lie about Danny being ' alright with it' and the intense stare at the Doctor as she says,"I love you" to Danny on the phone. This can't end well.

But "Don't stop me now, 'cause I'm having a good time."

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

What with him nosing curiously around the workings of the Tardis and the somewhat menacing background music on that scene, plus his enigmatic introduction and the slightly "off" quality of his performance, I thought for a moment that he was going to be exposed as the evil mastermind.

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 10 months ago

Between Tom Baker saying "You know what this sounds like" and a sarcophagus full of plastic sheets I think this script wad deliberately making fun of audience expectations.

Was the dead lady supposed to be sitting in the Life Extension Chair? That whole plot element felt lost.
(For awhile I was sure that Max Capricorn was involved at a point earlier in his timeline.)

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 10 months ago

>"Because you know what this sounds like, don't you?"
It's an incredibly meta question because on one level the answer is the Osirans, but on another level the answer is "Gee, it sounds like Tim Baker!"

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Anton B 2 years, 10 months ago

It also sounds like a man talking to himself, which only one person could ever hear. Unless you hear it on a television show. So yeah, very 'meta-narrative'

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Chris Gonzalez 2 years, 10 months ago

Also, Gus managed to phone the TARDIS, whose number is, as mentioned earlier, only known by a few people. Considering that's its own sub-arc through this season, Gus is definitely connected to something bigger.

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

Unseen evil mastermind left unidentified at the end of the episode pretty much invariably means season-villain, which in this case would be Missy. Who of course may very well be the Master. Alternatively, we were once teased with the prospect of "An Egyptian goddess loose on the Orient Express! In space!", and here we got Egyptian, but not a goddess - except perhaps if she was the mastermind. And Missy is a female figure purporting to have authority in the traditional divine area of responsibility of the afterlife, or "Nethersphere"...Isis with an M? All right, I'm stretching. You never know, though.

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

Oh, and someone who wants to reverse-engineer technology to artificially perpetuate those who would normally be dead? Wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be backstory for Missy's whole set-up.

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 10 months ago

This has been the first episode this series which I have immediately wanted to watch the whole thing again (although in practice I haven't yet), rather than just particular scene. While other episodes have had particular moments that ave been sublime and superior, this is the first time for me that the whole episode just hung together really well.

I got a real sense that the series had managed most of the bits of its re-setting, and is now able to just go and do an episode of the Doctor Who it wants to be. In previous episodes it's much clearer that some heavy scenery shifting is being done to get towards a new status quo - now it feels we're basically there.

I feel like an extra 10mins would have been perfect though, as it felt there were a few plot points that got edited out somewhere along the way (like the Life Extension Chair, as heroesandrivals mentions above).

The whole bit at the end with Clara rejoining the TARDIS feels very ominous to me. It's starting to look like she's going to have a tragic ending quite soon... Which I really don't want to happen, but there you go.

The Doctor knowing he is an addict is an interesting way to go, and that conversation and makes 11's sitting on a cloud for a hundred years or whatever it was, make a lot more sense.

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 10 months ago

When (presumably) GUS (presumably on the orders of Missy) phoned 11 on the TARDIS he was posing as "your majesty".

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xen trilus 2 years, 10 months ago

The curious segment of the cluttered amorphous entity known as '4chan' that actually has a vested interest in Doctor Who - I'd estimate a gaggle of people on one of its various internal communities - is proportionally very tiny, and even a bit sheltered from the whole. They still manage to exemplify all the good old 'shitey online Who fandom' traits though (with an extra layer of mindlessness) while simultaneously complaining about them.

They were doing rather well with the Capaldi era thus far, but their reaction to the much-hyped Kill the Moon was embarrassingly terrible. Although with its conscious diversion into the fantastical, optimism over cynicism, and heavy presence of female characters, it seems tailor made to upset them.

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Herms 2 years, 10 months ago

I assumed the mention of Gus having tried to lure the Doctor onto the Orient Express before was a callback to the tease at the end of The Big Bang. It also serves as an explanation for why the Doctor didn't follow up on it at the time: after telling Amy and Rory about it, he realized it was a trap and put it off until now. If Gus turns out to be connected to the mystery woman who gave Clara the Doctor's number, this could technically count as the longest-running story arc so far. Sort of.

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 10 months ago

While the scene on one hand shows us that without a companion the Doctor is just a man talking to himself, it also demonstrated that I could quite happily watch a whole series of Peter Capaldi talking to himself.

In amongst the whole 'the doctor needs a companion' stuff that we've been having since 2005, is now mixed in a very real feeling that Capaldi the actor doesn't. He can sell me talking to himself in a way Tennant or Smith couldn't.

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Lo-Fi Explosion 2 years, 10 months ago

And now I have a physical copy in my hand before Dr Sandifer has even announced it officially exists.

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 10 months ago

Particularly as I wouldn't be surprised if Moffat sweepingly ties in a whole load of classic series broken-down-robots/soldiers/cyborgs as part of the same Missy/Mystery woman arc.

Mentalis, anyone?

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Herms 2 years, 10 months ago

I think the Life Extension Chair was just supposed to underline that Maizie's grandmother was on death's door, in order to foreshadow the revelation that the mummy was picking people off in order of who was weakest. But if that was all they were going for, they could have handled it a bit better. It seemed like the chair itself was going to turn out to be important somehow.

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 10 months ago

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 10 months ago

(Ha, which would explain why the city at the end looked like Gallifrey. The planet they landed on was Atrios, having been rebuilt by Drax to resemble his homeworld. Which would make Missy the Black Guardian I guess...)

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

Well, it did tie in thematically with the eventual explanation of the Foretold (and perhaps with other things).

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 10 months ago

Also: I want to point out that Capaldi is wearing the First Doctor's costume from The Five Doctors.

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Herms 2 years, 10 months ago

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Herms 2 years, 10 months ago

"In particular, there’s an ambiguity I think doesn’t help this episode, which is whether or not Clara is lying when she says Danny is fine with her traveling with the Doctor. Because he really never has said anything that’s an objection."

Was it ambiguous? I thought it was pretty clear Clara was just saying that as a face-saving excuse, so she could avoid telling the Doctor the real reason she changed her mind about continuing to travel with him (ie that she's addicted). She claims that it was only Danny's idea that she stop, and that's not really true based on the last episode. And when she tells the Doctor that Danny's OK with it now, she makes it sound like it's something Danny had just told her over the phone right then, which is obviously not true. So she's lying about that at the very least.

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 10 months ago

Whatever the technobabble explanation for the chair and the foretold's mechanisms was (I'll need to watch again to catch it), will presumably be smaller scale versions of whatever Missy is up to - so I expect the finale to feature some cosmic scale energy sucking/phase shifting malarky as the initial mystery, the result of which is big old Missy cyber plot.

I'm getting some very (welcome) RTD vibes from the way this series is dealing with the arc - it feels like Bad Wolf / bees and missing planets done right.

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Pierce Inverarity 2 years, 10 months ago

I always watch on a 5.1 setup, and this one definitely had issues anyway - at least on the BBC America feed that I recorded. (The iTunes version usually looks and sounds a good bit better, which makes me wonder if Comcast isn't doing something to compress the video and audio.)

All of the quieter scenes at the beginning were muffled and really undermined by the score, at least to my ears. I'm not one of those people who usually has a problem with the mixing, so for the moment I'm assuming that this episode was particularly problematic...

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John Peacock 2 years, 10 months ago

I wonder whether it doesn't stem directly from the last episode: the choice she had to make in Kill the Moon was enormous, and it gave her enormous power. At the end of this episode, she directly questions the Doctor as to whether he's addicted to that power. One might infer that, having had a bit of distance from the last episode, she's decided that she likes the power (that in fact what she was afraid of was the fact that she enjoyed it). And possibly it was that (and the dangers of it getting out of control) that Danny was warning her against.

Also, the Doctor gives two different accounts of what happens between the air beginning to empty out of the train and Clara waking on the beach. One of them is a lie. How might one feel about the ambiguity around which story is a lie, and how confident might one be that the "bad" story turns out to be untrue on seeing Perkins?

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Jarl 2 years, 10 months ago

For /who/, Kill The Moon was promised as "A return to hard sci fi, VNA-level dark, with serious consequences." Which, y'know, close enough.
Of course, "Consensus" on 4chan is an illusion. Anonymity breeds strong, vocal opinions. This is why there appears to be a "day /who/" and a "night /who/" with such vastly different moods and opinions: it's really just a change of a few vocal members either going to bed or getting on the computer.

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xen trilus 2 years, 10 months ago

Of course, what they were actually promised was that Listen and Kill the Moon would "almost feel like New Adventures" - the actual "VNA level DARK" bit was entirely their own extrapolation; and I don't remember the claim of 'hard sci-fi' coming out of anywhere material either, just Moffat's assertion that it was 'proper drama'. All the while they were subtly, perhaps without realising it, adding on their own most-wanted Hardcore Doctor Who™ attributes to the as yet unaired episode, balling it up in their heads into something completely unrecognisable.

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orfeo 2 years, 10 months ago

Gosh. Well spotted on the broken down machinery/soldiers theme. You're right, it's just about everywhere. Two lots of droids trying to get to the promised land, a couple of soldiers fighting wars that are long over... and then there's Danny.

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orfeo 2 years, 10 months ago

Oh, and I forgot the malfunctioning Dalek.

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jane 2 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, I didn't find Clara's lying at the end to be ambiguous at all. And the thing is, now that she's embraced it, she's more Doctorish than ever before.

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Jarl 2 years, 10 months ago

Yup. In fact I'd say that's basically the internet in a nutshell.

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John 2 years, 10 months ago

Three words: Tom Baker Impression.

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John 2 years, 10 months ago

After this season: Peter Capaldi tries to convince Steven Moffat that his new companion should be a talking cabbage that sits on his shoulder.

By the way, am I the only one who now wants to see Peter Capaldi do impressions of all the other Doctors? Because that was a serious Tom Baker.

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John 2 years, 10 months ago

I'm pretty confident that the bad story is untrue.

As to lying, she obviously lied to the Doctor. It's not yet clear that she's going to be lying to Danny.

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J Mairs 2 years, 10 months ago

I assumed that Chris Addison's character's name is Gus...

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

She already has lied to Danny. He asks "So, is it done?", and she says "Yep. Mission accomplished", which is surely about her finishing with the Doctor. Then she hesitates over whether to come clean and tell him she's actually changed her mind, but ends up saying "I love you" instead. It fits squarely in the context of the addiction idea. Isn't that what addicts do - lie about quitting?

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Alex 2 years, 10 months ago

Watch Capaldi in that bit, though, right from the moment Maisie calls him a liar - where other Doctors would have been straight in there, asking questions of the Captain and introducing himself, Capaldi is just utterly still. He just watches it all unfold. Clara does the talking.

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 10 months ago

I'd thought Chris Addison was credited as Seb? Although that could be a bluff of course.
Gus, GUS - an ancronym (Gallifrean something something)?
A computer/person like CAL would fit with the rest of the cyborgy stuff. Are we returning to the Library? Lots of data ghosty/uploady/after-lifey stuff been going on.

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Richard Pugree 2 years, 10 months ago

...burning bright...

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 10 months ago

The biggest theme out of this series for me has been that we're all not always the best people; we make mistakes but still get along anyway. Naturally, this is also what is making the social justice brigade really angry.

I'm off to watch this episode actually, but I think I'm going to relate to Clara, since suddenly her relationship with the Doctor is starting to sound like a relationship I once had, except they actually talk. (I mean I'm in a much better position now, but I expect Clara will be too whenever she chooses to leave, and saving the universe is a better cut of the deal anyway.)

(Also, romantic relationship? Pffft.)

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elvwood 2 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, that ending was a bit of a gut punch, because it instantly convinced me that Clara's time as a companion isn't going to come to a good end. Before this I thought she would be leaving voluntarily; now I don't think so.

It also made sense of the "I'm a control freak" thing, which previously didn't ring true. It's that she's addicted to being the one who makes the big decisions, rather than dictating everything - which is different but close enough that I can see how she could get that impression of herself.

Oh, she's definitely lying to the Doctor and Danny - and almost certainly herself as well.

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Who+ 2 years, 10 months ago

I would agree with this comment - it was *that* good for me too. Bit bizarre to come here and find so many people ranking it as middle-of-the-pack, but then perhaps that's just what happens in such a consistently high quality season.

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Who+ 2 years, 10 months ago

Yep, I thought it was unambiguously a lie, both to the Doctor and to Danny. Silly girl.

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Leslie Lozada 2 years, 10 months ago

I thought the addiction thing came out of nowhere, but there was a moment,during Masey and Clara's conversation about being able to shut the door and walk away, that sorta foreshadowed this moment.

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Doctor Memory 2 years, 10 months ago

It's possible that this was just the sort of episode that was really pitched very well at what I expect/hope for out of Doctor Who.

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Pen Name Pending 2 years, 10 months ago

Also I was under the impression that Clara was wearing a wig for this and "Sherwood" to fit into the time period.

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ComMaxil 2 years, 10 months ago

Apropros of nothing, great to see Janet Henfrey back, this is the second week in a row we've seen an actor from the 7th Doctor era (after Tony Osoba last week), although they both got bumped off pretty quickly. Enjoyed seeing David Bamber too, from the (frankly underrated) Moffat comedy Chalk back in the 90s

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uncleho 2 years, 10 months ago

I think this finale is going to be one of the cleverest finales in a while (and that's saying a lot). We know very little about the actual arc, even though it is clearly there.

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uncleho 2 years, 10 months ago

Also interesting:
This is the first time Moffat is using classic monsters in a finale.

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John Peacock 2 years, 10 months ago

WIBBLY WOBBLY TIMEY WIMEY!

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John Peacock 2 years, 10 months ago

(Or: "Great book! Where did you get it from?" "I got it from... THE FUTURE!")

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Ombund 2 years, 10 months ago

I really, really liked that. In some ways it's a meat-and-potatoes kind of episode but when meat-and-potatoes are this well prepared there's nothing more satisfying. And, as with every episode this series (except maybe Time Heist), the whole thing gets elevated by the emotional character work that's going on and the incredible performances from Coleman and Capaldi.

The Doctor still doesn't understand why Clara was so angry with him. This isn't a communication issue; she's explained it to him but he just doesn't understand these kinds of emotions anymore and that terrifies him. It's not so much "Am I good man?" as "who the hell am I?". As he tells Perkins when he says, "that job could change a man": "Yes it does. Frequently". It's the sadness Capaldi gave to the "You look at me and you can't see me" line writ large. Deep Breath may have been the first time the show has properly engaged with what regeneration must actually feel like, but it certainly wasn't the last. It's such a subtle, beautiful performance from Capaldi. I'm in love with what they're doing with characterisation this year. It's the most emotionally dense Doctor Who has ever been, and it hasn't once (well at least not yet) dissolved into melodrama or pat psychobabble summarisation. Lovely stuff.

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Doctor Memory 2 years, 10 months ago

"I love that her hair obeys no laws of reality, growing longer and shorter by the episode to compliment whatever outfit she’s wearing in a given week. The Impossible Girl indeed."

I suspect that the impossible girl just owns a few wigs.

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arcbeatle 2 years, 10 months ago

I'm with you guys, its not as good as Listen for me, but its my second favorite this season. Fantastic ep.

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Leslie Lozada 2 years, 10 months ago

Technally classic monsters had been features in all of Moffat's finales, just not as the main focus.

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uncleho 2 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, but all really small parts:
Season 5 - biggest role. They all met to imprison the Doctor and then one Dalek went around shooting people.
Season 6 - One dalek appeared for about 10 seconds so the Doctor could extract information.
Season 7 - No classic monsters appeared in the finale, at least that I remember.

RTD years always had a classic monster. Daleks, Cyberman and Daleks, Master, Daleks.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 10 months ago

Although do we know for sure the Cybermen will play a large role? We only assume so because of filming in front of St. Paul's. Could be more Moffat misdirection, in a similar way to how we all possibly assumed the Alliance would still be around after "Pandorica" and featuring in "Big Bang". The Cybermen could be background threat to something else, or a secondary focus. Linking back to uncleho's original comment that we don't really know a thing about the finale/arc.

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 10 months ago

A few weeks or so have passed between episodes too (Clara mentions it somewhere). 'Tis possible she had a haircut and the Doctor hinted at a style/time period so she could dress up but still have a mystery tour 'last hurrah'.

(sidenote: "The Last Hurrah" would've been a cute and unusual title for the episode)

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Lewis Christian 2 years, 10 months ago

"Deliberate, reuse of art assets, or do CGI cityscapes all just look the same?"

Reminded me ever so slightly of New Earth (the shot at the end of Gridlock).

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 10 months ago

Definitely related to the whole Tom Baker not wanting a companion that occurred around the time of The Deadly Assassin?

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Prandeamus 2 years, 10 months ago

I certainly would love to see Frank Skinner on board again. He put in a great performance and would be nice to have a male companion who wasn't romantically linked to anyone else on the TARDIS. However in the context of the episode as transmitted he's clearly there to be the sensible one who says No to the Doctor with while we are invited to compare Clara.

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TheSmilingStallionInn 2 years, 10 months ago

Um...Great Intelligence from Series 7 is from the Classic series, in terms of two Patrick Troughton serials featuring the Yeti--the Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear--but you're right in that he's not a classic monster, possibly a villain who used classic monsters, if the Yeti can be called that.

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Prandeamus 2 years, 10 months ago

Reading the guardian review just now at http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2014/oct/11/doctor-who-recap-series-34-episode-eight-mummy-on-the-orient-express I was reminded of one thing I noticed a couple of eeks back. There are several occasions when Capaldi is channeling Sheldon Cooper when he's in full socially awkward mode. Mind you, the episode also thinks the episode is dropping with sexual tension, which quite frankly escapes me. YMMV.

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John Peacock 2 years, 10 months ago

(An odd pattern of the RTD series was that the returning monster was the one associated with the Doctor of the same number as the season. Which is a horribly clunky way of saying: First Doctor/Season 1 - Daleks; Second Doctor/Season 2 - Cybermen; Third Doctor/Season 3 - Master; Fourth Doctor/Season 4 - Davros.)

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John Peacock 2 years, 10 months ago

The conversation he had before the Baker I impersonation - when he's lying down, waving his hands in the air - he was talking in an English accent, but I couldn't place who it was supposed to be.

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John Peacock 2 years, 10 months ago

"[Danny] really never has said anything that’s an objection. Indeed, he pointedly declined to criticize the Doctor last episode, and talked Clara out of leaving forever."

He recognises that it's her choice, and while she might want him to make the choice for her (as she did the Doctor and the population of Earth with the choice over the Moon), he realises that it's for her to decide and is getting out of her way. I don't think it's weak of her not to want to decide - after all, as was pointed out this week, giving up is something that the Doctor has never successfully done. It's hard.

Incidentally SarcophaGUS - "Eater of Flesh" according to Wikipedia.

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brownstudy 2 years, 10 months ago

1. Didn't Eccleston's Doctor say to Jackie in "Aliens of London" something about how it was up to him to make the difficult decisions, that that is what he did?

2. When the mummy/soldier saluted the Doctor, I made an immediate mental callback to Danny saluting the Doctor. His commanding presence is always recognized, even when he surrenders.

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Anton B 2 years, 10 months ago

I get the impression that the Doctor is putting Clara through some kind of initiation test to see if she's up to becoming a Time Lord. Rather like the seventh Doctor and Ace. The reference to the Academy in Listen reinforced this. I fear she may fail though.

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John 2 years, 10 months ago

The Great Intelligence is as much of a classic monster as the Master is.

I suppose if we were going to extend that pattern through the next three seasons, season 5 would have featured, er, the Mara?; season 6 Sil, and Season 7 maybe Fenric or something? The villain of the current season would be Eric Roberts.

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Gallifreyan_Immigrant 2 years, 10 months ago

I haven't seen it mentioned here, so I'll talk about it: there's a charity going on for
Cauldwell children--which is an organization that helps children with physical disabilities. If you donate, you'll eventually get a PDF of "Seasons Of War" an unofficial anthology of War Doctor stories. Why should you care about an unofficial anthology? Because this anthology contains stories by Kate Orman, Jim Mortimer, Jenny Colgan, Gary Russell, and Lance Parkin (as well as a few new faces.) All those names should be familiar to long-time TARDIS Eridutorium readers. Donate (however much you can) at the link below, and get an awesome book!

https://www.justgiving.com/Declan-May1

Reminder that donations for a War Doctor charity anthology are going on right now, and writers include Jim Mortimer (Natural History of Fear), Paul Magrs (Horror of Glam Rock, Iris Wildhyme), Gary Russel (Zagreus), George Mann (Engines of War), Kate Orman (Vampire Science, Unnatural History), Jenny Colgan (Dark Horizons), Matt Fitton (Dark Eyes), and Lance Fucking Parkin (Dying Days, Benny's Story).

Excerpts from the stories will be read by Doctor Who alumni, and John Hurt is somehow involved. Nicholas Briggs might also be contributing a prequel, and

THERE IS A SECOND ANTHOLOGY PLANNED FOR APRIL 2015

An interview with the editor: http://doctorwhoworldwide.com/2014/09/25/interview-declan-may-seasons-war/

Synopses for some of the many stories: http://declanmay.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/seasons-of-war-synopses1.pdf

Facebook Page:https://www.justgiving.com/Declan-May1

Reminder that donations for a War Doctor charity anthology are going on right now, and writers include Jim Mortimer (Natural History of Fear), Paul Magrs (Horror of Glam Rock, Iris Wildhyme), Gary Russel (Zagreus), George Mann (Engines of War), Kate Orman (Vampire Science, Unnatural History), Jenny Colgan (Dark Horizons), Matt Fitton (Dark Eyes), and Lance Fucking Parkin (Dying Days, Benny's Story).

Excerpts from the stories will be read by Doctor Who alumni, and John Hurt is somehow involved. Nicholas Briggs might also be contributing a prequel, and

THERE IS A SECOND ANTHOLOGY PLANNED FOR APRIL 2015

An interview with the editor: http://doctorwhoworldwide.com/2014/09/25/interview-declan-may-seasons-war/

Synopses for some of the many stories: http://declanmay.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/seasons-of-war-synopses1.pdf

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heroesandrivals 2 years, 10 months ago

@John Peacock
I think Five, but more because the banter sounds five-ish.

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Whittso 2 years, 10 months ago

I also thought it was completely unambiguous that Clara lied. The expression on her face alone sold it, but also clearly what she said to Danny. For that matter I didn't think the 66 seconds clue was misleading or underplayed. The key thing was the fixed length, that was the clue that unlocked things (time for something to charge). Plus I loved the way that a few words transformed a supernatural horror into a broken down soldier with a more subtle horror about him.

Btw. Is Moffat a big Queen fan? Just thinking of 'crazy little thing called love" in the Big Bang.

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jonathan inge 2 years, 10 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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encyclops 2 years, 10 months ago

He does order the mummy to stand down, which is also more or less what he does in "The Caretaker."

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ted mills 2 years, 10 months ago

Forget Snowpiercer, the more obvious influence is Galaxie Express 999, the Japanese manga by Leiji Matsumoto, a sci-fi comic set on a train moving through space and looking exactly the way it does here in Doctor Who. Here's a pic:
http://www.absoluteanime.com/captain_harlock/index-ge999-2.jpg

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

I think it's a question of expectations. Right from the off, we knew that this was an episode about what appeared to be an undead (and, it soon turned out, spectral) mummy stalking around a spaceship masquerading as a train and killing people. It thus started from a position in the realms of the utterly fantastical, with a premise founded on "magic", or rather, this being Doctor Who, on that sufficiently-advanced-technology which is indistinguishable from it (especially inasmuch as both things are simply made up by writers, who can invent whatever rules for their operation they feel like). All such premises come under Dirk Gently's definition of the "impossible", which involves things we simply know nothing about and therefore cannot effectively pronounce on. Not that any of that means that it makes sense, but it means that people did not come to it expecting it to do so.

Kill the Moon, by contrast, posed initially in the trappings of "hard SF" and posed a highly physical mystery - the moon gaining mass - which it might reasonably be imagined would find a halfway-credible explanation. Hence people were coming at it in a different frame of mind, and judged it by different standards.

More damagingly, the solution given to that mystery was not only a gear-change into the thoroughly fantastical (though it was certainly that!), but also made implicit assertions about the world which ran squarely contrary to things we know well (Gently's "improbable") - giant space damselflies notwithstanding. Apologetic online handwavery along the lines of "maybe it was sucking matter out of a parallel universe or something" rather misses the point, because the problem was not that the episode failed to explain how the moon was gaining mass, but that it acted as though it had explained it, by making reference to things that are familiar to us, but saying things about them that actually run wildly counter to what we know about them. It said of course the moon is getting heavier, because it's an egg, and that's what eggs do as they develop, isn't it? At no point was there any suggestion that the writer was aware that no, actually, it really really isn't. (Given the abortion "sub"text, he may not really have thought much about eggs at all, which would explain a lot.) So the absurdities of that episode burst through the limits of what quite a few people were prepared to go along with, in a way that the absurdities of this one did not.

Having said all that, I do wince a bit whenever a sci-fi story invokes the notion of "life force". Partly because it's silly, partly because I can't really see any cultural excuse for its silliness. Obviously it bears no relationship to scientific reality, but it also has no grounding that I can think of in the Western cultural background from which the writers in question spring (in something coming from a Chinese or related milieu it would be a very different matter of course). What is it that makes the idea so persistently appealing to writers of fantastical sci-fi? Is it all just down to George Lucas and what he borrowed from his East Asian influences?

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

Mind you, having said all that, if you want to run a concept story about draining energy from people, it's better to make it an invented handwavey New-Agey "life-force" than to declare that the human body actually physically generates energy. Oh, The Matrix, just how wrong are you? Let me count the ways...

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

My current advert at the bottom of this page: "Explore hidden Asia aboard the Eastern and Oriental Express"!

For once, one that's actually remarkably apt, rather than gobsmackingly incongruous like the usual parade of Russian brides, Asian beauties and drawings of women in scanty armour with anatomically implausible bosoms promoting "men only" online games...

And no, those are definitely not a reflection of my browsing history. If that's how the system is meant to work, then it doesn't.

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Aylwin 2 years, 10 months ago

Since I'm now basically spamming a moribund thread, I'd like to take a moment to express my regret at missing a golden opportunity to use the phrase "things that we wot not of" two comments above.

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Marionette 2 years, 10 months ago

So is the rule now that any episode that passes the Bechdel Test can make fun of it? I'm going to go ahead and assume that this is the case since I doubt there will be another episode that qualifies this season.

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David Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

I think vitalism was a big thing in biology in the Romantic era. It doesn't look that way because the history of science is almost always written with hindsight as the history of scientific ideas that we still make use of.

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sleepyscholar 2 years, 10 months ago

I think it's pretty clear that Frank Skinner does!

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Seeing_I 2 years, 10 months ago

My only real complaint is that the ending was far too rushed, with the Doctor's blithe explanation of rescuing everyone from the exploding train.

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Seeing_I 2 years, 10 months ago

Yes, my roomate and I both were excited for a moment, thinking that guy would join them on the TARDIS.

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5tephe 2 years, 10 months ago

I'll make a stab at guessing the components of the finale:

"I've lived for over two thousand years, and I've made a lot of mistakes in that time. I think it's time I started sorting some of them out."

The Doctor is hunting out the recurring elements we are seeing in these episodes. Last soldiers from a forgotten war.

He's doing so deliberately, trying to make up for mistakes of the time war.

That makes Missy something to do with that. Hmm, what's the most continuity porn heavy thing imaginable...? Yeah. The Master. That'll do.

Wouldn't that make us all groan?

;)

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StephenM 2 years, 10 months ago

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StephenM 2 years, 10 months ago

Exactly! I was thinking that the whole time! It's really nothing like Snowpiercer. I just watched the 1979 Galaxy Express 999 movie, and it was pretty great. (Technically, Matsumoto also stole the idea, from Kenji Miyazawa's Night on the Galactic Railroad, but the visuals in this episode clearly echo 999.)

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BerserkRL 2 years, 10 months ago

It's interesting that none of the preview pics for this episode featured Clara, despite Clara in her 1920s outfit being eminently featurable. Seems like they were trying hard to convince us she wouldn't be in this episode. Yet they also released a synopsis and a promo referring to her as being in it; cross purposes from different departments, as with Radio Times' giving the full title of Invasion of the Dinosaurs?

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Nyq Only 2 years, 10 months ago

Everything has been said I think - except that the broken down robot/cyborg theme and the solider theme aren't quite the same. Also worth noting that in the Caretaker it was a police officer rather than a solider (o he soldier cyborg war machine) that ended up with Missy.
Having said that while Kill the Moon didn't feature soldiers or cyborgs there was a theme of thing being pressed back into service (i.e. the shuttle).

My rankings - to some extent they split into two groups: Robots of Sherwood (meh) versus all of the others.

1. Listen/The Caretaker
2. Kill the Moon
3. Mummy on the Orient Express
4. Deep Breath
5. Time Heist
6. Into the Dalek
8. Robots of Sherwood

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encyclops 2 years, 10 months ago

Moribund or not, some of us are still reading (particularly because I don't even read this thread until Sunday or Monday, after I've had time to see the episode once or ideally twice), and I loved your long comment, Aylwin. That's an excellent explanation and spot on, I think.

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Anton B 2 years, 10 months ago

It would. But then we'd cheer because a Time Lord had actually gender changed in the TV show* and so that's now canon and so opens the way for that female Doctor that'll never happen so we groan again.

*I know the Corsair but that was just Gaiman being cheeky.

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encyclops 2 years, 10 months ago

This one was a lot like "Time Heist" for me. Based on what I knew of it going in, I thought, "this is going to be fun!" but by the end I was so indifferent I couldn't even bring myself to write about it. This is definitely going to be the season that's broken me on that front.

Having said that, I did enjoy it, and for about fifteen minutes or so I was thinking this would be my favorite of the season. It had so many elements I liked, in theory: a mad confluence of genres and elements; SF in an opulent, visually stimulating setting; a truly creepy threat; at least the flavor of a murder mystery spread over a supernatural enigma with a putatively scientific solution; a lovely chanteuse providing the very best use of pop music in Doctor Who thus far. And actually, when I list them out, I do feel pretty happy about it. I think the biggest turnoffs for me were:

1. The vanishing of the train's opulence and its extra passengers. Leaving aside the question of whether it's entirely convincing that a lot of the frills are fake, it's unnecessary for them to be. You could keep all the beauty of this very silly and wonderful train and just have a lab car, couldn't you? I mean, it's very "Stones of Blood" and "God Complex," and on that basis I ought to approve, but come on. The train doesn't HAVE to blow up at the end. Let us have this.

2. The heavy-handed, glib "soldier" bit yet again. Second episode this season whose final confrontation involves the Doctor giving either a robot or a cyborg marching orders -- even if they're largely redundant after he surrenders to the creature. And what about that? Wouldn't it be an awfully intuitive thing to say to an advancing ghoul? Did none of those people who survived tell anyone else what they actually said? Are we assuming that the war was with the Time Lords, which is why the Doctor surrendering on their behalf would actually end the mummy's war rather than just saving his life? The resolution is still really confusing to me. I'm sure one of you smart people has sorted it out.

Hey, look at that: I wrote a few things after all.

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Daibhid C 2 years, 10 months ago

"The insistence that it’s not a silly one is warranted, certainly, but it’s still much lighter than the hype would suggest"

Given my reaction to "Kill the Moon", you won't be astonished to hear that this saved it for me. Yes, Orient Express in Space is a daft concept. Embrace that. Own it. Then leave it in the background when the you want to do the serious stuff. Don't try and make the daft concept the serious stuff.

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Daibhid C 2 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, I wondered about that. She wasn't in the Next Time either, IIRC.

And the Radio Times Choice blurb says "After his serious falling-out with Clara last week, the Doctor comes aboard and investigates the deaths, assisted by Chief Engineer Perkins". Which is not just glossing over the question but actively implying she's not there. But then the actual listing starts "The Time Lord takes Clara aboard the world's most luxurious train".

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prandeamus 2 years, 10 months ago

Ah yes, we've probably all moved on now, and the party's over. But ...

After the fake holograms were removed and the train transformed to a lab, we were left with a room full of "scientists". Now, I am familiar with the concept of extras, or background artistes, or whatever the industry calls them these days. Were they lobotomised? I mean, really, did the director say, "OK darlings, let's all look completely uninterested. The mummy will kill you if you don't solve the problem in the next hour"?

I loved the episode, by the way, but that seemed an odd directorial choice. Unless ... no ... were they all cyborgs?

I also want to state for the record that this whole Missy business has so far bored the pants off me. Really, 13 standalone episodes would be fine. Just me, I guess.

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encyclops 2 years, 10 months ago

Not just you.

I'm assuming, along with our host, that we're building to some bombshell of a punchline on the soldier/Missy business. I'm just really afraid, given that this is a show with a pretty terrible record when it comes to punchlines, it won't pay off, and that will render non sequiturs like "the mummy is really a soldier! who preys on the weak and sucks their life force and isn't fighting anyone and whose flag is perfectly well defended by a force field already!" even more ghastly sabotages of otherwise promising storylines.

In other words, I'd say a lot more this season appears to have been warped to fit the story arc than ever before, so I'm really hoping it pays off big time.

Good observation on the extras. I had flashbacks to "Time and the Rani" what with the Einstein-looking guy staggering around confused. I also noticed that at least one nonwhite character who kept floating in and out of the frame turned out to be a hologram when she could just as easily have been one of the scientists, which was a bummer.

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Adam Riggio 2 years, 10 months ago

There was also at least one black female scientist, who hands the Doctor a thing. Minor quibble. Only watched the episode once so far.

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Adam Riggio 2 years, 10 months ago

A long and fascinating discussion, to which I can only contribute more weirdness. I was most drawn to the weird kinds of repetition (or reiteration) of elements throughout the history of the show this season. They appear intentionally, like the Tom Baker impression and jelly babies that appear in this episode, as well as the Christie setting, which evokes Russell T Davies' engagement with the same tradition.

But I was most concerned with what seems to be an unintentional reiteration of Peri Brown. More at my own blog, which I'm glad Phil doesn't mind I advertise in the comment threads of his review posts.
http://adamwriteseverything.blogspot.ca/2014/10/difference-inhabits-repetition.html

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Triturus 2 years, 10 months ago

@prandeamus, I can understand that one might prefer standalone episodes instead of season arcs, but I don't quite get how you can find the The Missy business quite so boring, given that it's only been on screen for a few minutes in total. It's been shown briefly in Deep Breath, even brieferly* in Into The Dalek and the Caretaker, and referred to once in Robot of Sherwood. They've hardly been beating us about the head with it this season.

Is there something about the Missy arc itself, or the way it's being handled, that is putting you off? I've been quite intrigued by it myself.



*That's definitely a word. Oh yes.

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jonathan inge 2 years, 10 months ago

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prandeamus 2 years, 10 months ago

@Triturus

Maybe I should rephrase my objection. True, the actual appearances are not in themselves boring, being short as they are.

What I probably mean is that discussion about the Missy arc is dull because it's most likely to be unguessable. I mean, totally unguessable. The true nature of Bad Wolf was basically unguessable. The true nature of the Silence was unguessable. You Are Not Alone was guessable if you have access to the paratext, fair enough. The cracks in the wall were ... See, here's the thing. I like the idea that, in the end, the crack in the wall was Gallifrey having a peep into the real universe. I like the idea of Rose and her predestination. I like the idea of the silents being confessors (well maybe not, what's the point of confessing and forgetting that you've confessed - a penitent would just come back again and again to the same confessor, surely?) but I digress).

When Missy is revealed in a couple of weeks time, as one presumes she will, I hope it will be well acted in an interesting story with a satisfying payoff. I genuinely don't give tuppence ha'penny if she is the Master, the Rani, Iris Wildthyme, or the conductor of a 1950s bus simulator with a from the planet Zarquon.

I've already read Phil's entry about AotD, and maybe I need to reconsider my approach to Aristotelian unities? I may feel differently about this tomorrow though. :)

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BerserkRL 2 years, 10 months ago

do we know for sure the Cybermen will play a large role?

Moffat saith: "I really wanted to do a Cyberman story because they were always my favourites when I was a kid, and I was quite surprised that one way or another I'd never used them in any of my own scripts, except as supporting characters. So I wanted to do a proper scary one."

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BerserkRL 2 years, 10 months ago

Possible subtext: "I told Gaiman I wanted him to 'make the Cybermen scary again' but he didn't, really. So I will."

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encyclops 2 years, 10 months ago

Heh. Well if my childhood is anything to go by (...really...please don't go by my childhood. Drive around, take another road, anything else will be faster, trust me), all you need to make the Cybermen scary are David Banks, spidery Cybermat venom lines, and some good old-fashioned gory-as-fuck hand-crushing action.

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therichfox 2 years, 10 months ago

I wonder if Perkins could actually be a Time Lord or something like one, a la the Meddling Monk. Or Drax. There was just something nostalgic and knowing in the unspoken "regeneration" chat in the TARDIS.

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jane 2 years, 10 months ago

Another reason to love the writing here: Clara's line that she heard a musician say, "Hatred is too strong an emotion to waste on people you don’t like." Which is actually a true story, and one that should hearten TARDIS Eruditorum.

The line comes from one Sixto Rodriguez, who was a washed-up songwriter back in the Seventies, fixed up a house in Detroit, and worked a bunch of low-wage jobs (the archetypal proletariat) -- while unbeknownst to him, his songs had become beloved in South Africa as part of the anti-apartheid movement.

They thought he was dead.

It was only in the late Nineties, thanks to the Internet, that he even learned about this -- his daughter found a website. Rodriguez wasn't collecting any deserved royalties on his work, but he never sued -- hence the quote above. But now he's getting paid, as well as recognition, having toured many times since. He still lives in Detroit, and most of his royalties just go to his daughters.

His story is told in the documentary "Searching For Sugar Man." His stuff reminds me of Dylan and Love.

Soon you know I'll leave you
And I'll never look behind
'Cos I was born for the purpose
That crucifies your mind.

So con, convince your mirror
As you've always done before
Giving substance to shadows
Giving substance ever more.

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SpaceSquid 2 years, 10 months ago

156 comments and no-one has pointed out the number of ways you could argue this episode owes a debt to Horror Express? People just aren't watching the classics anymore, I guess. For the unitiated, the original '72 movie involves a horrific monster ostensibly from mythology that's actually an alien stalking people on an opulent train whilst scientists try to figure out exactly what it is via implausibly experiments. Sound familiar? Even GUS's symbols inside circular lens references the hilarious dinosaur pictures. Oh, and they destroy the train at the end.

Not that this is a criticism. If you're going to draw inspiration from old movies, insane schlock horror is a wonderful place to find it. Especially if you're going to give Peter Cushing's role to the Doctor.

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Tim Chapman 2 years, 10 months ago

I was reminded of John Smith's 2000AD 'Indigo Prime' story 'Killing Time' (1991), which is basically about a group of researchers aboard an interdimensional steam train who encounter weird horrors.
A more likely influence for someone of Mathieson or Moffat's age and background, I'd guess.

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Daru 2 years, 10 months ago

Missed the whole party, but loved the episode. One thing that has continued to stay with me after watching it a few times is the beauty of the scene at the end on the beach. The way it is filmed, the sense of poetry somehow present and even the way the Doctor appears and his drawing on the sand, make me think of the filmmaker Derek Jarman for some reason. The location is very reminiscent of Dungeness where he lived his last years in Prospect Cottage, a beach on the coast of Kent and in the shadow (like the scene) of a power station. In his garden at the cottage Derek created a beautiful garden in this apparently empty looking place - and somehow this scene captures all of this for me, touched as it is with a background feeling of sadness.

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ferret 2 years, 8 months ago

Just sprung to mind - this would have worked rather well as a Seventh Doctor adventure, exploring whether he is a souless manipulator or just a time lord in desperate circumstances. Benny fits the bill visually (she'd love the Orient Express in Space and would have a nice frock for it) although Ace might be a better fit for semi-betrayed affronted comapnion character. I can see Ace replacing Clara and Benny replacing Perkins, with a smallish rewrite. And it'd still be great!

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Seeing_I 2 years, 3 months ago

She calls him a liar when he's telling the truth...and believes him later when he lies!

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TommyR01D 11 months, 1 week ago

This was easily my favourite of Series 8 and the only one that truly felt like Doctor Who.

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