I was always a bit disappointed that the phone call to the TARDIS at the end of series 5’s The Big Bang didn’t turn out to be a proper episode. The phone call mentioned an Egyptian goddess on the loose on the Orient Express in space at Christmas. This episode isn’t exactly that, but it’s close enough.
It’s not Christmas, but is the Orient Express in space and a creature that looks very like an Egyptian mummy is roaming around killing people on board. The mummy-like creature is called The Foretold, which when people see they have exactly 66 seconds to live. Only those who it is about to kill are able to see it.
The Doctor and Clara are on board this ship, and, after the argument in the previous episode Kill The Moon, are intending this trip to be their “last hurrah”. But they learn that an old lady has died suddenly, and it seems to match with tales of The Foretold, thought to be a myth. Soon, other deaths occur in a similar way, of a chef and one of the crew.
Upon investigating, the Doctor discovers that most of the passengers on board are experts in alien mythology and technology, and concludes that it was no co-incidence. It turns out all the passengers that aren’t experts are merely holograms, and the ship doesn’t even look like a recreation of the Orient Express, but a science lab. It was all orchestrated by the ships computer Gus to get them on board and to unleash the Foretold onto the ship so they could study it first hand. It is also revealed it was Gus who called the Doctor in The Big Bang, and that Gus has done these sort of experiments on several other ships, killing many of them himself if they haven’t performed well. Gus seems to hold no value whatsoever for human life, ejecting the kitchen staff into space, who he deems “non-essential”, for no other reason than to stop the Doctor calling Clara.
There are a few more victims of the Foretold, the ships Captain and a professor, and by this point the Doctor has worked out that the Foretold is targeting based on ill-health, picking off the ones who aren’t as physically or mentally strong. The Doctor has been quite cold and callous at times in this series, and this episode very much continues that with the Doctor not caring if people are about to die, only that they can get information about the Foretold. Clara is in the luggage car with another passenger, Maisie, the granddaughter of the old lady who died at the beginning, and he suspects that she will be the Foretold’s next target. He calls Clara and tells her to lie to Maisie that the Doctor can save her if it will get her to come to the main laboratory.
When they are there and Maisie begins to see the Foretold, the Doctor uses a machine to implant some of Maisies’ memories into his head, so now the Foretold leaves Maisie alone and the Doctor is its next target, which allows the Doctor to see The Foretold for himself. Most people when they see the Foretold are of course terrified of it, but the Doctor isn’t and he uses the 66 seconds to work out what exactly the Foretold is. He discovers it is an ancient solider that has a malfunctioning device fitted into it. The Doctor decides to surrender, just in the nick of time, which stops the Foretold’s attack. It is now free to die, and disintegrates. With the mystery solved Gus no longer needs anyone on board and gets rid of the oxygen. The Doctor manages to get everyone off the ship and tries to reprogram Gus, but it causes the ship to explode. In a conversation with Clara, the Doctor tries to explain some of his actions. In order to save everyone, he had to know as much as he could about the Foretold, and the only way he could get that at such a point was from its victims. He was choosing cold facts over empathy, and choosing the people who could still be saved over the people who he couldn’t save. He didn’t even know if he could save Maisie or not, but he had to try and look at the bigger picture. “Sometimes the only choices are bad choices. But you still have to choose”. Clara changes her mind about not traveling with the Doctor anymore, and decides to continue.
This episode was another decent one, with some interesting elements. The Foretold is one of the better Monsters of the Week, it looked quite scary. As the title suggests, there are similarities to Agatha Christie novels and other murder mysteries, here it is mainly the Orient Express and there being several murder victims. The episode featured a cameo appearance from Foxes. She is my favourite singer of 2014, but she didn’t really do much here, she was only on to sing a jazz cover version of Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’. The joke I liked most in the episode was the Doctor using his psychic paper, which would show the captain his worst nightmare – it turns out the captain’s worst nightmare is a mystery shopper!