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Recap / Doctor Who S34 E8 "Mummy on the Orient Express"

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The literal rendition of, "Are you my mummy?"
Click here to see the Radio Times magazine poster for this episode: 

"There's a body and there's a mummy. I mean, can you not just get on a train? Did a wizard put a curse on you about mini-breaks?"
Clara Oswald (fed up with the Doctor's magnetism to danger)

The one where Foxes sings Queen.

Also, the Doctor forgot about something on his to-do list for 1.1 millennia. With his attention span, are we really surprised?

Written by Jamie Mathieson.

All aboard the Orient Express! A stately steam train full of smooth jazz, art-deco fittings and sophisticated, pleasurable company. Oh, and also, it's IN SPACE!

That's pretty damn awesome, and the Doctor seems to agree. He's headed there himself for a much-needed break - a more pleasant sort of adventure, where nothing's supposed to go wrong. But things are bittersweet; Clara's come along too, breaking out the ol' flapper attire, but her impossible choice on the Moon's still shaken her, and she's made it very clear that this is her last adventure. "One last hurrah." The Doctor doesn't seem too happy, but he's content to sit with her and chat about the Magellan black hole whizzing past their window, and planets of darkness and shrubs.

Shame there's been a murder, then. An old woman's dropped dead in her train carriage, gibbering about a monster that only she could see. Meanwhile, one of the chefs just had a breakdown and started slashing at the air with a knife, trying desperately to keep something away from him. Both victims' deaths were heralded by a flickering of the lights - after that, they saw a raggedy-looking mummy, and had 66 seconds to live.

It's not quite an Egyptian goddess on the loose, but it's close enough, and the Doctor's still game for an adventure - he's taken on mummies before, right? And, besides, the steampunk AI monitoring the train seems very insistent he solve it. So begins the Doctor and Clara's last mission — to solve the mystery of the Foretold and save as many passengers as they can. Even if the Doctor seems a little too close to not caring enough about that last part...

Start the clock!


  • Absurdly Dedicated Worker: The Foretold, an immortal malfunctioning Cyborg soldier that must keep killing those it perceives as its enemies until whatever mission it was programmed with is completed.
  • Advertised Extra: Foxes was promoted in some press articles as the episode's joint main guest actor along with Frank Skinner. She plays a Jazz Singer onboard the train (more-than-likely a hologram) and appears in a few shots while singing in the background for less than a minute. However, a full version of her jazz cover of "Don't Stop Me Now" exists, starring her exclusively in a Doctor Who-themed music video, so she did technically make a significant appearance for the show.
  • Admiring the Abomination: The Doctor seems momentarily surprised at the sight of the Foretold when he becomes the target, until he rushes forward to confront it and, as per usual for our danger-magnet Time Lord, he smiles at the sight of it.
    The Doctor: I'm so pleased to finally see you!
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Professor Moorhouse tries begging for his life, given that the Doctor doesn't offer him any hope, and legend has it the Foretold can be stopped if given the right word.
    "This is my life, my death. I'm going to fight for it how I want! Er, I give you... my soul. I confess all sins. I give you all my worldly goods. Only, please, please, please..."
  • Affably Evil: Gus, the train's AI. His programmed voice renders him permanently cheery even while murdering the train's crew to make the scientists work faster. Also his dialogue like "Isn't this exciting" gives him an air of a Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted: Gus is doing exactly what he's been instructed to do.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: The Foretold — not in the usual sense that a mummy was "once a man", but that he is just a soldier from a war thousands of years ago, heavily bandaged, kept alive but not healed, spending thousands of years in torment sustained by malfunctioning medical technology. When the Doctor finally realizes this he openly pities him, and figures out how to free him from his "curse" — surrendering, so the soldier's mission will be complete, and the tech sustaining him for the mission will finally turn off. The mummy/soldier salutes the Doctor — some scrap of memory, in respect or gratitude — then disintegrates, finally released from his suffering.
  • Almighty Janitor: Perkins turns out to be perfectly innocent, but he does have a good deal of information on hand when needed, and contributes more to the conversation than most of the scientists on the train. So much so, that he gets the rare, "You're a genius" compliment from the Doctor.
  • And I Must Scream: It's implied that the mummy is aware of what's happening, as it salutes the Doctor when he finally ends its unliving slavery.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Clara talks about how this is her "last hurrah", but at the end of the episode she is eager for another adventure. That's how the episode ends; the next adventure.
  • Anti-Villain: The Foretold is not really evil. He's just a soldier who can't stop fighting until those he perceives as his enemies surrender.
  • Answer Cut:
    • The Doctor asks how many people will die before Captain Quell stops avoiding the problem. We then cut to one of Quell's men being murdered. Afterward...
    Quell: It turns out it's three. The amount of people that had to die before I stopped looking the other way.
    • The Doctor is handed the analysis of who the next victim will be. We get a Bait-and-Switch where it cuts to Clara, but their conversation quickly shows it's Maisie.
  • Artifact of Death: The scroll attracts the Foretold and so it will appear in its vicinity. This is subverted in that it turns out to be a perfectly ordinary piece of cloth; it's a flag.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    Clara: So you saved everyone?
    The Doctor: ... No, I just saved you, and I let everyone else suffocate!
  • Asshole Victim: The first victim, Mrs. Pitt, poisoned her granddaughter's pony, and her father.
  • Auto Doc: Mrs. Pitt's chair is revealed to be one after she is killed. It couldn't save her from the Foretold, but it used up nearly all its battery power trying. The mummy also has this technology built into it, which is why it can't die.
  • Badass Boast:
    • The Doctor, referring to the mummy's 66-second countdown: "One minute with me, and this thing — it would be over!" He's not far wrong; he takes it down with half a second to spare.
    • His reply when asked if he's a genius or really just incredibly arrogant: "On a good day, probably both."
  • Bait-and-Switch: The stopwatch and countdown clock that herald each mummy attack for the viewers appear when Clara and Maisie are locked up with an ominously-opening sarcophagus, suggesting to the audience that the ladies are in direct danger. The timing is just a coincidence, as the sarcophagus is vacant and the Foretold is actually targeting one of the security guards.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: The Doctor's respiratory bypass system means he can stay conscious while everyone else is being asphyxiated and find a way to save them. According to the episode's writer, a deleted scene would have had the Doctor briefly outside the train, further demonstrating this ability.
  • Better as Friends: The position that Danny urges that Clara take with the Doctor. He's not asking her to sever all ties, just to enjoy her last adventure. Unfortunately the scene prior to this had Clara sounding out the Doctor on whether he could just "come round for dinner" now and then, and it's clear neither of them want that kind of mundane life.
  • Big Bad: Gus.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Once she decides to keep travelling with him, Clara tells the Doctor that her leaving him was all Danny's idea.
    • When asked what he's a Doctor of, the Doctor replies "Let's say 'intestinal parasites'."
    • Quell finds it very suspicious that the Doctor claims to be a mystery shopper (the thing he fears most).
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Continuing from the end of the previous episode, Clara is in the process of "breaking up" with the Doctor (she even talks about "dumping him" on the phone to Danny - which Danny flags is odd because the Doctor's not supposed to be her boyfriend, right?). The adventure that ensues actually appears destined to finalize this. However, once Clara realizes the Doctor was forced to make tough decisions and isn't as heartless as he lets on, not only do they make-up and agree to continue their friendship, a Love Triangle scenario launches.
  • Brick Joke: In "Listen", Clara called the Doctor a "grey-haired stick insect". We see in this episode that when the Doctor calls her on her mobile, the image that comes up is of a... grey-haired stick insect.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: When soliloquizing on the possibility that there might be danger on the train, the Doctor does one half of the conversation in the Fourth Doctor's voice.
  • Brutal Honesty: The Doctor freely admits to Clara that he would have sacrificed as many passengers as necessary to beat the Foretold, because sometimes the only choices are bad ones, but someone still has to make them.
  • Busman's Holiday: Clara and the Doctor come to have a nice time and immediately find mysterious goings-on. It's lampshaded by Clara, who asks if the Doctor's under a curse that prevents him from ever taking a break without an adventure interrupting. It's subverted when it turns out the Doctor already knew there was something going on when he chose the Orient Express as their destination, and just didn't tell Clara.
  • Call-Back: All the way back to the Eleventh Doctor, when he got a phone call to come help the space Orient Express after Amy and Rory's wedding. It took him over 1100 years and one regeneration before he finally got around to doing something about this problem. Turns out the problem was just a ruse to get the Doctor to come and capture the mummy (there's a bit of a continuity hiccup, however, as the original phone call had to do with an Egyptian goddess, not a mummy, unless Gus was lying about the goddess bit).
  • Cassandra Truth: The Doctor mentions a planet he had a picnic on, only for a passenger to accuse him of lying as it was destroyed thousands of years ago. The passenger is unaware that neither time or age are an impediment for the Doctor.
  • Changed My Jumper: Averted not only by Clara but also the Doctor. Not a Date here, no sir.
  • The Chanteuse: Foxes plays a singer in the lounge car.
  • Character Development:
    • The Doctor meets two soldiers on board the Orient Express, and for once he doesn't make a big deal about it. In fact, he scorns Quell for taking his "cushy" job. However, given that he's back to being rude and dismissive towards soldiers in the season finale, it's perhaps more a case of Depending on the Writer.
    • Clara's journey to becoming the Doctor's Distaff Counterpart continues as she learns that people like him often have only bad choices to pick from in order to save the day... just as she encountered with the Moon.
    • Clara's relationships with both the Doctor and Danny also take a step forward — for the Doctor — and backward — for Danny — as she begins lying to both of them in order to stay with the Doctor.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Discussed; Clara questions whether the Doctor's lifestyle is an addiction. The Doctor says he won't know if he's addicted unless he tries to give it up.note 
  • Cliffhanger Copout: The Doctor is in the middle of explaining to Clara that he can teleport everyone to safety when the train blows up (this is where there's a commercial break in the American run). Cut to Clara waking up on a beach with the Doctor explaining that the train exploded well after they had escaped; it turns out the Doctor teleported them into the TARDIS and tried to hack in, which Gus didn't like, so Gus detonated the train.
  • Closed Circle: An Invoked Trope by Gus. If everyone is on a train that's running through space, then no one can possibly leave. He even puts up a force around the TARDIS.
  • Cool Train: A space train modelled on the Orient Express, to be precise. Someone has been watching a little Galaxy Express 999. A sharp-eyed and meticulous fan has even devoted their efforts into revealing the full appearance of the titular train.
  • Cool Guns: The guards on the train use Artillery Luger pistols with wings attached. Unfortunately Guns Are Useless against the Foretold.
  • Computer Voice: Gus, the Express' computer system, has a chipper voice.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Twelfth Doctor wears a wing collar with a dark and fanciful bowtie — the attire that the First Doctor most often wore. His last incarnation also thought bowties were cool.
    • The Doctor has a cigarillo case containing jelly babies, which first appeared with the Second Doctor and were a favourite of the Fourth Doctor. Word of God here is that this was Peter Capaldi's idea.
    • When he finally sees the Foretold, the Doctor quips "Are you my mummy?"
    • In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it gag, Clara's phone displays a grey stick insect when the Doctor calls her. She described the Doctor as "a big grey-haired stick insect" in "Listen".
    • The Doctor exposits near the end that Gus had been trying to get him aboard the train for a while now and even called the TARDIS once. This explains the call at the end of "The Big Bang".
    • As noted above, the Doctor did try to ignore a potential threat once, in a very similar manner to how he here reassures himself that there's nothing to worry about. Well, 99% sure. Well...74%.
    • The Doctor's ability to survive without air longer than humans has been shown in several episodes.
  • Costume Porn: Everybody is wearing elaborate 1920s costumes. Special mention must go to Clara's elaborate art deco dress and flapper hairdo.
  • Destruction Equals Off-Switch: Zig-Zagged Trope; Clara suggests fetching the Doctor with his handy sonic screwdriver to get them into the sealed compartment, but Maise just smashes the lock's control panel with her shoe, which instantly opens the door. The door then closes behind them, and they can't get out because the panel is smashed. When the Doctor turns up with his sonic screwdriver, even he can't get them out.
  • Doing In the Wizard: The apparently supernatural cursed mummy is actually a very old and decrepit alien super-soldier with technology that makes it invisible and permeable.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: Captain Quell. When the Foretold comes for him, he empties his gun at it while knowing that it wouldn't do him any good (as he put it "What kind of soldier would I be, dying with bullets in my gun?"). After that, he calmly makes observations about it that further the Doctor's analysis, keeps his cool for far longer than Dr Moorhouse did, and finally decides there are worse ways to be die than being taken by the Foretold; "Blood pumping, enemy at the gates and all that."
  • Double Meaning: Apart from the "I love you" scene, there's also the Doctor pointing out to Clara that "sometimes the only choices you have to make are bad ones, but you still have to choose". Clara can choose to continue a life of dangerous adventure with the Doctor, or give him up for a mundane life with Danny. Either way she loses something. Additionally, Perkins notes that when the Doctor tells the Foretold that it's relieved, "he's not the only one."
  • The Dreaded: The Foretold elects the fear that anyone would feel if a mummy pops out of thin air and chases them down. The difference with this one is that no one else can see it.
  • Dress-Up Episode: The Doctor and Clara abandon their usual mode of dress and instead wear a 1920s-era tux and flapper outfit, respectively.
  • Einstein Hair: One of the scientists doing sciency things in the background has a crazy mob of hair.
  • Everyone Can See It: Maisie invokes this trope when she talks to Clara about her relationship with the Doctor and disbelieves Clara's statement that she's no longer friends (or, ahem, anything else) with the Doctor.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Anyone who's caught sight of the Mummy has exactly 66 seconds to live before getting killed.
  • Fake Kill Scare: The Doctor is trying to get the transporter to work, then the Orient Express explodes. Cut to the Doctor and Clara having escaped safely, and presumably everyone else.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Moorhouse gets as far as Bargaining before the mummy gets him. Quell makes it all the way to Acceptance.
  • The Flapper: Clara goes into full-out flapper mode.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Mrs. Pitt, the first victim, was being kept alive by an artificial life-support system. So, the Doctor eventually discovers, was the Foretold.
    • When Professor Moorhouse mentions "The right word could save your life", the Doctor thinks it's nonsense at first. In the end, he manages to disable the Foretold by saying "WE SURRENDER!"
    • When the Foretold attacks him, Captain Quell acts like he's facing an enemy soldier in battle, which turns out to be what the Foretold is, at least in its own mind.
    • Gus jettisons an entire compartment of the train to get the Doctor to stop talking with Clara, who is reading through reports of previous test groups and was about to find out that Gus had killed them when they failed to be useful.
    • Perkins ironically suggests they'll be Thrown Out the Airlock if they don't cooperate with Gus. Which is exactly what happens, except Gus airlocks other people until the Doctor cooperates.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: A non-adversarial application of this trope. Clara forgives the Doctor for what he did to her in "Kill the Moon" as she learns that the Doctor is well aware he must occasionally make decisions from a pool of bad options. This is a lesson she takes to heart as her journey towards becoming a Distaff Counterpart of the Doctor continues.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Clara's mobile phone image for the Doctor is a grey-haired stick insect (doubles as a Brick Joke dating back to "Listen").
  • Future Imperfect: The space Orient Express has supposedly been fitted out in the style of the original's heyday, correct in every detail. There are, however, a number of lapses: for instance, the in-flight entertainer's slow jazz ballad is actually a Queen number.
    • The Doctor also mentions that it's also a bit too large to be a real train, which can be interpreted as a subtle jab at the sets used, which have to be large for practical issues like moving cameras around.
  • A Good Way to Die: Captain Quell in his final moments before being taken by the Forsaken, almost word for word.
    "I think this is it. Still, suppose it's not a bad way to go. Blood pumping, enemy at the gates and all that. And thank you, Doctor, for waking me up. It's reaching for me. Hands on my head..."
  • Gorgeous Period Dress:
    • Clara rocks yet another period outfit. This one is 1920s flapper style.
    • Singer Foxes is no slouch either in her outfit.
  • Hard Light: Some of the people on the train are Hard Light Holograms, put there to add verisimilitude until the trap is sprung.
  • Have a Nice Death: Gus
    • "We apologise for any distress you may have just experienced. Grief counselling is available on request."
    • "Air will now be removed from the entire train. We hope you have enjoyed your journey on the Orient Express."
    • In an earlier version of the script, he follows this up be asking them to complete customer surveys. The Doctor says he likes the ambience, but isn't so keen on the dying.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: Of course not. The Doctor and Clara are Just Friends. Who are now breaking up. Despite still hanging around each other. Even Clara gets caught out on this when she refers to "dumping" the Doctor, which Danny says is impossible since the Doctor's not her boyfriend... right?
  • High-Class Glass: Gus's interface includes an image of a monocle. The passenger who rudely bumps into the Doctor is wearing a Steampunk version.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: By forcing the passengers to discover the mechanism behind the Foretold, Gus accidentally gives them the means to escape his trap with that very technology. Whoever installed him therefore went to all that trouble for nothing.
  • Holding Both Sides of the Conversation: When the Doctor begins to suspect there might be danger on the train, Clara's in bed (in another cabin), so he discusses the situation with himself. Specifically, his Fourth incarnation.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: The Doctor dismisses The Captain as useless and leaves his cabin to find Chief Engineer Perkins with all the paperwork he needs to look into the mystery.
  • The "I Love You" Stigma: A rare breaking of this with regards to the Doctor. While on the phone to Danny at the end and lying about leaving the Doctor, Clara says "I love you" but finds herself looking directly at the Doctor and saying it loud enough for him to hear. The Doctor is oblivious to this (he reacts assuming she has said it to Danny). Word of Saint Paul (the actress Jenna Coleman, speaking at fan conventions soon after the episode first aired and again since) confirms that Clara's "I love you" is actually addressed at the Doctor, not Danny.
  • I'm Your Worst Nightmare: Spoofed; the Doctor tells Captain Quell's he's his worst nightmare, then shows him the psychic paper. Quell groans in disgust, "A mystery shopper. Oh, great!" The Doctor is visibly thrown, but runs with it.
  • Immune to Bullets: The Foretold can safely ignore bullets on account of being intangible.
    Quell: For the record, it didn't even flinch.
  • Impairment Shot: When the Foretold attacks someone, their vision blurs until they're killed. It's deduced from this that the Foretold is out of phase with reality, and the blurring results from the Foretold shifting the person just enough for it to attack them.
  • In Harm's Way: The Doctor suspected that the Orient Express was a trap, but brings Clara there when he thinks she's going to leave him, presumably in the hope of evoking the Fire-Forged Friends trope. Perhaps more disturbing is that Clara knows this and decides to stay with the Doctor anyway, as both characters have become too addicted to their dangerous adventuring to quit.
  • In the Style of: Foxes does a version of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" as a slow thirties jazz song.
  • Intangible Man: The Foretold is slightly out of phase with reality. Bullets just pass through, and he walks right through the Doctor at one point.
  • Invincible Boogeymen: The Foretold. Effectively intangible, its touch kills instantly, and nobody else can see it except for its victims. As with most monsters on this show, it's Immune to Bullets - but also to all potential technobabble solutions. Once you're targeted, you have exactly sixty-six seconds to live before it catches up with you, amping up the horror and tension significantly
  • I Wished You Were Dead: Maisie admits to feeling like this about her grandmother, Mrs. Pitt, and feels guility for her death.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: At this point in the development of the Twelfth Doctor, his status as a "jerkass" has been established, though he gets better. As such, his stated rationale for undertaking the risks and sacrifices necessary to defeat Gus (and in forcing Clara to make the decision re: the Moon in the previous episode) is sound. As a result of coming to understand his point of view, not only does Clara fully forgive him and recommit to being with him (even to the extent of lying to her boyfriend), but the Doctor himself begins to be less jerkassy from this point forward.
  • The Juggernaut: Once the Foretold has decided to kill someone, it's unstoppable. It can teleport or simply walk through any obstacle, and is immune to attack. The only way to stop it is by telling it what it wants to hear.
  • Just Following Orders: The Foretold is a soldier and it was just doing as it was told, for thousands of years.
  • Just Friends: The episode begins with Clara and the Doctor supposedly in this mode, and later Maise gives the trope by name when Clara tells her there's nothing between them. No one buys it (not even, truth be told, Clara and the Doctor) and by the end of the episode their bond is, if anything, stronger than ever (even ignoring the ambiguous "I love you").
  • Just One Second Out of Sync: The reason only the victim can see the Mummy is that it is sixty-six seconds out of synch with the rest of the universe. It pushes its victim into this position.
  • Just Think of the Potential!: The people behind the Express' line purposefully stuffed it full of big-brained investigators and alien experts (including the Doctor) in order to find out what the Foretold is, and to make more like it.
  • Karma Houdini: Whoever set up the whole situation remains unidentified and unpunished at the end of the episode. Gus had failsafes up to self-destruction to make sure of it.
  • Kick the Dog: Gus kills the staff of the Express' kitchen to punish the Doctor for making a phone call when he should be researching the Foretold.
  • Lack of Empathy: Once again the Doctor aggravates someone (this time Perkins, Moorhouse and Quell as they're about to die, plus once again Clara) with his apparently callous response.
  • Lady Not-Appearing-In-This-Trailer: Clara, having stormed out last episode, was not shown in the Next Time preview or the posters to keep her return as much as secret as possible.
  • Leave No Witnesses: Whoever is behind Gus, the Computer Voice, has had several goes at trying to figure out the Foretold. When the Doctor finally does, Gus decides to pull a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.
  • Life Drinker: The Foretold drains the energy from its victims.
  • Liquid Assets: The Doctor is able to use a device to absorb Maisie's grief and transfer it into himself, thereby causing the Foretold to turn its attention to him.
  • Literary Allusion Title: To Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.
  • Longing Look: Clara gives the Doctor a couple of these. And while it's not a "look", the definition of the trope still applies as the Doctor gives a noticeable and physical reaction to hearing Clara apparently say "I love you" to Danny. Not being aware that Clara said those words while looking directly at the Doctor.
  • Love Confession: At the end of the episode, Clara finally spills it to the Doctor. Befitting the whole awkward Anchored Ship situation, the barely maintained denial that stretches all the way back into series 7 and the overall complicated nature of their relationship, she does it in a rather indirect fashion [1] and he responds with a brief, ambiguous reaction shot that might have contained the slightest flicker of a smile, but otherwise doesn't address it. However, the way she does it also officially kicks off the...
  • Love Triangle: Although technically in place for a while, given that Clara had been keeping the existence of the Doctor secret from Danny up until only a couple episodes earlier, with this episode she actively begins lying to Danny about no longer being with the Doctor. Explicitly illustrated with Clara's "I love you" moment that is spoken on the phone with Danny, who assumes it's addressed at him, but actually spoken to the Doctor (per Word of God). Not to mention the date-like aspects of the first act as Clara and the Doctor arrive on the train and before the jeopardy kicks in and the fact Maisie calls nonsense on Clara claiming to no longer being friends with the Doctor... despite boarding a space train with him.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: There are several scientists and experts on alien life forms and ancient mythology, but just the Doctor, Chief Engineer Perkins, Doctor Moorhouse and Captain Quell contribute to the mystery (with Clara and Maisie providing support, though Clara does the heavy lifting in getting Maisie to become a potential sacrificial lamb). The rest are just in the background doing backgroundy things.
  • Meaningful Echo: In the last episode, Lundvik told Courtney that "When you've grown up a bit, you'll realise that everything doesn't have to be nice, some things are just bad.". Clara writes her off as a cynic, thinking that the Doctor perfectly knew the "right" choice and just withheld it from her. In this episode, one of the "bad" choices again turns out better — Just as the Moon egg hatches harmlessly, the Doctor manages to save Maisie after all. He then explains that he genuinely didn't know the outcome and that, echoing Lundvik's statement, "Sometimes the only choices you have are bad ones, but you still have to choose." These statements also directly echo the dilemma of the preceding episode that had led Clara to consider leaving the Doctor in the first place.
  • Meet Cute: The Doctor quizzing Prof. Moorhouse about the Foretold, which begins with an offering of jelly babies.
  • Meta Guy: Maisie comes very close to this when she basically points out to Clara what has been made obvious to the audience: that Clara and the Doctor picked a weird way to essentially break up, by going on a romantic trip on the Orient Express.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Clara comes out to knock on the door of the Doctor's sleeping compartment mere seconds after he'd paused outside hers, dithered over whether or not to knock, decided not to do so and headed off down the corridor.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: Briefly played with in classic Who tradition, but quickly averted. The Doctor is arrested by Quell when he finds out he's not supposed to be on the train, saying that for all he knows the Doctor is the killer. Just then there's another murder, and Quell immediately releases the Doctor.
  • Morality Pet: After Clara vents at the Doctor for making her his accomplice in luring Maisie to the lab as an Unwitting Test Subject, the Doctor suddenly comes up with an Indy Ploy that will risk his own life instead. (Although the Doctor claims later that this was his plan all along, this is left ambiguous. However, given that he makes the claim in the middle of a brutally honest confession that he didn't know if the plan would save Maisie and would have just moved on to the next victim if it had failed, it's hard to see what he'd gain by lying.)
  • Mr. Fixit: Perkins the engineer displays an impressive array of technical knowledge, guessing at the mummy's phasing ability and suggesting that the Doctor replace a couple of the TARDIS' drive stacks.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Clara's period dress shows off a lot of leg and chest and back. Still quite conservative, but considering Clara generally covers herself up neck-to-toe, it's a noticeable exception to her usual rule.note  She also sports a fashionable and period-accurate silk pajama outfit at one point, which again is a sexier look than she usually sports on the show.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • When Perkins declines the Doctor's offer to join him on the TARDIS:
    Perkins: That job could, ah, change a man.
    The Doctor: Yes, it does. Frequently.
    • At one point the sarcophagus opens ominously to reveal... bubble wrap and blinking lights, in a self-deprecating jab toward "The Ark in Space", which infamously used green bubble wrap as a(n extremely bad) special effect.
    • When the Doctor introduces himself, Captain Quell asks what kind of Doctor he is instead of the expected, "Doctor who?" The Doctor says he's not asked that question enough.
    • Whenever the Doctor is asked what he's a doctor of, the customary answer is "Everything." Not this time; this time he goes with "intestinal parasites".
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer has no sign of Clara, as per her telling the Doctor to clear off out of her life in "Kill the Moon".
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The Foretold is an ancient alien Cyborg with the appearance of a Mummy that leeches energy from its victims' bodies like a vampire. Lampshaded by Perkins, who quips "So... not just a mummy, but a vampire as well?" when the Doctor observes its method of killing.
  • Noble Demon: The Foretold. While it's a scary monster that kills people to absorb their life energy, it makes a point of targeting those who didn't have much time left first, and gives them a quick and painless death, as opposed to the horrible suffering their conditions would have caused otherwise.
  • Not a Date: At least that's what the Doctor and Clara try to suggest to each other. It's a "last hurrah", just one last outing among friends who are terminating their friendship... right? Because friendship terminations often include romantic-tinged night caps with champagne in a darkened rail car corridor after Clara spends part of the preceding scene hanging onto the Doctor's arm while he impresses her with stories of alien worlds. While she doesn't go so far as to call it a date, Maisie nonetheless pretty much points out to Clara that that's what it still looks like to her. Danny isn't entirely convinced either.
  • Number of the Beast: It takes 66 seconds for the Foretold to kill its victims.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
    • The Doctor saved the entire passenger list of the Orient Express (minus those who had already been killed by the Mummy or Gus by that point), while Clara was unconscious from oxygen depravation.
    • A semi-romantic (in the classic sense) case: rather than let her just sleep it off in the TARDIS, the Doctor is implied to have carried Clara down to the beach, covered her up with a blanket and waited with her until she awoke to the sight of a rather pretty sunset or sunrise with a cool-looking alien city in the background. And it's implied he stays with her the entire time (even as someone else is said to be poking about inside the TARDIS).
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: The tablets used by Perkins and the scientists are iPads in white cases.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Professor Moorhouse starts describing the Foretold (which is coming for him), the Doctor implores him to give him more details so that he could save "The next one".
    Moorhouse: The next one? You mean, you can't save me!?
  • Ontological Mystery: Many of the Orient Express trappings vanish when the Doctor deduces they've been brought together to figure out what the Foretold really is. Gus admits that the Doctor is right.
  • Painting the Medium: Whenever the Mummy appears, a countdown appears on-screen to let the viewer know exactly how long the victim has to live. The clock stays in place between cuts, giving the viewer the exact amount of time.
  • The Professor: Professor Moorhouse in particular, but the train is absolutely full of experts and dignified academics.
  • Pun-Based Title: The episode is named after Murder on the Orient Express, which happens to be a Agatha Christie novel. Said novel was mentioned when the author appeared in person in Series 4.
  • Quieting the Unquiet Dead: The Doctor deduces from the various clues that the "mummy" is actually a soldier kept alive by ancient regenerative tech, and sends him back to rest by saying "I surrender!" and then saluting the ancient soldier before sending him on his way to the afterlife.
  • Race Against the Clock: 66 seconds. Start the clock.
  • Real Time: Applies to all of the Foretold's attacks except the one that's interrupted by a commercial break, and the one that's reset when the Doctor diverts the attack onto himself. note 
  • Recycled In Space: Murder on the Orient Express meets The Mummy IN SPACE!
  • Red Herring:
    • Perkins being a shady character, who somehow, despite being "just" a chief engineer, has easy access to all the documents of the people on board the train, and seems a bit more clever than he lets on. When shady goings on continue, the Doctor keeps eyeing him, but in the end he turns out perfectly innocent.
    • The sarcophagus Clara and Maisie are locked up with, which suspiciously opens when the mummy attacks. It doesn't actually contain the Monster of the Week; in fact, it's there so they have somewhere to put it once they've caught it. Even then, it's never actually used for that purpose, or any purpose.
  • Refusal of the Call:
    • The Doctor invites Perkins to become a companion, but despite having the qualifications of an excellent companion (intelligence, bravery, and Mr. Fixit skills) he refuses (Frank Skinner, who played the part, asked if they could film an alternative version where he accepts).
    • Averted by Clara, who spends much of the episode preparing to do this at last... only to change her mind and give in to the addiction.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder:
    • The Doctor has a scene near the beginning where he's talking to himself, and calls himself out for answering his own rhetorical question.
    • Later, the Doctor asks Captain Quell how many people have to die before Quell stops looking the other way. Shortly thereafter the Foretold claims its third victim, and Quell says:
      It turns out it's three. The amount of people that had to die before I stopped looking the other way.
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • The Doctor says he constantly has to make bad choices, and then picks the least worse, when he's lamenting whether he's a good man or not.
    • The above discussion also addresses the sadistic choice the Doctor saddled Clara with in the preceding episode, which led her to want to end their relationship.
  • Self-Deprecation: Clara is relieved the sarcophagus is filled with bubble wrap.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: As a failsafe, Gus takes out the entire train when the Doctor tries to hack him at the end.
  • Sequel Hook: Gus and his boss have gotten away with information on how the Foretold worked, and they're still out there. note 
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Captain Quell, the only one to survive when his unit was bombed. He has PTSD, which makes him a target for the Foretold.
  • Sherlock Scan: The Doctor picks apart Captain Quell very neatly by the items in his office.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Maisie isn't buying Clara's claim that her relationship with the Doctor is over.
    • Surprisingly, although in a platonic context (as he makes a point of pointing out the Doctor isn't Clara's boyfriend first) Danny has a moment of this where he actually suggests to Clara that she doesn't have to end things with the Doctor. (This backfires when Clara not only decides not do, she creates a Love Triangle scenario in the process.)
  • Ship Tease: The episode has become infamous for having so much Doctor/Clara teasing that several reviews and newspaper articles were written about it - and the actress who plays Clara has made statements at conventions confirming at least one shippy moment as totally intentional, while the episode's writer has commented publicly about the sexual tension on display during the hallway nightcap "to the last hurrah" sequence (the sultry music on the soundtrack during the scene doesn't help).
  • Shout-Out:
    • There are murders on the Orient Express, and the presence of many of the characters on board was not nearly as coincidental as assumed.
    • The story has some conceptual similarities to the film Horror Express, which was set in the 1930s and had an apparent prehistoric apeman, that was actually an alien monster, killing people on a Russian express train.
    • A space team who think they're there for an innocuous purpose discovering they're actually being used as live bait to capture and bring back a highly efficient alien killer for study and duplication was the plot of the first Alien film.
    • Flying steam trains IN SPACE originated with Galaxy Express 999.
  • The Sleepless: The Doctor is shown still working on the mystery after Perkins and Professor Moorhouse have fallen asleep in their chairs.
  • Softer and Slower Cover: Foxes sings a mid-tempo jazz version of "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen.
  • Some Kind Of Forcefield: The air ripples when Clara tries to get to the TARDIS.
  • Space Is Cold: A cart full of people that get jettisoned into space freeze over.
  • Stealth Pun: The episode features a jazz version of the Queen song "Don't Stop Me Now", now which of their albums does it come from?note 
  • Stepford Smiler: The Doctor is annoyed at how Clara keeps trying to smile despite being sad (as this is supposed to be their last adventure). He says it's like two emotions at once; some kind of malfunction.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The Doctor feels this way among the crew, despite them being chosen for their brainy expert knowledge. Perkins proves otherwise.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • During his first conversation with the Doctor, Moorhouse explains why he became so fascinated by Alien Mythology: "Earth legends are such dry, dusty affairs, and always fiction. But up here, in the stars, anything's possible. That's why I chose this field, to be honest, hoping one day I might meet a real monster." When the Foretold really does come for him, he admits the experience is "not nearly as rewarding as I thought it might be."
    • In-Universe, when the Doctor hopes that he might be the next victim, Perkins warns him not to even say that. Maisie is the next victim, but the Doctor changes things so he is instead.
  • That Liar Lies: When the Doctor says he's been on a (long gone) planet where the express is whizzing past, one of the passengers points out it's been gone for thousands of years. Said passenger doesn't know that the Doctor is a time traveller and has thus actually been there, so the Doctor was being called out on being a liar for telling the truth. Ironic, as "the Doctor lies" was Rule #1 for his Eleventh incarnation.
  • There Are No Coincidences: A collection of some of mankind's (and one alien) most clever big brains regarding aliens and mythologies on board one train? Contrived Coincidence? The Doctor doesn't think so. Even the Doctor's presence isn't a coincidence. Gus has deliberately sought him out, and the Doctor has deliberately walked into his trap to get Clara to stay with him, or at least share one last adventure.
  • This Is Reality: The Doctor says they're not in mythology or some other fiction when he convinces Moorhouse that finding the right word won't let him survive.
  • Thriller on the Express: The story takes place on the Orient Express IN SPACE!.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailer, not to mention the description for the episode, suggests that Clara has either left the Doctor already or will by the end. In fact, she decides to stick around.
  • Trap Is the Only Option: The Doctor mentions that Gus has tried to lure him to the Orient Express before. If he hasn't taken the bait in over a millennium, he must have suspected something was wrong.
  • Thrown Out The Air Lock: The fate of the Express' kitchen staff is a freeze out in space.
  • Touch of Death: The Foretold kills whoever it touches. It's played with a bit, as it cannot kill someone until the necessary 66 seconds has elapsed.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Noticeable between the Doctor and Clara in the first act, especially during the "night cap" scene. Word of God (the episode writer) recognized this. Not helped by the fact the episode solidifies the Love Triangle between the Doctor, Clara and Danny, and another Word of God (this time the actress) confirming that Clara's "I love you" at the end of the episode was spoken to the Doctor, not to Danny. That and the fact Clara spends most of the episode in a Ms. Fanservice-friendly flapper costume (except for one scene where she's shown in silk pyjamas.
  • The Unreveal: When the Doctor tries to determine who was behind all this nonsense, it triggers a failsafe and the train explodes.
  • Villain Teleportation: Justified as a teleporter is indeed being used by the Foretold.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: When the Doctor confronts the Foretold, he finds that the writing on the scroll is inscribed on its chest. Since there's no good reason to duplicate the writing, he realizes that the scroll isn't a scroll at all; it's a flag.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Appalled at the Doctor's callous reaction to the deaths, Perkins wonders if he's a genius or just really arrogant.
    • Clara calls the Doctor out for knowing that their train ride was going to go bad and not telling her.
    • Clara is not happy that the Doctor made her lie to Maisie to trick her into entering the Scientist's car.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: This turns out to be the story behind the Foretold; a machine keeps it alive so it can continue fighting its war no matter how long it takes. It seems rather relieved to be told "We surrender".
  • Will They or Won't They?:
    • After the attempt at Anchored Ship (if not outright Ship Sinking) in the season premiere, and a couple of hints that the ship might weigh anchor in subsequent episodes, this was the episode that got fans - both shippers and non-shippers - looking at this trope with regards to the Doctor and Clara, due largely to the unexpected (per Word of God - it caught even the episode writer by surprise) UST between the two in this episode.
    • Within the plot of the episode itself, the trope applies as the subplot of the episode is whether the Doctor and Clara will stay together as travelling companions or split up.
  • With a Foot on the Bus: Clara spends most of the episode planning to board the bus, and at least once appears to be about to climb aboard (after she's forced to lie to Maisie), but ultimately decides not to.
  • Wormsign: The Foretold's arrival is preceded by the lights in the cabin dimming.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • Once Gus has all the data he needs on the Foretold from the Doctor, he attempts to kill the remaining passengers on the train.
    • Gus himself was given orders to self-destruct if anyone tries to hack him for information concerning his superiors.
    • A more cynical explanation of the Foretold targeting the unhealthy is that it was set up to drain people on its own side who could no longer fight.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: The first few victims die surrounded by people they're futilely trying to convince of the mummy's presence.
  • Zipping Up the Bodybag: The cook after he's killed.

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