Is the Doctor an Addiction?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Clara stays with the Doctor, and that’s troubling

This episode and “Kill the Moon” should really be viewed as a two parter. While unrelated in story, this episode deals with the fallout of “Kill the Moon”, and allows the Doctor and Clara to arrive at a dangerous understanding after the rushed ending of the previous episode. Coupled with a fantastic murder mystery? I grow weary of saying this repeatedly this season, but this episode will rank as one of new Who’s best ever.

The Mummy

The mummy was a great monster. Dead simple - when you see the mummy (or rather, when the mummy chooses you), a 66 second timer begins, and when it hits 0, you are dead. The key element in this is the on screen timer, which remains visible whenever the mummy appears even if the action on screen is entirely unrelated. The Doctor might be having a conversation with another passenger, and the timer is relentlessly ticking. And once the passengers are aware of the mummy, the emotions of dealing with the inevitable lead to great character moments.

Of course, the existence of the mummy brings out the investigative spirit of this Doctor. He quickly cases the passengers on the train and determines that all of them were drawn together for a purpose. When it’s revealed that the premise is a lie, and that an entity known as Gus is in control and wants to know how the mummy works, the Doctor is all business. We see shades of Dr. House in the methodical and cold way that the Doctor goes about collecting information in the 66 second intervals that he has to work with, while the mummy is visible to its next victim. This all logically makes sense, but it’s stunningly cold.

It turns out at the end that the mummy was a soldier forced to continue fighting even after death, until the enemy surrendered or was defeated. This continues the soldier motif that Series 8 has been playing up, and introduces another potential antagonist, the enigmatic Gus, who knows what the TARDIS is and has the Doctor’s phone number. I’m not sure whether it’s all related to Missy or not, but it’s an interesting development all the same.

Clara and the Doctor

At the end of “Kill the Moon”, Clara was leaving. In the beginning of “Mummy on the Orient Express”, Clara is less emotional but still set on this being her last trip. By the end of the episode, Clara commits to continue traveling with the Doctor — and it’s unsettling as hell. This might be the first time we’re forced to admit that traveling with the Doctor is unhealthy, that it’s an addiction. And one thing is clear: Clara’s addicted. She doesn’t want to be, she’s lying to her boyfriend to hide it, but she can’t turn down the experience to travel with the Doctor.

The crazy thing is, it’s never been so obvious that a companion should leave. The Doctor lies to Clara repeatedly on this trip, deliberately playing her emotions in order to keep her from leaving. He brings her on a dangerous adventure, knowing full well the risks. He emotionally manipulates her to prove a point… twice: telling Clara to lie to Maisie, and joking about the fate of the passengers after Gus blows the train. The Doctor might mean well, but he’s never been so willfully manipulative to his own companion… until now.

Manipulation has always been a facet of the Doctor’s personality, but this Doctor is the first to demonstrate that the companion isn’t excepted from who the Doctor is. We really should have noticed from the way the Tenth Doctor treated Martha Jones for the longest time, or Mickey. Most companions of the Doctor have been special for the Doctor. Rose, obviously. Amy for the connection she forged with Eleven at regeneration, and Clara (for Eleven, at least). But Eleven and Clara got off on the wrong foot, and they’re continuing on the wrong foot — and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to end very well for Clara.

Stray Observations

  • Gus is totally the Master, right?

  • I was afraid that the musical guest actress would be annoying but it actually turned out quite nicely.

  • The random engineer who turns down the TARDIS was really fishy.