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Mummy on the Orient Express was the eighth episode of series 8 of Doctor Who.

It picked up a hanging plot thread posed in the Eleventh Doctor's era from TV: The Big Bang – a phone call placed to the TARDIS which initially appeared to be a request for help, but carried a sinister subtext veiled beneath a front that would draw out the Doctor into a trap.

Mathieson was approached to write the script while working on Flatline. He was given the title, chosen by Steven Moffat, which led Mathieson to look to Agatha Christie for inspiration. Frank Skinner's character was based on a friend of his, Perkins, a "train buff" from whom he acquired information about the Orient Express. The original idea for the script had far more content, with the Express visiting the "Seven Wonders of the Universe", but this was removed due to time constraints.

Brian Minchin expressed early on to Mathieson that the Mummy might force the episode to be broadcast at a later time, as the BBC judged it to be too scary. Minchin had repeatedly tried to have it shown in the series trailer, but the corporation would not allow it. (DWM 478)


After their previous trip to the moon ended on a sour note, the Doctor decides to take Clara on a final trip in the TARDIS - "our last hoorah!" The destination? There have been many trains that took the name Orient Express, but there's only ever been one that traverses space!

However, they find their luxury trip may take an unexpected turn when they discover there's a supernatural passenger...


In a luxurious dining car of a train, Mrs Pitt, an elderly lady, spots a man "dressed as a mummy monster", at which point a clock starts counting down in the corner of the screen. She wants him out of her dining car, but no one else seems to see him. She calls a guard over and tries to get him to throw the man out of her dining car, but he can't see it either. As the clock reaches 6 seconds, the Mummy gets closer and closer to Mrs Pitt. At 5 seconds, it has its face in hers. At 4 seconds, her granddaughter, Maisie Pitt, is starting to worry. At 3 seconds, everyone in the car is staring. At 2 seconds, Mrs Pitt seems to be having a panic attack. At 1 second, the Mummy has his hands on her forehead. Then she collapses, dead.

The Doctor lands the TARDIS in the train's baggage car. He steps out with Clara. Clara is dressed in a 1920s outfit and the Doctor in a tuxedo. "There were many trains to take the name Orient Express," he tells her, "but only one in space." He opens the door to reveal the dining car, where there is a singer performing a jazz version of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now". The Doctor ushers Clara inside. As they look out a window at a nebula, the Doctor begins to tell Clara about the various planets that used to be there, thousands of years ago. Clara interrupts, apologising for her recent anger towards the Doctor. She says she could never hate him, but intends this to be their last trip together. As the Doctor mentions having had a picnic on one of the now-gone planets, Maisie overhears and calls him a liar. She says he must be, as that planet has not existed for a thousand years. Visibly distraught, she is gently ushered back to her room by guards. Clara asks Quell, the Captain, what happened and he explains Mrs Pitt's sudden death, before escorting Maisie out.

Later, while sharing a nightcap outside their cabins, Clara and the Doctor debate whether or not there is anything suspicious about the old woman's death. Clara begins to have doubts about leaving the Doctor when he makes her realise that when this, their "last hurrah", is over, she is unlikely to ever see him again. During the night, the Doctor ponders the story of Mrs Pitt's death and the mummy which only she could see, becoming increasingly suspicious of it. Clara meanwhile is on the phone with Danny, discussing this as her last trip with the Doctor. He is relieved that at least the train is safe, which Clara seems somewhat unsure of, but nevertheless confirms. The Doctor leaves his room, stopping at Clara's door. He almost knocks, but instead goes on, leaving her to sleep. As soon as he disappears down the hall, Clara emerges from her room and goes to the Doctor's door. She knocks, but not being there he, of course, does not answer.

The Doctor starts to poke around the engine room, where he examines the chair that Mrs Pitt had died in. It's then that he meets Perkins chief engineer aboard the Orient Express. Perkins tells him that they think something else might be responsible for the deaths of some of the passengers.

Having changed back into her dress, Clara again exits her room. She sees Maisie, who is coming down the hall with a determined look and a high heel shoe in hand. Clara greets her, then follows her. Maisie asks the computer for access to a room, and the computer replies, "Call me Gus. I'm afraid this door can only be opened by executive order."

Maisie says that that's the room where they're keeping Mrs Pitt's body and that she should be allowed to see it. Clara agrees, then tells her that she has a friend who's really good with locks and he can open it for her. Instead, Maisie smashes the computer with her high heel shoe and the door slides open.

The Doctor has sought out a passenger named Professor Emile Moorhouse, professor of alien mythology. The Doctor asks him about the Foretold - a mythical mummy. Moorhouse tells the Doctor various bits of information, including the saying: "They that bear the Foretold's stare have sixty-six seconds to live", and that only they can see the creature when it does appear to them.

At that moment, in the kitchen, one of the chefs catches sight of the Foretold and screams. Alerting the other kitchen crew, who, of course, can't see it, the chef grabs a knife and waves it around. The chef backs up towards the freezer and locks himself in it, seeing that the Foretold is on the other side of the door and can't get inside. But when he turns around, he comes face to face with - the Foretold, who has somehow teleported inside the freezer. As the clock ticks to 1 second, the Foretold wraps its hands around the chef, who collapses.

The Doctor confronts Quell about the Foretold - using his psychic paper to masquerade as a mystery shopper to get information out of him - but Quell does not believe him. Perkins then gives the Doctor a large number of documents and information. They meet up with Moorhouse in the engineer's room to watch footage of Mrs Pitt's death and note the details.

Maisie and Clara get into the room, but Mrs Pitt's body isn't there. The door has closed and locked behind them. Trapped, for now, they enter into a conversation about why Clara is leaving the Doctor; Maisie doesn't believe Clara's claims that her friendship with the Doctor is over. "You got on a train with him," Maisie points out. The Doctor calls Clara, who tells him that there's a strange sarcophagus at the back of the room. It opens up, but there's nothing in there but bubble wrap. Captain Quell then apprehends the Doctor believing he is the one causing the deaths - he's called Head Office, and there's no mystery shopper.

The Doctor deduces the truth about the Orient Express

The Doctor deduces that the passengers have been gathered to study the Foretold, as some are revealed to be hard-light holograms.

The Doctor and Quell go to a different cabin, where they find a guard writhing on the ground, shooting his gun at an invisible thing in front of him. The guard drops dead and Quell releases the Doctor, who then deduces that the passengers are all experts and scientists in specific fields of study. They have been gathered here to study the Foretold. The inside of the room turns into a white laboratory, and most of the passengers disappear - holograms, says the Doctor, to make up the numbers. The train comes to a stop and the computer Gus reveals that the Doctor is right, and the whole Orient Express cruise was to find out more about the Foretold. Specifically; "Your goal is to ascertain the Foretold's true nature, probe for weaknesses with a view to capture, after which we will reverse engineer its abilities". Gus reveals that an ancient scroll is what causes the mummy to appear.

Moorhouse suddenly catches sight of the Foretold, and the Doctor tells Perkins to start the clock. Perkins sets his stopwatch for 66 seconds, and the Doctor asks Moorhouse to describe the Foretold in as much detail as he can. Moorhouse does just that, but a dead man can tell no tales, and Moorhouse collapses, as have the other victims of the Mummy.

Clara calls the Doctor to tell him about some documents they found about the Orient Express. Gus tells the Doctor to terminate the call. When he refuses, Gus de-pressurises the kitchen room. Looking out the window, those in the laboratory see the lifeless bodies of the kitchen staff floating in space, and Gus warns the team that he will do this to another, random, car if someone disobeys his orders again. The Doctor ends the call.

After looking at the medical history of the previous victims, they figure out that the Foretold is targeting weaker passengers first: Mrs Pitt was over a hundred years old, the chef had a blood disorder, the guard had replacement lungs, and the Professor suffered from post-traumatic stress after a car accident. Quell reluctantly tells the Doctor that he too suffers from post-traumatic stress following war service, and the Doctor confirms to him that he will be next. It isn't long before Quell sees the Mummy, too. The Doctor tells Perkins to start the clock. Quell describes the Foretold as much as he can and dies, like the others, in 66 seconds. Perkins realises that the reason it takes exactly that long is because the creature is in phase, and it takes "about a minute" for something to come out of phase. Therefore, the Foretold has some kind of technology allowing it to do so.

Perkins reports to the Doctor that Maisie is probably next because of her trauma from Mrs Pitt's death, and so the Doctor calls Clara to inform her that Maisie is next on the list. He tells her to bring Maisie to the car that he's in and that Gus has agreed to bring her there. Clara is greatly upset by this, telling the Doctor that she can't just lead Maisie to her death, but the Doctor, claiming that there is no other solution convinces her, though very reluctantly, to lie to Maisie and claim that the Doctor can help her.

When Clara brings Maisie to his car, she realises that the Doctor had been hoping for trouble - Gus had tried to entice him on board before - and she is, naturally, furious after having trusted him to take them for a simple holiday. At that point Maisie screams and points, the Foretold is staring at her coldly in the doorway. The Doctor fiddles with Maisie's mind and scans her for her emotions of grief and trauma. When he implants those same emotions on himself, the Foretold now believes that he is Maisie.

Foretold Approaches Twelve

The Foretold approaches the Doctor.

The Doctor sees the Foretold and Perkins starts the clock. The Doctor deduces that the scroll is actually a flag which the mummy is protecting and that the mummy itself is actually an ancient soldier augmented with stealth technology to allow it to kill only its victims by pulling them out of phase. The Doctor realises that the Foretold is killing the passengers because it believes the war it fought in is still going on and with one second left, the Doctor shouts; "We surrender!"

The Foretold suddenly stops, the tech inside it deactivates and it comes out of phase. With everyone now able to see it, it wearily raises its arm in a salute. "You're relieved, soldier," says the Doctor quietly. With that, the Foretold shrivels into dust, and the Doctor picks up the tech that powered it from the dust. He starts to fiddle with it. Gus' voice comes over the speakers again, congratulating them on solving the mystery, before telling them that no survivors are needed. "Ah, well, there's a shocker," the Doctor mutters. As Gus starts to let the air out of the cabin, the Doctor fiddles with the device. Clara and the other humans collapse. From space, the train is seen exploding.

Sometime later, Clara wakes up on a rocky beach covered with a picnic blanket, with the TARDIS nearby. The Doctor, writing in the sand with a stick, greets her. He says that he was able to teleport all the passengers into the TARDIS, using the Mummy's animation device. He then tried to hack Gus to find out who had created him, but this triggered a security measure, causing the train to blow up so no evidence could be discovered. Then he dropped everyone off safely here, on the nearest civilised planet.

Clara is impressed that the Doctor managed to save every survivor, and asks him why he didn't tell her straight away what he was planning to do with Maisie. The Doctor explains that he couldn't risk Gus getting tipped off about his plan and trying to stop it. Clara then asks him if he was just pretending to be heartless. The Doctor pauses for a bit, before asking "Would you like to think that about me? Would that make it easier?" He then expresses sadness at having failed to save Moorhouse and Quell and admits that he wasn't even sure if he could have saved Maisie. He states that if that plan also had failed, he would have gone on to the next passenger, and then the next, and so forth until he had found a way to defeat the Foretold. He tells Clara that sometimes, all your available choices are bad ones, but in the end, you still have to choose.

Back in the TARDIS, Perkins compliments the Doctor on his ship and tells him that a couple of the drive stacks need replacing. The Doctor implies an invitation for the train engineer to travel with him, so he can replace the drive stacks. Perkins politely declines, stating "that job could change a man," to which the Doctor agrees. He and the Doctor bid each other goodbye.

Clara, reflecting back on their previous conversation, asks the Doctor if he loves being the man who has to make the impossible choices all the time. The Doctor responds that it is his life. Clara then asks if it is an addiction to him, and he answers that you can't truly tell if something is an addiction until you have tried giving it up, something she notices he never has.

Clara then receives a call from Danny, and he asks her if it that last adventure of hers is over. Clara, having decided to forgive the Doctor, lies to Danny and tells him "mission accomplished". She then tells the Doctor that Danny just told her that he is fine with them travelling around, and so is she. The Doctor, happily surprised by her sudden change of heart, asks her if she is serious, and Clara answers that she wants to see more planets right now. The Doctor excitedly tells her about "one that's made entirely of shrubs" and plots a course for it. The two pull the dematerialisation lever together.


Uncredited Cast[]


General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

Uncredited crew[]

Millennium FX[]



The Doctor[]

  • The Doctor keeps jelly babies in a cigarette case about his person.
  • The Doctor's formal suit includes a black bow-tie scarf, which harkens back to the formal bow-tie that the Eleventh Doctor wore.



  • The Doctor mentioned three planets when looking out at the Magellan black hole, which according to him used to be "planets as far as the eye could see". One of these was the planet Obsidian which was in perpetual darkness.
  • Another of these planets was one made completely of shrubs, to which the Doctor later offered to take Clara.
  • The third was the planet Thedion Four, which had constant acid rain. The Doctor said that he "had a lovely picnic there once, wearing a gas mask." It was destroyed a thousand years earlier.


  • The countdown for the Foretold to kill is 66 seconds long. This is a shortened version of the Devil’s number, 666.

Story notes[]

  • Prior to this story, the televised stories The Robots of Death, Terror of the Vervoids, and The Unicorn and the Wasp used elements from the works of Agatha Christie, with the latter also featuring the author as a character.
  • Starting its broadcast at 20:35, this episode has the latest transmission time of a Doctor Who television story.
  • The Radio Times programme listing was accompanied by a small colour head-and-shoulders shot of Frank Skinner as Perkins, with the accompanying caption "Doctor Who / 8.35 p.m. / Frank Skinner plays the chief engineer on an intergalactic luxury train".
  • Following the episode's first broadcast on BBC One, the BBC released an official music video of Foxes' complete performance of "Don't Stop Me Now," including clips from this episode, plus footage of Foxes performing the song not included in the episode, but also past and future Series 8 episodes. This is the first time the BBC has issued a formal music video for a song featured in Doctor Who, notwithstanding videos based upon the Doctor Who Theme created for a DVD release. Foxes herself uploaded a second video consisting solely of footage of her performing the song on the set, without any cutaways and featuring the mix heard on screen as opposed to the more robust mix used for the main music video.
  • This episode marks the first time since the 1996 TV movie that the Doctor has offered anyone jelly babies on screen, though he makes no vocal reference to them. They have been offered/referenced twice before in that time by the Saxon Master in TV: The Sound of Drums, and the Eleventh Doctor's ganger as it ran through the Doctor's previous incarnations in TV: The Almost People.
  • The Doctor's description of how he dealt with the situation on the Orient Express bears very strong resemblance to the pragmatic medical technique known as triage, appropriately fitting a character who refers to himself as "the Doctor", and the Twelfth Doctor's own pragmatic approach at handling a crisis.
  • This story is one of few examples in Doctor Who of a non-diegetic visual appearing throughout the story. The timer shown during the Foretold's attack can't be seen by any of the characters, and is shown purely for the audience's benefit.
  • Jamie Mathieson revealed on a Reddit Q and A that the Doctor having a cigarette case full of jelly babies was Peter Capaldi's idea.
  • Steven Moffat recalled that The Big Bang had ended with the Doctor being summoned to deal with “an Egyptian goddess loose on the Orient Express, in space”. He hadn't intended it to be anything more than a one-line gag, but it now inspired the title.
  • Jamie Mathieson was wary of the constraints that a mummy narrative would impose. Mummies were often depicted as slow-moving and bound to their sarcophagi, which would be particularly problematic in a story confined to a train. Indeed, he felt that these limitations were part of the reason that mummies had enjoyed only occasional bouts of popularity, compared to evergreen movie monsters like vampires and werewolves. To overcome his concerns, Mathieson conceived the Foretold as a type of mummy which could be perceived only by its victims, and its sarcophagus as something other than what it appeared.
  • Jamie Mathieson initially imagined that the Foretold's bandages would be able to operate independently, but this element was eventually dropped.
  • The episode comprised Block Four of season eight alongside Kill the Moon.
  • The episode was double-banked with Flatline, requiring Clara's role to be minimalised so that Jenna Coleman could film that episode.
  • In the original script, the space train was touring the Seven Wonders of the Universe, starting with the ruined Fortress of Riskar. This element was inspired by the Egyptian cruise in Death on the Nile. Captain Quell was originally named Mr. Carnival. Quell was the name of a man who claimed to be a military general, but was in fact Erasmus Such, the train's owner, in disguise. It transpired that Such was dying of a wasting disease, and he had opened a portal to the long-lost city of Mere on Riskar in order to summon the Foretold. Teleported to Mere, Clara and Maisie discovered that the Foretold were actually Riskarians who had become dependent on a protective suit which could prolong life indefinitely; Such aimed to acquire this technology. The suits could manipulate the power of probability and, in fact, all of the Foretold's victims aboard the Express had been killed due to the advent of extremely unlikely circumstances. With more and more Foretold coming through the portal from Mere, the passengers reprogrammed the navigation computer to take the Express to the haunted planet Cromlaw. The Doctor then teleported the passengers to the TARDIS, while the dark matter monsters which infested Cromlaw attacked the train, causing it to explode. The probability element was dropped for being too reminiscent of the Final Destination films. It was also agreed that the dark matter monsters detracted from the Forsaken, so the Cromlaw element was abandoned. Voices of the Damned, actually the Riskarians trapped inside their survival suits for millennia, were now heard pleading for help. The Doctor used his sonic screwdriver to hack the suits, allowing the Damned to finally die.
  • Mrs. Pitt was originally named Mrs. Fanshaw and was unrelated to Maisie Pitt, who was originally a professor of archaeology. At one point, she was Maisie's mother.
  • Jamie Mathieson's premise had been that the Doctor and Clara were on holiday, inspiring a running gag that involved both time travellers investigating the mysterious goings-on while trying to keep their activities secret from each other.
  • Paul Wilmshurst was well-versed in Egyptology, having lived in Cairo for a time as a child.
  • June Hudson was considered for Mrs. Pitt.
  • It was Steven Moffat's idea that the sixty-six second countdown appear onscreen. Consequently, Jamie Mathieson amended these sequences to ensure that the timing was authentic.
  • Foxes' role was originally filled by a jazz trio.
  • Paul Wilmshurst had previously worked with Frank Skinner on A Little Bit of Elvis and Frank Skinner on Frank Skinner.
  • Foxes' involvement came about after she met Steven Moffat at a BBC Worldwide Showcase event in Liverpool and spoke enthusiastically about the series.
  • For the Foretold, Millennium FX had originally taken an approach orientated towards science-fiction elements, only to learn that the production team was keen to draw heavily upon the classic image of a scary, bandaged cadaver.
  • Foxes was only available for one day, as she was in the midst of a tour to promote her album Glorious.
  • Frank Skinner was an avid fan of the series and jumped at the chance to make a guest appearance, despite not being known as an actor.
  • According to Frank Skinner, an alternate scene was filmed where Perkins agrees to travel with the Doctor in case the production team decided to bring him back.
  • Jamie Mathieson shared some unused ideas in a blog post - the Doctor figured out how to reveal the Foretold, pulled a switch, and twenty Foretold faded in and Clara seeing the Foretold, and hiding inside the sarcophagus, which was then revealed as actually being a Foretold making machine, wrapping her in bandages[3].
  • A sequence in which the Doctor walks along the outside of the train to get between cars was cut as being too expensive to produce. A script excerpt emerged in 2016.
  • Three scenes were cut for time - the Doctor protesting against superstition after seeing that people had lit a candle near the scroll and were leaving trinkets and money near it as if it was a shrine, a shot of the deserted TARDIS, in which Clara leaves a voicemail message to alert the Doctor that she was trapped in Carriage 24 and a reveal that Maisie was present near the campfire on the beach in the end, explaining that when the Doctor implanted Maisie's pain and trauma into himself, he took them away from her for good.[4]
  • Jenna Coleman has confirmed that the suspiciously loud "I love you" at the end of the phone call wasn't primarily intended for Danny, but for The Doctor, at whom she deliberately looks while saying It.
  • John Sessions had previously been a candidate to play the Eighth Doctor.


Filming locations[]

Limpert Bay, Saint Athan

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • Shortly after Perkins leaves the TARDIS, the camera cuts to Clara as she asks the Doctor if he enjoys his self-chosen role in life. In this shot only, her hair is parted on the left. In the previous and following shots, it is parted on the right.
  • After the Doctor berates Clara about smiling sadly, the singer is heard singing, "I'll make a supersonic woman of you," but her mouth moves to, "I'll make a supersonic man out of you".
  • When Clara takes a call from the Doctor on her mobile phone, the interface for the phone's image gallery appears over the call.
  • As the Doctor apologises to Maisie about her father, the clock on Perkins' screen reaches 30 seconds. But at that moment, the on-screen clock is on 33 seconds.
  • As the Doctor realises the mummy is a soldier, he points at it with his right arm. But in the next shot, he is pointing with his left arm.


Home video releases[]

DVD & Blu-ray releases[]

Complete 8th Series UK Cover

Series Full Box-set Region 2

Digital releases[]

  • The episode was released on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video in HD or SD, also available as part of the Series 8 digital boxset. The digital boxset contains various features: trailer, interviews, The Ultimate Companion, The Ultimate Time Lord, Inside the World Tour and Doctor Who Extra episodes for each episode.
  • In the US, the series was released through digital streaming services Hulu and Netflix with a subscription.
  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer.

External links[]

to be added