This episode flew by for me. I swear the episode did not feel like 46 minutes. The whole episode was a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me. Watching the damaged Doctor/Clara relationship made me sad. This episode was heavy on death's as well. Though death isn't uncommon in Whoverse, the amount in one episode seemed unusual. But I think those deaths allowed the Doctor to address the question that's been bothering some viewers: Does the Doctor care?
The episode begins with a countdown from 66 seconds. We see a young woman and her grandmother having dinner in the dining car of a train. The grandmother notices a mummy and begins to get upset as the mummy is approaching her. No one but the grandmother can see the mummy, and as the countdown clock hits zero, the mummy touches her head and kills her.
After the opening credits, the Doctor and Clara arrive on the train. The Doctor tells Clara it is a replica of the Orient Express, except in space. Clara seems a little sad. She definitely does not have her normal excitement and enthusiasm. The Doctor comments on this, and Clara tells the Doctor she spent a lot of time being mad at him and hating him, but she doesn't really. She rests her head on his shoulder and tells him she can't keep traveling with him the way he does things. The Doctor, not wanting to dwell on this because he emotionally can't handle the information, wants to tell Clara about the planets outside the train car. They're interrupted when Maisie, the young woman who's grandmother died earlier, accuses the Doctor of lying about a planet he visited as the planet no longer exists. The conductor has Maisie escorted from the car and is horribly embarrassed.
The Doctor and Clara head off to their rooms and discuss this trip as their last hurrah. The Doctor thinks it means the end to his and Clara's relationship permanently, whereas Clara only means she won't be traveling around with the Doctor. She still wants to see him for "dinner or something." Poor Clara, the Doctor doesn't do dinner. Except maybe at Christmas. They both seem relatively ok with the separation, perhaps because neither of them truly believe that their time together will end.
Clara calls Danny to inform him of what is going on, and that this will be her last time with the Doctor. She also laments that the trip is relatively boring. She's addicted to the adventure, even if she was upset when the Doctor her forced her to made the decision in "Kill the Moon." Meanwhile, the Doctor is in his room trying to convince himself that nothing mysterious is happening on the train. Perhaps he's doing this so he doesn't incur the wrath of Clara yet again. However, he's the Doctor, he knows better, so he's off to investigate. After he leaves, Clara comes knocking on his door because she too, wants to investigate.
The Doctor if off to find the wheelchair that Maisie's grandmother was sitting in when she died. As he's inspecting it, he's caught by the engineer, Perkins. The two are immediately suspicious of one another, but this actually causes them to bond and form an immediate friendship. You can tell the Doctor likes him and is considering bringing him on board. Perkins tells the Doctor about the mummy rumor. The Doctor is intrigued and is off to talk to a professor who may have more information.
Clara, meanwhile, is trying to find the Doctor when she runs into Maisie. She’s trying to find the body of her grandmother because she feels guilty for sometimes wishing her dead. Maisie uses the shoe to break the lock of a cargo car, and the two women enter. They end up getting locked in the car with a sarcophagus that is more than a little disconcerting considering there’s a deadly mummy running about.
The Doctor finds Professor Morehouse who is an expert on the mummy. It turns out the mummy is actually called the Foretold. Morehouse shares a few mythological facts about the Foretold with the Doctor, including the fact that myth has it the Foretold can be stopped be negotiating with it or uttering a word it needs to hear. But there is nothing helpful to keep the Foretold from attacking. As the Doctor and Morehouse are talking, the Foretold strikes again, killing a chef in the kitchen car.
Clara is messing with the wires, trying to free Maisie and herself from the car. Maisie is feeling guilty about wishing her grandmother dead, but Clara says difficult people make us feel bad things, but insists that Maisie had no part to play in her grandmother's death.
Upset by another death, the Doctor goes to find the conductor, Quell, to confront him about his lack of concern. The Doctor pretends to be “the thing [Quell] fears the most,” and it turns out it is a mystery shopper. In Quell's office, the Doctor notices that Quell has received awards for bravery, indicating that he was/is a solider. Based on the Doctor's behavior toward soldiers this season, it means that the Doctor will assume the worst of Quell. He thinks that Quell has had "the fight knocked out" of him, and that he's turning his head so he doesn't have to deal with what his really happening.
Perkins meets the Doctor outside of Quell's office with passenger manifests and maps of the train. The Doctor compliment's Perkins rapidity in gathering the information, and then says maybe Perkins was too quick. Perkins, knowing how to handle the Doctor, sarcastically confesses to being the mummy, then tells the Doctor he was already looking into the deaths.
Back in the cargo car, Maisie is asking Clara about her relationship to the Doctor. Clara says that they used to be friends, but they aren't really anymore. Maisie says that's not the case, they are there together. Clara tells Maisie she and the Doctor travelled together, but this is their last trip together. Clara seems sad about it, but accepting. Clara tells Maisie her frustrations with the Doctor, and Maisie tells her that despite all that, Clara is still on the train with him. Clara insists she couldn't leave on a “slamming door,” but Maisie tells her people do it all the time, unless they can't. She then tells Clara, "Life would be so much simpler if you liked the right people. The people you're supposed to like, but then I guess there'd be no fairytales."
The Doctor is able to use the sonic screwdriver to get a phone to call Clara. (Anyone else notice that on Clara's phone, when the Doctor called it was a grasshopper with a tophat? That made me giggle.) He tells Clara that the train isn't as safe as he thought it was. She's trying to tell him she's trapped but he keeps talking over her. Finally she's able to yell it at him, and he runs to find her. He loves Clara, and her in danger is the thing that scares him the most. He tries to use the sonic screwdriver to free her, but there's something suppressing it. She tells the Doctor the sarcophagus is opening thanks to the Sonic Screwdriver. The Doctor is trying to get the door open, but Clara tells the Doctor the sarcophagus is full of bubble wrap.
Quell shows up and arrests the Doctor. He’s discovered the Doctor isn’t actually a mystery shopper, and with no other answers, he accuses the Doctor of being behind the deaths. The Doctor asks Quell how many people have to die before he realizes what is going on. They're back in the dining car, and the Foretold kills a security guard. Quell then releases the Doctor from handcuffs, realizing he’s not helping by keeping the Doctor detained.
At this point, the Doctor figures it's a little curious that the train is full of professors and scientists. He thinks that this was intentional, that someone brought them all together for some reason. Then, the car changes to a lab, and some passengers disappears. IT turns out they were holograms being used to make the train seem more full. Gus, the artificial intelligence (A.I.) running the train, tells the Doctor and the remaining passengers that they need to figure out the powers of the mummy so that it can be harnessed and used.
The light flickers (meaning the Foretold is going to show up), and now Morehouse can see the mummy. The Doctor is pressing Morehouse for detail so they can try and figure out what the mummy is. Morehouse provides some details, but he is trying to negotiate with the mummy to save his life, trying to figure out the one thing it needs to hear to stop it from killing him, but of course he's unsuccessful.
Clara calls the Doctor to let him know that the sarcophagus is a stasis unit. She also tells the Doctor that there are missing ships, which means this isn't the first ship to have the Foretold in it. Gus is trying to tell the Doctor to end his call with Clara, but he's ignoring it. As a penalty, Gus detaches the kitchen car, killing the crew. More deaths on the Doctor's hands. He's not happy about this. Gus tells the Doctor that if he's disobedient again, he'll get rid of a car with less important passengers. The Doctor realizes the Foretold must be selecting its victims in some way, so he orders histories on the victims.
After running everyone's background, they are able to figure out that the victims are picked due to medical or psychological illness. Quell tells the Doctor that his unit was bombed and he was the only survivor, and he has PTSD. It looks like Quell is going to be the next victim. The Doctor sees the upside, and begins asking Quell for details as the Foretold is coming for him.
The Doctor is trying to figure out why the 66 seconds, and Perkins chastises the Doctor for not mourning. The Doctor says there is no time to mourn, they have to figure out how to stop the Foretold. (During this scene, did anyone notice the Albert Einstein-looking scientist just hanging out?) The Doctor says he wishes he could see the Foretold, and when Perkins says to not even say that, the Doctor insists that one minute with the Foretold and the problem would be solved. Perkins says he's not sure if the Doctor is a genius or arrogant, but he's both. The Doctor scans Quell's body and realizes that all of the energy from the body is gone. It takes 66 seconds to drain the body and to remove it from phase, which is why only the victim can see the Foretold.
Realizing the next victim is going to be Maisie, the Doctor calls Clara to tell her to bring Maisie to the lab. Clara asks if the Doctor can save Maisie, but he says he can’t. Clara lies to Maisie, telling her the Doctor can in fact save her. On the way, Clara spots the TARDIS and tries to walk toward it, thinking she can use it to get she and Maisie to safety, but there's some kind of force field keeping her from entering. When Clara tells the Doctor, he confesses that Gus has tried to entice him before. Clara is mad, saying that he lied to her, and now she's a liar, and she's an accomplice.
Right on queue, the Foretold shows up and only Maisie can see it. The Doctor steps in front of Maisie and scans her resentment and emotions, and sends it to himself. Now the Foretold thinks the Doctor is Maisie. The Doctor is able to figure out by looking at the mummy, and the scroll, that the Foretold is actually an ancient soldier following orders to kill them. At the last possible second, he surrenders to the Foretold. The Foretold becomes visible to everyone, and it stops, and disintegrates. This is a running theme this season: soldiers causing problems. I'm guessing this is going to be a big issue in the finale? Perhaps with Clara being seen as the Doctor's solider? The Doctor having to deal with the fact that he himself is a solider?
Anyway, the Doctor pulls the tech from the disintegrated mummy dust, and realizes that the tech was causing the problems. However, Gus says survivors are not required, and begins to suck the air out of the lab car. The Doctor is using the sonic screwdriver on the tech as Clara passes out. Next, we see the train cars exploding.
Clara wakes up on a beach. The Doctor explains that he was able to teleport everyone into the TARDIS. He tried to hack Gus from the TARDIS to try and determine who set everything up, but Gus didn't like it, and it blew up the train. The Doctor dropped everyone off at the nearest planet. Clara is absorbing the fact that the Doctor saved everyone. Clara then asks the Doctor if he was pretending to be heartless to try and save Maisie, but he doesn't answer. Instead, he asks if that's what Clara wants to believe to make leaving him easier. He tells Clara he didn't know if he could save Maisie, he already lost others. He says he would have kept going until he beat the Foretold. He tells her sometimes all you have are bad choices, but you still have to choose.
This explains so much. This Doctor knows that he's going to have to make sacrifices to keep going, but that doesn't mean he's insensitive or unemotional about these choices, but he has to keep plugging away.
Back on the TARDIS, Perkins points out a couple of repairs that could be made to the TARDIS. The Doctor invites Perkins to stay, but Perkins declines saying that time on the TARDIS could change a man.
When Perkins leaves, Clara asks the Doctor if he loves being the man making "the impossible choice." He says he doesn't, but it is his life. She asks him if it is an addiction, but he tells her he can't know until he tries to give it up. Danny calls Clara then, and she tells him the mission is accomplished. The mission of course is leaving the Doctor, and she's lying to him. This is clearly going to be a problem. When she tells Danny she loves him, we see the Doctor, looking sad? Perhaps defeated. Does he love Clara as more than a daughter type? Or is he just sad because he thinks he's about to lose his traveling partner?
After hanging up with Danny, Clara lies to the Doctor and tells him that Danny is ok with Clara and the Doctor going on adventures. The Doctor is thrilled. She tells him that as long as he keeps her safe and gets her home on time, everything is fine. She apologizes for "wobbling," but is ready to go, and together, they pull the levers and are off on the next adventure.
Ok, this part bothered me a little. Since when is Clara known to take instruction from anyone other than herself? If the Doctor really thought about it, he would know that Clara wouldn't stop traveling with him because Danny suggested it. But he's just so happy to have Clara continuing on with him that he doesn't question anything.