Delightfully original and honestly surprising at times, with a strong supporting guest cast and Capaldi turning in his best performance yet as The Doctor. This may be my favorite episode of the Series so far and I suspect it may be my favorite still at the end of the season.
Somehow - after the telling-off she gave him following the incident on the moon -The Doctor has persuaded Clara to go along with him on one-last trip. One last hurrah at a place that will be totally safe with no surprises and no dangers. In this case, The Doctor has chosen to take Clara for a trip on The Orient Express - one of many trains to bear the name but this one was the only one that traveled through space!
Naturally, things go wrong. Even before our duo turn up, people are dying mysteriously, claiming to have had visions of a horrific mummy-like monster reaching for them before dropping dead of a sudden heart attack. Yet there is more to things than meets the eye. And The Doctor may have to fight more than a legendary monster if he is to save the lives of everyone on-board as well as his relationship with Clara.
THE GOOD PARTS
* Peter Capaldi has been getting better with every passing episode but some of his best bits of acting come in this episode. The series has played with the idea of The Doctor being wholly unpredictable and how you should never really know which way he will turn when the wind blows. This episode nails that idea, thanks to a strong script by Jamie Matheson. Fans will likely be debating the question raised by this episode - Is he really as callous as he seems or is he just playing at being a jerk to drive Clara away to the safe, secure and happy life he can't give her? - for some time to come.
* I have my own theories on that idea, which are centered around the perfectly silent performance Capaldi gives at the end of the episode as Clara is on the phone with Danny Pink. Clara tells Danny "I love you" and there is a moment - just a moment - when you can see both The Doctor's hearts breaking. Logically, he knows he can't keep Clara with him forever. And as he said in the first episode, the idea of them being boyfriend/girlfriend was his conceit, not hers. The whole affair is reminiscent of Jon Pertwee's performance in the final scene of The Green Death, in which he quietly steps outside to leave companion Jo Grant to her new life with her new beau as the rest of the UNIT team celebrate her engagement.
* The Foretold is one of the best and most original monsters we've seen in some time. While it may look like just an ordinary mummy, it is still a well-crafted and frightening mummy even outside of its horrifying nature.
* The supporting cast for this episode are all top-notch. They all feel like real characters and every single death feels more urgent as a result.
* Query - The Doctor says he accepted Gus's invitation and he and Clara had sleeping quarters on the train... yet they weren't on the guest list?
* This is another episode that keeps Clara firmly out of the action of the story for most of the episode because her role here is to be less of an assistant to the Doctor and more someone for him to talk at so he doesn't talk to himself. Except he does talk to himself, which makes her presence even more superfluous to the larger story.
* Clara doesn't seem to have nearly as much trouble breathing as the rest of the ordinary humans when the train starts depressurizing, getting out a whole few sentences before she starts gasping for breath.
THE FINAL VERDICT
A solid script with a great guest cast equals a solid hour of quality television.