In a dining car on a train in space, the lights flicker, and an old lady spots a man dressed as a mummy.
He appears to be heading her way, but no one else can see him. She screams as he reaches for her head and she slumps down, lifeless. Someone call a Doctor!
Elsewhere, the TARDIS has arrived in the baggage car, and the train turns out to be the Orient Express. Or AN Orient Express in any case. It’s a completely faithful recreation of the Orient Express, apart from minor details like the Queen songs being sung in a big band style.
The Doctor is there with Clara, who has elected to take one final trip before giving up the time and space travel for good. He can’t seem to stop needling her about her facial expressions and she tells him that she doesn’t hate him, but that she can’t travel with him the way he likes to do it now.
In a conversation with the train’s Captain Quail, it appears that the train is stuffed with scientists, doctors and other highly-trained individuals. Which means the Doctor has managed to bring Clara to yet another place where there’s a monster and a dead body. She seems unsure about whether this is a good or bad thing. And the Doctor seems unsure as to whether it really is a situation worth investigating.
Back in their separate rooms, Clara talks to Danny while the Doctor talks to himself in a voice that sounds a LOT like that of his fourth incarnation, and off he goes to investigate, alone. Seconds later, Clara does likewise.
While examining the Excelsior Life Extender, the Doctor meets a very sharp-minded man called Perkins, the train’s chief engineer. He has also been investigating the mummy, but as yet hasn’t come to any concrete conclusions.
Meanwhile, Clara runs into Maisie Pitt, granddaughter of the old lady who died, and a dab hand at putting shoes through electric locks to gain access to the body of her gran. Not so great at getting back out again, though. They settle down to discuss Clara’s feelings toward the Doctor, with Maisie wondering why Clara agreed to a final trip if she was done with the traveling.
The Doctor interrogates Emile Moorhouse, an expert in the legend of the Foretold. This is a creature that allows its victims only 66 seconds to settle their affairs before killing them. They cannot run, or bargain with it, or hide. The Foretold will find them, and the Doctor, handing out jelly babies from a cigarette case, believes Emile has been brought on board to witness it in action. Although they both miss a second attack, this time on a member of the kitchen staff.
He goes to confronts Captain Quail about his lack of action, and then he and Perkins and Emile settle down to go over the train’s plans and passenger list. The next morning, he rings Clara, and discovers she and Maisie are trapped and he can’t sonic them out. Then Quail comes to arrest him, while one of the train staff is attacked by the mummy. Oh, and there’s a sarcophagus of bubble-wrap in the hold.
The Doctor is freed, and addresses the passengers, these experts of science. And suddenly the train stops, the carriage becomes a laboratory and the fake passengers that turned out to be hard-light holograms disappear. Gus, the train’s computer, explains that the Foretold will appear near an ancient scroll, and that they are to work out how to capture it. If they refuse, it will kill all of them, and they can’t throw the scroll out either.
Then the lights flicker, and it’s Emile’s turn to see the mummy. Four deaths.
Clara has access to some paperwork that explains that the people behind this affair have tried to capture the Foretold before—the sarcophagus is to trap it—sacrificing whole ships to its embrace. While she explains this to the Doctor, Gus expels members of the ships crew out to space to force him to get off the phone.
This prompts the Doctor to work out that the Foretold picks people off one by one, going for the frailest first, and that includes psychological frailty. Captain Quail concludes that he will be the next to go, and the Doctor entirely fails to reassure him. The lights flicker again, and Quail proves to have been entirely correct.
The Doctor questions how the Foretold could teleport, why it needs precisely 66 seconds, and concludes that it is being kept alive by ancient technology that is powered by the energy from its victims. And Maisie is the next in line. The Doctor asks Clara to fool Maisie into coming up to the lab, to tell her that he could save her. And with Gus’s assistance, they walk past the TARDIS and into the laboratory.
Clara works out that the Doctor must have brought her onto the train knowing that Gus wanted him to investigate the Foretold, that Gus invited him to investigate and even rang the TARDIS phone number, so he did not bring her out for a last hurrah. She is about to tear a strip off him when the lights flicker again. It’s Maisie’s time.
Except it’s not. The Doctor transfers her feelings into his mind, so that the Foretold comes after him, and as it approaches, he works out that the scroll isn’t a scroll, it’s a flag, and that the Foretold is the body of a long-forgotten solder, being kept alive by its own technology. With a cry of “WE SURRENDER!” the Doctor halts the Foretold, and with a salute, it is finally able to die.
Gus then strips the air out of out the laboratory, leaving the Doctor just enough time to rewire the Foretold’s teleporter and get everyone out, via the TARDIS. His efforts to investigate Gus merely result in the train being blown up, and he drops everyone off at the nearest planet. Or at least, that’s what he tells Clara when she comes to.
He also offers Perkins a spot on the TARDIS, but he turns it down. Clara, on the other hand, has changed her mind, and wants to stay. So she tells the Doctor Danny is fine with her staying on, and she tells Danny the final trip is over, and off they go once more.
Next time: “Flatline”
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