Sunday, May 05, 2013

My Review of Doctor Who's 7x12: "The Crimson Horror"

Written by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Saul Metzstein

Madame Vastra: “Strax, you're overexcited. Have you been eating Miss Jenny’s Sherbet Fancies again?”
Strax: “No.”

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, shall we? This wasn’t just a regular Doctor-Lite episode in the vein of “Love And Monsters” and “Blink” but more of an unofficial backdoor pilot for a Paternoster Gang spin-off that more than likely could possibly happen upon the day that Steven Moffat steps down from this show as show runner but until now, we’ll just have to enjoy whatever appearances we get from our Victorian trio for the time being.

It’s a great job that we’ve had two previous successful appearances from Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax because this episode largely depended on our support for these characters to work given that both the Doctor and Clara were largely in disposed and luckily the episode did work and it worked lots.

It was the Paternoster Gang who ended up having to rescue both the Doctor and Clara after they fell victim to Mrs Gillyflower’s mad plot to preserve the prettiest of humanity in the upcoming apocalypse and it was certainly them who had to pick up the rest of the pieces as well after our TARDIS duo took their leave of the town of Sweetville too for that matter.

Madame Vastra taking on Jeremiah Thursday’s concerns for his missing/deceased brother Edmund certainly got the ball rolling when she realised that the last thing the dead man saw was the Doctor but it was Jenny and Strax who had the most to do in this episode compared to the Great Detective herself.

When it comes to the undercover stuff, Jenny managed to get into Mrs Gillyflower’s factory, cause a distraction and rescue a rejected Doctor before beating seven shades of crap out of the supermodels under the mad woman’s influence. Basically, you don’t want to mess with Jenny as the Doctor found out himself when his exuberant gratitude for being saved by her earned him a bit of a slap in the process.

I had kind of wondered in the previous stories if Jenny had been the weakest of the Paternoster lot but this episode definitely proved that she wasn’t. I liked her scenes with the Doctor and I especially liked that she tried to get some answers as to why he was travelling with another version of Clara but sadly for Jenny, even she wasn’t successful in getting anything more than ‘it’s complicated’. I suppose she could count herself lucky that she’s another 100 plus years off from that phrase being immortalised on Facebook as well.

As for Strax though, he was the comedy foil yet again in this episode but you know what – I don’t care! I liked him more here and the fact that he got to do some basic slaying, Sontaran style and take out Mrs Gillyflower in the end proved that he wasn’t that much of a caricature. Plus, a lot of lines, especially in relation to a horse and a child with a certain name were genuinely priceless to watch here.

I suppose the only member of the gang who was underused in this episode was probably Madame Vastra herself but even she managed to figure about the red leech and the poisonous effects it had on humanity. She also did get to have a bit of a catch up with the Doctor and Clara as well, so while she had slightly less to do here in comparison to both Jenny and Strax, she was still useful in this episode.

As for Mrs Gillyflower – I’ve been enjoying Diana Rigg a lot on Game Of Thrones this season as Olenna but here she was utterly wonderful and completely vile as the obsessive villain of the piece and her treatment of poor Ada (played by Rigg’s real life daughter, Rachael Stirling) was heartbreaking to watch, even if she got her comeuppance in the end with Ada taking out the parasitic Mr Sweet.

Last but not least, there was the Doctor and Clara. Despite this being a light episode for them, I did like the noticeable closeness between them in this episode and I also found it rather amusing the latter’s charges, Angie and Artie managed to suss out that their nanny is a time traveller and wanted a piece of the action. It was definitely an unusual way to end this particular episode but I don’t mean that as a bad thing though.

Also in “The Crimson Horror”

This is the 100th episode of the revived series. Now here’s to the next 100, eh?

Ada (to the Doctor): “Did you think I had forgotten you, dear monster?”

I was genuinely surprised that the Doctor all crimsoned up was actually the monster of the piece here. In retrospect though, it should’ve been obvious.

Coroner: “Oh aye, how long?”
Madame Vastra: “About sixty five million years.”

Ada (to the Doctor): “You are all I have monster but all will be well.”

There was a part of me that had thought of the recent horsemeat scandal when Strax was threatening to annihilate the horse in this one and I loved the little sat nav reference as well.

The Doctor: “Your late partner?”
Mrs Gillyflower: “No, my silent partner.”

The Doctor: “Gotta find Clara.”
Jenny: “But Doctor, Clara’s dead, isn’t she?”
The Doctor: “It’s complicated.”

Clara was confronted with pictures from her adventures on a submarine and Caliburn House as well as a Victorian version of herself she didn’t recognise, thanks to the Maitland kids.

Mrs Gillyflower (to Ada): “The bright day is done child and you are full of dark.”

The Doctor: “Time for a plan.”
Jenny: “Nah, Doctor, this one’s on me.”

Nice reference to Tegan in this episode and yes people, she really was gobby. Tegan was after all someone who referred to herself as a mouth on legs.

The Doctor: “Clever clogs.”
Clara: “Miss me?”
The Doctor: “Yeah, lots.”

The Doctor: “Hang on, I’ve got a sonic screwdriver.”
Clara: “Yeah? I’ve got a chair.”

There’s a Sherlock story called “The Repulsive Case Of The Red Leech”, which probably did inspire Mr Sweet to be honest.

Mrs Gillyflower: “Forgive me, my child. Forgive me.”
Ada: “Never.”
Mrs Gillyflower: “That’s my girl.”

Chronology: Yorkshire 1893, so several months after the events of “The Snowmen” then.

“The Crimson Horror” was a bloody success. Maybe not as gory as Mark Gatiss might have hoped but his clear love of all things Victoriana and gothic did help proceedings here and he even managed to usurp “Cold War” as an engaging episode. If last week’s episode was a letdown, this certainly made up for it.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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