New Who Review: The Crimson Horror
Gated communities are usually met with some suspicion and mistrust – in this case it’s rightly founded. Something is wrong in Sweetville, and The Doctor is red in the face about it. A bunch of friends reappear to help combat…
THE CRIMSON HORROR
by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Saul Metzstein
People are turning up dead in the canal in Victorian Yorkshire, their bodies in varied states of petrifaction and their skin a lobster red. Madame Vastra and Jenny are asked to investigate, and when they realize that The Doctor is somehow involved, they hurry to investigate. A woman is establishing her own ark on dry land, planning to survive the next torrent, not of rain, but of poison.
Mark Gatiss balances comedy and horror with a deft hand, being given the reins on the investigating Silurian and her companions. This may be the closest we ever get to a completely solo Vastra and Jenny adventure, and it’s a delight. The Northern accents alone are worth the price of admission.
GUEST STAR REPORT
Dame Diana Rigg (Mrs. Winifred Gillyflower) really should need no introduction, but there are young people who think The Avengers is only a comic book. As well as playing Mrs Emma Peel (rightly described by comedian Rick Overton as “One generation of boys’ first serious erection”) on The Avengers, not to mention the Countess Teresa di Vicenzo (AKA the briefly Mrs. James Bond) in On her Majesty’s Secret Service) she started out at a high point, and kept on going higher, In addition to a house favorite The Assassination Bureau (also starring Roger Delgado, the original Master) and a wonderful version of King Lear with Olivier, John Hurt and Leo McKern, she’s gone from Strength to Strength. She also burning up basic cable in a popular turn on Game of Thrones.
Rachael Stirling (Ada Gillyflower) is Diana Rigg’s daughter, and this is the first time they’ve worked together. She’s had an impressive career in acting, including a couple episodes of shows featured on Mystery!, which her mother was hosting at the time. Recently she was in Snow White and the Huntsman and the series The Bletchley Circle.
Two guests this episode have the distinction of playing several members of the same alien race, several times, over the course of the new series.
Neve McIntosh and her delicious accent played sister Silurians Alaya and Restac in the two-parter The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood last year, and plays Madame Vastra here.
Dan Starkey (Commander Strax) also played two Sontarans in one story, The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky. He almost shot Mickey Smith and Martha Smith-Jones as Jask at The End Of Time, and first played the funniest wet-nurse you’ll ever see in A Good Man Goes to War. Since the Sontarans are a clone-race, having one actor play various members makes perfect sense. Christopher Ryan (Mike “the cool person” from The Young Ones) has also played two different Sontarans in different episodes. Dan also appears in Russell T Davies new series Wizards vs. Aliens as Randal Moon, hobgoblin extraordinaire.
THE MONSTER FILES – Mr. Sweet, a parasite species surviving from the Jurassic period, and possibly longer, is far from the first being getting the help of a human, though in this case it might be said that Mrs Gillyflower was the brains of the outfit.
BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details
SET PIECES – Yorkshire was played by Cardiff in this episode, with a picturesque side-street getting a lovely touch-up, including a full set of gates and columns
…IS ONLY A MOTION AWAY – Dame Diana and Rachael Stirling are not the first parent and child pairing to appear on Doctor Who. Mark Sheppard and his father William Morgan Sheppard both played the same role, that of Canton Everett Delaware III, in The Impossible Astronaut. David Troughton, Patrick’s son, has appeared a couple of times, once as the Prince in The Curse of Peladon, once many years as Profiessor Hobbes in Midnight, and first, many years before, in his father’s last adventure The War Games.
WHOLOCK – With Gatiss and Moffat also being in charge of the oh-so-very popular Sherlock starring Bilbo and Smaug Benedict Cubmerbatch and Martin Freeman, there are ever going to be in-jokes that trickle through. An unrecorded adventure of Sherlock Holmes was “the repulsive story of the red leech” as reported in The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez.
“Do you know what an optigram is?” – The Doctor used a process to read the last images off the eye of a Wirrn in a Tom Baker adventure The Ark in Space. Rather than just one image, he was able to read several minutes of footage.
“Will you be preserved…when judgment rains down upon us all?” – One of the finest bits of foreshadowing i quite a while, Mrs. Gillyflower tells everyone her plans right then and there, and nobody catches it till much later.
“I once spent hell of a long time trying to get a gobby Australian to Heathrow Airport” – That would be Tegan Jovanka, long-time companion of the Doctor mainly during the Davison years. Sarah Jane Smith investigated some of The Doctor’s friends, and said that at last report, Tegan was home in Australia, campaigning for Aborigine rights. The reference is sent home with the following line “Brave heart, Clara”, paraphrasing Five’s motivational to Tegan.
“Doctor and Mrs. Smith…you’ll do very nicely” – Doctor John Smith was The Doctor’s go-to pseudonym when working on Earth during the Pertwee years. He used it, or tried to, in Midnight.
“And you will have reached your destination” – I want to know how long Gatiss sat in his study giggling to himself over that wildly anachronistic reference to the TomTom GPS (Satnav) system.
“This one’s on me” – Can I just marvel in the delicious irony of a British woman kicking ass in a catsuit in an adventure featuring Diana Rigg?
“It’s you.. my monster” – Not the first time we’ve heard the word “monster” this season. The line “Every lonely monster…needs a companion” in Hide was also clearly not just about the scary alien.
“Very enterprising” – There’s another parallel to The Snowmen here – in both cases, the antagonist finds something brand new, so different as to be alien (literally in the first case, figuratively here in Mrs. Gillyflower’s case), and in both cases, as The Doctor puts it in The Snowmen, both follow the Victorian ideal and try to find a way to profit from it. Not even financially, but a way to achieve their ends.
BIG BAD REPORT / CLEVER THEORY DEPARTMENT –
“It’s complicated” – The Doctor was aiming for London 1893, the year after the events of The Snowmen, where The Doctor first met Victorian Clara. This is the first time Vastra, Jenny and Strax have met Modern Clara, and found her most confusing. Her look at “herself” in London of 1892 will almost certainly cause some questions to be asked a week hence.
NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – Neil Gaiman. I could stop there. But I don’t have to, because there’s also Cybermen, Warwick Davis and Neil Gaiman. Did I say that twice? Nightmare in Silver, a week away.