Doctor Who Recap: “The Crimson Horror”
Now this was a romp I could get behind.
Strax: I’m gonna go play with my grenades.
With the reality that the Sherlock mini-seasons are getting harder and harder to produce due to the skyrocketing careers of Martin and Cumberbatch, don’t we think there’s room for a Madame Vastra spin-off? I’m not saying The Paternoster Gang (because clearly, that’s what we should call it) could hang for a full 13-episode season, but if Sherlock can run three installments and call it a season, I don’t see why The Lizard Woman From The Down Of Time and Her Wife (and their Potato Butler) couldn’t easily do the same.
Strax: Horse! You have failed in your mission! We are lost with no sign of Sweetville. Do you have any final words before your summary execution?
Strax: The usual story! [Pulls out gun.] Fourth one this week…and I’m not even hungry.
But for the record? I do draw the line at Thomas Thomas.
Strax: If this weak and fleshy boy is to represent us, I strongly advise the issuing of scissor grenades, limbo vapor, and triple blast brain splitters.
The opening of this episode proves that a spin-off would work just fine. The Doctor does not show up until a good third of the way through this episode, and Vastra, Jenny and Strax carry it just fine on their own until then. Jenny does most of the heavy lifting this week as she is the one doing the infiltrating. She’s listening to the sermons, getting information from locals, and finding herself in empty factories where all the industrial noise is just gramophones. As always, Strax spends the entire episode being a font of quotable moments, but unlike the other times we have seen him, he is given the chance to save the day at the end of the episode. Just in case we wondered why Vastra keeps him around, since he is clearly the world’s worst butler.
Strax: If she hasn’t made contact by nightfall, I suggest a massive frontal attack on the factory, Madam. Casualties can be kept to perhaps as little as eighty percent.
As a side note, I can get behind the fainting-as-a-running gag with her clients, though I would hope that some of them would be a little more memorable than the guy this week. Other moments I would happily see put into regularity in a spin-off: Jenny the ass kicker, which gave me everything I needed in this episode. Does anyone else want to know what vault that is that Strax puts everything in? (Might it be Warehouse 12? Or is that a crossover too far?) Oh, and I loved (LOVED!) the creepy undertaker. I would want him to be a regular side character in a The Paternoster Gang spin-off. Not to mention the use of Victorian bullshit science (like Optigrams) that just happen, in this particular case, to be real.
Doctor: Would it be impolite to ask why you and Mr. Sweet are petrifying your workforce with diluted prehistoric leech venom?
The other part of this delightful episode was Diana Rigg chewing the scenery as the demented Mrs. Gillyflower, and her real life daughter Rachael Stirling as Ada, Mrs. Gillyflower’s adult daughter. Poor blinded and abused Ada, accidentally saving the Doctor’s life as her “Dear Monster.” One couldn’t help but cheer when she finally gave into her suppressed rage, started taking things into her own hands, and beating her mother with her cane. The two of them were a delight in their scenes together as a peddler of a faux temperance movement and her hapless helper. Moral decay! indeed. Sweetville! This shining city on the ‘ill! There were these idealised Mill communities towards the end of the Victorian Era where industrial misery was painted over with false promises of a perfect life. Exactly the sort of thing that works for a horror episode.
Mrs. Gillyflower: Forgive me, my child. Forgive me.
Mrs. Gillyflower: That’s my girl.
Even so, I was with the Doctor this week: ”Yucky red parasite from the time of the dinosaurs pitches up in Victorian Yorkshire? Didn’t see that one coming.” Even with the moment where Rigg put sugar down the neck of her dress, I didn’t see it coming until she pulled away the neckline. The “Crimson Horror” is really a Parasitic Repulsive Red Leech? That’s almost as left field as a time-travelling, shape-shifting robot operated by miniaturized cross people.
The Doctor: Mrs. Gillyflower, you have no idea what you’re dealing with. In the wrong hands that venom could wipe out all life on this planet.
Mrs. Gillyflower: Do you know what these are? The wrong hands!
There was quite a bit to love about this episode, including the Yorkshire accents and the moments poking fun at regional dialects. Of course, we had the classic “‘Aven’t you ‘eard, love? There’s trouble at Mill!” but also moments like ”Ooh ‘ellfire, that’s put me right off me mash.” We now have had all three modern Doctors produce northern accents on demand, but this is the first companion who has been able to keep up.
The Doctor: I once spent helluva long time trying to get a gobby Australian to Heathrow Airport. (Reference to Tegan, FTW!)
Speaking of Clara, Jenny and Vastra both demanded explanations of how Clara was here when Clara was dead just last Christmas. Thankfully, they just never did it when Clara was in the room. Perhaps this was why there wasn’t much Clara to be had? The Doctor didn’t show up until a third of the way in, but Clara didn’t appear (except in flashbacks) until we’d already gotten over halfway through the episode. At least she wasn’t a damsel in distress this week, instead showing up the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver with a far more powerful weapon–a chair.
The Doctor: Hang on, hang on. I’ve got a sonic screwdriver.
Clara: Yeah? I’ve got a chair!
Perhaps the reason for keeping Clara to a minimum this week was because of the ending twist where the Doctor drops her off home again. I can’t be the only one who feels like the Doctor is treating her like a date this season instead of a full-time companion. Apparently her nanny charges, Artie and Angie, have been doing some Google Image research and figured out she’s been time traveling. More importantly, they are all-too-ready to use blackmail to get to come along on the next ride. There’s only one problem. That last picture, showing her in Victorian London? They weren’t in Victorian London. They were in Victorian Yorkshire. That was the other Clara–Clara Oswin. Oops.
Jenny: But Doctor. That girl, Clara. You haven’t explained.
Doctor: No. I haven’t.
So how long until Clara Oswald starts asking about Clara?
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