Something remarkable has happened. The inventor of wishy washy coloured Daleks has regenerated into the saviour of Doctor Who. This week was another Mark Gatiss penned episode and it was an utter triumph. Silly, sexy, scary, funny, The Crimson Horror had it all and was a fabulous return to form for a series I feel has been sadly lacking. There was even a decent costume for Clara (though sadly overtaken in the must-have stakes by Jenny’s leather ensemble).
This week we travelled to Victorian Yorkshire to deal with trouble at mill, on which note I love how all the cheesiest lines in this episode were the best. Mrs Winifred Gilliflower, possible the best character name in Who history, has gone all demented Cadbury on us and is building a match factory with idyllic living conditions for the best and brightest workers. Sadly, this probably won’t include her blind daughter Ada, who lost her sight after a horrific beating by her late father. So Mrs Gilliflower says, it turns out she caused her daughter’s disability by experimenting on her. Gilliflower is carrying out the wishes of a mysterious Mr Sweet, who turns out to be a prehistoric leech that secretes a bright red poison. I think I can safely assume no child will want Mr Sweet as a pet, although little ones may have gotten distressed by Ada’s savage attack on him with her walking stick. Maximum squished bug yuckiness at a time I hope no one was eating!
Of course, this episode was really all about our trio of Victoria sidekicks, Madame Vashtra, Jenny and Strax. Strax, a strange potato shaped Sontaran with more than a touch of Vogon about him, must be a joy of a character to write for. And Vashtra and Jenny could easily carry a spin-off show. I know this is not an original thought so can only hope somewhere in a bunker in Cardiff, Who geniuses are busy cooking this up. At the very least we need more scenes in Vashtra’s beautiful conservatory. I’m sure there’s a cue of people wanting to see more of Jenny’s fighting moves as well, particularly like the way both she and Clara went for more traditional approaches to stopping the baddies than the Dr’s ever-present Sonic Screwdriver.
All in all, we had a clever, yet logical storyline, some great sets and special effects and some lovely editing. I particularly liked the Dr’s recap of how he and Clara came to be in Yorkshire, complete with crackly film and sepia tones. Doctor Who is supposed to be fun, and it was good to see what I’m going to call a vintage episode, which was full of heart and human emotion and a good old dose of tomfoolery. We’re no nearer to working out what Clara’s mystery is, the Dr didn’t even attempt to explain to Vashtra and Jenny, who met Clara Version 2 at Christmas, about the different Clara’s. We’ve one episode to go before the grand finale and I haven’t got the foggiest what’s going on. What I do like is that Clara’s children (she’s a nanny, remember) have found out where she has been so her secret’s out. And they have found a photo of her in Victorian London, but Clara hasn’t been there yet…We know it’s Version 2 in the picture, but will Clara start digging? Other questions to think about this week are:
- Is it good that the Cybermen are back next week? Or do we need some new monsters?
- Will Moffatt be able to tie up all the loose threads satisfactorily in just two episodes?
- Has Mark Gatiss done enough with this episode and Cold War to prove he’d be a good showrunner (Gatiss is one of the name’s being mooted as Moffatt’s successor)?
Contributed by Victoria Prior