Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror
Every now and then, we get an episode of Doctor Who whose central character is not The Doctor. The Crimson Horror was one such episode. These are some of my favorite to watch, and this was no exception.
Here the central characters were Vastra, Jenny, and Strax The Doctor and Clara, were mostly incidental. Vastra, if you don’t remember, is the The Great Detective in Victorian London. She is also a Silurian, or homo- reptilia, or a reptile from prehistoric earth and Jenny is her wife. We first met them when A Good Man Goes to War, and they have shown up a few times since. Strax, who we also met at the same time we met Vastra and Jenny, is a demoted Sontaran commander whose life Vasta saved during the battle of Deamons Run and now serves as their butler. It is my sincere hope that these three serve as the foundation for a new spinoff series. I derive vast amounts of pleasure from these three characters.
This episode does have more going for it than these three, but not much, and it really doesn’t need much more. Like real life mother and daughter, Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling, playing onscreen mother and daughter, in parts specifically written by Mark Gatiss for them. The tormented mother daughter relationship is enthralling to watch, most likely because no one can really portray a realistic mother daughter relationship as well as an actual mother and daughter. However, it is deeper than that. The mother, Mrs. Gillyflower, is so bat-shit crazy that she would be all but harmless if she didn’t have a Jurassic era leech attached to her giving her the means to destroy humanity. The Doctor, being incapacitated and imprisoned the first third of this show, and Clara two thirds, are more bystanders than heros here. The final save comes at the hands of Vasta Jenny and Strax. Also, chairs, chairs are good.
We find ourselves in Victorian Yorkshire, where people have been found in the canal after mysteriously dying and being dyed red. They are calling it, “The Crimson Horror”, and one victim’s brother hires Vastra to investigate Sweetville, the mysterious commune where the victims are coming from. Mrs Gillyflower whose daughter, Ada, is tragically blind, and keeping a monster locked up, runs Sweetville.
Jenny infiltrates Sweetville, and discovers the monster is actually an incapacitated Doctor, and Vastra discovers The Crimson Horror is Jurassic era toxin secreted by a parasitic leach. The Doctor and Clara discovered Mrs. Gillyflower was using the toxin to preserve people from an upcoming apocalyptic disaster. Together they discover that disaster, planned and caused by Mrs. Gillyflower, who is affectionately attached to a nice prehistoric leach, we come in the form of raining poison from an exploding Victorian rocket. Along the way we get to enjoy the exploits of Vastra, Strax and Jenny, and their exploits are enjoyable enough I could actually have lived without The Doctor and Clara this round.
Overall, I would call this a successfully entertaining romp through a macabre science-fiction comedy adventure, thing. I think I laughed a little more here than I have during any episode this season, let alone this half of the season. It struck a high note for fun in a series that is in danger of starting to take itself too seriously, too often. I give it 4 out of 5 Victorian interspecies gay marriages.