Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror Review
This week’s episode of Doctor Who was the 100th since the show’s return in 2005. While most series would celebrate that milestone, the BBC and Doctor Who boss Steven Moffat let this one pass without much fanfare. Makes sense seeing as there’s a big 50th anniversary special coming in November.
That doesn’t mean that we didn’t get a special episode of Doctor Who, even if it wasn’t billed as such. What we got was, slightly ironically, an episode that started Doctor-lite but still ended up being the best of the Clara episodes since Jenna-Louise Coleman joined the series full-time.
The episode starts in Victorian England but not with The Doctor and Clara. In fact, neither of them properly show up for the first 25 minutes of the episode (when you include commercial breaks). The episode begins with a focus on old friends Vastra, Jenny and Strax.
The mysterious appearance of dead bodies with bright red skin starts the adventure. Vastra is called in to investigate one of the bodies which just happens to have an image of the Doctor burned into his retina.
The investigation leads to Sweetville, a sort of model village that is headed up by Mrs. Gillyflower (played brilliantly by Diana Rigg) and a mysterious and unseen Mr. Sweet. Anyone who has watched Doctor Who instantly knew what that meant.
About halfway through the episode, we find The Doctor who has the red skin and is mostly petrified but isn’t dead. Timelord physiology presumably. His and Clara coming to Sweetville is told in a cool looking flashback that had something akin to an Instragram filter.
Anyway, the Doctor saved Clara and the day by stopping Mrs. Gillyflower and Mr. Sweet from launching a rocket loaded with a poison that could kill everyone.
So why did I run with a very short recap? That’s because this episode was fantastic overall. There were some great funny moments with each of the alien best friends. Jenny, Strax and even Clara all had some bad-ass moments with ass-kicking and explosions. There was even a touching little side story with The Doctor and Mrs. Gillyflower’s blind daughter.
As I said in the intro, this was the best episode of the series since the Christmas special. Doctor Who is fun when it’s scary but it’s even better when it ‘s funny. Often, the best sci-fi is the sci-fi that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I don’t even care that the episode was largely a filler. It was great fun. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should find some way to watch it.
Other random points of note:
- Can we get a Vastra, Jenny and Strax spin-off? These guys are the best recurring characters on the series right now.
- We expect Strax to come in guns a-blazing but to see Jenny martial art her way through a group of thugs was pretty damn cool. Spin-off, please?
- Thomas Thomas giving directions? I see what you did there, Gatiss.
Next week, sci-fi and fantasy writer Neil Gaiman returns to Doctor Who and so do the Cybermen in “Nightmare in Silver.” When Moffat tasked Gaiman with writing this episode, he was told to make the Cybermen scary again. That’s something that we could say for all of the classic Who villains, mind you.