Stop the press!! Call the Prime minister, call the show producers, call up the entire internet, call Stephan Moffat. Yes guys. That’s right. For the first time in New Who’s run I’ve actually REALLY enjoyed a Mark Gatiss episode! I don’t know quite what it was? Was it the return of Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax (and a wholehearted YES to fandom’s request for a spin off), was it the 19th century setting which Gatiss has always mastered? (his other tolerable episode for me is The Unquiet Dead which also made use of this period setting), was it the penny dreadful riffs that made me think “Ah. Sally Lockhart with aliens?” (AND YES PLEASE, Philip Pullman. What on earth would you do on Who?), was it Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones) as a delicious villain? I can’t quite pinpoint what it was but I enjoyed every second of this weeks episode.
It’s 1893 Yorkshire and a man’s brother has just died at the hands of the mysterious Mrs Gillyflower. The brother goes to see London’s finest detectives who soon investigate ‘the crimson horror.’ Upon investigating the photo taken of the body, and in particular, the man’s eye, Vastra and Jenny see The Doctor reflected in the photo. But that’s impossible, right? Sweetville is a place for the fittest and the most beautiful of humanity and is run by Mrs Gillyflower. The brother reporter died investigating the quasi religous place, but why? And how on earth is The Doctor involved? Jenny goes undercover to infiltrate the place in her sleuthing role while Vastra and Strax man the fort in London. What’s with Mrs Gillyflower’s daughter, Ada, and her secret monster? What’s the deal with the red bodies? And who is Mr Sweet?
Even the promo poster this week is gorgeous, instantly reminding me in fact of the dvd cover for The Ruby in the Smoke which features the villian, Mrs Holland, in the backdrop and Sally is close up left. The second Sally Lockhart adaptation, Shadow in the North, which Matt Smith also had a role in as Jim incidentally had a plot which features a Utopian dream gone wrong and also requires Sally to investigate by infiltrating;
On an unrelated note, I wish they’d made more of these because the adaptations were damned good. Also Pullman, just write more Lockhart. She was great.
Have a picture of Matt as Jim because everyone needs to see this show. EVERYONE.
Ahem. Anyway. Reviewing. The parallels with Sherlock Holmes are also obvious and a spin off show about the ‘real’ Holmes team would be quite wonderful. One of the things that I have been enjoying about series seven after the serious (and seriously) intricate plots of the Pond’s in series six, is how much fun the show is having right now. None of these episodes have been Pulitzer prize winning material, but damn, they are just so much fun every week. Clara and The Doctor took a back seat too, which allowed for us to really enjoy Vastra, Jenny and Strax. Though Strax is still a take him or leave him character for me, I love the dynamic duo and they should come back muchly. I enjoyed having a really evil villain to sink our teeth into with Mrs Gillyflower but the reveal about Mr Sweet was kinda… well… bittersweet. It was a suitably sad ending and yet oh so right.
The Doctor leaves the episode still refusing to clarify much about Clara to the trio who are of course dumbfounded that she is even alive and there is a rather interesting part at the end of the episode where Clara finds pictures of herself throughout different eras with some help from her two kid charges. Thing is, some of the pictures she knows aren’t her and yet… they are. I just had the best thought. What if the pictures were taken by Vastra and Co.? What if they have been doing some investigating of their own (COME BACK FOR THE FINALE PLASE). No idea. I can’t wait to find out where this is headed.
The Crimson Horror: 9/10 inky stars
Next episode: NEIL GAIMAN YOU GUISE. But let’s be realistic with our expectations, lest we anticipate The Doctor’s Wife every time and even Gaiman has to be human, right? Right?
Maureen is addicted to all things speculative fiction, including Doctor Who. She guest blogs for MrsTribble but you can find her at her speculative fiction blog InkAshlings or on Twitter. She also reviews sci fi and fantasy books on Goodreads if you like that kind of thing.