So. Dr Who: ‘The Crimson Horror’

A special episode this time; unlike previous weeks, I actually had people to watch it with! Lovely lovely people!!! Ordinarily Dr Who is a solitary viewing experience for me.

I am so alone.

Anyway, the bold bits in brackets are more or less what we said at certain points, although I will be paraphrasing a tad. Enjoy!

Yorkshire, 1893 – thanks, helpful subtitle! – and a married couple have been dabbling in things they ought not to dabble in by investigating Sweetville, (I am not going to be able to take that name seriously, I’m sorry). They melodramatically kiss and part, and this is a pre-credits sequence so you know it can’t end well and, what do you know? The woman’s waylaid by Mrs. Gillyflower and her enforcers, there’s some clumsy references to the woman’s ‘late’ husband who’s not ‘late’ as of yet but soon will be, get it, get it, get it? Yes, I do believe we’ve gotten it. We also get a discretion scream and


I did not need a red screaming corpse shoved right in my face, episode, thanks all the same.

It appears that this is not the first time someone’s been found like this. Hence the ‘Crimson Horror’ that gives the episode its name. You would think that Mrs. Gillyflower would be more careful about dumping the bodies of her victims, especially if they look like this:

Capture crimson devil
Yeah, nothing suspicious about this corpse AT ALL.

In fact people are already getting curious, because it turns out that this ill-fated chap was A) a journalist trying to get to the bottom of Sweetville (hee hee) with the help of his wife/lady friend, and B) has a brother who knows a certain someone down in London who’s the go to person for this sort of thing. Welcome back, recurring characters!

(“Madame Vastra’s veil is crap.”


“I mean, you can obviously see that she’s not human, look at her, you can see her spiny crest things!”)

The man talks about optograms and

Capture crimson horror 2

(“Stop shoving closeups at us, dammit!”

“I find it highly unlikely that a 1893-tech level camera would be able to pick up this oh so important picture frozen in the corpse’s eyes… but it’s being presented to a lizard woman from the dawn of time who no doubt has some great tech of her own, so I’ll buy it.”)

Up goes the veil so Vastra can examine it more closely, and the man faints.

For some reason.

Anyway, Vastra and Jenny apparently left him on the floor and went to develop the photo further. What happens to be the image captured in the man’s eyes? Why, the Doctor of course!

Vastra, Jenny and Strax (welcome back Strax, I love you!) head ‘oop North’ – sorry, I couldn’t resist – and make plans for Jenny to infiltrate Mrs. Gillyflower’s drive for new recruits. Strax gallantly volunteers, but is shot down and thus recommends the use of a whole lot of painful sounding weapons. Really, where is Strax getting all this stuff from? It’s not as if there’s an underground Sontaran market going on – though I suppose there is Torchwood.

Oh, ha ha, they’ll need all this stuff because they’re going to the North, oh my goodness, how droll, my sides are simply splitting. See how they’re splitting? At least Jenny and Vastra seem as confused as I am right now.

(A running theme throughout the episode which cropped up a lot – I won’t reference every time it was said because it would quickly get boring and stop being even the slightest bit hilarious, and I do hope you come here to be amused as much as anything else:

“Why can’t these people be the Doctor’ companions???”)

Mrs. Gillyflower preaches about the evils of society and such, and we are introduced to her daughter Ada, who was blinded by her father in some way that’s never disclosed. I don’t think I like Mrs Gillyflower very much. I think I am going to like Ada, though.

Mrs. Gillyflower offers a way out of the apocalypse! (But only if you’re young and pretty, of course.) “There is a different path! Sweetville!!!” (Bwa ha ha ha ha.) And they all sing ‘Jerusalem’, and Jenny signs up.

(“This is like those towns that were built for workers, like Bonville’s isn’t it?”

“Plus religious ranting.”)

Vastra and Strax discuss the situation in an alley filled with meaningful poster. Why does no one notice that Vastra is not human? The veil does nothing!!!!  I do like the relationship Vastra and Strax have, when he isn’t confusing or annoying her.

In Sweetville, Ada is taking food to a ‘monster’ locked up in an attic room.

(“I’m calling that the ‘monster’ is the Doctor.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.)

A brief comment here; although we loved Ada’s character, we were dubious about how well they represented her blindness. For instance  this is, presumably,  a journey that she’s made at least a few times before, so surely she would be more familiar with the route – using the wall to guide her or counting her steps, rather than swinging her cane in front of her – and knowing roughly where that hatch on the door is rather than groping around for it? Also, as we’ll see later, her blindness is rather inconsistent.

The brother of the man who died at the start – did we ever learn his name? – goes to see Vastra. Instead he sees Strax and faints. Again.

(“…why did he do that? Strax isn’t that ugly. He wasn’t doing anything shocking, he just opened the door!”

“They’re going for a Rule of Three with the fainting, aren’t they?”


Oh, the man’s name is Thursday. Strax once again starts blathering on about massive frontal assaults and annoying Vastra, which we have never heard before oh wait.

“Suit yourself” and his expression while saying it were pretty damn funny, though.

Once again a shot of the gates to remind us that this bit takes place in Sweetville (giggle). Jenny’s part of a queue for…something, probably to be examined in order to see if they’re suitable for Sweetville (snigger). She gets chatting to a young woman called Abigail, who amps up the tension by revealing that a friend of her’s who came to Sweetville (heh heh) wrote to say how wonderful it was, but hasn’t written since.

(“Well, that’s not ominous in the slightest.”) 

Jenny pays Abigail to cause a distraction she she can lock pick a door. Goodbye, Abigail, thanks for being a mildly interesting side character who faints far more hilariously than Mr Thursday!

(“Why couldn’t she be the Doctor’s companion?”)

It turns out the sounds of the machinery are, in fact, simply noises played by powerful gramophones. Why? Why does Mrs Gillyflower need to pretend this place is a factory, when she’s clearly undertaking something that could use some machinery?

Cut to Vastra and the coroner, who’s being his typical creepy self. “I’ve seen things that’d turn you hair snowy as top of Buckden Pike.” Hah, see, it’s funny because Vastra doesn’t actually have hair, oh how we are laughing. Once again with the ‘Crimson Horror’ schtick. He hands her a bottle of…something. Blood? An organ? A liver? I don’t know, the camera won’t show me. Vastra has seen these symptoms before, a very long times ago. Oh? When?

“About 65 million years!” she says, turning around to give the coroner a great look at her face.

(“Why does she keep doing that? For an age old lizard woman who’s meant to be keeping a low profile, she sure as hell isn’t doing a very good job of it!”

“She’s just doing it to look cool, and screw the consequences.”)

Mrs Gillyflower and Ada are having supper. Ada asks if Mr Sweet, their patron, is ever actually going to make an appearance. Mr Sweet seems to always be very tired, her mother answers. Mrs Gillyflower knocks the salt over and, while the servant’s back is turned, sprinkles some salt down the front of her dress instead of over her shoulder. Question; is the servant under her control? And if he is, why would she care if he saw her doing this or not?

Jenny is still sneaking around even at this late stage, and comes upon a door beyond which something red seems to be happening. Nothing specified, just red. And steamy. Then she hears a crash and goes off to investigate, going up the same stairs Ada took earlier in the episode and coming to the door with the ‘monster’ behind it. it appears the ‘monster’ is a person, since a red hand comes out to grab Jenny where she tries to peer through the slot.

(“Called it! It’s the Doctor, he’s wearing a wrist watch!”

“I think that’s a manacle, actually.”


She opens the door to find, guess who?

Capture crimson horror 3
All, right, not as shocking as the full on shots of corpses, but still, eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

(“Called it!!!!!”)

He moans a lot and seems in pain. Really, Smith does a very good job on conveying the pain and trapped state, I was wincing and cringing throughout. Jenny tries to get him away, but Ada comes up in the lift – so why did she use the stairs earlier? – with more food for her ‘monster’.  As they pass a window, Jenny and the Doctor see unconcious people being dipped into – red stuff, for want of better words.

Ada is very distraught when her ‘monster’ appears to have flown the coop.

What exactly are these things that the Doctor wants to get into? Steam cabinets? And what, so Ada just so happened to manage to get hold of the Doctor’s clothes, and his screwdriver, and get them all into the locked room as well? Without anyone noticing?

Naturally the screwdriver fixes everything. Next I expect it to cure the common cold.

The Doctor comes out, substantially less red, and proceeds to leap all over the place and forcibly kiss Jenny.

(“Not cool, Doctor. So not cool.”

“I know he’s glad to be all un-petrified and so on, but he knows that Jenny’s married to Vastra and doesn’t swing the male shaped way/ He deserved that slap.”)

Indeed, where is Clara? Jenny’s confused. Isn’t she dead?

Aaaaaaand cue flashback, with lots of still picture effects.

(“Oh great; how long is this going to last?”

“Oh God, Clara’s in it!”

“You really don’t like Clara, do you?”


Nice reference to a certain original companion with the Australian and Heathrow airport. They meet up with Mr Thursday’s ‘late’ brother before he was ‘late’, and get involved in the whole shebang. Oh, the Doctor’s the reason the coroner keeps going on about the ‘Crimson Horror’! Thanks, Doctor.

(“So why didn’t the coroner mention the Doctor at all to everyone later on?”)

The Doctor concludes that the redness on the corpses is some form of organic poison, he and Clara try to infiltrate Sweetville (heeeee) and get caught and get dunked in the red stuff. (This last bit was really horrible, especially since the Doctor wakes up just as he’s about to go in and is gasping and gurgling, ugh, that must have been awful to shoot.) Clara is…’whatever happens to those who survive being dunked’…ed. How do the undergarments of all those who survive the dunking process stay white and sort of pristine? And, what, Ada’s expected to dump all the rejects into the canal by herself? Of course the Doctor’s survived the process, so Ada takes him up to the attic room – again, I must remind you, with his specific clothes and screwdriver – and this whole scene is hella creepy but also rather sad and horrifying.

Cut to an unspecified amount of time later, and who should burst in but Mr Thursday’s brother – whose name it turns out, is Edmund – who also survived the dunking treatment and is screaming before he falls over dead, and that’s how the Doctor ended up printed on his eyes.


Okay. A few things I find strange about this last bit.

  1. Why is Edmund still alive? Admittedly he dies right after he bursts in, but he still lasts long enough to get from the dipping rooms to wherever the hell this is. It’s been pretty much stated that failing the conversion, or whatever it is, kills you outright; the Doctor only survives because he isn’t human.
  2. How is he still able to move properly? The Doctor couldn’t! Unless that’s again something to do with his alien physiology.
  3. How did he get in there? The door’s locked!
  4. How did he get from the dipping rooms to wherever the Doctor is without any of Mrs. Gillyflower’s goons noticing – especially since, as the Doctor theorizes, he was pushed into a vat – screaming and flailing as he was, thus revealing the Doctor’s presence?
  5. The image of the Doctor frozen in Edmund’s eyes looks nothing like the image Jenny and Vastra developed at the start.

So, Mrs. Gillyflower’s been using a dilute form of this organic poison to preserve her pilgrims against the ‘coming apocalypse’. They’ve got to find Clara! But isn’t Clara dead? “It’s complicated.”

We’re going to be hearing a lot of that, aren’t we?

(“And once again it’s all about Clara, sheesh. I hate this romance thing.”

“…it’s a romance?”

“Yeah, they’re totally setting it up for a romance.”

“…I thought it was more of a grandfather/granddaughter thing.”)

Strax is infuriated with the horse pulling the carriage and is going to execute it. How have this crew not been caught yet? Vastra keeps showing her face to all and sundry, and Strax has already killed three horses this week? Why have they not been caught? Unless, again, they have ties to Torchwood or something. In any case, a charming urchin called Thomas Thomas helps Strax to find Sweetville (…eh, I’m actually getting used to it now) while acting remarkably like a navigation system. Ummm…how charming?

The Doctor is rushing in and out of the houses, trying to find Clara, while Jenny tries to work out what the hell is going on. He eventually does find her, in a big glass jar that is remarkably easy to break with a chair without knocking Clara over or injuring her with flying glass something, because come on, it’s not that big a jar.

Mrs Gillyflower is horrible to poor sobbing Ada, and says she can never enter Paradise. We shall enjoy her inevitable death with great glee.

(“Bitch. Bitch. BITCH.”)

The Doctor and Jenny have manage to get Clara into the steam…thing, again without any hench-people noticing – oh, wait, tell a lie, now they show up. Jenny once again is brilliant, as she pulls off her dress and has a very Black Widow-ish ensemble underneath. With a big poofy bow at the back!

(“I love Jenny! She’s awesome, wearing all this as she has a big poofy bow at the back!”

“Why can’t she be the Doctor’s companion?!?!?!?”)

She then proceeds to beat up the hench-people, but balks at the sight of clubs. But never mind, heeeeeeeeeeeere’s Strax! With a gun!

Madame Vastra turns up too, and is surprised when Jenny mentions Clara. Why does the Doctor look so guilty all of a sudden? Strax once more goes into battle tactics which require the use of things that there is no way he could actually lay his hands on. And he apparently gets high on sherbert fancies, and must go and wait outside. Umm, why? Having a gun is very good and useful at this point! It’s already helped here!

Clara’s done, and the door is opened and she stands and sways there for about twenty seconds before swooning prettily into the Doctor’s arms.

(“They are so setting them up for a romance!”

“They are?”

“They really are.”


 Vastra talks about the ‘repulsive red leech’. She tries to make it sounds bad ass and it really, really doesn’t work, as the Doctor points out, preferring the ‘Crimson Horror’. Sorry, Vastra, you tried, have some points for that! It infected the drinking water and, once in the systems, secreted a fatal poison. You know, that doesn’t really sound all that much like a leech. There’s not even any mention of drinking blood!

(“This is my biggest problem with Clara.”

“How so?”

“They really had to dumb the Doctor down this season, in order to give her all the zingers. Like now; she’s the one who figures out the chimney. It’s all to show how wonderful and clever and brilliant she is, when she really isn’t.”

“…You have a very definite point.”)

So yes, Mrs. Gillyflower is going to rain down death and such from her chimney that doesn’t smoke, by way of a rocket, and the quartert make like Scooby Doo with the creeping around.

Mrs. Gillyflower has a revolving organ with the controls for the rocket behind it. Really, why does all this need to be secret? her henchmen are under her control, and Ada can’t see anything! And even if she could see, who could she go to?

Speaking of Ada, the Doctor and Clara find her sobbing near the attic prison room that appears to have two entrances, the architecture in this episode just confuses me now. The Doctor is wonderful and comforting and Ada is wonderful and heartbreaking.

(Altogether now: “Why can’t she be the Doctor’s companion?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!”)

Clara butts in and Ada envies that she’s the Doctor’s friend: “It isn’t good to be alone.” The Doctor asks who Mr Sweet is. Ada is agonized  but can’t betray her mother. The Doctor says that there’s something she needs to know.

Jenny and Vastra eye up the red stuff that’s about to go into the rocket.

The Doctor and Clara confront Mrs. Gillyflower about her little scheme, demanding to know when they get to meet Mr Sweet. They must be very close. She agrees. “Symbiotic, you might say,” as she rips open the front of her dress and

Capture Crimson horror 4


“Calm down, it’s okay!”


So…yeah, one day she found a leech, picked it up, receives his ‘nectar’ in return for letting him drink her blood and stuff (and, presumably, gives him salt; why I don’t know, salt’s what you use to get a leech off you) and ever since then has been plotting with him to take over the world! Or something.

Really, though, of all the names in existence she could have picked for him, she went with Mr. Sweet?

The Doctor tries to persuade her that this is a baaaad idea. Does she listen? Nope. She plans to wipe out all of humanity, save for her Adams and Eves, who will sleep for a while and then repopulate the earth.

(“I hope she’s got a wide enough selection, then; she’d need at least 1500 different specimens to create a healthy gene pool.”

“Well, yeah, but she doesn’t know that.”) 

It turns out that Mrs. Gillyflower is even worse than we thought, because she used Ada as a guinea pig to test the red stuff on, in order to get a working anti-toxin. Ada, naturally, overhears this, and…well…

(“God, I love this. She’s calling her a hag!”

“Not just a hag, a perfidious hag!”

“Best insult ever.”

“And she’s hitting her! Finally, someone’s got the right idea. Why didn’t the Doctor knock her out before now?”

“I love how the blind woman is the only one with the guts to smack a bitch.”

“Oh wait, the Doctor stops her.”


Clara tries to stop the machine with a chair. It seems to work. Mrs Gillyflower plays the wounded gazelle and takes Ada hostage.

(“Why is Ada just letting herself be pulled along? Why doesn’t she try to hit her mother again, what happened to the ‘perfidious hag’ bit?”

“Well, her mum’s got a gun.”

“True, dat.”)

The Doctor and Clara are running around outside…for some reason, and Gillyflower is pulling Ada up some stairs. Doctor and Clara get back into the factory and run up the aforesaid stairs. Gillyflower arrives at the secondary firing system. The Doctor begs her to let Ada go. She pushes her down the stairs. “Shoot me or no, you killed me a long time ago!” It’s all very melodramatic. Gillyflower activites the rocket, and up it goes! Aww, the Doctor protects Ada as it flares!

Gillyflower gloats, but then the Doctor reveals that Jenny and Vastra took the red stuff out of the rocket. (So, what, were they just standing there while all this was going on, or had they just arrived?)  Here comes Strax to save the day, again!

(“Yaaaaay, Strax!!!!!!”)

How did he get up to the top of a chimney? Who cares? Gillyflower shoots at him and misses; he shoots, he scores! Gillyflower falls over the edge of the railing and lands splat.

“No! Mr Sweet, where are you going?” There is not way this can be taken seriously, no way in heaven or hell.

Ada does not forgive her mother, hooray! Being totally sincere, here, the woman didn’t deserve it. The rocket goes off harmlessly. The team debate about what to do with the leech, but Ada makes the decision by squishing it, rather hysterically.

(“How did she know where it was???”

“She’s like Daredevil.”

“This whole blindness thing is really inconsistent  Like, sometimes she’s really lost and needs to fumble everywhere with the stick, and sometimes she can do something like that.”

“It was fun, though.”)

So the Doctor does not stay to help clear up the mess. If so, how are they going to reverse what Gillyflower did to everyone without the oh so magical sonic screwdriver???? The Doctor says goodbye to Ada, and it is lovely.

(“All the one episode romances are so much better. Like this one, Madame de Pompadour, that woman the Doctor fell in love with when he was disguising himself as a human…”

“Short and sweet and heartbreaking.”)

He also says goodbye to the trio – leaving them with a load of red venom to get rid of, woo hoo – and still neglects to explain about Clara. And Mr Thursday shows up just as the TARDIS leaves, and faints once more.

(“Oh what the hell, why did he faint a third time?!?! It’s not like he’s wearing corsets-“

“Actually, since this is the nineteenth century…”

“…fair point, but still, this isn’t shocking, this isn’t a surprise, this is just a box disappearing! That should not have made him faint! They were just going for Rule of Three.”

“And it isn’t funny.”

“You know, if he was a woman everyone would be screaming ‘stereotype’.”)

The Doctor drops Clara at home but – whoops! – looks like the kids have found out about her time travelling by way of photos from the internet. (How were they able to get hold of a photo from a Soviet era submarine????) Could you try to sound less excited about the fact that your live-in nanny is a time traveler, guys? Also, whoops again, Clara sees a photo that is of her but isn’t her, and guesses at her alternate selves.

(“…that was rubbish.”

“Really naff.”)


So, what did we think of ‘The Crimson Horror’?

Really good; it had lots of body horror, lots of funny bits, the Victorian trio are always great, Ada was lovely – if a bit creepy – Mrs. Gillyflower was suitably despicable-

“And Clara was hardly in it!!!!”

Umm…yes. Some of us like Clara more than others. Best episode of the season so far.


“…I do love how excited you get. Nobody squees quite like you.”


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