Office Whovian Darren Sykes delivers his verdict on the latest episode of Doctor Who...
Docto Who continued its current run on Saturday with luridly entitled episode - The Crimson Horror.
A second story this series from Mark Gatiss and the 100th episode of the series, since the good Doctor returned to our screens in 2005. And what better way to celebrate this landmark, than this hugely entertaining story.
A few series ago, it became traditional to have a ‘Doctor-lite’ episode - giving the incumbent actor a slight break from the grueling filming schedule the show employed.
At first, I thought this was going to be such an episode, with the characters of Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), Jenny (Catrin Stewart) and Sontaran butler Strax (Dan Starkey) pushed firmly to the forefront of the episode.
The only hint we had of the Doctor was an image of him in a photograph taken of a dead man’s eye.
Meanwhile, there were mysteries abound. Why did the austere Mrs Gillyflower (Dame Diana Rigg) want to build Sweetville, a factory to protect her community from the End of Days? Where was the unseen Mr Sweet and what was his connection to Gillyflower? How did the Silurian Vastra recognise the Crimson Horror from pre-historic times? And just what had happened to the Doctor and when would he turn up?
The episode took the excellent idea of a grainy period montage and quickly established the sequence of events leading up to the Doctor’s capture, treatment in the eponymous Horror and subsequent imprisonment.
Consequently, this gave more time to allow the story to unravel while keeping the viewer in suspense over just how these mysteries would finally be resolved.
Throughout there were plenty of amusing pastiches to both the Victorian era and the 1950s gothic horror movies which so often depicted that period.
There was a touch of the ‘Carry On’ too, as when Matt Smith and his fellow victims where about to be lowered in to the big vat of crimson venom, I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who thought the Doctor would utter the immortal words: “Frying tonight!”.
Released from captivity by the blind Ada (Rachel Sterling), who had taken a shine to her lumbering ‘monster’, he heading in to the Victorian equivalent of a decontamination chamber, where upon the Doctor was able to relieve himself of the infernal malady and set about the business of solving the mystery and locating Clara.
Many fans of 20th Century Doctor Who would probably best compare this episode to the Tom Baker classic: The Talons of Weng-Chiang. However, in many way this episode reminded me more of the Sylvester McCoy tale: Ghost Light. Particularly the scene in which the food tray is snatched through the door-hatch behind which the ‘monster’ is imprisoned (Control in the cellar anyone?)
Meanwhile, I was reminded of the the tableau of Mrs Pritchard and her daughter Gwendoline waiting for night to fall, when the Doctor burst through the door finding Clara and her suitor in a similar catatonic life-like state.
Happily restored to full health and alongside the Doctor, Clara makes a welcome leap of logic.
Rather than leaving the Doctor to sonic the launch controls with the far-too-often-used screwdriver, she takes the rather more practical measure of throwing a chair at them.
Ultimately, this merely delays the launch and Mrs Gillyflower and her now-revealed bosom-buddy Mr Sweet escape to use the manual launch system.
However, the ensuing delay does enable Vastra and Jenny to disarm the rocket and remove the venom with which Mrs Gillyflower planned to freeze everyone in a state of incorruptible perfection.
A pursuit unfolds, but the no-nonsense Strax finally takes care of the troublesome Gillyflower, dispatching her with a blast of his gun. And when it seemed the Doctor was about of offer a degree of compassion for the prehistoric creature Mr Sweet, taking him back to his own time, Ada provided a degree of Yorkshire plain-thinking by skewering the creature with her walking stick.
The episode concludes with Clara returned to her own time. Entering the house of the children she cares for, she sees her laptop switched on displaying photos the children have discovered on the internet of her travels with the Doctor.
Threatening to tell their father just what their minder had been up to unless they get a ride in the TARDIS, it looks like next week’s episode with have a couple of extra incumbents on board as the Doctor, Clara, et al, do battle with the returning Cybermen.
Overall, in a series which has been a little up and down, this weeks episode was great.
A nice light episode, which breezed along. Plenty of good performances throughout and laughs along the way. While all episodes couldn’t be like this, it was a welcome break before the bleaker, heavier episodes to follow and which conclude this series run.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Next Week: Nightmare in Silver