Something is amiss in Sweetville Mill - no one who enters ever leaves, and red, waxy corpses are starting to appear in the rivers. With The Doctor and Clara nowhere to be found, it's up to Vastra, Jenny and Stax to investigate the claims behind Mrs. Gillyflower's mysterious Mill... Spoilers, of course, beyond the cut!
Actually... there's nothing beyond the cut yet. Sorry! But if I've timed this right, - all praises be to the gods of Kinja's scheduled post feature - whilst I'm swanning off in London not watching Doctor Who (harumph), this post should go up as the episode finishes in the UK. So whilst you won't have my lengthy ramblings yet - I'll probably update when I get back and watch on the iPlayer - you've still got your weekly post to have a bit of a Who-based chinwag. How delightful!
So, enumerate your thoughts on Mark Gatiss' Victorian rompapalooza in the comments. Best Episode of Doctor Who ever? Worst Episode of Doctor Who ever? Are we loving Strax, Jenny and Vastra, or loathing their reappearance? What about that bit? You know. The bit. With the thing. That one. Yeah, that's the one I'm talking about. Who could've seen that one coming?
SUPER ULTRA HYPER EDIT EXTREME: Hello! I'm back from my travails in the capital, so now lets talk us some Crimson Horrors!
My word, I think I've seen tins of Del Monte less fruity than The Crimson Horror. A touch of the Gatiss Camp (something that was relatively lacking from the stellar Cold War earlier this run) permeates the entire script, in a delightfully Classic-Who manner. Although here the camp nature of dodgy northern accents, swooning women, Vastra's wonderfully over-dramatic veil liftings and Jenny's fighting catsuit does not detract in a way it has in past Gatiss scripts, but adds to it: it feels like a very silly, very enjoyable romp throughout, glammed up in gorgeously realised period-Victoriana that Gatiss writes so well. It was simple, clear, camp and fun: not the most stellar episode of Doctor Who, not the most thought provoking, but a fun, silly adventure that's very undeniably as much of Who's makeup as the 'bigger', darker material.
The decision to lead the episode (almost half of it) from the perspective of Vastra, Jenny and Strax was a particularly bold choice - especially to heap much of it on the shoulders of the young Caitrin Stewart, who's Jenny has been relatively undercharacterised compared to her Alien counterparts, but serves dutifully throughout here - and, understandably if the characters are not to your liking, a seemingly infuriating one, but Gatiss works the trio wonderfully, and fans of the Paternoster gang are treated to a great, almost spin-off-esque period of the episode before Clara and The Doctor make their presence felt. It's nice to see these characters again, but if this was their last appearance for a while, I wouldn't be sad - the characters were given their dues rather well.
Saul Metzstein's direction is as weirdly quirky as the script (the sepia-toned flashback sequence to explain The Doctor's presence in the story was an interesting, if slightly misjudged choice - It felt a little rushed in setting up The Doctor and Clara's plot, and oddly jarring in what had been a measured build up with Jenny's investigation of Sweetville). Sharp cuts contrast with the occasional swooping pan - and although it's not as visually interesting as his previous episodes, it is serviceable enough. However, given the past few weeks of treat after, its almost a shame to see 'serviceable' visuals for what are a bunch of rather interesting ideas. It's almost telling that filming was double banked between this and the Christmas Special, The Snowmen - The Crimson Horror suffers a little in its presentation in comparison to the lush and lavish visuals we saw back in December 2012.
Special mention must go to the stellar guest cast, who are on fine form here. There's a wonderfully hammy nature to the performances on display, from Strax's always welcome humour (I loved his little huff when Vastra wouldn't let him go one a rampage!), to Diana Rigg's delightful, borderline scenery-chewing turn as Mrs. Gillyflower, that suited the levity of the script - unlike last week's insipid guest actors, where over-the-top acting didn't suit the serious tone of the characters, here it felt like character actors having an absolute wail of a time, and that fitted the more light hearted, adventurous tone of the story.
But ah! All is not quite over, as we get another slight twist in the mystery of Clara Oswald:
Clara's been rumbled by her young wards, which is one thing (considering NuWho's spotty-at-best history with child actors, it'll be... interesting to say the least, to see how Gaiman handles those two next week!), but then: The picture! Clara has every reason to suspect that something's amiss, with the impossible picture of a Victorian London version of her... it'll be intriguing to see where this is headed - if we get more added in Neil Gaiman's Cyber-filled episode next week, or if it will all come to a head in The Name of The Doctor. But I have to say, unlike previous 'arcs' in Moffat Who, I've enjoyed the slow hinting at Clara's nature. It's been an interesting recurring thread throughout Series 7B, and I can't wait for the conclusion.
But yes, all in all, The Crimson Horror is an odd, wonderful, crazy episode. You wouldn't want it every week, but every once in a while, amongst the dark tidings, the scary returning monsters, and the epic, you need a bit of lighthearted, cheesy, classic-tinged silliness as a palate cleanser. It's far from the best episode of 7B (or even from Gatiss' best scripts for the show), but by 'eck and ee bah gum, it was a hoot.