“Brave Heart, Clara!”—Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror.

Previously on Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.


And thus, Mark Gatiss has gifted us with a merrily sanguine and appropriately horrific Victorian adventure—in which the gentlemen do all the fainting.

Now, then. Strange goings-on in Yorkshire, people disappearing into a factory, and a monster hidden in the dark, burnt onto the eyeballs of the dead. Magnificent!

This story has all the makings of a proper Victorian Gothic shocker: a secluded factory that only pretends to be one, the mysterious deaths and penny dreadful stories, and then the labyrinthine layout of the factory itself making Jenny’s infiltration a journey into the shadows. The monster up in the attic, that’s the Doctor. (Ada continuing to call the Doctor, ‘Monster,’ albeit affectionately, is one of the more weirdly endearing ways of dealing with his terrible past…) When in doubt, look for the Doctor in the most perilous spot conceivable, then take a left.

Add to all of that a Jurassic leech parasite going by the name of Mr Sweet along with sinister global destruction and selective preservation of humanity according to a perversion of Victorian values, and you’ve got a lovely bedtime story. And it all just gets even better when there’s a parasite if not popping out of, living on a woman’s chest. Hello, Alien.

Speaking of storytelling: the sequence at the beginning, in which the Doctor retells to Jenny what he and Clara have been up to, is wonderful Victorian retro. Oh, and there’s a reference to Classic Who that’s impossible to miss: “Brave heart,” is what the Fifth Doctor often said to Tegan.

Strax: “Horse! You have failed in your mission! We are lost!”

Thank goodness the Victorian version of the TomTom GPS navigation system, Thomas Thomas, turned up just in time.


It’s been a while since we last met Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, and they just never get old. (I think lobbying for a mini series spin-off really is called for at this point. Strax, what is wrong with the North?!) It’s a pity Jenny didn’t get a bigger fight sequence, she was certainly geared up for it. Our friends are also suitably astonished at meeting Clara again—she was dead, and then she wasn’t, and now that Clara has seen a photo of herself as a governess in Victorian London, the trouble has only just begun. Doctor, you can’t just take someone else’s kids with you, that’s not… oh, fine, do what you want. We’ll hear all about it next week.

And then there are the brilliant Dame Diana Rigg and her daughter Rachel Stirling, who play mother and daughter caught in a maze of resentment, neglect, and rejection. Both of these women go against the convention that Victorian society has set for them: to be docile, to be virtually non-existent, to feel the vapours when convenient to the gentlemen. Mrs Gillyflower does it by preparing to remould the world in her image, rejecting anything but scientific ratio and what she calls ‘morals’—the traditionally male narrative if there ever was one. And then there’s Ada, a genuinely kind spirit dampened by her mother’s cruelty, who steps out of her mother’s shadow and refuses to deny herself her own experiences any longer when she finds out that her mother has been experimenting on her. She hates her mother and relentlessly does not forgive her, she rages and spews at her because it’s her damn right to! She will make her way in society, and she will be splendid.


Between the mystery, the threat to humanity, and the human drama (see, that is how a subplot does not become superfluous), the pace of the script never lets up, and it takes us on a fun ride that twists and turns and manages to keep the suspense and tension up until the very end.

Until: ouch. And crunch. The Doctor could take Mr Sweet back to the Jurassic age—but on the other hand…

And again, the Doctor is very cavalier about the death of a villain—this time, he didn’t offer a way out, did you notice? He only announced that he’d stop Mrs Gillyflower, he didn’t even ask her to stop.

Next: Nightmare in Silver.


  1. Look, I’m back! Did you miss me~? 😉

    Sorry I dropped off the face of the Internet for such a long time; I’ve proven to be very unreliable with consistency in terms of comments, replies, uploads, and the like…I’m going to try again, though, because in truth I’ve still been following your blog avidly and can no longer resist the urge to write you comments the length of my arm.

    This is probably my favorite episode this season, which surprised me, since I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as the previous ones. I couldn’t really explain why I felt that way. Maybe because anything that followed up the brilliance of the previous episode couldn’t hope to match up in my mind, or maybe simply because the trailer didn’t look interesting enough. Maybe both. Either way, I was pleased to have been proven wrong.

    First of all, this episode has proven to me without a doubt that I absolutely love Vastra, Strax, and Jenny. I don’t know why it took me until their third appearance for this newfound love to bloom into existence. I really need to figure these things out faster. I probably would have enjoyed them even more in the past rather than allowing my subconscious to remain so stubbornly neutral. Having a lesbian couple on the show is awesome enough BEFORE you take into account that one of them is a lizard and the other one is cool, feisty, and kickass in hand-to-hand combat. When you add Strax into the mix, you get some much-needed hilarity. The dynamics between the three of them are brilliant, and even by himself Strax comes up with some exceptionally quotable lines. His entire dialogue with the horse, for instance, and later, after Vastra reprimands him, stomping off and muttering “I’m going to go play with my grenades.” If anyone ever needed their own mini-series, these three certainly do. I am hereby casting in my vote. We should start a petition.

    I have no complaints about the story—I couldn’t even spot any major plot holes, and I always look. A few minor issues, but I’ll get to those later. You summarized it perfectly already: “Between the mystery, the threat to humanity, and the human drama (see, that is how a subplot does not become superfluous), the pace of the script never lets up, and it takes us on a fun ride that twists and turns and manages to keep the suspense and tension up until the very end.” Yes, I just copied and pasted that sentence because that is how much I agree with it—I’m not even going to put in the effort to reword it. XD

    Ada and Mrs. Gillyflower were brilliantly played; kudos to both of their actresses, because they were absolutely fantastic. (Whoops, now I sound like Nine.) Ada’s continuous and affectionate calling of the Doctor “[her] monster” was both cute and sad, especially when he never corrected her. He must think the nickname is all too appropriate for him.

    I gotta say, it was awful seeing the Doctor after the “rejection”, barely able to move or talk with the venom all over him. He always seems to know what he’s doing; it felt horrible and wrong to see him so utterly helpless and in need of rescuing. (It didn’t help that I didn’t see the monster=Doctor thing coming at ALL, so the shock value when Jenny opened the door was pretty high up there. I really should have put it together sooner, but I totally didn’t. Eh.) But then he burst out of the steam chamber all enthusiastic and ridiculous and just being himself (also kissing Jenny and getting slapped) and I felt better. ^^

    I loved the Victorian retro sequence too; the snapshot transitions between the scenes were great. Very well done, I thought~

    Now then, for some minor issues/questions: First of all, how did Mrs. Gillyflower manage to experiment on Ada without Ada knowing about it? I feel like she would have been able to tell the difference between being blinded by her drunken father and being poisoned with leech venom. Secondly, how did Vastra and Jenny get the gigantic bottle of venom before it was attached to the rocket? We get one shot of them looking at the bottle from a distance before they magically show up with it later. How did they manage to get to it? It was surrounded by guards preparing it for launch—did they fight them all off by themselves? Did they sneak in and grab it somehow? How on earth did nobody notice or notify Mrs. G somehow before she launched and destroyed the rocket? I feel like there should have been some sort of explanation there…or maybe I’m just missing something.

    Overall, though, I really loved this episode. Probably my favorite one so far this season. I’m not sure what to think of the next one—looks like the Doctor’s going to have some child companions for a little while (what could possibly go wrong with that, right?), and something about the Cybermen being revived?…Well, I won’t think too much about it just yet. Trailers aren’t always a good indication of how an episode is going to go, after all.

    Glad you’re still blogging this show! I love reading your posts~ I might work my way backwards now and comment down to the beginning of the season…should be fun. And you may look forward to many long comments in the future XD



    1. HELLO!
      I was wondering where you’d got off to 😀 It’s great to see you back here! GIVE ME YOUR ARM! I mean, your comments!

      I think it’s possible that Mrs Gillyflower either drugged Ada or blinded her in a surprise attack before experimenting on her; and then told her a different account of what had happened when she regained consciousness. In her confusion and horror, Ada probably believed whatever she told her, too afraid to question it. Though I don’t quite see how Mr Gillyflower never protested that notion — perhaps Mrs Gillyflower sequestered Ada away and then murdered her husband soon enough, I don’t know. That is indeed one of the minor weaknesses, though none that’s terribly disruptive to any enjoyment of the story.
      You’re right, it’s not explained how Jenny and Vastra got the venom off or out of the rocket. My best guess is that they snuck in and got it out of the rocket (I don’t think it was attached to the outside of the rocket or anything) after Mrs G’s people had put it in and, perhaps, let up on the guarding of the thing a bit. Though they were there in the stairwell when she launched it, weren’t they? Well, maybe it’s like Thomas Crown grabbing that other painting off the wall at the Metropolitan: no-one knows how he did it, because it’s logically impossible that he did. Yet, it’s gone, and they’re gleefully getting away with it; maybe that’s the case here, too. She’s a lizard, come on, anything’s possible 😉

      Yup, there’s gonna be kids — and someone’s calling the Doctor “the saviour of the Cybermen,” which I’m pretty sure he’s not going to love…



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