The Crimson Horror is a very English tale about horrible things going on in the north. Yes that wildness between Watford gap and the Scottish Border, finally makes its debut in Doctor Who and when a Sontaran is concerned at going north you know something is bad.
Our bad thing this week is Diana Rigg as Mrs Gillyflower and her factory Sweetville where people go in and do not return. This calls for the greatest mind imaginable to investigate. Sadly Sherlock Holmes was busy and the Doctor has already tried, and kind of failed, so it is left up to the investigators of Paternoster Row – or as I call it the TV series everyone is crying out for but the BBC won’t get us. For God sake BBC, you were two minutes away from green lighting a spin-off series for Rose Tyler but a lesbian lizard detective show set in the Victorian times? Oh no!
Luckily, like their previous appearances in Doctor Who, the Paternoster Row gang are still as good as ever, although Strax is becoming worryingly one note. Personally I miss the bitter nurse who missed battle. While the short sequence with the horse and his personal stat nav Thomas Thomas – a gag I missed on my first watch through – is constant suggestions of full frontal assault are turning the Sontarans, as a race, into little more than comic relief.
Most of the action is focused on young Jenny who gets a chance to shine and show off her skills in a black cat suit, Emma Peel would be proud. Talking of Miss Peel, this episode belongs to one of Britain’s best and coolest actresses Diana Rigg. The only woman to ever marry James Bond has great fun being the evilest villain we’ve seen in Doctor Who for many years. She has no saving graces or bad childhood to blame for her actions. Like an apprentice candidate she knows what she wants and will make sure no one will stand in her way – including her daughter.
In a nice twist of fate (or casting), her onscreen daughter is played by her real daughter Rachel Sterling, I hope their off-screen relationship is better than their on-screen one. The breakdown in their relationship is beautifully summed up their final conversation that I won’t spoil here but it is quite heart breaking.
However, what makes The Crimson Horror so good is the excellent mixture of tone. Comedy fainting is mixed with the horror of the crimson process; cute prehistoric slug-worms sit comfortably beside old-fashioned film techniques.
Indeed the sequence where the Doctor, with full Last of the Summer Wine Yorkshire accent, explains how he and Clara got caught is a joy to watch. Colourised to look like film from the Victorian era with jump cuts and a soundtrack from a Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movie it gives the usual Doctor Who plot dump an artistry the sequence does not deserve. When was the last time that the Doctor explained the plot one of the high points of an episode?
Everything about this episode is great and as good as Hide, this series’ previous high point. Indeed the BBC has found its show runner for the Paternoster Row in Mark Gatiss, now BBC just commission the show!…please?