|Originally Broadcast 4th May 2013|
Written by: Mark Gatiss
In a nutshell: Madame Vastra, Strax and Jenny investigate the Crimson Horror when they find the image of the Doctor burned onto the eyes of a dead man.
Review: “We must get to the bottom of this dark and queer business whatever the cost”. Straight away this episode sets the time and the scene for this episode. Period piece but a bit tongue-in-cheek, a bit funny. And that’s what this series has been lacking. Fun! The pre-titles was only three minutes but has instantly set everything up for us. Now we can jump straight into the mystery without being bogged down in more unnecessary plot. And what a great mystery it is! An image of the Doctor lying on the eyes of a dead man. Great!
The layout for this episode is just perfect so far. We’re following Jenny but stop to have a funny moment between Strax and Vastra telling of how Jenny will find the Doctor by heading toward trouble, which is labelled as ‘business as usual’. I’m assuming this episode delays the appearance of the Doctor and Clara because of the busy shooting schedule and to give them a bit of a break but this really doesn’t feel like the case. Unlike other ‘Doctor-lite’ episodes, such as ‘Blink’ or ‘Love & Monsters’ this one feels organic. The story has decided the Doctor and Clara won’t feature, not the writer.
One of the big headliners of this episode was the guest appearance of Diana Rigg and daughter Rachel Stirling. I’m a big fan of Rigg’s work and I adore The Avengers (especially her two series on the show) but I must, sadly, admit they don’t feel as special when sidelined by the team of Vastra, Strax and Jenny who are just amazing in this. It’s a shame when the Doctor does turn up, because the trio are gripping me on their own. I’ve really not missed the Doctor and Clara, as much as I love them.
Nevertheless it is called Doctor Who and the Doctor must arrive. It’s a bit slow as Jenny tries to turn him back to normal but once he does we get a funny dance which results in the Doctor kissing Jenny in a, possibly, sexist scene. But then we’re told the story from the Doctor’s point of view in the style of a silent(ish) movie and old grainy photos. I think it lasts a little too long but, as I said at the start, it’s fun and new and different. That’s what Doctor Who does so perfectly. Since the beginning the show has brought in new types of stories or old stories in a new fashion and here it’s brought a whole new style to Saturday night television and that’s wonderful. And the Doctor fakes a brilliant and funny Yorkshire accent!
I like that, according to Jenny, Clara died. It gives a nice sense of continuity, with the ‘gang’ last seeing Clara in ‘The Snowmen’ where she did die. Not only that but it reminds us of the very thin plot stretching itself to death across this half-series. Eventually Clara is found, rescued and brought back to life but not before a reunion with Strax and Vastra. Strax is becoming a tad bit annoying, I feel he’s a little bit one-trick pony and is only made special when teamed with the other two halves of the trio.
The speech from the Doctor that results in Clara telling him about the chimney that doesn’t blow smoke is beautiful and one of the few scenes this series that really sells the relationship between the Doctor and Clara as being great friends. This is followed by another beautiful scene between the Doctor and Stirling’s Ada. The meeting feels a little forced in it’s approach but it had to happen, the Doctor has to thank her for what she’s done and it’s a special moment in the episode.
The reveal of Mr. Sweet is a bit…disappointing I have to say. I was hoping for a bit more. He does look pretty good and real, but I can’t help but feel it isn’t as good as what I was hoping for. The Doctor also has to try and talk Rigg’s Gillyflower out of the plot but she gets a wonderfully evil “you know what these are? The wrong hands” line or two and is deliciously devilish in the last ten minutes of her life.
The climax is simple yet exciting but the resolution is a bit naff. Suddenly Vastra and Jenny turn up with the venom whilst Strax appears in time to point his gun at Gillyflower. It was always going to happen yet the trio had been off screen for so long it feels a bit of an inevitable cheat. The end of the adventure, though, is nice and charming and just right. The Doctor hasn’t explained who Clara is and admits he hasn’t. We’ve still got two episodes left and this time around it feels just right.
Then Clara returns home in a scene I wish to forget had anything to do with this episode. Artie and Angie find some pretty crap pictures from Clara’s previous adventures (who the heck took these pictures anyway, the entire cast are in the photos)! Oh god, kids in the TARDIS! Please no. And that line about telling Dad their Nanny’s a time traveller. Oh fudge it. The next episode’s going to suck.
Ignoring the final minute or two, this episode is exactly what the series needed. Not only is it the 100th new episode, it’s also a belter! It’s just fun, fun and more fun all the way. I wouldn’t call it memorable from the entire 50 year history, but in this anniversary year it feels very memorable and special and stand out amongst the rest of the mismatched episodes. This is, without a doubt, the must watch episode of the 2013 series.