Introducing the Doctor’s latest gadget: A chair…
The 100th broadcast episode of the show (Not counting mini-episodes) since the series’ revival, The Crimson Horror features Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax being brought in to investigate the Crimson Horror, which is leaving an array of petrified, glowing red bodies. Something they are especially interested in due to one of the bodies having the image of the Doctor in their eye.
Mark Gatiss’ story mixes in elements of horror, period detective story, humour and science fiction set in Victorian England, which makes sense considering that he helped reinvent one of the most popular Victorian characters ever in Sherlock and wrote the really good and really fun Lucifer Box novel series set in that period.
But more notably, the story feels like filler, and yeah it is. But that’s actually its strength. It’s just a good solid, fun Doctor Who story using that classic Doctor Who trope of peeling back a seemingly idyllic scenario to something more sinister behind it. Sure, the threat was never looming, nor was the scale as grand or epic as recent episode, thanks to Diana Rigg’s villain who a Bond, a overly religious Willy Wonka and a Panto villain, but it’s the most fun episode of the series with the only dip in quality being right at the end when the series’ arc is a bit shoe-horned in.
But this is still probably the most enjoyable of this half of the series that is frequently funny, yet with some really dark moments and a real sense of energy to this episode. The best example of this would that that sepia-tinged, scratchy, fuzzy Victorian story recap sequence that deals with the backstory of the episode. There’s a lot of exposition in a short space of time and it’s really well done and the way it’s done has to be seen to be believed.
I admit, with this episode and The Snowmen is helping to prove to me why Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax, are considered so awesome, since the first third of The Crimson Horror was basically a pitch for Victorian-era Torchwood-lite spin-off with Jenny, Madame Vastra and Strax. Unusually, considering it’s usually Strax the comedy Sontaran and Vastra who take the lead amongst the trio, it’s Jenny, played by Catrin Stewart, who turns lead detective and it’s a welcome change of pace for the trio. But yeah, these characters were a lot of fun to have a around.
Overall, asides from the last two minutes, this episode was the most fun I’ve had since The Bells of Saint John. Even if it’s nothing groundbreaking and it’s as big as other episode in this series, it’s fun, dark, and full of energy and well worth a look.