Right, I’ve just realised a pattern has emerged with the current run of Doctor Who.
- The Bells of St John – just OK.
- The Rings of Akhaten (aka the one with the singing) – loved it.
- Cold War (aka Ice Warrior on a Soviet submarine) – just OK.
- Hide (aka the haunted house episode) – loved it
- Journey to the Center of the Tardis – just OK
- The Crimson Horror…
Well, guess what? I thought this one was pretty smashing too. It’s written by Mark Gatiss and normally I put his episodes in the “just OK” camp. But he’s gone and done something special with this one.
First a brief story summary, hopefully avoiding big spoilers, but be careful anyway.
The episode starts not as an episode of Doctor Who, but more like an episode of Madame Vastra Investigates. Our favourite Silurian detective is brought north from London to Yorkshire to investigate some mysterious goings on at Diana Rigg’s utopian mill where people go in and never come out again. Except for the bright red bodies. Vastra has reason to believe the Doctor is involved and sends Jenny in undercover as a new recruit.
There is one moment I do want to mention here as it was wonderfully realised visually and audibly. Jenny is exploring the mill and heads to a door from which industrial sounds can be heard. She goes through and enters an empty factory space with some giant gramophone style speakers belting out recordings of the machines. It’s a fantastic image that will stick in my mind.
Jenny and Vastra eventually do find the Doctor, bright red but fortunately not deceased. He manages to get himself back to normal (i.e. not bright red) and he relates his involvement in the adventure. And an entertaining episode becomes even more entertaining because his flashback sequence is done in the style of an early piece of period film with added grain and noise and a sepia tone. It was a joy to watch.
Plus the Doctor references trying to get a “gobby Australian” back to Heathrow. “Brave heart, Clara,” he adds. The inner eleven year old that watched Peter Davison’s first series of the show was clapping his hands.
It’s also worth mentioning Rachael Stirling as Ada, Diana Rigg’s real life daughter playing Diana Rigg’s character’s daughter, if you know what I mean. She created a memorable and sympathetic character who had compassion for her “monster”. Put her on the list of character’s I’d like to see return.
Oh, there’s lots of great stuff in this one. In fact it’s so much above the level of the other Gatiss episodes that I wonder if he’s been held back from doing the stuff he really wanted to do until now.
Next time, the Cybermen return. And Neil Gaiman is writing it. Even though, it’s going to be an odd-numbered episode and therefore I wonder if it will be “just OK”…