Saturday, November 2, 2013

50th Anniversary Countdown: Doctor Who 7.12: "The Crimson Horror"

“I’m the Doctor. You’re nuts and I’m going to stop you.”
- The Doctor

We’re nearing the end of the countdown folks and while that is indeed exciting, this week’s episode was not one of my favorites. But they can’t all be winners. Though I do realize that probably part of the reason for my dislike is that it was penned by Mark Gatiss. We kick things off in 1893 in Yorkshire. There’s definitely something fishy afoot as a man and woman are snooping around a building. The man goes into a red-lit room and the woman is approached by someone named Mrs. Gillyflower. She consoles the young woman about her late husband as the man screams. Next thing we know, he’s turned up on a morgue slab and another gentleman has paid the coroner for a peek at the body. Turns out the stiff is his brother. He heads to the home of one Madam Vastra where he gives her a picture he took of his brother’s eyes, saying he thinks they caught the last image his brother saw before death. Unfortunately, Vastra reveals herself and the man faints. She and Jenny do a little photography voodoo of their own and deduce that the last thing the dead man saw was the Doctor. So off they go to see what’s really going on.

Vastra, Jenny and Strax are trying to formulate a plan to infiltrate Sweetville (where the dead man came from). It’s being touted as the best city ever by Mrs. Gillyflower who is a crazy apocalypse-spouting weirdo. She’s got a daughter who she claims was blinded in a drunken rage by her husband. Anyway, Jenny manages to infiltrate the place and sneaks off to the restricted parts of the facility while Vastra and Strax continue their work on the outside. I do have to say, Strax always makes me laugh. He suggests if they don’t hear from Jenny by nightfall they mount a full frontal assault with minimal casualties (only 80%). A little later, Vastra visits the coroner and procures some liquid taken from the dead man. She says she’s seen it some 65 million years ago. That doesn’t bode well.

Back at Sweetville, the blind daughter delivers food to something she calls her monster before heading to dinner with her mother. There’s apparently a man called Mr. Sweet who never joins them for dinner even though it appears the place is his namesake. Mrs. Gillyflower knocks over the salt and dumps some down her shirt. Definitely not normal. Jenny is continuing to search for clues when she happens upon the room with Mrs. Gillyflower’s daughter’s monster. It’s no monster at all actually. It’s a glowing-red Doctor! They manage to revive him and as the Doctor rushes off to look for Clara (much to Jenny’s confusion) he recounts in sort of choppy flashbacks how they came to be there in the first place. And as far as I understand it, this takes place both after the events at Demon’s Run and the encounter with the snowmen led by the Great Intelligence (given Jenny’s belief that Clara is dead).

The flashbacks reveal that the Doctor was aiming for London 1893 not Yorkshire but they go with it. Part of me wonders since the events of “The Snowmen” happened in London if the TARDIS was avoiding any potential timey-wimey nonsense. The Doctor and Clara quickly happen upon all the insanity that is the Crimson Horror and do some digging, including learning that the red stuff is actually diluted poison. They go undercover as Dr. and Mrs. Smith at Sweetville but the Doctor ends up in the reject pile after being dipped in the poison (thus Mrs. Gillyflower’s daughter locks him up as her special pet). It helps to be a Time Lord sometimes. We also learn why the other dead man had an image of the Doctor on his eye. The man stumbled into before dying. The Doctor thinks Mrs. Gillyflower’s end of days rhetoric is ridiculous and nuts but Jenny does recall something that was said about the end of days raining down on them.

The Doctor doesn’t really explain about the whole Clara dying twice thing. But they find her in a bell jar with a guy (it’s all very creepy). He breaks her out and revives her but Jenny has to use some of her butt-kicking skills until Strax and Vastra show up as the cavalry (Strax has to get direction from a little boy named Thomas Thomas. At least he saved the horse!). There’s no real time to waste because they figure out (well mostly it was Clara) that the whole “raining down on us” thing means that Mrs. Gillyflower is going to poison the whole town. Speaking of, she’s found her daughter weeping in the cell where she’d been keeping the Doctor. Mrs. Gillyflower is really a retched woman who is clinging so tightly to her dogma it’s just depressing. She basically disowns her daughter and kicks her out of heaven as it were. That’s going to come back and bite her.

The Doctor and company split up to enact a plan. He and Clara are going to find Mrs. Gillyflower and they run into her daughter who is pretty dejected at this point. But they take her with them to confront her mother who plans to use undiluted venom on the unsuspecting populace. Luckily, Jenny and Vastra manage to steal the venom and Clara destroys the controls for the rocket that would have delivered said poison. And we finally see Mr. Sweet. It’s a rather lobster-looking leech thing. At this point the Doctor is getting angry with Mrs. Gillyflower and we all know he can be dangerous and a tad merciless when he’s angry. Mrs. Gillyflower’s daughters gets a few licks in when the Doctor reveals that she was experimented on. And then things go to hell. She whisks her daughter off at gunpoint and threatens to destroy them all, even if she can’t poison the world. But Strax comes to the rescue and she plummets to her death. And luckily, her daughter goes all badass on the leech and beats it to a pulp. Good girl!

The Doctor and Clara head off so he can take her home and Jenny asks again for him to explain about Clara. He doesn’t, obviously because he doesn’t know the answer yet. Clara gets home and the two kids she nannies have discovered she’s been travelling in time. They’ve found photos of her from the 1970s, the 1980s and 1893 in London. That confuses her a bit (as it should). Now she’s got to take the kids on a trip or they’ll tell their dad about all the weirdness. Manipulative little buggers. But maybe now we’re starting to counteract some of the giant reset from the prior episode. We can only hope Moffat and his crew will pull something truly epic out for the 50th Anniversary.

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