Saturday, May 4, 2013

Review: "The Crimson Horror"

Wow. So I saw "The Crimson Horror" at a friend's house today and I have to admit I was impressed.

Mind you, with the lemons we've been having of late, I didn't have particularly-high expectations, but still...

Okay, we all know the deal. Spoilers will follow with my actual content masked by changing the font color to match the background. Clever me.

Still there? Okay, you were warned.

The episode opens in Victorian Yorkshire. A man is talking intently to his wife, then enters a room with an ominous red light coming from the window. The wife lingers and is approached by a collection of Victorian women in dark attire, expressing sympathy for the death of the woman's husband. She looks puzzled then hears his screams. She then starts adding her own...

Cut to a morgue. A mustached Victorian man is paying the mortician to let him look at a body. The body is a corpse with the skin a vivid, bright red. The mortician chuckles and makes note that several have died that way. He calls it "the Crimson Horror".

The man then goes to visit the renowned detective Madam Vastra. The corpse was that of the man's brother. A believer in some dubious superstitions, the chap used a device to capture the last image in his brother's eye. While Vastra and her maid Jenny are skeptical, the man produces the photo captured in the eye. It is the visage of the Doctor.

Vastra, Jenny, and Strax work on infiltrating "Sweetville", a society run by the famous lady chemist Winifred Gillyflower (played, much to my delight and surprise, by Dame Diana Rigg).
Jenny gets the spotlight for a bit and infiltrates Winifred's organization. Winifred preaches of a doomed world that can only be protected by her perfect society: "Sweetville". Winifred's blind daughter, Ada, is paraded about to aid in Winifred's cause.

While Jenny infiltrates, the scene cuts away. Ada is feeding something hidden and caged away that she refers to as "her monster". It doesn't take Jenny long to find the hidden room and the identity of the "monster".

Yep, it's the Doctor.

The Doctor has been turned bright red like the corpses found earlier, but is semi-ambulatory rather than dead. With Jenny's aid, the Doctor reverses whatever was done to him and explains what happened:

He and Clara ("Clara?" Jenny often asks, puzzled... for to her, Clara died in "The Snowmen", but I digress) came to Victorian Yorkshire while trying to get to Victorian London. They stumbled across the mystery of the corpses and infiltrated Sweetville. They were captured by Winifred Gillyflower's agents and subjected to a mysterious treatment. The Doctor did not pass the treatment and was due to be disposed-of but was instead rescued by Ada and hidden away.

While this revelation is going on, Ada discovers her "monster" is gone. Winifred, finding Ada crying in the empty room, learns that Ada saved the Doctor and sounds the alarm, then abandons Ada. Winifred is only interested in her "partner", the mysterious and unseen "Mr. Sweet".

The Doctor and Jenny, searching for the missing Clara, encounter guards. Jenny beats the crap out of them like the leather-clad Victorian Emma Peel she is (I'm loving that Diana Rigg is in this!) then they track down Clara. It turns out Clara's frozen in some kind of suspended animation. The Doctor frees her then Vastra, Jenny, Strax, and the Doctor get Ada and investigate the goings on in Sweetville.

It turns out that the Crimson Horror is caused by some kind of toxin that Vastra is familiar with from her era. It's caused by some kind of rival species.

It turns out that "Mr. Sweet" is some sort of ancient era parasite who produces a deadly toxin. Ada was blinded by Winifred's experiments to find a counter-toxin for Winifred's chosen few. She intends to fire a rocket up into the atmosphere and use the toxin to cleanse the Earth of all but her chosen few in Sweetville.

Needless to say, she's stopped.

Overall, "The Crimson Horror" was an entertaining episode. On its own merits, I enjoyed it. Compared with the crap that was "Journey to the Center of the TARDIS", "The Rings of Akahaaten", and the abysmal "the Bells of St. John", this episode stands out as brilliant by comparison. Mark Gatiss could stand to write a few more episodes, in my opinion.

I was especially pleased to have an episode with an unrepentant villain in it. No misunderstood monsters looking for love or any crap like that. This was a true, nasty, villain. We haven't had anything like that since "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship".

All said, enjoyable stuff.

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