Doctor Who Recap: “The Crimson Horror”

By May 5, 2013

There’s something rotten in Sweetville.

Mr. Thursday, the brother of a man struck dead by the “Crimson Horror,” comes to Madame Vastra for help. He hands her a picture of his brother’s eye…one that contains his last sight: that of the Doctor. Shocked, Vastra lifts her veil…and Mr. Thursday faints dead away, a running gag throughout the episode.

It’s up to Jenny to infiltrate Sweetville (despite Strax’s vehement protests). She attends the sermon of Mrs. Gillyflower (played by Dame Diana Rigg), a madwoman hellbent on creating a post-apocalyptic utopia. Her daughter, Ada–blinded and disfigured–serves as an example of the world’s evils. Back in Sweetville, Ada is hiding a secret of her own–a “Monster,” whom she cares for in captivity.

Mr. Thursday returns to Vastra’s estate, but faints again upon seeing Strax. As Jenny prepares to infiltrate Sweetville, the Sontaran has ideas of his own: a full-on assault, with a mere 80% casualty rate. Jenny’s approach is subtler; she picks a lock, paying a woman in the queue to create a distraction while she slips away.

Jenny hides in the next room, watching a group of men carry out a large jar of red liquid. Meanwhile, Vastra pays a visit to the mortician, who presents her a bottle of that same substance–the Crimson Horror. But it’s not the first time she’s seen the venom’s deadly symptoms; at the dawn of time, her people were plagued by them as well.

Jenny’s search leads her to the Monster’s room. She opens the hatch at the bottom of the door; a red hand jolts out, grabbing her. She breaks into the room and finds the Doctor, bright red and nearly immobilized, his face contorted like Frankenstein’s monster. Jenny frees him of his shackles and helps him down the hall. They slip into a glowing red room and see the horrific process that transformed the Doctor: a group of people, dangling over a vat filled with bubbling, crimson poison.

Ada pays a visit to her “Monster,” only to find him gone. She finds his empty shackles, and is distraught by his disappearance; he is a fellow imperfection in a Utopian village–her only companion. Meanwhile, the Doctor points Jenny toward a decontamination chamber. Moments later, he emerges, does a leprechaun kick, and proceeds to dip-kiss her, getting a well-deserved slap in the process (Side note: Eleven seems to be in a kissing mood this year. First Rory, then the puppet–which he made slap him, and now Jenny). The slap pleases him–he can feel his cheek again!–and he runs off, spouting off about Clara, much to Jenny’s confusion. After all, the last time she saw the Doctor, they were standing by Clara’s grave.

Flashback: In a grainy, old movie style, we get up to speed on the Doctor and Clara’s arrival. The Doctor’s miscalculated again–this time, he got the year right (1893), and even the country (England), but not the city. Instead of London, they’ve landed in Yorkshire. Apparently, he’s getting better–it took him ages to get Tegan to Heathrow Airport back in the day. And, so far, he’s managed to get Clara home in time for tea, as promised–a far cry from his year-skipping blunder with Rose.

A scream draws the pair to a bridge, where Mr. Valentine’s brother Edmund is pointing at another victim of the Crimson Horror. Naturally, the Doctor’s intrigued. Apparently, scores of people are moving to Sweetville…never to be seen or heard from again. He examines one of the dead bodies–which has captured, in its eye, an image. That, the Doctor declares, is only possible if “the chemical composition of the body has been massively corrupted.”

A plan brews: The Doctor and “Mrs. Smith” (Clara!) seek entry to Sweetville, posing as a married couple from the North. Mrs. Gillyflower shows them around, and Clara asks why she didn’t name the town after herself. She claims that it is named for her silent partner, Mr. Sweet. She opens the door to one of the apartments, showing off a couple, frozen at tea inside a display case. The Doctor and Clara are taken to the vat of poison–Clara is preserved by the diluted poison, much like those on display, but the Doctor is a reject–turned red like the other corpses. However, being a Time Lord, he doesn’t die. Ada takes him away, covertly chaining him up in the attic for safe keeping. Edmund, on the verge of death after having ended up in a vat of the Crimson Horror, bursts into the attic, preserving the Doctor’s image in his eye.

Back to the present: Along comes Strax, lost, and ready to shoot his horse until a young boy comes along and shows him the way to Sweetville. The Doctor and Jenny find Clara in one of the display cases, which the Doctor smashes with a chair.

Mrs. Gillyflower finds Ada crying in the attic, and is infuriated to learn that Ada kept a reject–and let him escape! Ada begs her mother for a place in utopia, but the old woman summarily rejects her; there is no place for imperfection in Sweetville.

As the Doctor puts Clara through decontamination, Mrs. Gillyflower’s minions approach. Jenny strips down to her catsuit and takes the first three down, but there are still more on their tail–this time with bats. The Doctor grabs Jenny’s hand and tells her to run, but laser fire scares them off–Strax is making a mad dash down the corridor, with Vastra hot on his heels. The Doctor releases Clara, whose appearance raises Vastra’s eyebrows as well.

The lizard woman tells the Doctor of the Repulsive Red Leech–a deadly parasite that once secreted the same poison currently being used in Sweetville. The group discover a rocket being prepared for launch–the poison will be onboard, ready to leech into the air and kill everyone but Mrs. Gillyflower’s select few. Outside, they find Ada; the Doctor comforts her, but she’s still unwilling to betray her mother.

The Doctor and Clara confront Mrs. Gillyflower, demanding to meet Mr. Sweet. Mrs. Gillyflower rips open her blouse, revealing the parasite, with whom she’s formed a symbiotic relationship. As Mrs. Gillyflower prepares her rocket, the Doctor reveals that she experimented on her own daughter, testing the toxin on Ada first. At that moment, Ada comes through the door; furious, she attacks her mother with her cane. Clara uses the distraction to their advantage; she puts a chair through the rocket launcher, destroying it.

Mrs. Gillyflower takes Ada hostage at gun point, dragging her to the secondary firing mechanism. The rocket is launched, but harmlessly so–Madame Vastra and Jenny have stolen the venom. Mrs. Gillyflower threatens to shoot them all, but Strax arrives, laser gun in hand. She fires, and he returns the shot, hitting the railing under her hand. She tumbles over, falling to her death on the ground below. The leech detaches itself from her, and Ada crushes Mr. Sweet with her cane.

As the TARDIS takes off, Mr. Thursday happens by, and, once more, faints at the sight. Clara returns home and finds a laptop open on the table…bearing pictures of her throughout the decades. Her charges, Angie and Artie, saunter in; they’ve discovered her secret! She’s a time traveler…and her “boyfriend” is an alien! Clara accidentally cops to it; she finds a picture of the other Clara, in Victorian London, and exclaims that she was only in Victorian Yorkshire. Satisfied, Angie and Artie ask to take a trip; she balks, but they threaten to tell their dad.

Looks like the pair are getting a trip; they feature prominently in the scenes for next week’s Cybermen-packed episode!