100% All-Natural Composition
No Artificial Intelligence!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

"The Crimson Horror": Everything a tight lil' DOCTOR WHO story should be!

Before sharing my thoughts on this week's delightfully entertaining new episode of Doctor Who, check these pics out.  The first is from the set of the fiftieth anniversary special, still filming right now.  Here we see guest star John Hurt wearing some rather intriguing attire...

Doctor Who, John Hurt, fiftieth anniversary, costume, filming

Ignoring the modern jacket and Hurt looks... almost like a renegade Time Lord?  Let the speculation run amok!

But here's the pic that has gotten this fan-boy stoked most of all...

Doctor Who, fiftieth anniversary, Totter's Lane, junk yard, scrap yard, junkyard, scrapyard, special, An Unearthly Child

eeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKK!!!  And there's also a photograph floating about of Coal Hill School with a sign reading "I. Chesterton" as its headmaster.

Looks like the Doctor Who Fiftieth Anniversary special is going back to where it all began.  And bay-bee, when I say "where it all began", I mean where it REALLY all began!

Now, onto this week's episode: "The Crimson Horror"...

Doctor Who, The Crimson Horror, BBC, televisionI found this story to be a drastic and much-appreciated improvement over most of this past half-season.  It was considerably more entertaining than last week's "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" (an episode which after two more viewings I am even more of the opinion that it was one of the most wasted opportunities in recent memory about this show).

"The Crimson Horror" is a story filled with mystery, with grotesque imagery (the leech will have some remembering "the baby" from David Lynch's Eraserhead, which was something I've tried to forget having ever seen), with beat-skipping terror, with humor, with wild-eyed surprises and more.  The thing is: all of that is in the first third of the episode... before The Doctor finally shows up!  Mark Gatiss turned in a great story with this episode: rife with lots of twists along with some positivalutely sweet and snappy dialogue (especially from Strax!).

Yes, everybody's favorite trigger-happy lovable Sontaran (played by Dan Starkey) returns, alongside Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and Jenny (Catrin Stewart).  The year is 1893 and our favorite Elizabethan-era trio of paranormal investigators are called upon to look into the "Crimson Horror": something that is killing people and leaving them with shock-filled faces alongside a sickening red and waxy skin coloration.  Vastra recalls the old tale of how a person's eyes capture the very last image they have seen before they died, and with a bit of photography turns up with the final thing one victim saw upon this Earth: the face of The Doctor.

The trail leads Vastra, Jenny and Strax (who insists upon a more ummm... "aggressive" approach) to the seemingly idyllic community of Sweetville: a place pitched by proprietress Mrs. Gillyflower as a refuge against the coming apocalypse.  But all is not as it seems in Sweetville.  And then there is the matter of "the monster" that Gillyflower's daughter Ada has secreted away...

I thought that "The Crimson Horror" was a rollickin' wild romp across a lot of genres: notably horror but also a healthy helpin' of steampunk.  The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) continue to grow their chemistry together.  However the core strength of this episode is to be found in Vastra, Jenny and Strax.  Especially Strax: I love the part where he accuses his horse of "failing in your mission" and is about to summarily execute it.  Jenny finally gets to show her chops in combat (bold prediction: prepare to start seeing leather cat-suited ninja girls alongside the guys in tweed jackets and bow ties at the cons) and Vastra proves she's every bit a skilled investigator as The Doctor himself.

But I would be negligent if I did not praise the appearance of Diana Rigg: considered one of the most sincerely sexy actresses ever (yes, I used to watch The Avengers.  No, not the Marvel Comics characters and if anybody mentions that atrocious movie with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman, so help me I'll box your ears).  Don't expect however to see a hint of Emma Peel, because "The Crimson Horror" has Rigg veering hard into territory that many have never seen her in before.  Rigg's portrayal of Mrs. Gillyflower is intense, vicious and cold: one of the reasons why "The Crimson Horror" is such a gripping episode.  Rigg's real-life daughter Rachael Stirling plays Gillyflower's daughter Ada, and from the beginning we sense a persuasive (if also bitter) dynamic between their in-episode personas.  It's a work of brilliant casting and Mark Gatiss deserves bigtime props for writing an episode with this mother/daughter duo expressly in mind.

Listen for a reference to Tegan (aka the "Mouth on Legs") from the classic series which will have old-school fans snorting with laughter!  And there can never be enough Strax.  I wanna see him and his newfound human friend/GPS Thomas-Thomas cruising the streets of London (with Vastra and Jenny in the buggy) in their own spinoff series.  Tell me that idea for a show wouldn't fly.  Go ahead, I dare ya...

"The Crimson Horror" gets Four and 1/2 Sonic Screwdrivers out of a possible 5.  It's a model self-contained story that can be enjoyed by anyone, be they brand-new viewer or longtime Doctor Who fan.  I think the humor content alone will merit this episode as one that will be watched and rewatched for a long time to come.

Only two more episode left in this season of Doctor Who.  Next week: the much-anticipated "Nightmare in Silver", written by Neil Gaiman.  And then the season finale: "The Name of the Doctor".  And I found out this afternoon that because of circumstances beyond my control I won't be able to see it until two days later!  Ahhh well... gotta see it together with the girlfriend.  No ifs and buts about it.  But it's a small price to pay to be in love with a fellow geek :-)