Mark Gatiss was back with another Who script, so how did it compare to his earlier less than successful efforts?
It was right up Gatiss’ alleyway, with a good dose of Gothic Horror; three parts League Of Gentlemen black comedy and one part Sherlock mystery. And for the most part, it worked pretty well, and was much better than his last effort; ‘Cold War’.
Set in Victorian Yorkshire, it centred around people dying from a mysterious disease which left them with red skin, it also featured characters other than the Doctor and Clara who refreshingly (like the classic cult Tennant episode ‘Blink’), didn’t appear till much later.
It also featured the return of (surely soon to be its own spinoff series – the way they push them!) Victorian Detective Agency – Silurian Madam Vastra, Girlfriend Jenny and her reluctant comedy sidekick Strax the Butler, picking up on the breadcrumb trail left by the Doctor who had gone missing.
It packed alot in to its limited runtime, especially characters, and at times it was hard to follow what was going on. For instance, why after the Doctor and Clara’s capture by the evil Mrs Gillyflower (Diana Rigg – looking surprisingly plain/ugly, didn’t recognise her at all!), did they pickle Clara in a big glass jar?
That said, they also dispensed with the usual Who buildup, (the Doctor and companion land somewhere, go for a walk, discover some trouble, get embroilled and then split up/kidnapped), where this would normally take up half an hour, they cleverly covered it in a couple of minutes of flashback.
Gothic Horror is Gattiss fortee and it was well conceived in this. You can also tell he is a genuine fan of the show, after including a reference to Tegan Jovanka with the Doctor stating he ‘tried to get a Stewardess back to Heathrow, on time – once!’.
Indeed, the Doctor covered in the Crimson horror and staggering down the corridor, arm outstretched – moaning could have come straight out of a Romero movie.
It had moments of humour within this dark tale too that weren’t too forced, especially involving Sontaaran Butler Strax and his over-excitement when it came to full frontal assault and wish to die honourably in battle.
The monster reveal didn’t disappoint and was suitably gross, a slimey and red fetus attached to Mrs Gillyflower’s chest.
It turned out that the cute little devil had been poisoning living creatures for a millennia and that Mrs Gillyflower had managed to synthesize enough if it to fill a rocket to sterilize the Earth.
It was definately Gattiss’ best script to date, for a Who fluff filler. It was a cut above some of the other drossy filler episodes to date (especially the awful singing one!). We didn’t uncover any more about Clara’s past, the Doctor seems to be happy for now with the ‘she’s just human’ explanation, but there has to be more to it than this, hasn’t there?