I’m back from vacation, and happy to report that while not quite up to the par of series five and six, our dear Doctor has recovered enough to deliver three decent episodes in a row!
We open in 1893 Yorkshire. A passionate couple kiss, and the he of the group promises to get to the bottom of “this dark and queer business, no matter what the cost.” He disappears into a room filled with red light, and a Mrs. Gillyflower and her entourage enter the room to wish the woman condolences on the death of her husband. The confused woman tries to protest, until she hears her husband scream, and then begins to scream herself.
Apparently, the husband has suffered from “The Crimson Horror,” a syndrome that leaves the afflicted beet red, frozen and decidedly dead. The super creepy 1893 version of Quincy, ME tells of the affliction to a man, Mr. Thursday, who coins my new favorite true sentiment by saying, “I have no interest in the deplorable excesses of the penny dreadfuls.” RIGHT?!?! Apparently, the corpse is the Mr. Thursday’s brother, and he wants answers. So he heads to the investigative team of….Madame Vastra and Jenny! Woo-hoo!
Mr. Thursday tells Vastra the whole situation, and then asks her if she knows what an optogram is. Apparently, there is a belief that the eye can record an image of the very last thing it sees. He hands a photo of his brother’s optogram to Vastra and Jenny, and it is so shocking it makes Vastra remove her veil, causing Mr. Thursday to pass out, stone cold. Jenny and Vastra enlarge and examine the photo. Frozen in the young man’s eye? The last thing he saw? Eleven, of course.
The Crimson Horror has been sweeping through a town called “Sweetville,” an apparent utopian community that is currently recruiting the fittest and most beautiful for residency. Strax (yay!) volunteers, but of course our Madame V is referring to the ever adorable Jenny, who smiles sweetly. Awwwwww. Strax, rejected, offers to outfit Jenny with an impressive arsenal of weapons (including his beloved grenades.) “Remember, we are going…to the North…” he hisses in horror.
Mrs. Gillyflower is in Sweetville, preaching about the need for her gated paradise in the face of the coming apocalypse, presenting as a cautionary tale of the dangers of excess her daughter, Ada, who was blinded by her drunken husband. People seem influenced (ie: crapping their Victorian undergarments.) Jenny observes, prepared to go undercover, though she seems nervous. She is accepted as an applicant, and goes to look for the Doctor. She will do this, Vastra says, by, “…ignoring all ‘keep out’ signs, going through every locked door, and running towards any form of danger that presents itself.” That sounds about right.
Poor, blind, Ada climbs the stairs to feed a crimson prisoner, whom she lovingly refers to as her “monster.” Meanwhile, Mr. Thursday comes back to visit Vastra and sees potato headed man Strax. Which promptly makes him pass out. Again. Vastra wants to know how the Doctor’s image came to be on a dead man’s eye. She is also wondering about her dear Jenny. Strax suggests that if Jenny hasn’t been heard from by midnight, they should launch a full-frontal assault, which casualties as minimal as 80%. Vastra was looking to be a little more subtle.
Back in Sweetville, Jenny is in a line for processing with Abigail, a woman with most unfortunate teeth. Abigail tells Jenny that once people move in they are not heard from again. Jenny spies a door labeled “No Entry” and bribes Abigail to distract while she, of course, enters. Abigail faints. What a swoony episode this is.
Jenny enters an odd room with…world’s largest gramophones? Playing Victorian industrial music ? With poison in them? A concert by Strychnine Inch Nails perhaps? Somebody wants people to believe there’s actually work being done here. Meanwhile, Creepy, ME is showing Vastra the Crimson Horror poison which she is sure she has seen a while back. And by “a while” she means 65,000,000 years ago.
Mrs. Gillyflower and Ada are eating dinner. Ada asks if “Mr. Sweet” will ever join them. Mrs. G says he is “tired” and, cryptically drops some salt in her collar.
Jenny continues to search for the Doctor. Did I mention how much I love Jenny? Well, now you know. I have a massive girl crush on her. So there. Anyway, Jenny finally comes across Ada’s “monster’s” room, and tries to soothe it before she opens the door. I may or may not be swooning myself. She finally enters to find a beet red Eleven in only his undergarments, stiff and awkward and groaning. This is not nearly as sexy as it sounds, sadly.
Jenny releases the Doctor from his shackles, and leads him down the hall. He walks like a zombie, but he has a rather nice bottom in those longjohns, it must be said. Jenny leads the Doctor past a window that looks onto a large vat of bubbling red liquid that humans are being dipped into. Ada goes to visit her beloved “monster,” and finds him gone.
The Doctor gestures to Jenny that he wants to enter what boyo #2 refers to as a “high tech, high-school locker.” Which is a really accurate description, actually. Jenny lets him in, gives him his clothes and the sonic, and shuts the door, hiding. Soon enough, our favorite intergalactic charmer bursts out, good as new, greeting Jenny with a saucy, “Miss me?” Jenny is thrilled. “Just when you think your favorite lock-picking Victorian chamber maid will never turn up! Jenny…” growls Eleven, and sweeps her down for a passionate kiss. Which I don’t understand, but they are both pretty sexy so I am willing to go with it. Even when the V loyal Jenny, slaps him across the face. Do you see what I did there?
The Doctor recounts his tale of how he became a walking beet, and we see it in flashback. The Doctor and Clara visited, heard screams and poked it with a stick, natch, learning of The Crimson Horror and Mrs. Gillyflower, prizewinning chemist and mechanical engineer, who founded Sweetville. The Doctor loves the name “The Crimson Horror” and wonders what it is. He sees a dead woman’s optogram, and they decide to investigate by going undercover as Dr. and Mrs. Smith, a couple from the north with very amusing accents. Mrs. Gillyflower shows them a typical Sweetville home, complete with a couple who are frozen under a display globe. Before the Doctor and his “Mrs.” can flee, they are grabbed, and dipped in the bubbling vats of red. Clara, it seems, froze perfectly in the process. The Doctor, sadly, was added to the canal of “rejects” despite being alive. Before he can be swept away, poor, sad Ada claimed him for her own and locked him up, her own pet Frankenstein. Apparently, the dead guy from the beginning lived just long enough to see Eleven and form an optogram of his own.
Jenny asks the Doctor what the red stuff is. Apparently it is an organic poison Gillyflower is using to “preserve” her pilgrims so they can survive “the upcoming apocalypse.” And sometimes, it goes wrong. The Doctor thinks Gilly is a whackadoo, and tells Jenny they have to find Clara. Jenny is understandably confused.
We cut to Strax, who is lost. He blames his very edible horse. He meets Thomas Thomas, an adorable urchin with impeccable direction sense. (Tom Tom. Get it?) Strax takes him along, trying to avoid recalculation.
The Doctor and Jenny search for the complicated Clara, and find her frozen under a globe in a house. He uses a chair to bust her out while Jenny watches, stunned that Clara is still alive.
Ada, meanwhile, is mourning her “monster.” Gillyflower finds her weeping, and Ada confesses the truth, saying that her “monster” is strong and thus deserves the salvation of Sweetville, as does she. The cold Mrs. G. doesn’t care, and tells her that neither one of them would be eligible, as nothing but perfection is acceptable for her and Mr. Sweet. Bitch. All she needs is a wire coat-hanger.
The Doctor attempts to perform his revival trick on Clara, when he and Jenny are beset upon what he snarls as, “The attack of the supermodels.” He aims the sonic, but Jenny interrupts him, stripping down to her super-hot, Victorian ninja outfit with relish. The Doctor and I are both impressed. And aroused. His sonic rises as he watches her, and then he lowers it, self-conscious. I get it.
Jenny kicks ass on three of the goons, not bothering to take their stupid names. “That *is* a plan,” says Eleven, and Jenny grins, cocking an eyebrow. And I love her. She is my new favorite person on television. Followed by Strax, who busts in with a gun as the Doctor and Jenny run, blasting everything in sight with glee. Vastra shows up in time to be confused by Clara’s revival. As they wait, Strax proposes cluster mines and trenches filled with acid and he looks like I do when I talk about colored paper and cake. “Strax! You’re overexcited!” says Vastra. “Have you been eating Miss Jenny’s sherbet fancies again?” “Noooo…” he lies. And I resist the obvious joke about who has been eating Jenny’s fancies. Mostly. Strax gets sent outside to play with his grenades. For once, I am sure that is not a euphemism.
Clara emerges, all fainty. The doctor looks like he will kiss her, too, and this is easily the swooniest episode ever. Clara looks at Jenny and Vastra with surprise. “Haven’t you heard, luv,” the Doctor says in his north accent. “There’s trouble at t’mill.” Clara waits, looking at Vastra. “She’s a lizard,” he clarifies, smiling.
Our rag tag band runs off, Vastra telling the Doctor that her people once fought a parasite called “The Deadly Red Leech.” This is the base of the poison in the vat. Clara tries to interrupt, talking about the chimney, and finally the Doctor and Clara put it together—the chimney that does not blow smoke will, instead, blow the poison into the air. “Clever clogs,” the Doctor says to Clara. “Miss me?” she asks. “Yeah. Lots,” he admits, kissing her forehead with a grin. River is going to be pisssssed.
“All right gang,” says the Doctor (and he loves having a gang, doesn’t he?) “I have a plan.” They storm off and the Doctor sees poor, sad Ada, and reveals himself to her. He thanks her for her care, and tries to comfort her. She mourns her imperfection. “Perhaps it was my own sin, the blackness in my heart that my father saw in me,” she says. “That’s nonsense. Stupid backwards nonsense, and you know it,” Eleven replies, comfortingly. Clara introduces herself as a friend of the Doctor. Ada is glad. “It isn’t good to be alone,” she says. She refuses to betray her mother and tell who Mister Sweet is. The Doctor encourages her to come with them and learn what he mother is capable of.
The Doctor and Clara bust in on Mrs. Gillyflower, saying, “I’m the Doctor, you’re nuts and I’m going to stop you!” easily summarizing 50 years of plots in one sentence. Eleven and Clara want to meet Mr. Sweet. Gillyflower rips open her bodice to reveal a gross, red, worm-leech-thing with an old man’s face. Ugh. Apparently, Mrs. G knows that the whole planet could be poisoned. She doesn’t give a slug’s ass, as it were. Her pilgrims under glass will be saved, and she will form a whole new society. Thus, slamming home the whole Nazi comparison.
The Doctor asks about Ada, and why Mrs. G experimented on her. She confesses it is true, and Ada overhears. Ada is righteously, deservedly pissed. She calls her mother a “perfidious hag” and a “virago” and a “harpy” and weren’t insults just grand in Victorian times? “Douche” pales in comparison. Anyway, Clara rams the control panel to the poison distributor with a chair, charming Eleven. Strax and Thomas Thomas watch the Doctor save the world. Again.
Mrs. Gillyflower tries to escape, using Ada as a hostage. They run out, and Clara wants to pursue, but the Doctor warns her Mrs. G will shoot Ada on the spot. “She wouldn’t,” Clara says, horrified. “She would,” confirms Eleven. He takes the chair and swings it at the balcony window. “Chairs *are* useful!” he says with a grin. Clara smiles and agrees.
The Doctor and Clara race after Mrs. G and Ada, who intend to launch the poison filled rocket…manually? I guess? Oh. There is a secondary firing mechanism. Nice. The Doctor convinces Mrs. G to let Ada go, who is heartbroken and upset. Mrs. G starts shooting and singing a hymn, throwing the switch. The rocket of poison launches, but Mrs. G has been thwarted by the single hottest same sex but different species couple on TV, Vastra and Jenny, who have removed the poison from it! Mrs. G decides to shoot them all. What she doesn’t count on is Strax, who has climbed the tower and is aiming a laser at her. Good boy, Strax! You can have all the fancies you like. Mrs. G shoots at Strax and he shoots back, causing her to injure her hand and fall down the metal stairs of the launch tower. The Doctor grimaces. “Ouch,” he hisses.
Mrs. G is dying, and Mr. Sweet detaches, looking for a new host. It is pretty gross looking. The Doctor, of course, wants to transport it somewhere safe, but Ada goes all Raid on it and smashes Mr. Sweet with her cane into a green goo. Yuck. And yay!
We cut to the TARDIS, and the Doctor says he will now take Clara to Victorian London. She’s had enough, though, and wants to go home. “You’re the boss,” says the Doctor. “Am I?” asks Clara, delighted. “No. No! Get in,” he says. She does. He says goodbye to Ada, who promises to come out of the dark and find things to do. The Doctor assures her she will be “splendid” and…kisses her too! Jeez! Loose lips, Eleven. Though you are adorable in a bowler hat.
The Doctor wishes the fantastic trio farewell. Jenny reminds him he has not explained Clara. “No. I haven’t,” he agrees with a grin, entering what he refers to as the “muck” covered TARDIS. Mr. Thursday arrives to confer with Vastra, and sees the TARDIS disappear. Prompting another fainting spell. Jeez. Grow some grenades, man.
Back in modern London, Clara is amusing herself, whirling about the house, calling herself “The Boss” as the TARDIS takes off. Her adorable charges come in, and show her they have been looking at pictures of her and her adventures. They call The Doctor her “boyfriend” and say he must be an alien, because of the chin. And the time travel. Clara doesn’t disagree. They pull up a picture of Old Tyme Clara, and she is confused, knowing that isn’t her. The two kids want a ride on the TARDIS, like, now. And if Clara doesn’t make it happen, they will tell their dad all about her.
Next week: Teens on the TARDIS? That can’t go wrong, right? Written by Neil Gaiman and featuring Cybermen? YES, PLEASE!
Barbara Sirois Doyle is a writer for Sweatpants & Coffee. She is waiting for a madman with a box.