This week’s Doctor Who features one of the rarest, most alien settings of all: a British town outside London! Well, that’s not quite fair, the show has become less London-centred since Steven Moffat took over, but still, the North is a rare destination for the TARDIS.
As well as Yorkshire, other guest appearances this week include Vastra/Jenny/Strax, as well as Diana Rigg, fresh from stealing all her scenes in Game of Thrones this year. All very promising – did it deliver? Spoilers follow, watch on iPlayer if need be.
Doctor Of All Trades, Monster Of All
For the first third of this episode, I thought we were getting a no-Doctor episode, as sometimes sighted during the David Tennant years. No bad thing – these included the classic Blink and also-excellent Turn Left. But The Crimson Horror isn’t quite one of those, the Doc resumes centre stage once he arrives.
Nonetheless, this one has great pace, consistency and sense of quirky fun-adventure, with emotional underpinning provided by the evil Diana Rigg’s daughter, played by Rachel Stirling (also Rigg’s real life daughter, trivia fans). This is what they seemed to be going for in The Bells Of Saint John, but didn’t quite hit.
Like many such episodes, the tone is all over the place, whiplashing from horror, including vague Frankenstein tribute (Ada keeps saying “my monster”, even though she’s the one with Frankenstein-esque scars), to light comedy to tragedy, with an old-film style recap thrown in, but keeping a raft of styles together is one area where new Doctor Who often excels.
There’s Something About Clara…
Vastra and co are always a welcome sight – obviously they’re here to provide an easy sideshow and gape at the reincarnated Clara. Not sure they need a whole spin-off show like many seem to want, but if they had a one-off special or some short webisodes, I’d watch them.
And Clara’s mystery is being handled like an old-school Russell T. Davies series arc – Moffat and co don’t drop any big hints, just keep telling us something is up. It makes guessing the answer nigh-on impossible, but also prevents anyone moaning it was too obvious, like they did with the River Song identity arc. I really hope Clara isn’t yet another regeneration of Melody Pond, by the way – that’s basically my only opinion on the resolution.
Anyway, long story short, a really good straight-up entertaining Doctor Who episode, possibly one of my favourite contributions by Mark Gatiss. After a slightly unsteady start to this run of eight, good to see things turning round. Next up – Neil Gaiman, Cybermen and child actors!