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Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror – Spoiler-Free Preview

Doctor Who: Series 7, Episode 11
The Crimson Horror

Written by: Mark Gatiss
Directed by: Saul Metzstein
Produced by: Denise Paul and Marcus Wilson

Executive Producers: Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner

Broadcast Date: Saturday 4th May 2013 at 6.30pm on BBC One

Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz for The Gallifrey Times

The Gallifrey Times have seen Series 7, Episode 11: The Crimson Horror and have put our spoiler-free preview together:

Look closely at the colour of the image…

After taking a trip to the heart of the TARDIS and having a tangle with an intergalactic salvage crew, the Doctor and Clara are off to Victorian Yorkshire for The Crimson Horror.

Interestingly enough, while the Doctor and Clara dominate the episode poster, it’s the returning Paternoster Gang of Vastra, Jenny and Strax who take centre stage for a good portion of the episode – most notably, the first fifteen minutes (Paternoster fans, this is as close as you’re going to get to a spin-off).

The Doctor and Clara investigate.

Mark Gatiss has already penned the superb Cold War this series, but The Crimson Horror is firmly rooted in Gatiss’ Victorian Gothic comfort zone. He’s clearly at home here in the stylised, heightened Victorian world that The Crimson Horror takes place in – and he’s not afraid to take a few narrative risks, utilizing some utterly bonkers twists that leave the episode with a genuine air of unpredictability…

Miss Gillyflower and her piano!

But back to the Paternoster Gang. They’re generally better served than they were in The Snowmen – Jenny in particular gets a chance to shine early on in the episode, with Catrin Stewart’s excellent performance being one of the highlights of the episode. Strax, as usual, is mostly used for comic relief – but Dan Starkey plays the role to perfection, delivering some genuinely hilarious lines (watch out for his reaction to a stalling horse) in the process. As for Madame Vastra, she’s slightly under-used, but Neve McIntosh is just as good as she was in her first two appearances – and considering the trio will return in The Name of the Doctor, I am personally hoping for a little more character development for Vastra.

Strax in action!

There have been more imposing and frightening villains in Doctor Who than Dame Diana Rigg’s Miss Gillyflower – but there are few that are as fun. Rigg is a delight, staying just on the right side of camp – and while the character is a little one-dimensional, she utterly sells the character… even when one of The Crimson Horror‘s stranger twists reveals itself. Rachael Stirling, Rigg’s real-life and fictional daughter, is a surprise highlight, providing an affecting and at times ambiguous performance that may just surprise you a little.

He wears bowler hats now.

The Crimson Horror isn’t perfect, however. The unusual structure of the episode does make the story feel a little under-cooked after the Doctor and Clara’s entrance – and while the ending is far better than Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS‘ reset button, it’s not hugely exciting and lacks the sense of scale that The Bells of Saint John had in spades. There’s also a little too many changes in tone, leading to a sense of slight disorientation throughout the episode.

Clara… with a perm.

Overall, The Crimson Horror is an entertainingly bonkers romp which is perhaps a little too odd for its own good, but still manages to be an awful lot of fun – especially if you’re a fan of the Paternoster Gang. While it’s not the best of the series, it’s still another solid entry in a rather good run of episodes, and will certainly keep you entertained for 45 minutes. And if you’re in it for the trailer for Neil Gaiman’s Nightmare in Silver… you will not be disappointed.

The Gallifrey Times Rating: 8/10
Pictures courtesy of BBC