This week saw the return of the fierce, samurai sword wielding, Victorian, interspecies lesbians that fight crime and it’s almost as awesome as you’d imagine.
Back in 1893, Silurian Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and her wife, Jenny (Catrin Stewart), head north to investigate “The Crimson Horror” (with the help of their Sontaran butler Strax – Dan Starkey). Once in Yorkshire Jenny infiltrates the mysterious Sweetville community led by Mrs. Gillyflower (Diana Rigg) who preaches about the coming apocalypse. Jenny soon discovers the Doctor, chained up and bright red.
After a little bit of sonicing The Doctor’s back and it turns out while heading to London with Clara (no doubt to jog her memory) he got caught investigating the mysterious Yorkshire plagues. After mysteriously surviving rejection the Doctor was saved by Mrs. Gillyflower’s blind daughter Ada (if being chained up and called monster can be called a rescue).
The Doctor (Matt Smith) soon finds Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) and they continue their investigation. Madame Vastra recognizes the venom that is causing the deaths; it comes from a prehistoric red leech. Mrs. Gillyflower reveals that her silent partner, Mr Sweet is actually the red leech she’s keeping on her chest. Her plan is to launch a rocket with the venom killing the world’s population and allowing her to repopulate it with her perfect Adam-and-Eve’s. She also admits to experimenting on her daughter causing her blindness.
Mrs. Gillyflower launches the rocket my Jenny and Vastra reveal they have already removed the poison. Strax shoots Mrs. Gillyflower and Ada (Racheal Stirling) stabs the leech with her walking stick. The Doctor and Clara say goodbye and the Doctor refuses to answer Jenny and Vastra’s questions about Clara because he still doesn’t know the answer. It’s complicated.
While this episode was basically filler, it was a fun filler. Keeping the Doctor out of the action for the first fifteen minutes cut back on exposition increased the suspense and took advantage of the fantastic guest characters. I could watch an entire series about Vastra, Jenny and Strax they are that fantastic and because of their role in the Christmas episode their inclusion actually furthers the series mystery.
The mystery was complex but logical enough to follow. It was a tad over the top at times but that only added to the charm. Diana Rigg was perfect as the evil Mrs Gillyflower and there were great one-liners, especially from Sontaran butler Strax. Jenny stripping off her Victorian dress and kicking some ass was fantastically fun, albeit a little cliché. Clara is noticeably absent but I can’t say that harmed my enjoyment of the episode.
All in all it was a fun romp through Victorian Yorkshire and a nice break from the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey mystery of Clara Oswald. Next week’s Neil Gaiman penned adventure features one of the Doctor’s biggest foes, the Cybermen.
Review by Yvonne Popplewell.
More of Yvonne’s work can be found at her blog.