Our favorite Victorian trio is back on this week’s episode of Doctor Who!
Mr. Thursday’s brother has died tragically and mysteriously near the Sweetville match factory, leaving behind a hideous red body. The coroner has dubbed him a victim of “The Crimson Horror.” Thursday, being somewhat of a man of intelligence, hires Madame Vastra and her cohorts to look into his brother’s death. An optogram (the image taken of the last thing someone sees) shows a rather horrified looking Doctor.
Sweetville is taking in primarily the young and pretty, so Vastra sends Jenny to infiltrate. The recruiting process includes a sermon by the headmistress, Mrs. Gillyflower. She’s a hellfire and brimstone type of preacher who claims that the apocalypse is close at hand. She puts her own daughter’s scarring and blindness on display as an example of the wickedness of man, blaming Ada’s disability on her raging, drunken father.
Jenny sneaks around the factory and finds a red-faced (and red-bodied) Doctor locked up in an attic room where Ada has been keeping him as a pet. Jenny gets the Doctor his sonic screwdriver and he is able to unfreeze and de-red-ify himself. The Doctor provides Jenny (and coincidentally us) with a brief recap of how he came to be in that sorry state.
The Doctor and Clara arrived in Yorkshire in time to hear a terrified scream, which they of course investigate. All the signs point to Sweetville, so our intrepid heroes infiltrate the factory. They get ‘dipped’ just like everyone else. Clara takes the transition well and ends up preserved in a bell-jar, while the Doctor is rejected and turned into a bright red almost-corpse. Ada notices that he isn’t dead like the rest and takes him upstairs to keep forever and ever.
It turns out, Mrs. Gillyflower is dipping her favorites into a diluted poison to preserve them against the coming apocalypse that she’s going to be ushering in herself. The poison comes from a prehistoric red leech that’s attached itself to Gillyflower’s chest. In fact, the leech is the mysterious Mr. Sweet that we’ve heard so much about all episode. Mrs. Gillyflower makes it very clear that she only takes the best and the brightest, and that no longer includes her own daughter, despite the fact that Ada’s blindness was caused by her mother’s experiments with the leech poison. Gillyflower has loaded up a rocket with the undiluted poison and plans to launch it into the atmosphere to wipe out the rest of humanity.
Clara manages to destroy the remote control panel for the rocket, but there’s a manual backup in the factory itself. Mrs. Gillyflower takes Ada hostage and makes a break for the launching switch. She throws the switch, launching the rocket, but Madame Vastra and Jenny have already removed the poison, rendering the rocket harmless. Gillyflower rants, raves, and finally falls from the rocket tower. As she dies, the Mr. Sweet parasite abandons her, but it doesn’t get far before Ada kills it with her walking stick.
The Doctor bundles Clara back into the TARDIS, leaving the explanation he owes Vastra, Jenny, and Strax for another time. Clara is dropped off in her own time for a while, but her adventure isn’t quite over yet. Her young charges have found pictures of her time-traveling adventures on the internet , and they want something in return for not telling their father: a trip in the TARDIS!
Not that I don’t love the Doctor in his own right and all, but I would watch the hell out of a spinoff with Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. I’m thinking a Holmes-ian Mystery of the Week kind of thing. Make this happen!
Well done to Doctor Who for taking a couple of minor characters and running with them. Extra props for putting Jenny front and center. I’m taking away a few points for reusing the name Jenny, and not just because it’s my least favorite form of my own name.
I’m curious as to why the Doctor was taking Clara to London of that era, anyway. I don’t believe it’s ever mentioned in the episode, and it seems like just borrowing trouble to me. Was he trying to jog some memories of a past life? Hoping to run into someone who knows Victorian Clara for some unknown reason? What?
Next week is Neil Gaiman’s episode! After “The Doctor’s Wife,” there are no words to express my excitement to see what he brings to the table again.
Strax: “But how will she locate the Doctor?”
Vastra: “To find him, she needs only ignore all ‘Keep Out’ signs, go through every locked door, and run towards any form of danger that presents itself.”
Strax: “Business as usual, then.”
The Doctor: “It’s much better than it used to be. I once spent a helluva long time trying to get a gobby Australian to Heathrow Airport!”
Things to Ponder:
- If I were the Doctor, I’d avoid Victorian Yorkshire for a while. Our favorite trio is likely to sit on him to get their answers next time.
- Thomas Thomas? Really? (Yeah, you laughed too. Don’t judge.)
- I’m opening a pool on how late the Doctor is going to be when he returns the kids this time. Takers?