Recap / Doctor Who S33 E11 "The Crimson Horror"

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"Oh, 'aven't ye 'eard, luv? There's trouble a' t'mill."

"Ooh. Good name. Hey, that's good, isn't it? The Crimson Horror! I wonder what it is..."
The Doctor

Written by Mark Gatiss.
There's something very odd about Mrs. Gillyflower's Sweetville mill, with its perfectly clean streets and beautiful people. There's something even stranger about the bodies washing up in the river, all bright red and waxy, with an expression of absolute horror on their faces. Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax are contacted by a dead gentleman's brother and decide to go up to Yorkshire to investigate.

Mrs. Gillyflower is recruiting people in the local church, where she shows the crowd her beautiful blind daughter Ada. The young woman was blinded and heavily scarred by Mrs Gillyflower's husband, and in response, Mrs Gillyflower decided to provide a safe haven for all those who want a better way of life. Sweetville mill only takes the best and the most beautiful. Jenny decides to infiltrate into the mill, where she finds the chained "monster" that Ada has come to love as her pet over the last few weeks... the Doctor, severely paralyzed by the crimson horror. His skin is dark red, his mouth is frozen wide open. His Bizarre Alien Biology allowed him to survive the process that killed many other "discarded" gentlemen and ladies, and Ada hid him from her mother as her own private pet. With what little motion he has left in his limbs, the Doctor manages to show Jenny how to restore him back to normal, and explains that Mrs Gillyflower is running a scheme rather more sophisticated than a simple mill. Apparently, it involves a never-seen gentleman named "Mr Sweet". Vastra, meanwhile, recognises the crimson horror from her own time period.

The Doctor and Clara were captured when he tried to take her to Victorian London and figure out a bit more about her mystery. The TARDIS landed them in Yorkshire instead, where they decided to investigate the crimson horror and were promptly captured while attempting to infiltrate. Once Clara is freed (to Jenny's great confusion — after all, she saw Clara die last time), the Doctor finds Ada and reveals himself to her as her "monster", before confronting Mrs Gillyflower. The old woman reveals that she's got a prehistoric red leech — Mr Sweet — stuck to her chest, and plans to spread its infection across the planet to kill all but her "best and most beautiful"... using brainwashed labour forced to build a Steam Punk rocket. Ada is mortified to be betrayed by her mother, especially once the Doctor calls Mrs Gillyflower out on being the cause of Ada's scars. While Vastra and Jenny neutralise the rocket, Mrs Gillyflower is defeated by Strax and spends her final moments complimenting Ada on her ruthlessness. The Doctor proposes to take the leech back to its proper time period. Ada hacks it to bits with her cane instead.

In the aftermath, Clara takes a break to head home and spend some time with her replacement family. Angie and Artie, who know a good adventure when they see one, have done some internet research and found pictures of Clara across time — including one from Victorian London, instead of Yorkshire. Clara's confusion prompts her to reveal her time travelling secret to the kids, who insist on coming along.


Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: When we're introduced to Ada Gillyflower, we're told that she was blinded by her father. It's later revealed that Ada's scarring actually came from experiments done by her mother.
  • Action Girl: Jenny steps up for unarmed combat.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: Mrs Gillyflower aims to repopulate the world with the couples she has preserved.
  • Adorkable: Clara at the end briefly playing with a Galvatron toy.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head:
    • The Doctor and Ada share many, including a very sweet kiss on the cheek.
    • Clara's tapping the Doctor's forehead ranks as one of the cutest moments in the show's history. Later the Doctor gives her a forehead kiss.
  • And I Must Scream: Slightly downplayed with the Doctor — he can move... barely, and he can't make any noise except for unintelligible groans. His reaction to the Armor-Piercing Slap also implies he couldn't feel touch either.
  • Anti-Villain: Ada is not malicious, just firmly under the control of her mother.
  • Anywhere but Their Lips: After snogging Jenny earns him a slap, the Doctor restrains himself to kissing Clara on the forehead and Ada on the cheek.
  • Armour-Piercing Slap: The Doctor gets one courtesy of Jenny after giving her a Victory Smooch. He welcomes it.
  • A-Team Firing: During Strax's Big Damn Heroes moment, he fires at a bunch of Sweetsville residents in a narrow hallway but injures nobody. Both the Doctor and Jenny were on the way, after all. He fired away from them to scatter the group and then kept on out of, well, sheer being himself, after the bad guys had ran.
  • Backdoor Pilot: The Paternoster Gang carry the first third of the episode.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Strax the warrior and Thomas Thomas the navigator. Spin-off, anyone?
  • Badass in Distress: Jenny finds the Doctor chained up in a room after being paralysed by Sweetville's process.
  • Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad:
    The Doctor: Mrs Gillyflower, you have no idea what you are dealing with. In the wrong hands, that venom could wipe out all life on this planet.
    Mrs Gillyflower: (holds out her hands) Do you know what these are? (laughs) The wrong hands.

    Mrs Gillyflower: That's... my girl!
  • Battle Cry: "SONTAR-HAAAA!"
  • Berserk Button: Ada, upon learning that her mother experimented on her, beats the ever living crap out of her with her cane. And later, Ada gives Mr. Sweet a similar treatment.
  • Between My Legs: Jenny shucks off her dress to reveal the leather look from "The Snowmen".
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Both Mrs Gillyflower and Mr Sweet learn that the hard way when Ada beats them with her cane.
  • Blackmail: Knowing about the Doctor, Clara's children demand to come along on her next trip — or they'll tell their father what they know.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Strax comes in GUNS A BLAZIN' TWICE.
  • Big Damn Kiss: When the Doctor is brought back into the game, he dips Jenny and gives her a big kiss on the lips. Lesbian, married Jenny; she smacks him in return.
  • Black Comedy: Strax advocates a full-out assault on Sweetville as the casualties would only be 80% (i.e., only one of them would survive), and prepares to disintegrate his fourth horse of the week when he gets lost (and he wasn't even hungry).
  • Body Horror:
    • The introduction to Mr Sweet is attached to Mrs Gillyflower chest.
    • The bright red corpses and half-petrified red Doctor.
    • Ada's facial injuries qualify too, especially when we learn her mother caused some if not all of them through her experiments.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Eleven clearly finds cringe-inducing accents a lot funnier than Ten. Clara also tries her hand at a Yorkshire accent in the flashback and is more successful (Creator/Jenna Coleman has used the same accent in other productions).
  • British Teeth: The woman Jenny pays to provide a distraction has such teeth, and was worried this would disqualify her from joining Sweetville.
  • Broken Masquerade: Clara is a nanny, and when she returns home to her job, her charges have discovered that she's a time traveller, and that Clara was in Victorian London... thus, both Clara and the Doctor's secrets have been exposed.
  • Call Back:
  • Changed My Jumper: Averted; the Doctor and Clara dress appropriately for the period.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • To "Time-Flight":
      The Doctor: Sorry, it's much better than it used to be. Ooo, I once spent a hell of a long time trying to get a gobby Australian to Heathrow airport!
    • While passing himself and Clara off as a married couple interested in Sweetville, the Doctor speaks in a heavy Northern accent reminiscent of Nine.
    • The Doctor borrows Five's "Brave heart" catchphrase (and not for the first time). This could be a Shout-Out to The Avengers considering Diana Rigg.
    • Clara asks the Doctor if he's had enough of "Victorian values" before she boards the TARDIS at the end of the episode.
    • The superstition of an eye retaining the last image it sees was previously referenced by the Fourth Doctor, who then used a similar process to read the last images recorded in the brain of a deceased Wirrn.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Apparently, all you need to do if you're within two feet of a rocket motor running at full power is turn your back, and you'll be fine.
  • The Coroner: The mortuary attendant who shows off the red corpses.
  • Cutting the Knot: A chair can be better than a sonic screwdriver at times.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Vastra, Jenny and Strax get the focus this time. The Doctor doesn't show up for a good chunk of it.
  • Death as Comedy: A rare application of the trope as the serious usually treats death as a serious subject. In this episode, however, the deaths of both Mrs. Gillyflower and Mr. Sweet are basically played for laughs. The Doctor even pulls several faces as he watches an old woman plummet to her death (this being the same character who is willing to forgive mass murderers), while Clara seems to be on the verge of smirking.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Subverted when a dying Mrs Gillyflower asks Ada to forgive her; Ada says "Never".
  • Depopulation Bomb: Mrs Gillyflower plans to use Mr.Sweet's poison to wipe out all life on earth so she can restart it.
  • Disney Villain Death: Mrs Gillyflower dies by falling from a long flight of stairs.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The Doctor, momentarily, after Jenny switches outfits to her catsuit.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Sweetville ostensibly being a match factory is likely a reference to the incident in 1888 where London matchgirls went on strike due to (among other grievances) the No OSHA Compliance of their working conditions.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Ada, after learning her mother's true colours, smacks her with her stick.
  • Dressed in Layers: Jenny wears her leather catsuit under her dress.
  • Engineered Public Confession: The Doctor tricks Mrs Gillyflower into admitting that she experimented on her own daughter, causing her blindness, when her victim is just outside the door.
  • Enhance Button: Invoked. The Doctor's comment that the human retina can retain an image upon death leads to the coroner taking a photo of the deceased's eyes. Vastra and company enhance it the old-fashioned way ie. in the darkroom, and get their first clue.
  • Evil Cripple: Subverted. Ada is blind and was initially helping her mother's Evil Plan, but saves the Doctor and is shown to actually be a very decent person.
  • Evil Matriarch: Mrs Gillyflower is The Leader of Sweetvile and Ada's mother, and in both cases she is nasty.
  • Eye Remember: Zigzaggged; both Vastra and the Doctor point out this is a myth with no scientific basis, however the weird effects of the crimson horror venom make it a reality for its victims.
  • Eye Scream: Mrs Gillyflower claims Ada's father did something to her in a drunken rage which destroyed her sight. The truth is much worse.
  • Fainting: There's a running gag of Vastra's client fainting whenever he encounters one of the unusual aspects of the case, starting with his first sight of her unveiled face.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Jenny manages to pick a locked door while surrounded by a large crowd. One of the extras is clearly looking right at her.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Mrs Gillyflower is always charming and especially when the Doctor confronts her. She even offers him a glass of Amontillado!
  • Faux Horrific: Strax suggests Jenny arm herself with all manner of improbable weapons. Why? Because she's going to "The North!"
  • Follow the Chaos: It's a reliable way to 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?
    Vastra: Business as usual.
  • G-Rated Drug: Strax appears to be his usual Blood Knight self but it turns out he's been on the sherbet. According to The Other Wiki, this may be an epic case of Getting Crap Past the Radar. However, this is still at heart a children's show, and Strax is technically very young and childlike so it's simply a reference to Strax getting a sugar rush from ice cream.
    Sherbet has been used in parts of both the UK and Australia as slang for an alcoholic drink, especially beer. This use is noted in a slang dictionary as early as 1890, and still appears in list of slang terms written today (especially lists of Australian slang). "We're heading to the pub for a few sherbets." - ... pints of beer. In the later episode The Name of the Doctor, Strax is seen visiting a friend in Glasgow, in a pub.
    • In the UK "Showbiz Sherbet" sometimes refers to cocaine, which is also consumed as a powder.
  • Guinea Pig Family: Mrs Gillyflower experimented on her daughter to devise an immunity to the red venom for herself.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: Averted; Angie refers to the Doctor as Clara's boyfriend, and she doesn't give the requisite denial.
  • Hellbent For Leather: Jenny, under her Gorgeous Period Dress, wears her spy catsuit.
  • Human Popsicle: The paralysed "Adams and Eves" are preserved under glass.
  • Improvised Weapon: A chair can be used to destroy a control panel just as well as a sonic screwdriver.
  • In Medias Res: The episode begins with Vastra and Jenny getting involved, after the Doctor and Clara are already on the scene. The part of the story that would normally be the beginning gets told in flashback once the Doctor and Jenny meet up.
  • In the Style of...: The episode is like a Victorian-era penny dreadful dropped into the Whoniverse.
  • It's a Long Story: Averted at first (cue How We Got Here flashback), then played straight because the Doctor doesn't have an explanation for Not Quite Dead Clara.
    The Doctor: It's complicated...
  • Jabba Table Manners: A milder example. The seemingly refined Mrs Gillyflower makes a horrible slurping sound when she eats her soup.
  • Karmic Death: Mrs Gillyflower shoots at Strax first, Strax misses Mrs Gillyflower but she falls anyway.
  • Kick the Dog: When revealed how Ada got her scars for real; not her dad's fault.
  • Kiss-Kiss-Slap: The Doctor is relieved at being restored and kisses his rescuer, the Victorian lesbian Action Girl Jenny Flint, who slaps him once he lets go.
  • Jerk Ass: The coroner, who charges a fee so people can look at the bodies of those killed by the Crimson Horror. He looks rather disappointed when the Doctor reacts with enthusiasm.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: The Doctor's chin is definite proof that he's an alien.
  • Large Ham:
    • Strax is high energy that Vastra thinks he's been eating things he shouldn't.
      Strax: Sontar-Ha-hahahahaaaa!
    • Mrs Gillyflower's "Die! Die! Die!" near the end also qualifies.
  • Leitmotif: Clara's theme, last heard in a major way in "The Snowmen", is prominently heard as the modern-day Clara is introduced to Vastra and Jenny.
  • Mad Scientist: Mrs Gillyflower is a renowned engineer and chemist, and even the Doctor regards her as a loony.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Ada, although her beauty is of the disfigured variety, she fulfills the "fall for The Hero and betray the evil parent" aspect.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: Ada is keeping a pet "monster" locked up in a side room. It's the Doctor, reduced to near-zombie status by "rejection".
  • Meaningful Look: The Doctor and Clara keep exchanging these in their Retraux Flashback to aid their cover as a married couple and also about the case.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Ada can't bring herself to betray her mother, even after she finds out about her schemes, but when she finds out that Winifred caused her blindness, she dashes toward her, practically frothing with rage.
  • Monster of the Week: The monster is a red parasite from the Silurian age. Even then it's more complex than that, as Mr Sweet does nothing really evil; it's all Mrs Gillyflower.
  • Monster Sob Story: Ada thinks she's in one, with the Doctor as her tragic monster. Both of them can be happily imperfect together forever.
  • Mood Whiplash: Ada's story is truly horrific, and her mother probably ranks among the most cruel mothers in the history of science fiction. Hearing what Mrs. Gillyflower put Ada through and revealing that she was responsible for the scars causes the rather light-hearted, if horrific storyline seen thus far to take a turn to the dark, only for the whip to lash in the opposite direction again as Gillyflower and Mr. Sweet meet a blackly comedic end.
  • More Dakka: As always, rapid and suppressive fire is Strax's plan de campagne. It works too, TWICE.
  • Mr. Smith: The Doctor and Clara have a Smithical Marriage while going undercover in Sweetville.
  • Nice Hat:
    • The doctor wears a bowler. Bowlers are cool.
    • Strax shows up at the end in a Victorian top hat.
  • Non-Answer:
    Jenny: But Doctor, you've never explained about the girl!
    The Doctor: No. No I haven't.
  • Non-Malicious Monster:
    • The Doctor in the attic doesn't harm anybody.
    • In the end, the Red Leech seems to be only going on survival, seeing as Gillyflower is the real villain. The Doctor was about to sent it home before it was squished.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Eleven is even more touchy-feely than usual. Getting back to normal after weeks as a barely ambulatory zombie will do that to you.
  • Not Again: Thursday visits Vastra and gives Jenny a picture; Jenny frowns and, at the sight of it, Vastra says "Good grief" and raises her veil. At the sight of her, Thursday gasps "Oh, god" and faints. Vastra merely rolls her eyes and shakes her head at this implying it is a regular occurrence.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: When the Doctor is trying to figure out what Mrs Gillyflower is up to, and Clara is trying to tell him that she's already figured it out.
  • Off Screen Moment Of Awesome: It's strongly implied that Strax scales the tower from the outside, but we do not see this.
  • Oh Crap!: Clara gets a minor one at the end to the fact her time-travelling was found out.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: The Steampunk computer controling the rocket is hidden behind a large church organ.
  • Oop North: This episode is set in Yorkshire. There is indeed, as the Doctor takes great pleasure in announcing, trouble at t'mill. Strax recommends being heavily armed when you visit here.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: No one notices that the woman wearing the nearly transparent black veil has green scales and fins on her head unless she takes the veil off.
  • People Jars: Two-person people jars, designed to preserve them as "Adam and Eve" pairs through Mrs Gillyflower's apocalypse.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner:
    The Doctor: Time for a plan...
    Jenny: Naah, Doctor, this one's on me.
  • Pre-emptive Declaration: Gillyflower giving her sympathies to the wife of the Intrepid Reporter who gets killed in The Teaser. She says he's not dead. Cue Sound-Only Death.
  • Psychotic Manchild: Strax. "I'm going to play with my grenades..." This could also be a Getting Crap Past the Radar substitute for "I'm gonna go masturbate". Though, in Strax's case that seems highly unlikely, given the clone race thing.
  • Repetitive Name: Thomas Thomas
  • Retraux Flashback: The flashback scene presented as an old sepia-tinted kinetoscope movie.
  • Rule of Three: Vastra's client passes out at the sight of Vastra's true face, Strax, and the disappearing TARDIS.
  • Running Gag:
    • The fainting client.
    • Strax is still incapable of telling genders apart (calling Jenny a boy). It's subverted at the end when he calls Mrs Gillyflower "Human female!"
    • People ignoring the Doctor's plans throughout the episode in favour of good old-fashioned violence.
    • Once again, calling out Matt Smith's Lantern Jaw of Justice.
  • Sarcastic Clapping: The Doctor when Gillyflower gives her New Era Speech. He knows she's full of it and a loon.
  • Saying Too Much: Clara insists that the photos her charges have found are a complete coincidence — until she spots one from "The Snowmen" that she doesn't recognize.
    Angie: You were in Victorian London.
    Clara: No I wasn't, I was in Victorian Yorkshire— (whoops)
  • Seen It All: If you really look at it, Thomas Thomas has. He had no objections to hopping in a carriage and driving off with a giant talking potato who had just threatened to shoot and eat his horse right in front of him.
  • Sense Loss Sadness: The Doctor spends a few weeks struck by the crimson horror, completely numbed. That's why he enjoys Jenny's slap.
  • Ship Tease: Aside from the affection shown between the Doctor and Clara, a more direct ship tease moment occurs when Angie refers to the Doctor as Clara's boyfriend, to which Clara smiles in agreement.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Something Else Also Rises: Watch the screwdriver when Jenny switches outfits. The Doctor notices it, too, looking and remembering to point it back to horizontal after a spring pops.
  • So Much for Stealth: The Doctor knocking over a spanner as our heroes rise to kick ass. Everyone quickly ducks back behind cover again.
  • Sound-Only Death:
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The name of the Street Urchin who gives Strax directions is Thomas Thomas. As in the GPS/Satnav Tomtom. He even talks like one.
    • What do you do with a Sweet? Suck. What does Mr Sweet do? Suck.
    • When Mrs. Gillyflower learns that she has been discovered, she decides to accelerate her plans and launch her rocket, and we see her doing so by means of a church organ; pulling out all the stops.
  • Steampunk: The devices used to simulate the sounds of a busy factory, a Babbage Engine launch system and the Retro Rocket. Unlike most Doctor Who episodes there is no Anachronism Stew with alien technologies.
  • Taking You with Me: "If I can't take the world with me, you will have to do. Die, you freaks!"
  • That Came Out Wrong: The Doctor says to Clara, "You're the boss" and does a Verbal Backspace when his Control Freak companion gleefully runs with it.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Strax when saving the Doctor and Jenny; he fires incredibly rapidly and goes on longer than he needs to.
  • Title Drop: Exaggerated and Justified; it's done frequently because it's what the people are calling the case.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Sweetville. The secret being a prehistoric leech's venom is being used to paralyse select people or kill the odd whatever the Big Bad deems "unworthy", like 99% of humanity.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Brendan Patricks acts for two as brothers Edmund and Thursday.
  • Undercover as Lovers: The Doctor and Clara pose as a married couple to infiltrate Sweetville.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: Beyond the obvious intentional period piece aspects, there is a joke scene based upon the Tom Tom navigation system, which was very popular in 2013. It's still very popular, however being a technology-related thing, it is subject to becoming outdated, discontinued, etc. in the future as new technology is introduced, potentially reducing the effectiveness of the Tom Tom joke.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Mrs Gillyflower's justification for the paralysis and the depopulation is starting afresh; a golden dawn for humanity!
  • Violence Really Is the Answer:
    • When Jenny and the Doctor are found by Mrs Gillyflower's pretty mooks.
      The Doctor: Great! Attack of the supermodels. Time for a plan.
      (Jenny hits people)
      The Doctor: ... That is a plan.
    • The question comes out again right afterwards — posed by the sheer number of people, right after Jenny provides her answer. This time, Strax bursts in, providing the same answer only louder and with More Dakka.
    • The Doctor also plans to take the Red Leech back to its own time period. Ada just hits it with her cane; Repeatedly.
    • The Doctor tries to configure his sonic screwdriver to make the control panel stop the missile launch. Clara just throws a chair at it.
    • Strax tries advising this trope at times, but gets ignored by his fellow team members. Then he finally gets a chance for "SONTAR-HA!"
  • We Need a Distraction: Jenny pays a woman to fake a fainting spell so she can break into the secret section of Sweetville.
  • Wham Line: Works another way — the present Clara now knows about the Victorian Clara.
    Angie: You were in Victorian London.
    Clara: No; I was in Victorian Yorkshire!
  • You Have Failed Me: Strax threatens to vaporise his horse, for failing in his mission again.
  • Yandere: Downplayed. Ada is a mild example for the Doctor, which is why he's in the attic and not dead. It's played for sympathy, as we get the feeling that she's so broken that her creepiness is the only way she can express affection and sympathy. The Doctor also doesn't seem to mind either, once he's back to normal.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • When she's fatally wounded, Mr Sweet abandons Mrs Gillyflower because she's no longer useful as a host.
    • Strax threatening to shoot and eat his horse when they get lost.
  • You're Insane!: "I'm the Doctor, you're nuts, and I'm going to stop you."


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