Recap: Doctor Who S33 E11 "The Crimson Horror"

"Bad news, love. There's trouble at 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.


  • 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 a bit of unarmed combat.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: several of them.
  • 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.
    • And Clara's tapping the Doctor's forehead ranks as one of the cutest moments in the show's history.
  • 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. 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. Could be a subversion: both the Doctor and Jenny were on the way, so he — maybe instinctively, if he's that good — fired away from them to scatter the group and then kept on out of, well, sheer being himself, after the bad guys had ran.
  • Axe Crazy: Dear God, Mrs Gillyflower.
  • Backdoor Pilot: in all but name for a Paternoster Gang spinoff, however as of 2014 there's been no sign of such a series being commissioned. Unlike other in-series backdoor pilots however, where often new characters are introduced and if the pilot doesn't lead to a spin-off they never appear again, the Gang has continued to appear as recurring characters in later episodes.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Strax and Thomas Thomas. Spin-off, anyone?
  • Badass in Distress: Jenny finds the Doctor chained up in a room after being paralysed by Sweetville's process. Subverted when it turns out being chained up in a room and hidden away is what saved him, but he was still unable to do much in his state.
  • 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!"
  • The Beautiful Elite: Played for horror.
  • 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 / Dress Hits Floor: Jenny shucks off her dress to reveal the leather look from "The Snowmen".
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Ada. Both Mrs Gillyflower and Mr Sweet learns that the hard way.
  • 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 smack on the lips. Lesbian, married Jenny. She smacks him in return — with her hand.
  • 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... not pleasant.
    • Not to mention 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.
  • 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 just 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.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Mrs Gillyflower has a back-up switch to launch her Depopulation Bomb in case the original means to launch it are gone.
  • Cutting the Knot: A chair can be better than a sonic screwdriver at times.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Mummy's Little Villain. Ada flatly refuses to forgive her dying mother, who only responds, "That's my girl!"
  • A Day in the Limelight: Vastra, Jenny and Strax get the focus this time.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Subverted when Mrs Gillyflower asks Ada to forgive her; Ada says "Never".
  • Depopulation Bomb: Attempted by Mrs Gillyflower.
  • Disney Villain Death: Mrs Gillyflower's.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The Doctor, momentarily, after Jenny switches outfits to her catsuit.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Ada, after learning her mother's true colours.
  • 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.
  • Evil Old Folks: Mrs Gillyflower.
  • Eye Remember: Subverted; both Vastra and the Doctor points 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. It doesn't help that one of the extras is clearly looking right at her.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Mrs Gillyflower, 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: Not for the first time is this 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.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Thursday visits Vastra and gives Jenny a piture; 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 occurence.
  • Genre Savvy: At the end of the episode, Archie and Angie know a time-travelling alien when they see one.
    • The Doctor gets one; when Strax, a Sontaran, is wildly firing, he wisely moves aside looking very frightened.
  • Gothic Horror: The episode revels in the trope, even referencing Edgar Allan Poe.
  • G-Rated Drug: Strax appears to be his usual Blood Knight self; turns out he's been on the sherbet. According to The Other Wiki, this may actually be an epic case of Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    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 UK "Showbiz Sherbet" sometimes refers to cocaine, which is also consumed as a powder.
    • That said, however, this is still at heart a children's show, and Strax is technically very young and childlike. In all likelihood it's simply a reference to Strax getting a sugar rush.
  • Guinea Pig Family: Mrs Gillyflower experimented on her daughter to devise an immunity to the red venom for herself.
  • Hellbent For Leather: Jenny, under her Gorgeous Period Dress.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters / Humans Are Bastards
  • Human Popsicle: The paralysed "Adams and Eves".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: The Doctor's chin is definite proof that he's an alien.
  • Large Ham:
    • Strax, to the point 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.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Ada, although her beauty is of the disfigured variety.
  • 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".
  • 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:
    • Subverted by the fact that "The Monster" is the Doctor.
    • The actual 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.
  • More Dakka: As always, this is Strax's plan de campagne. It works too. TWICE.
  • Nice Hat:
    • The doctor wears a bowler (also a Shout-Out to The Avengers).
    • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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: Set in Yorkshire. There is indeed, as the Doctor takes great pleasure in announcing, trouble at t'mill.
  • 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.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: The Doctor, restored from his paralyzed state, joyfully grabs Jenny and bends her backwards in a kiss. Jenny, who is all three not involved romantically with the Doctor, married to someone else, and a Lesbian. This is only made less uncomfortable by the fact that her immediate response is to smack him across the face hard enough to rotate him 180 degrees. Of course, the Doctor is a bit weird about social norms.
  • Psychotic Manchild: Strax. "I'm going to play with my grenades..."
  • 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). 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.
  • 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, apparently 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.
  • 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: Played for Black Comedy with the sound of Gillyflower repeatedly bouncing off the launch structure during her Disney Villain 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 rocket. Noteworthy in the fact that unlike most Doctor Who episodes there is no Anachronism Stew with alien technologies.
  • 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, but that's only because it's what the people are calling the case.
  • Town with a Dark Secret / Uncanny Village: 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.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Mrs Gillyflower's justification, although she seems more excited about the means than the ends.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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.
    • A milder example: 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."