‘Doctor Who’ Season 7, Episode 11 Review – The Crimson Horror

Published 1 year ago by , Updated May 6th, 2013 at 6:42 am,

doctor who season 7 episode 11 review Doctor Who Season 7, Episode 11 Review   The Crimson Horror
Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss once again steps away from 22b Baker Street to bring us this, the 100th episode of Doctor Who, “The Crimson Horror”, where Vastra, Jenny and Strax lead a rescue mission to save the Doctor, as well as the rest of the world, from Winifred Gillyflower and her mysterious Mr. Sweets.

Thrust into the middle of an unknown predicament, in Yorkshire (not London), 1883, Madam Vastra and Jenny, who are surprised to find the Doctor’s face show up as the last recorded image in the eye of a dead man, team-up with Strax to invade the “perfect” community called Sweetville, a place where only the best and brightest are allowed to stay, to rescue the displaced Time Lord.

As the trio split to cover more ground, it is Jenny who stumbles across a crimson “monster” who was once called the Doctor. After the Doctor regains his strength and returns to normal, the team sets out to rescue Clara, and get to the heart of the troubles at Sweetville. But as the team continues their search for the source of the crimson horror, it is Ada Gillyflower, the blind woman who saved the Doctor by making him her “monster” pet, who must help put an end to the tyrannical plans of her mother.

On the surface, Gatiss’ “The Crimson Horror” appears to simply be a twist on a typical episode of Doctor Who; instead of the Doctor leading the case, it’s his trusted fellows, Vastra and Jenny, with a grumpy Strax thrown in for comedic measure. However, while this week’s episode does lead with this element, at least until the Doctor is free from his crimson capture, the true purpose of this episode is to unite, for the first time on-screen, Tony Award winning actress Diana Rigg, who plays Winifred Gillyflower, with her actress daughter, Rachael Stirling, who plays Ada Gillyflower. After having worked with Stirling on a play, and hearing that the two have never shared the same stage, in any form, Gatiss went on to craft this episode especially for them.

doctor who season 7 episode 11 gillyflower Doctor Who Season 7, Episode 11 Review   The Crimson Horror

The episode itself is a fun and intriguing adventure into the heart of another “ideal” community where, as it (always) turns out, nothing is as it seems, especially perfection. For those who have been watching Doctor Who from the beginning (at least the series return), or have recently been whisked away to Columbia by the video game Bioshock: Infinite, “The Crimson Horror” feels very familiar in its tone of opulence and supremacy – though for some reason, these tales, in whatever form, still make for an enthralling and enjoyable experience, and this week’s episode is no different.

After the initial mystery has been revealed, however, these tales of flawed Edens must then rely on the core threat and its antagonist to fuel audience’s excitement until the end. In many ways, “The Crimson Horror” both succeeds and fails at this important element; though the tale, as well as the characters, that make up this episode are thoroughly imaginative, and the mother/daughter interactions between Gatiss’ muses are impressive and touching, there’s an emptiness to this episode, when actual story needs to take over for the mystery, that it never recovers from.

Like many episodes in the second-half of Doctor Who season 7, there’s something truly enjoyable yet frustrating about this week’s episode. In parts, the masterful handling of those behind the scenes can be seen; but as a whole, many may end this episode with the feeling that they need to, somehow, for some reason, justify their enjoyment of it in spite of its downfalls – a feeling that, sadly, seems to be reoccurring and unrelenting, now one episode away from the finale, where the Doctor’s name is (supposedly) going to be revealed. And this, it seems, is where the series, itself, comes to a cross-roads.

doctor who season 7 episode 11 Doctor Who Season 7, Episode 11 Review   The Crimson Horror

As an inclusive journey, void of any expectations of promised revelations (Clara), the second-half of Doctor Who season 7 has been resoundingly successful; the Doctor, as well as Clara, are having fun and fulfilling adventures across time and space. Inside the depths of the series and its fanbase, as well as publicly stated promises, however, the ease at which familiar (and expected) story structure and character development is simply pushed aside is disconcerting, especially given the news of a new executive producer in season 8.

If showrunner Steven Moffat, who is one of the most prolific writers in the industry, is able to fall to the same unfortunate fate of getting caught up in what the story will be, rather than what it is now, that Russell T. Davies, the series rejuvenator, fell to in his last years on the series, the future success of Doctor Who unfortunately may be in question. If one of the most imaginative writers around is having difficulties delivering a consistent viewing experience for one of the most imaginative television series, can there ever be a simple fix? And, after everything, will the much-anticipated answers reward those who stuck through it all? Only time will tell.

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Doctor Who returns next week with a Cyberman-filled episode, “Nightmare in Silver”, by Neil Gaiman @8pm on BBC America.

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  1. Don’t you mean 1883? Not 1983….

    • You are correct, sir! My inner-child appears to have purposefully placed my birth year in my review.

  2. That was a fantastic episode and this is coming from someone who had absolutely no expectations going into it. Generally, while I love his work in Sherlock, I tend to find most of Gatiss’s episodes painfully average (with a few exceptions like ‘The Unquiet Dead’ and ‘Victory of the Daleks’, but this episode wasn’t like that at all. It was fun, interesting, had a great villain (Diana Rigg and Rachel Stirling had fantastic chemistry and that was before I found out they were related), some fantastic twists, brilliant make-up for the Crimson Horror and Ada and not only is it my favourite Gatiss episode to date, but it’s probably my favourite ep of 7B as well (although I’m looking forward to next weeks Gaiman episode). And much of why I like it is down to the direction. Saul Metzstein has quickly become my favourite NuWho director and this episode is a fine example of why. The flashback sequence, in particular, was brilliantly done.

    Considering how disappointed I’ve been with most of 7B so far, this was a fantastic breath of fresh air and now I’m looking forward even more to the next episode.

  3. This was a great weird, cheesy kind of episode that you would find during the RTD era. and thats why i enjoyed it so much. also like the fact that the Clara narrative was SLIGHTLY moved forward with Clara see the victorian version of herself. and next weeks episode looks great! cant believe there is only two episodes left!

  4. Galvatron cameo made it for me ;)

  5. I thought if Winifred Gillyflower was born a little later in history, would have LOOOOOVED the James Bond movie “Moonraker”.

  6. I couldn’t agree more with your review. While The Crimson Horror was fun and had its moments, I was a little disappointed in the end and felt I was seeing familiar plot constructs. There’s something of an emptiness to these latter episodes of series 7. The outstanding one for me was Hide, absolutely brilliant, pitched perfectly. While I am enjoying the greater focus on the Doctor this series – I always felt he was taking a back seat to the Amy/Rory/RiverPond debacle (ahem, sorry, it wasn’t that bad, it did have some brilliant moments) – I can’t help feeling something is missing. Not sure what? Clara is likeable, yet I don’t feel as though we have connected with her as yet. She can be a bit too flippant at times, which is what turned me off Amy. There does not seem to be an overarching threat/menace/weighty mystery in this series. So, Clara is the impossible girl, I don’t really get it or see the importance. I loved her as soufflé girl, the Dalek that wasn’t but now she seems two dimensional. I’ve gone off topic a bit here, but to roll back round to the episode in question, loved the Doctor/monster idea, Jenny as Emma Peel, and Ada and her dreadful mother but it fell a bit flat for me. I think I want more depth, significance in what has occurred, that will lead us on to the next threat or greater mystery. Instead these episodes lean more towards children’s stories, where it works out (kind of) happily in the end. Oh well, my two cents worth.:)

  7. This review hit it right on the head. The episode was by no means bad, but so much about it was relatively paint-by-numbers. What elevated it was the well-written, great look of the setting and the mystery. What let it down was the overly-familiar and uninspired resolution. So what… Gillyflower was beaten because after talking to her, Clara threw a chair at her machine? And later, because Strax got there and pointed a gun? The best episodes were where the Doctor actually had a plan, or where the resolution was smart, or where the resolution had a proper emotional punch. This episode (and so many others) didn’t have ANY of these things.

    While the ending of an episode isn’t everything, it does a lot to justify or enhance the rest of the episode, and this one let it down. In Season 7 so far I only count two or three episodes with great endings. The rest were meh. In Season 6, off the top of my head, it was at least half. I’m not sure why Moffat seems to be off his game, given that I didn’t have any problems with his past two seasons.

    I’m really, REALLY hopeful for next week’s episode. If they gave Neil Gaiman free reign like they did for The Doctor’s Wife we might finally have an episode that gives us everything.

  8. I have to say that this was one of the most classically Who episodes we’ve had in a long time. Funny, thrilling, a bit creepy, and with an amazing supporting cast.

    More on my thoughts here: http://iamthemissinglinc.blogspot.com/2013/05/doctor-who-review-crimson-horror.html

  9. The episode was a 2 out of 5. Moffat’s circular story arc is convoluted, use of too many ‘mcguffins’, this season, so far, has been full of promise but short on delivery. Also, if the 50th Anniversary Special turns out to be a failure in terms of audience acceptance he should step down from the show.

  10. Series 7 is full great ideas and terrific one liners and wonderful acting. However, I’m still waiting for that game changer moment where I really give a damn about The Doctor and Clara as with ‘Dalek’ in series one. We have a lot of pace and strong visuals but I’m stil still waiting for the emotional hook to kick in. Cleverness is great but we need to care!

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