Where have you gone, Neil Gaiman? A Whoniverse turns its lonely eyes to you…
Prolific Who scribe Mark Gatiss’ “The Crimson Horror” represents another decent episode in a season that’s been characterized by them. It’s pleasant enough, but there’s just something missing. This episode in particular feels very run-of-the-mill (no pun intended) – a period horror/mystery set in Victorian times. It’s Yorkshire instead of London, at least, but apart from that this episode feels as if it’s one the rebooted series could have done in its sleep.
The premise is pretty standard Doctor Who fodder – a human being controlled by an alien (though this one is from another time, not another planet) hatching a dastardly plan that will wipe out humanity if it succeeds. This human happens to be played by Diana Rigg, which certainly livens things up a bit (and represents the second major crossover with the Game of Thrones cast this season). As for the plan, it involves a Jurassic leech, a deadly venom, and a thinly-veiled swipe at Apocalypse theology.
Most of the better moments of the episode are provided by the unlikely detective trio of Vastra, Strax and Jenny, back for another visit. Their very existence in this capacity is unlikely to the point of absurdity but they do provide good fun, especially Strax – I always like to see Sontarans, especially out of context. But The Doctor and Clara aren’t in the episode all that much, and even when they are… Well again, it’s that “something missing” thing again. My initial reactions to Clara were moderately positive, but I’m finding their relationship rather flat and dull and I’m ready for the conspiracy surrounding her to be done, already. The Movietone style flashbacks are too clever by half. And why does The Doctor insist on kissing every human female under 40?
To be blunt, the last couple of episodes have been marking time until we get to next week’s “Nightmare in Silver”. The expectations are certainly unrealistically high – just to save a mediocre season, that’s all – but if any writer is up to it, Gaiman should be the one. It seems as if Clara’s two nanny charges have found out about her mysterious traveling (dubious, but what the hell) and blackmail their way into a trip with the “boyfriend” and the nanny – that, at least, should provide a change of dynamic and an interesting opportunity for Gaiman to tweak Matt Smith’s character in some ways it hasn’t been tweaked before.