This episode is strange because I really don't have any strong feelings about it one way or the other. I had high hopes for the mother daughter team of Dame Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling playing mother and daughter, and they did not disappoint me. Maybe it was the addition of the Strax/Vastra/Jenny trio that threw me off. They're okay, but I'm not the biggest fan. It had all the makings of a classic Who, and a pretty tight script by mark Gatiss. I find it hard to find fault with, yet still feel mediocre. I did enjoy my latest viewing more, but this goes in with other stories from Mark that I like and maybe even love some parts of but they somehow fell flat with me.
Yorkshire, 1893, the year after Victorian Clara died in "The Snowmen". But we don't know how much earlier The doctor arrived. This is a Doctor-Lite episode, from what I read, and it kind of is. We don't see The Doctor until 14 minutes in and can't hear him speak for another 3. My point is, why was he taking Clara to, where we see later he was trying for, London around or just after when "Other Clara" died?
A man, Edmund, and a woman are in a factory, and they seem to be investigating. He goes through a door where the noise comes from and we first get to see Mrs. Gillyflower come in and offer her condolences for Edmund's passing, just before we hear him scream. Next scene his body lies on the coroner's table, bright crimson. The coroner tells Edmund's brother, Mr. Thursday I think, that they call it the crimson horror, and it's been happening a while. Mr. Thursday goes to see Madame Vastra. I checked and it's a different house from the Pond's, but she also has a TARDIS blue color door. Thursday asks if they know of optograms, the idea that the eye retains an image of the last thing seen before death. When he shows them a picture of his brother's eye, Vastra snatches back her veil and Thursday faints. Then she and Jenny enlarge the image more and more and the discuss going to the north as the last enlarged image comes into focus with an image of The Doctor's face clearly in the man's pupil.
Mrs. Gillyflower is holding recruitment drives, only the fittest and most beautiful, though. Funny Strax comment volunteering for the job, followed by his usual talk of use of weapons. Mrs. Gillyflower's recruitment is a sermon really, given on moral decay and the coming apocalypse Dame Diana is so hardened and disturbed it would be easy not to recognize her. To see her character's madness come out as the episode progresses is beautiful. But then we also get a treat in her daughter, playing her blind daughter, Ada, a repulsive, pitiful creature herself, scarred and blinded by her father as a child, or so Mrs. Gillyflower tells it. Jenny signs up for Sweetville so she can find The Doctor.
In Sweetville, Ada taps her way to a door, passes a plate of food through the bottom panel to her "dear monster". Thursday goes to see Vastra and faints at the sight of Strax. More Strax destruction talk. At Sweetville, Jenny is in line with a sad girl who is hoping her bad teeth won't prevent her from getting in. Her name is Abigail and her friend came to Sweetville a few months back but hasn't been heard from since. Jenny gives her a guinea to play faint, which she does dramatically well for the reward. All that was to distract everyone so Jenny could pick the lock and go into the factory. But when she gets in it's empty, save three very large Victrola type speakers pumping out the noise of a busy factory. It was a bit eerie. Jenny hides as she sees some men and women carrying large bottles of red liquid.
Madame Vastra goes to get some of the crimson horror liquid from the coroner and recognizes it from about 65 million years ago. Mrs. Gillyflower and daughter are eating, the mother savagely slurping her soup. We learn Mr. Sweet never comes to join them. Mrs. G pretends to knock the salt cellar over, and when the attendant goes out she sprinkles some salt into her collar.
Jenny follows a knocking upstairs to the door where Ada keeps her monster. Jenny opens the door and there is The Doctor, but stiff and crimson and struggling to make even crude moaning and crying noises. His skin seems to be almost candied. They go out as Ada approaches, narrowly avoiding her and her aggressive cane swiping. She really was spectacular as Ada. Jenny sees into the vat room as people are lowered into the glowing crimson liquid. The Doctor reaches a stiff arm to a door and Jenny gets him inside the chamber as he activates the sonic screwdriver. Ada discovers her monster is gone.
The healed Doctor comes out and kisses Jenny, who slaps him. He barely gets out that he has to look for Clara before he does a recap of how he got there. This part was great in a slight sepia tone and grain and some old film jerking and speckling. He was trying to get Clara to London, not Yorkshire. He brings up when he tried to get Tegan to Heathrow, which I loved. He even told her "Brave heart, Clara" like he used to tell Tegan. There is a body in the canal and they meet Edmund who leads them to Sweetville, saying no one who goes in comes out. I agree with The Doctor, the crimson horror is a brilliant name. The Doctor says the eye can hold an image at death if the chemical composition of the body has been massively corrupted. In the body's eye they see Mrs. Gillyflower.
The Doctor and Mrs. Smith go to Sweetville. Mrs. G says it is named after her silent partner, who keeps himself to himself. A pristine village, but behind the curtain the residents are frozen in a bell jar. They dip The Doctor and we see a frozen Clara. The rejects go in the canal, but one reaches out and grabs hold of Ada's hand, the birth of her "monster". She locks him away and it was horrible to see The Doctor struggle fiercely to reach out and cry out to her as she turns, smiles blindly at him, and closes the door. Next scene is Edmund running in and looking at The Doctor before dying, hence the image at the beginning.
Back in the present past, The doctor says not being human saved him.Jenny asks about Clara being alive and he just says it's complicated. They find her in one of the bell jars and smash the glass, and take her to a chamber to try and heal her. Right here we have an odd scene with Strax threatening to kill a horse for failing to find the destination. He complained that this was the fourth one that week and he wasn't even hungry. This is funny, but at the same time he's killing and eating horses for nothing? Really? Then another odd thing happened. A boy came along and gave immaculate, almost GPS worthy directions to Sweetville, and he joined Strax. He said his name was Thomas Thomas and Strax remarked that he would do well. I looked it up and did find a Welsh boxer around that time with that name, and he would have been 13 in 1893, so maybe.
The horrible nature of Mrs. G is seen when she finds Ada weeping and discovers she let loose a reject on the world. Ada pleads to follow her mother into the new Jerusalem. Mrs. G decides to accelerate her plans. As she leaves and Ada clutches at her hem Mrs. G icily says "kindly do not claw and slobber at my crinoline. You know I cannot bear to look at sick people. There can be no place for people such as you". And said that only perfection was good enough for her and Mr. Sweet. "The bright day is done, child, and you are for the dark."
While waiting for Clara to heal, the attack of the supermodels, or Mrs. G's pretty pretty army, approach. Jenny whips a few asses then Strax comes in shooting. His aim is awful. I didn't see him hit one, and there were like 8 of them in a confined space. Clara is ready, long story he tells Vastra. Cute as Clara looks at The Doctor and realizes who he is and adorable delivery from Matt when he tells Clara that Vastra is green. More Strax weapons talk. Sigh. Madame Vastra tells The Doctor they had the plague in their day, called the repulsive red leech, and yes Doctor, crimson horror is still a better name. But it must have been lurking for years, possibly getting help. Clara mentions the chimney with no smoke and they discover a rocket where the supermodels are about to load it up with the crimson horror.
Mrs. Gillyflower's pipe organ turns to reveal some machinery. The Doctor finds Ada and reveals himself. She believes everything that has happened to her has been her fault, which The Doctor refutes. But Ada still won't betray her mother, so The Doctor asks her to come with him. Brilliant madness from Dame Diana when The Doctor comes in. The pure crazy on her face when he calls her nuts is sublime. They discuss her being close to Mr. Sweet, a very close relationship, symbiotic in fact. She rips back the chest of her dress to reveal a sickening crimson leech-like creature feeding off of her. It is so odd and wee and frightening. She found him and has been feeding it, and he shares his nectar with her. Great dialog and delivery when The Doctor warns her what this could do in the wrong hands and she shows him her hands, asking him what they are, answering "The wrong hands."
Mrs. Gillyflower arms the rocket. After the poison rains down her Adams and Eves will step out into the new dawn. The Doctor discusses Ada with her, how she experimented on her to know how much poison would immunize herself against the poison. Ada comes in and goes ballistic. The fury rises and she attacks her mother with her cane, screaming at her "Hag! Harpie!" In the confusion Clara throws a chair, breaking the machine, but Mrs. G holds a gun to Ada's head and escapes to the rocket. The Doctor and Clara follow them up the stairs around the rocket to a secondary firing mechanism. After releasing Ada and firing a couple of shots at The Doctor, Mrs. G pulls the lever and the rocket takes off, miraculously not burning any of them as it rose before them in the shaft.
Madam Vastra and Jenny show up with the poison they purloined, so when the rocket explodes nothing happens. Mrs. G tries to get off one more shot before Strax fires. She loses her balance and falls down the shaft to the floor below. And now here lies a truly pitiful creature. Broken and dying, she pleads with mr. Sweet not to leave her. He has no more use for her and crawls slowly away. What a wacky little thing they created there. She begs Ada for forgiveness. When Ada tells her never, she just barely replies "That's my girl" before dying. Ada then kills Mr. sweet with her cane.
At the TARDIS, Clara wonders why The Doctor was trying to take her to London 1893, and now she's had enough of Victorian values. The Doctor tells her that she's the boss, and immediately regrets it as she relishes the idea. Ada is ready to step out of the darkness, and The Doctor predicts she will be splendid. Jenny comments that he hasn't explained Clara, and The Doctor says "No I haven't" and enters the TARDIS. As it dematerializes Mr Thursday walks up and sees it, and faints.
Back home Clara is still tickled at the idea of being the boss when she notices the open laptop with pictures of her on the screen. One is from the submarine in "Cold War" and one is from the house in "Hide". The kids she watches come in and reveal they know she has traveled in time with, as they call The Doctor, her boyfriend. The kids threaten to tell their father if they can't have a go. But there was also a 3rd picture on the laptop. A picture of Clara from "The Snowmen" and Clara realizes it is in London, not Yorkshire, and it was not her.
In the next time trailer we see the kids will get their wish to travel. But we also know what that travel brings in the next episode, "Nightmare in Silver"