‘THE CRIMSON HORROR’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Clara and the Crimson Horror
‘The Crimson Horror’ is another good episode by Mark Gatiss. It features the return of the Paternoster Gang in Victorian London, 1893. These three characters seem to be popular in the ‘Doctor Who’ series!
It’s nice to see Neve McIntosh as Madame Vastra, Catrin Stewart as Jenny and Dan Starkey as Strax make a return in the ‘Doctor Who’ series. In this story, our three heroes solve a really strange mystery.
I liked how it’s Jenny who gets to have her own adventure during the episode. This is when she goes undercover to Sweetville and solves a mystery. It was very gripping indeed to watch Jenny in that role.
Catrin Stewart stands out for me in this episode. I liked it when Jenny finds the Eleventh Doctor in his red state and helps him to get back to his normal self. Jenny also gets to be the action girl in her body-tight suit.
Madame Vastra as ever gets to be the inquisitive detective. She discovers for herself something connected to the Silurian era with regards to the Crimson Horror. This happens to be a deadly poison.
Strax can be a little grating at times with his awkward humorous moments and his Sontaran desires for battle. But at least Strax gets to be in his Sontaran body armour; shoots a weapon and saves the day.
This episode also features special guest star Dame Diana Rigg as Mrs. Gillyflower. Diana Rigg is very famous for her role as Emma Peel in ‘The Avengers’ 1960s TV series. I’m lucky to have seen that series.
In this ‘Doctor Who’ episode, Diana Rigg as Mrs. Gillyflower runs a place called Sweetville in Yorkshire. Sweetville is meant to be a utopian community, but there’s something pretty sinister about the place.
I do feel that Diana Rigg has aged quite a lot in terms of voice and appearance. She doesn’t sound like what she was in ‘The Avengers’ from the 1960s, but she does give a compelling performance as the villain.
Diana Rigg is joined by her daughter Rachael Stirling as Ada. Rachael has done quite a number of ‘Doctor Who’ audios for Big Finish. These audios include ‘Trail of the White Worm’ and ‘Technophobia’.
I enjoyed Rachael Stirling’s performance as Ada, as she seems to be a blind person who’s been looking after her ‘monster’ in a basement. But as it turns out, there’s a tortured history to her character.
It does take a while for Matt Smith’s Doctor to appear in the episode properly. He comes in halfway through the episode. When the Doctor does appear, his skin’s so red and he has his mouth wide open.
I like how Jenny gets the Doctor back to normal and when he does, he’s back on fine form like nothing’s ever happened. The Doctor even kisses Jenny, to which she slaps him. I couldn’t help laugh at that bit.
It was great when we were given the backstory in a flashback sequence on what happened to the Doctor and Jenna Coleman as Clara. It’s even presented in some old-style film footage which was so interesting.
After the Doctor’s reverted back to normal, he and Jenny go off to rescue Clara. I liked it when the Doctor found Clara and he puts her back to normal in the same way he returned to normal. She wakes up all dazed, confused and happy.
Very soon, once the Doctor, Clara and the Paternoster Gang are united, they go off to fight against Mrs. Gillyflower and cease her cruel schemes. It’s revealed who the mysterious Mr. Sweet is in the tale.
‘The Crimson Horror’ is one of those good romp episodes that’s easy to follow. I like how the Paternoster Gang start solving the mystery before the Doctor and Clara enter halfway through the episode.
The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 5 of ‘The Complete Series 7′ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s the ‘Behind-The-Scenes: The Crimson Horror’ featurette featuring cast and crew interviews. There’s also an audio commentary with Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart and Dan Starkey.
‘The Crimson Horror’ rating – 8/10
‘DOCTOR WHO – THE CRIMSON HORROR’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Reminiscences of Jenny Flint, Strax, the Doctor and others about the Crimson Horror
Could we have done without the first three chapters of this ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelization?
I have a soft spot for the ‘Doctor Who’ episode called ‘The Crimson Horror’ by Mark Gatiss, starring Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor and Jenna Coleman as Clara. I wouldn’t say it’s a great ‘Doctor Who’ story, but it’s certainly one of the better episodes of Series 7 and of the Eleventh Doctor era. 🙂
Mark Gatiss is both an actor and a writer in the ‘Doctor Who’ realm. I wouldn’t say he’s one of my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ writers, but he does deliver a decent story that I enjoy watching. I certainly enjoyed watching ‘The Crimson Horror’ when it was on the TV in May 2013 for the 50th anniversary.
I had to watch ‘The Crimson Horror’ again on DVD in order to refresh my memory of the story before reading and hearing the Target novelization/audiobook of the episode. I don’t watch the Matt Smith era episodes of ‘Doctor Who’ that often, so it was good to revisit it in order to recall what it’s about.
‘The Crimson Horror’ can be argued as an underrated classic in the ‘Doctor Who’ series. Maybe that’s why it was chosen for the Target novelization range in 2020/2021. I found it better and clearer as a Target novelization compared to Steven Moffat’s Target novelization of ‘The Day of the Doctor’.
I know people might rate ‘The Day of the Doctor’ Target novelization more highly than me and it’s ironic that I find Mark Gatiss’ ‘Doctor Who’ writing more compelling compared to Steven Moffat’s these days. This is especially since Mark and Steven have kept their partnership in ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Dracula’.
But I honestly found ‘The Crimson Horror’ novelization more enjoyable than ‘The Day of the Doctor’ novelization in the Eleventh Doctor era. Maybe because the story is more straight-forward in ‘The Crimson Horror’ compared to ‘The Day of the Doctor’. There’s also its Victorian Earth atmosphere. 🙂
Does that mean the novelization/audiobook compliments ‘The Crimson Horror’ episode greatly? Well…yes and no. It’s complicated. On the one hand, Mark Gatiss keeps everything intact from what was televised in 2013. But there are some additions early on in the novelization that don’t make sense.
When I re-watched ‘The Crimson Horror’ recently on DVD, I noticed how fast-paced the episode was with everything being crammed in and there being perhaps too much music drowning out some dialogue. I hoped the novelization would remedy that with clearing details that were unclear in the tale.
Mark Gatiss does do that to a certain extent in the novelization, but the book’s first three chapters are very baffling in that they have nothing to do with what actually happens in the story. At least not in the way people may think. It might set up certain things between characters, but not regards the plot.
To explain what I mean, a few technicalities to get out of the way. The story is divided into 9 chapters with a prologue at the beginning. There’s also a dedication to ‘Diana’ (Dame Diana Rigg, I assume since this book was published after her death) and a ‘To my heirs’ bit by Jonas Thursday. 😀
The prologue features an introduction by Jenny Flint to the readers of the story. Most parts of the book are predominantly told from the perspective of Jenny Flint. There are also some sections told through the eyes of other characters such as Jonas Thursday, Strax, Ada Gillyflower…and the Doctor.
Going back to the first three chapters of the book, they’re dedicated to an unrelated case in which Jenny first meets the Doctor. I’m not sure why Mark Gatiss decided to begin the story with Jenny, Madame Vastra and the Doctor solving a case not really connected to ‘The Crimson Horror’ episode.
It slows things down in terms of us as an audience wanting to get to ‘The Crimson Horror’ aspects of the story. If it was done in one or two chapters, I might be fine with that. But three is rather stretching it. The last six chapters of the book encompass what goes on in ‘The Crimson Horror’ story.
There also seems to be a contradiction in how Jenny first meets the Doctor. According to ‘The Name of the Doctor’, Vastra states that the Doctor saved Jenny’s life the first time they met. Implying that Jenny should already be familiar with the Doctor when they meet in the story for the unrelated case!
Now I’m not sure whether to judge or look into this too deeply. Maybe this is how Jenny and the Doctor first met in this unrelated case as written by Mark Gatiss or maybe something happened to prevent Jenny not knowing the Doctor when he first rescued her. Maybe he was in a different body.
Then again, contradictions like that aren’t unfamiliar in ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelizations. I remind you of the mix-up of the Master appearing in ‘The King’s Demons’ before ‘Black Orchid’ happened, or the Master having worked with Ogrons in ‘Frontier In Space’ first before working with Sea Devils in ‘The Sea Devils’.
The point is, the first three chapters sort-of set up how Jenny knows the Doctor when she and Vastra work on an unrelated case before the events of ‘The Crimson Horror’ take place. It might have worked better as one or two chapters instead of three, but it is set up clumsily in this certain regard.
Just to talk about the audiobook for a bit, yes! Catrin Stewart is the reader of the Target audiobook for ‘The Crimson Horror’. I was pleased to hear Catrin Stewart was reading the audiobook. It’s well-suited, especially since the story is mostly told from Jenny’s point of view and it is her story after all.
I like Catrin Stewart and her performances as Jenny in ‘Doctor Who’. I’m lucky to have met her once at the ‘Memorabilia Birmingham’ event in November 2011. This was after she did ‘A Good Man Goes to War’ and before she did many more appearances as Jenny in the TV show and the Big Finish audios. 🙂
Catrin Stewart is a Welsh actress and she studied at St. David’s Catholic College once. I know this from my conversation with Catrin back in Birmingham 2011. I went to St. David’s Catholic College too, you see. I had no idea that Catrin was studying at the same sixth-form college I attended in them days. 😀
When she’s narrating not as a Jenny, I can hear traces of her Welsh accent coming through. When she’s in Jenny mode, she’s definitely doing the cockney accent. You can also tell from reading the words given to Jenny by Mark Gatiss in how she talks and how she is relating things to the reader. 😀
A guest star narrator in the audiobook is Dan Starkey who plays Strax in the TV series and the Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’. Dan Starkey previously read the audiobook for ‘The TV Movie’ 2021 Target novelization. It’s interesting how he’s inserted into reading the Strax sections of this book. 😀
I assumed that Dan Starkey would be saying Strax’s dialogue whenever Jenny and Vastra had certain scenes with him in the story. You know, like how a Big Finish ‘Companion Chronicle’ works where the main narrator is joined by a guest star actor. That’s not really the case when hearing the audiobook.
Catrin Stewart does voice Strax’s parts when reading the story from Jenny’s perspective. It’s only when Strax is reading from his perspective in certain parts of the story that we hear Dan Starkey’s voice coming through. Not that I mind it, I just wish Dan Starkey voiced all of Strax’s dialogue on audio.
Strax is also written better in the novelization by Mark Gatiss compared to how he’s portrayed in the TV series. Quite often, Strax can at times be slightly annoying or to the point that you shout “Shut up, Strax!” But in Strax’s ‘log entries’, he sounds a more interesting character and he sounds less silly.
It was intriguing to hear Strax’s viewpoint on how he ended up with Jenny and Vastra and how he still thinks with the Sontaran thinking he has. It was amusing to hear his fondness for Earth sweets like lemon sherbets and how they often get his sugar levels going for when he charges in guns blazing.
I enjoyed the Ada Gillyflower’s passages featured in the novelization. From her point of view, you could sympathise with her character. I know that was the case in the TV episode, but in the book, you can emphasise with how she feels and the torture she went through under her ‘mama’s thumb.
You also root for her when she finds the Doctor ‘rejected’ by the crimsoning stages and she keeps him safe in order to prevent her mother finding out about him. The circumstances to how she ended up being blind by her mother are more effective in the book compared to how it is in the TV episode.
I must admit, I’m not sure why Winifred Gillyflower, as played by Dame Diana Rigg, wanted to turn the whole population of Victorian Yorkshire and the world into crimson-glowing beings when symbiotically connected to Mr. Sweet. This is the case in both the TV episode and the novelization. 😐
Had more been dealt with in exploring Mrs. Gillyflower’s motivations as a villain and had we more chapters focusing on ‘The Crimson Horror’ than have the first three chapters be on an unrelated case, maybe this novelization would have been better. As is, Mrs. Gillyflower’s motives appear weak.
That’s the problem I have with this book. I want it to focus on extra aspects of the story that were already established in the TV episode. Yet the first three chapters don’t have anything to do with ‘The Crimson Horror’, thus the rest of the book is a straight-forward translation from TV into book. 😦
I wouldn’t mind that so much since Terrance Dicks did that quite often when novelizing a TV story into a book. But the book could easily be six chapters long by cutting out the first three chapters and you wouldn’t miss a thing. It’s a logic I don’t comprehend in reviewing this particular Target novelization.
There is a new character that does appear in the novelization and this happens to be a mysterious associate of Mrs. Gillyflower’s called Dr. Fetch. He has a mechanical arm. Not sure if he’s related to the Half-Face Man that appears in the Twelfth Doctor’s first TV tale ‘Deep Breath’. Could be related.
There’s also a character called Gideon Mortlock who was originally going to appear in ‘The Unquiet Dead’, penned by Mark Gatiss himself. In that story, he would have been a fake medium. In this story, he owns a theatre. I don’t think Mortlock contributed so much to ‘The Crimson Horror’ story.
I like how ‘Chapter the Seventh’ is told entirely from the Doctor’s point of view, explaining what happened to him and Clara when they arrived in Victorian Yorkshire and visited Sweetville. The story doesn’t delve too deep into Clara’s character, which is a shame as I personally like the character in the series.
The book concludes with the Doctor saying goodbye to Vastra, Jenny, Strax and Ada after Clara’s gone into the TARDIS. Jonas Thursday also faints for the third time after seeing the TARDIS dematerialise. I found Jonas Thursday’s three faints sillier in the TV episode than in the novelization.
The last scene of the TV episode which featured Clara and the Maitland children isn’t included in ‘The Crimson Horror’ novelization. That might mean that Mark Gatiss didn’t write that scene in the original episode and it was added in by Steven Moffat in order for it to tie into ‘Nightmare In Silver’ next. 😀
I actually prefer the scene being omitted in the novelization since most of it has been narrated by Jenny and other characters connected to ‘The Crimson Horror’ story. Having the Clara and the Maitland children scene at the end of the novelization wouldn’t make sense in reading and hearing it. 🙂
This is something that Neil Gaiman can sort out when he novelizes ‘Nightmare In Silver’ for the Target novelization range should it ever happen. Then again, the Clara and the Maitland children scene might never be novelized just as Nyssa’s fainting moment at the end of ‘Four to Doomsday’ was never novelized.
‘The Crimson Horror’ novelization by Mark Gatiss is decent enough. I’m quite annoyed that the first three chapters don’t have anything to do with ‘The Crimson Horror’ story and they should have been reduced to one or two chapters. But the rest of the book is good and keeps most of the story intact.
The audiobook reading by Catrin Stewart is also very good and it was nice to have Dan Starkey pop in and out to voice Strax’s sections when he was narrating the story from his perspective. In all fairness, ‘The Crimson Horror’ is a more enjoyable Eleventh Doctor novelization than ‘The Day of the Doctor’.
‘Doctor Who – The Crimson Horror’ rating – 7/10
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Enjoyable episode letdown by a weak climax, these type of stories definitely need to be longer to do them justice.
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Glad you enjoyed this episode as well as me. I found Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling the highlight when watching this episode.
Thanks for your thoughts on this.
Great review Tim on the Novelization & Audiobook very strange that the first three chapters have nothing to do with the main story bit weird that, i said when you reviewed the tv episode this felt rushed & needed to be longer but to include a three chapter opening that has nothing to do with the main plot reminded me of Batman The Killing joke animated movie where they padded out run time with the opening 20 minutes having no connection to the main story arc which didn’t feature in the graphic novel.
Nice photo of you with Catrin Stewart blimey Tim you met a lot of actors from the series over the years, here’s hoping you can attend new conventions now lockdown easing.
A detailed comparative review of the episode that i enjoyed reading.
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Glad you enjoyed my review on the Target novelization/audiobook of ‘The Crimson Horror’. It’s a shame that this novelization seems to be let down by the inclusion of the first three chapters not having anything to do with ‘The Crimson Horror’ story as the rest of the book is fine. I’m finding ‘The Witchfinders’ novelization/audiobook more enjoyable than the ‘Dalek’ and ‘The Crimson Horror’ novelizations/audiobooks so far. I’ve not seen ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ animated movie yet. I have heard things about it though. Interesting they padded out the opening 20 minutes with something that doesn’t connect to the main story and isn’t featured in the graphic novel.
Yes, I’m very pleased I had that photo with Catrin Stewart back in 2011. Such good times they were. I’m looking forward to when I attend the next convention. I’m due to be attending the ‘Bedford Who Charity Con’ in October with Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton attending. Here’s hoping the convention will take place. I’m also due to visit the cinema soon for the first time in a long while and see ‘Peter Rabbit 2’.
Many thanks for your comments,