Wednesday, 8 May 2013

PCJ's Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror Spoiler Review

So far, Doctor Who Series 7 Part 2 has been going really well, although with a few bumps and scrapes here and there. The 6th episode this "segment" entitled The Crimson Horror is written by regular writer Mark Gattis, who was most recently responsible for the popular Cold War episode.

This episode to me, was a bit of a let-down. When I saw the trailer and the synopsis, I knew it wasn't going to be top-notch, but I quite liked the overall premise behind it. I liked the idea of the Paternoster gang turning up again, as I thoroughly enjoyed them in The Snowmen, and I liked the idea of them meeting Clara #3. I also kept an open mind due to the writer. Mark Gattis is far from the most consistent writer when it comes to quality, but he has done some good episodes so I felt rather hopeful about this one.

Strax has a more vital role
Even before getting close to the end of the episode, the balance between funny and serious was quite poorly done with the two alternating and thereby knocking each other out of the water. The out of character "shrug off" of The Doctor when Ada kills Mr Sweet was obviously intended for humour too. Though with lines like "Do you know what these are? The wrong hands." the combination of humour and being really scary work well. Having said that, focusing on Strax alone, I felt he was far better used in this episode as he went from just being the group clown to actually saving the day. Twice.
Experimented upon
One of the possible causes for the need for Gatiss to include funny content in this episode would be that this episode is actually quite dark as opposed to a few others. For example, it had a mother experimenting on her own daughter. It had a woman wanting to kill everyone on the planet for her own Eden. Should we presume that these reasons are for the children of the family, so that they do not cry too much?

The closest way Moffat can cameo
For me, one of the chief issues with this episode is the plot-holes throughout. In the Moffat era, we're used some of the hints and the foreshadowing being more subtle, so we look closer. Why did Miss Gilliflower have to hide her feeding Mr Sweet from Ada when she was blind? How did she build a spruced up metal firework in those times? Why didn't they all burn when it ignited? Why would a parasite want to wipe out all life? How can a single vat of poison kill the entire world when an entire cauldron of what must be extremely an diluted substance can only "wax"? If the poison needs to touch the body, how would that work with just a n explosion over one city? Why not turn it into a gas and pump it into the atmosphere? These are just a few, where individually they all seem pedantic, but if you put them together, you'll find a story that is under-developed.

Aka "The Hammer to the Face"
Another indication that this episode is under-developed is the cringe-worthy reference to TomTom, that seemed completely out of place. Doctor Who has always had a certain level of cheesy-ness to it, but this just felt desperate where a hammer to the face would be more subtle, even to the point that I've thought that the kid might be something more than just an on-looker for part of an episode who managed to scale a chimney and watch a battle, without any of the other characters raising that point. I admit, that it was quite funny the first time, but it got cringe-worthy on even just the 2nd re-watch. Though if I consider it a reference to The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, it makes me feel better.

I did, however, like the "Doctor-lite" aspect of the episode. Many people do not like Doctor-lite episodes, but I do enjoy them. Let's face it, Doctor Who has been about for almost 50 years. We've had a lot of The Doctor. We don't need him in every second of every episode, and more than once we have seen the effect of him that left behind on others. This episode was a fantastic mix of this. Not too little, but enough of him to not remove this fact. it worked really well.

Clara first sees the screen
One of the things that I'm not too certain on is the final scene, where the kids blackmail Clara into letting them go with her. To me, this felt as if it would have been just as suited to being a prequel for the following episode, allowing the mystery of Clara to be expanded upon within the actual plot of the episode as opposed what feels like an after-thought as part of a fairly half-arsed way to set up the following episode. Not too sure on the pictures either. Why would there be a picture of Clara from a top-secret soviet sub?

The "boyfriend"
The actual method of introducing the kids was a little poor too. Unless the threat was just a bluff, the dad would just react wondering if the kids are either have learnt to use Photoshop, drunk or high. Far from being thought out too well.

The actual revelation itself that Clara was in Victorian London could go one of two ways. Clara could either realise now this is not her and ask The Doctor, or she could believe this is where she will go on a future adventure and then, when her life is severely threatened or she is dying, she will recall this picture. Either way, it makes the mind wonder what it could be, even if the fact that she found out at all was a fairly predicable thing.

The pace, however, was brilliant. I can say, without a doubt, that I found the pacing of this story one of the best among all of series 7. The climax of the story was not rushed to the point of "a few button presses and done" and had some good old action scenes and that didn't come at the cost of the rest of the story being too fast or too slow.

"Your Nuts"
The acting of the legendary Diana Rigg was one of the enlightening factors about this episode, with her pure insanity. This combined with her real-life daughterRachael Stirling, acting as her on-screen daughter for the first time did make the episode feel and work special, at least in this regard.

Murray Gold and the sound editing team have redeemed themselves in this episode from the previous episodes this series, with new musical pieces, such as the action piece. The flashback, with constant flashes annoyed me on the first watch, however I grew to like it on later re-watches.

Overall, I would rate this episode 4/10. It had promise and I did like some elements to it, but the balance between funny and serious, it not always keeping my attention and a couple other things let it down.


Cult_Of_Androzani_Sixie said...

Thank you for mentioning the sub. I'm just hoping there's an explanation for that.

Rebecca Wright said...

Hi, I agree with the review, it made me cringe all the way through. It was awful, and like a bad panto in the supposedly funny parts. I usually love Mark Gatiss' stories, especially Night Terrors last year. The two parts of the story I loved were Diana Rigg, and Matt Smith acting as a crimson mannequin. I did actually say 'Oh No!' when that happened.
Maybe the story was so silly because there are 2 dark stories coming up.


I miss having the Sontarans as an advisory. in The Sontaran Experiment we see how just one Sontaran can be dangerous. I did enjoy Strax in his uniform running and firing away.

Matthew Bagnall said...

I agree - this entire episode felt like it should have been a 2-parter and most of it is condensed into a single episode. The 'flashback' sequence shows off this completely - rushing over important topics. I still for the life of me cannot remember why they are being covered in red goop or why they disposed of the bodies that failed in the river for everyone to see...

The ending was a huge annoyance also - with little to no explanation of why Clara returned home straight after - especially given the circumstance of the kids being there... and just so happen to look for pictures of Clara in different time periods... and just so happen to think that two people in the whole existence of the world cant look the same without them being the same...

This was meant to be the Doctor lite episode - however it suffers from their being too much Doctor. Despite the Doctor not being around you kept thinking 'when is the doctor going to show up... nothings happening' over and over again.

When they mentioned the 'monster' i automatically new it was the Doctor. Solely because the Doctor has to star in the episode somehow and would need an introduction that shows the horror of the 'crimson horror'

Also - the chains on the wall are not long enough to reach the door as shown in later scenes... yet a hand takes the food/stuff from the blind person under the door?

Going back to the ending line from the doctor about not explaining Clara - my family all called that line - it was so blatant and obvious that it pissed me off.

I just want the Doctor to actually focus on Clara... while the only episode to expand on Clara so far this series have been;

The bells of Saint John - Introduced to Clara, a babysitter...
The rings of Ahkhatan - Shown Clara's past
Journey to the Centre of the Tardis - Figure out Clara knows nothing... then forget everything (Making the entire episode completely pointless)