This week’s episode centered on one of Whovians’ favorite trio, Madame Vastra, Strax and Jenny and brought out the incredible acting styles of Diana Rigg and her daughter Rachel Stirling. Victorian London seems to be a running theme in the second half of Season 7 and proves there may be an important reason why so. Let’s get to the recap!
Its 1893 and strange things are occurring at Sweetville. Edmund Thursday is determined to find out what it is. After telling his “wife”, Effie (who is really another undercover reporter just like him), to call the police if he doesn’t return in an hour, he enters a room glowing with a red light. Just after he passes through the door, Mrs. Winifred Gillyflower accompanied by several other Victorian women come in. She tells Effie she’s so sorry for her loss of her late husband but Effie doesn’t understand. She then hears Edmund’s screams behind the door and as she turns back to look at Mrs. Gillyflower, we hear her scream in horror also.
So what happened to Edmund? According to the coroner, he tells Edmund’s brother that he was afflicted with the Crimson Horror and this is not the first time he’s seen a body that is this shade of red. Mr. Thursday decides to take what information he knows and visits Madame Vastra and Jenny. He shows her an optigram of his brother’s eyes revealing the last thing he saw. When the two detectives take a look at it, they are shocked. So shocked, that Madame Vastra removes her veil revealing her amphibious appearance that Mr. Thursday is shocked to see and faints. More surprising is that the optigram of Edmund’s eye revealed the last thing he saw was the Doctor!
Vastra, Jenny and Strax make plans to put Jenny undercover to infiltrate Sweetville which Jenny is able to. In the meantime, Vastra heads to see the coroner, Amos, who gives her a bottle of red fluid that he’s extracted from those who were afflicted with the Crimson Horror. Much to her surprise, she recognizes what’s inside the bottle and states that she’s seen these symptoms before… a long time ago… about 64 million years ago.
Dinner at Sweetville is as creepy as the estate itself, as Mrs. Gillyflower and her daughter Ada enjoy a meal together. Unbeknownst to Mrs. Gillyflower, her daughter has a pet monster that she feeds and keeps chained up in the basement. Ada asks if the mysterious Mr. Sweet will ever be joining them for supper, but her mother tells her that the man is tired. Then she purposely knocks over the salt container as though it were an accident and tosses a pinchful over her shoulder (for good luck no doubt) as well as adds a pinch down her shirt (really don’t want to think what’s inside there that may need seasoning…ew).
Jenny on the other hand, is busy exploring the house and finally comes to the door where Ada’s monster is being kept. As she opens it, she finds a red bodied, rather plastified Doctor who is unable to speak let alone move. Jenny takes the Doctor and his clothes and they escape. The Frankenstein-like Doctor leads Jenny to a room and grunts/motions her to stick him in there which she does with his belongings. He takes out his screwdriver and she closes the door. Suddenly, the door opens and it’s the Doctor back in true form! He’s a bit happy to be back, too, as he plants a big ol’ kiss on the Victorian chambermaid in which a slap in the face was his reward. (Oh c’mon Jenny! You had to be enjoying that even a little!) The Doctor runs muttering about how they need to find Clara and as Jenny follows, he quickly tells how he ended up as red plastic man.
Apparently, the Doctor is once against lost as he and Clara arrive in Yorkshire 1893 instead of North London 1893. Clara comments that he’s making a habit of getting lost not realizing it’s the TARDIS’ fault (‘The Doctor’s Wife’). They hear a scream and that’s where they meet Edmund who tells them that Mrs. Gillyflower, a prize winning mechanical and chemist, has opened a match factory but no one who ever enters the facility ever comes out. Then glowing red bodies begin to turn up in the canal. Examining one of the bodies, the Doctor tells Clara that you can see the last image a person sees before dying if the body’s chemical composition was corrupted, which this one was. He then picks up some fluid from the body and after some tests, the Doctor realizes that the bodies contain an organic poison; a venom of sorts, which Edmund thinks is connected to Sweetville. So the Doctor decides to investigate the factory. Allons-y!
Anyway, the Doctor and Clara entire Sweetville as husband and wife and Mrs. Gillyflower shows them around. She informs that that the area is named after her silent partner Mr. Sweet and shows them an apartment where a couple is kept under glass. Soon they become surrounded by other minions and are taken to the vat area to undergo some type of transformation. Subjects are dipped into a red goo like mixture. Those who survive become docile and mindless while those who are rejected are tossed out with the “Crimson Horror”. The Doctor, however, was rejected but survived so Ada decided to keep him as her pet.
As she chains him up, Ada tells him that sometimes the procedure goes wrong but only Mr. Sweet knows why and he only talks to her mama, so in the meantime, the Doctor will be her special secret monster. While being captive, that’s when Edmund finally rushes into the room and sees the Doctor (which explains the image that’s in his eye that was shown to Vastra and Jenny) before dying.
So now that Jenny is caught up, the Doctor tells her that the stuff is deadly poison that is being used to preserve people for the upcoming apocalypse and that it probably didn’t work on him because he wasn’t human. He heads on to find Clara who Jenny thinks is dead (‘The Snowmen’) but the Doctor tells her it’s complicated.
Cut to a very cute scene where Strax is lost and a nearby orphan boy helps him out by giving him precise directions to get to Sweetville. Strax finds out that boy’s name is Thomas Thomas (aka Tom Tom) and tells him that he will do well in life.
The Doctor finds Clara under a glass in a room kinda like one of those chachkis you would find on a mantle and breaks it open. Meanwhile, in the Doctor’s old prison cell, Mrs. Gillyflower finds her daughter weeping over her monster’s escape. Ada admits what she did and her mother is upset. Ada, realizing she has disappointed her mother, asks for reassurance that she won’t be left behind and that there is room for her in the new Eden. Mrs. Gillyflower tells her there is only room for people like her and only perfection is good enough for her and Mr. Sweet. Oh, that is one cold Motha Frakker!
The Doctor sticks Clara in one of those re-transformation rooms but before the process is complete, Mrs. Gillyflowers’ minions (or as the Doctor likes to call them, her pack of supermodels) come around. The Doctor prepares to fight with his trusty sonic screwdriver but Jenny tells her that this fight is on her as she removes her Victorian garb and becomes superhero ju-jitsu Jenny. The Doctor, as well as I, was quite impressed as Jenny takes down two of the minions. But there is too many and in true Doctor from, he takes Jenny’s hand and they prepare to run. They didn’t have to run far as Strax and Vastra come charging in and save the day.
As the minions are taken care of, the Doctor opens the door and Clara is back to normal. Now they need to deal with the Crimson Horror.
Vastra tells the Doctor that the Horror is really a parasite that had infected the water when the Silurians ruled the Earth. Once in their system, it secreted a fatal poison, but what does this have to do with Mrs. Gillyflower? Finds out, that the dear mamma, plans on poisoning the air to create a new Eden.
The Doctor and Clara head out to find Mrs. Gillyflower and in the process find Ada. A very sweet exchange occurs between her and the Doctor before they head off and finally confront her mamma who reveals that Mr. Sweet and her have a very symbiotic relationship! In fact, Mr. Sweet is a rather large red leech attached to Mrs. Gillyflower’s chest! Ewwww!
Mrs. Gillyflower’s plans to rain his venom around the world to wipe out humanity except for those that have been saved. Then those she has chosen will be the new Adam and Eve for her new Eden. Well that’s all good and all until the Doctor asks her about Ada. He confronts the old woman asking why she used her own daughter as a guinea pig for the toxins. Ada is shocked her own mother is the cause of her own disfigurement and blindness. Enraged, Ada screams and attacks her mother with her cane giving Clara enough time to destroy the silo control panel with a chair.
You would think that is the end of it with the rockets now disabled and Ada now knowing the truth, but Mrs. Gillyflower decides to take Ada hostage. Unbeknownst to the Doctor, mamma had a secondary firing system that she manages to set off at the launch pad. But Vastra and Jenny are too smart for the woman as they removed the poison from the rocket and it launches into the air with an empty container. Mrs. Gillyflower is livid and tries to shoot at our heroes but Strax is there and shoots off a warning shot of his own which, although misses Mrs. Gillyflower, unbalances her and she falls to her death. As Mr. Sweet disengages from his host’ body, Ada kills it.
The Doctor returns Clara to her time and as she goes into her home, she notices the computer screen and there are pictures of her taken in the ‘70s (‘Hide’) in 1983 (‘Cold War’) and one which she doesn’t recall from Victorian London. Her charges are on to her. They blackmail Clara and ask if they can travel with her – if not, they’re gonna tell their daddy that their nanny is a time traveler. What is Clara to do?
* Both Diana Rigg and Rachel Sterling gave incredible performances in this episode. Like how Jenny reminded me a bit if Mrs Peel (Rigg’s old role in the British series ‘The Avengers’) when she removed her dress and began using martial arts to fight the bad guys.
* Strax, as always, was wonderfully used as the comic relief in this episode. Really makes me want to see a Vastra, Jenny and Strax spin off show.
* Did anyone get a ‘Sarah Jane Adventures’ feel at the end of the episode when her charges came and began wanting to be included in Clara’s adventures?
We have one more episode before the finale and it is one that many have been waiting for! ‘The Night of the Cyberman’ written by Neil Gaiman is one not too miss! Make sure you come back here for our recap and let me know what you think of the second half of Season 7 has been so far.