This episode of Doctor Who sees the return of our favorite investigative trio! We have not seen Vastra, Jenny and Strax since the Christmas special. Of course, that also means that they have not seen The Doctor and Clara since Christmas. And the last time they saw Clara, she was dead. So, this ought to be very interesting.
Vastra, Jenny and Strax are in Victorian Yorkshire researching what has come to be known as “The Crimson Horror” by the local mortician. These bodies keep turning up entirely red with expressions of complete terror on their faces. Thus, our favorite Victorian investigation team has been put to the case.
Using a highly controversial scientific technique, they are able to photograph the last image seen by the victim’s eye…an image of The Doctor! Something very strange is occurring in Yorkshire. And it appears to be of a foul nature. They trace the strange occurrences to a group bearing some resemblance to the temperance movement with maybe a strong dash of eugenics thrown in. Jenny uses her incredible skills in espionage and lock-picking to infiltrate the fanatical organization. It turns out that they are trying to create a more perfect society inside of an old factory. They are calling the place Sweetville. Sweetville’s leader, Mrs. Gillyflower, preaches against the evils of alcohol and talks about creating a more perfect world. She uses her daughter, Ada, to horrify the audience. According to Mrs. Gillyflower, Ada has been blinded by the alcohol soaked hand of her father.
Of course, Jenny is not sucked into this cult and manages to sneak her way around the building, coming upon the “monster” that Ada has been caring for. That monster is, surprise, surprise, The Doctor.The Doctor does not look well at all. He is still alive, but something horrid has happened to him, causing his complexion to resemble the crimson hued bodies found in the river earlier. After The Doctor is able to cure himself (via his sonic screwdriver…duh), he finally tell us what has happened. Through an old timey cinematograph-styled flashback. The Doctor was attempting to take Clara back to Victorian London when the TARDIS decided it had other plans. So, they landed in Yorkshire in the year 1893. They quickly found themselves in the hands of the people from Sweetville, who put them in some kind of red poison in order to preserve them. Obviously, it did not have the intended results on The Doctor. He is still alive though, unlike the other rejects that are tossed into the river. This explains why all the bodies have turned up. But that still leaves The Doctor and the investigation team wondering what is going on. And where is Clara?
At this point, The Doctor is forced to explain exactly how Clara is alive. The three Victorian gumshoes watched Clara die. The Doctor dodges this question both now and throughout to the end of the episode. And while he tries to play it cool, it is clear that he has no explanation for how Clara is breathing. They end up finding Clara preserved in a bizarre set up. It resembles a creepy dollhouse with living people.
Thanks to more searching, it begins to appear that Mrs. Gillyflower is not exactly a good person. We eventually find out that Ada is blind because her mother experimented on her. Not exactly mother of the year material. Also, since her daughter kept The Doctor safe, Mrs. Gillyflower will not welcome Ada into the New World. She is preserving people for a time after her self-created apocalypse. When everyone else is dead, these people will take over the world. She has plans to send this poison into the atmosphere and destroy humanity. A poison created by the mysterious “Mr. Sweet.” By the way, turns out that Mrs. Sweet is, in fact, an ancient parasite. One that she keeps under her shirt as it feeds on her flesh. Talk about a metaphor for Victorian morality! We thought Mr. Sweet was pretty cute for being an evil parasite that spews poison. Eventually they are able to stop Mrs. Gillyflower’s nefarious plans. This was a very fun episode. We love the investigation team of Vastra, Jenny and Strax. They each have amazing personalities and are incredibly well written. The three of them stole the entire episode. Especially Strax, who managed to swoop in and save the day on multiple occasions. He may look like a potato that think that Jenny is a “fleshy boy,” but he is damn good with a gun. One of our favorite parts of the episode was when he met a young boy that led him to Sweetville. The young boy’s name is Thomas Thomas. Get it? We’re dorks, so it made us laugh. Out loud.
But, of course, Jenny and Vastra were brilliant as usual. It was nice to see Jenny engage in a little more ass-kicking than we have been privy to witness thus far. And Vastra? Perfection.
The one thing that seemed very odd this episode was that The Doctor acted so touchy feely. Did anyone else notice how often he was kissing people? Huh.
No real answers this episode about Clara. We thought it was very sneaky of The Doctor to attempt to take her back to Victorian London. Sneaky, not because it was a bad thing, but because Clara is still unaware of their prior meetings. It makes us wonder if the TARDIS just “messed up” or if she is trying to keep them from going back to Victorian London.
The end of the episode seemed very forced. Clara returns to her nanny position to find that the two children she cares for have discovered older pictures of her: one from the 1970s, one from the 1980s and one from Victorian London. But that can’t be right. She’s only gone to Yorkshire…
How exactly did these kids find the pictures? Well, it looks like we may find out more in the next episode.