One consistently recurring question among fans over recent years has been why accomplished writer and performer Mark Gatiss hasn’t been able to deliver a follow-up to match “The Unquiet Dead,” his first Doctor Who episode back in 2005. There was the undercooked ‘meh’-ness of “The Idiot’s Lantern” for example, and the flat-out disappointment of “Victory of the Daleks” which was only partially the result of the new-model primary-coloured candy-floss iDaleks. Even 2011’s “Night Terrors” felt like it should have been so much better rather than just acceptably decent.
Given his undoubted talents – just check out his writing for Sherlock for example – and his unimpeachable love of the series, a resounding Doctor Who success for Gatiss has been long over due. Arguably last month’s “Cold War” was the best of Gatiss follow-ups, and it was certainly pretty good and well-received even if I personally thought it narrowly failed to fully deliver. So you can understand then when I say I’d rather given up hope of ever finding a Gatiss-penned Doctor Who that I could unreservedly, unhesitatingly gush over and declare as being his best contribution to the series of all time; and I certainly wasn’t expecting “The Crimson Horror” to be the episode to prove me wrong.
Well paint me red, dress me in long johns and call me dear monster, because I’ve never been happier having to eat my words: “The Crimson Horror” was the most tongue-in-cheek fun that Doctor Who has had in a very long time. Possibly ever, actually. It is delightfully wicked and clever from first to last and shows just how good Gatiss can truly be when he slips his leash and goes on the rampage unfettered by cerebral concerns of what a ‘good’ Doctor Who episode needs to or should look like. Read the rest of this entry »
I was going to keep this one relatively short, since I didn’t think that I had a lot to say about the latest instalment of Doctor Who other than that this was one of the best and strongest episodes to date of an otherwise uneven series 7. But it turns out that there’s a lot to say about excellence after all.
Here was a story that was finally let off the leash and allowed to be proper scary in just the way that the previous episode, “Cold War”, didn’t quite have the heart to follow through. I was amazed by the lengths this one went to and what it ended up getting away with: if this were indeed back in the 1970s and Mary Whitehouse was still with us, she would surely have been apoplectic at how much the show must have traumatised the little kids on Saturday night. Or the big kids, come to that – this was seriously frightening stuff. And it felt great to have Doctor Who back to its full-blooded, no-holds-barred best.
In a nutshell it was a haunted house story with a ghost and a hideous monster lurking in the shadows, being investigated by slightly eccentric paranormal researcher Alec Palmer and his assistant (not companion – this is 1974) Emma Grayling, an empathic psychic. Her talents prove vital to solving the mystery of Caliburn House, but of course it’s the Doctor who provides the brain power in figuring out what’s going on in the first place and what must be done about it – which takes us out of gothic supernatural horror and into a quite wonderfully clever and original science fiction story about time travel. This in turns allows some important character moments between the Doctor and his companion (not assistant – this is 2013) in which Clara gets insight into the Doctor’s world view, and we in turn get insight into the mystery of The Impossible Girl and why she fascinates the Doctor so – although why the Tardis is apparently not also a fan of hers is a whole different juicy strand to things. Read the rest of this entry »