Sunday, 12 May 2013

Review: Doctor Who - The Crimson Horror and Nightmare in Silver

The Paternoster Gang must be the most-widely loved Moffat creations for Doctor Who. While characters such as Amy, Rory and River Song have perhaps divided viewers, you’ll be hard pressed to find a Doctor Who­-viewing soul who dislikes either Madame Vastra, the ‘Lizard woman from the Dawn of Time’, her feisty cockney wife, Jenny Flint or their loveably dim Sontaran butler, Strax. It was a joy then to see the gang again in Mark Gatiss’ latest episode ‘The Crimson Horror.’ However, there was much more than just the terrific trio to love in this audacious, hilarious adventure.
The plot is wonderfully mercurial – I challenge you to guess what’s behind Ada’s secret door or indeed the identity of Mr Sweet. It also feels all there; the characters and the story are explored enough so we don’t leave feeling short-changed. That said, the episode’s worth of story could easily fill a novel, one of Mark Gatiss’ Lucifer Box novels, perhaps (which, on a side note, if you haven’t read but enjoyed this episode I heartily recommend). The two stars of the supporting cast also shine. Dianna Rigg gets the tone of the episode perfectly in her nutty-as-a-fruitcake performance as the scheming fascistic Mrs Gillyflower, who has a sinister plan involving some red gloop in her idealistic Yorkshire factory, Sweetville. If Rigg brings the villainy, Rachel Stirling, her daughter both on and off-screen, brings the heart as the blinded put-upon Ada whom her mother shuns for her ‘imperfections’.  

If you like your Doctor Who full of horrific mysteries, over-the-top villains and memorable side-characters, ‘The Crimson Horror’ encapsulates all that to a tee. Drawn from a variety of sources including Sherlock Holmes, Hammer Horror and James Bond, Gatiss’s script aided by fine performances makes this episode perhaps the best of this series. And, it’s final moments link directly into the following story. The Cybermen are returning…

Neil Gaiman’s second Doctor Who after 2011’s unique ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ is a wholly different episode. Whereas ‘Wife’ is kooky and sad, ‘Nightmare’ is action-packed and twisty-turny. But this doesn't necessarily mean it's worse. Taking Artie and Angie to Hedgewick’s World, the best amusement park in the universe, the Doctor and Clara encounter a bunch of oddball characters and the resurrection of the long-dead Cybermen…
Firstly, this episode is simply the best the Cybermen have been in years. Nearly every story they've appeared in since their reboot in 2006, the Cybermen have virtually just been gun fodder, exploding metal heads would  fly everywhere. Here, decked out in all-new superpowers – and even a fresh name, ooh spoilers – they are almost undefeatable. For any Cyber-fan, seeing them as a more than formidable foe is a reason to thank and give big hugs to Mr Gaiman.  However, despite how good they are, they may still be upstaged by a truly superb performance from Matt Smith. We've seen him emotional, funny, heart-broken but here we get to see him menacing, giving us a whole new aspect to his Doctor. Mention must also be given to Warwick Davies for his portrayal of Porridge, a tough but sympathetic and mysterious character. He joins the ranks of great Doctor Who characters who deserve a return appearance – and these days they seem to get them so fingers crossed.
On the whole, ‘Nightmare’ is another madcap, slightly oddball episode from its author that draws from past Cyber adventures – too many to go through here - to create something original and highly-Gaimanesque. It has the odd fault – really, why were the kids there? – but its certainly fantastic Doctor Who. Gaiman has said he is interested in writing another and after his track record so far, I eagerly await the next one, like a Cybermen resting in its tomb... 

Next week, it is all revealed. As his friends start to go missing, the Doctor is drawn to Trenzalore, the place his whole life has been heading towards but also the place on which he must never set foot. Will we really find out who Clara actually is? And, finally after 50 years, will they reveal his greatest secret, ‘The Name of the Doctor’? Find out Saturday 18th on BBC One. 


  1. The Crimson Horror was a lot of fun, if feeling a bit like a CBBC drama somehow. (This is no bad thing. I have a certain nostalgia for the CBBC dramas of my childhood like The Demon Headmaster.)

    Hurrah for the return of Neil Gaiman! I didn't think Nightmare in Silver was an instant classic like The Doctor's Wife, but it was certainly one of the better episodes of this series. Highlight for me was Matt Smith acting for two, with Warwick Davis' understated but wonderful Porridge following close behind (I really hope he returns.)

    But I was not impressed with the insufferable kids. At all.

  2. Crimson Horror is great fun and I see what you mean about it being CBBC-esque - I think its the light-hearted nature and over-the-top villain.

    Yeah, Nightmare doesn't reach the pure brilliance of Wife but is still extremely entertaining. I really loved Matt in this one and I have a lot of affection for Porridge. Gaiman can - and should - return to Who anytime!

    Oh dear, yes. The boy was passable but the girl was, I'm afraid, very irritating...

  3. We're pretty much in agreement here! I had a lot of fun with The Crimson Horror, it was everything that I want a Doctor Who episode to be like, and the Bond fan in me enjoyed seeing Dianna Rigg!

    I definitely prefer Wife to Nightmare, but there was a lot to enjoy in the recent episode. Shame about the little girl though.

    I'm really looking forward to next week!

  4. Crimson absolutely nails the adventure-side of Doctor Who! Arguably, Who can be more emotionally-stirring than this but with the amount of fun to be had from this episode it's not a problem. Ah but her role is a long way away from Tracey...

    Agree with you about Nightmare. I'm beginning to feel sorry for that girl; I haven't heard a single good comment about her. However, I imagine after another viewing of the episode the sympathy may dwindle a bit...

    Glad to hear it! It promises to be great...


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