We open our merry Victorian episode of Doctor Who on the set of the Every Sperm is Sacred number from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. Or as it’s better known, Yorkshire.
Edmund has resolved to get to the bottom of this dark and queer business, and rushes off behind the door with the red glow. I had no idea they got so exercised about gay bars in Yorkshire. Anyway, the proceedings are interrupted by the icy Mrs. Gillyflower and her Victorian Mean Girl posse, and there’s screaming.
We next see Edmund on the slab, all done up like a sports fan in red bodypaint, with a look on his face like the Flyers just scored in overtime. Also he’s dead, and the canal has been clogged with similar cases. They’re calling it the Crimson ‘Orra, which sounds like a club night I’d avoid.
Edmund’s brother is distressed enough to seek the services of Madame Vastra and her wife Jenny, my favorite interspecies atemporal lesbian adventurers. And yours. An examination of Edmund’s optogram reveals that silly superstitions are making a comeback or that The Doctor is trapped in an eyeball. As if that’s the strangest plot device that’s been sprung on us.
Vastra, Jenny, and Strax head Oop North to send Jenny in as a spy, since the last spy that went in didn’t come out looking like a pickled sausage.
Scissor grenades, limbo vapor, and tripleblast brain-splitters. Strax gets his ordnance from homicidal Willy Wonka. Strax also needs to be reminded that lots of places have a North.
And we’re off to Mrs. Gillyflower’s tent meeting, where she is ripping on Bradford, the Sodom of the North, and displaying her blinded daughter as if she was the Elephant Man. Now this is a lady I want to shelter from the Apocalypse with, in her lovely factory. Which, by the by, is clearly Wonkaland.
Being proper Victorians, the Gillyflowers have a relative locked in an attic being fed through a slot. Probably has syphilis. Ada calls him Monster in a creepily sweet voice.
And we get to see Edmund’s brother faint again, and we get another “Strax has murder blue balls” gag. Back where the plot is happening, Jenny is down to business as usual. A little lock-picking and snooping reveals the club’s massive sound system. And Madame V has found a McGuffin from 65 million years back. Oh Aye.
Jenny’s snooping and lock-picking gets her to Cousin Monster’s room in no time, and CM turns out to be a statue of The Doctor made of chicken tikka. A bit of Frankenstein-style clomping around seems to loosen him up, and after the reveal of the Batman villain tub of bubbling fuchsia muck and dipping mechanism, Doc finds a steampunk broom closet to hole up in and sonic the red out.
Appropriately pale, bow-tied and manic once again, the Doc launches into a sepia flashback sequence. Doc says he’ll keep it short, and I’ll keep it shorter: Doc & Clara infiltrate Wonkaland, it all goes wrong. But you’ve got to love the happy couple bell jars.
And we get another “Strax wants to kill something” gag, and a GPS gag that someone clearly wrote a few years ago.
Jenny would like to know what’s up with Clara, and the Doc is not giving any straight answers. Jenny’s the audience surrogate here. Also, in case we hadn’t guessed, Mrs. Gillyflower is a bad mom.
With Clara busted out of her display case, the Doc is microwaving the grin off her face when the Nazi Oompa Loompas show up. Jenny peels down to her super suit and owns a couple dudes, but the numbers favor running. At least until Strax rolls in, strafing and war-crying and just having the best time. Madame V puts him in time out before he can unleash a rhino made of acid.
Anyhow, Clara comes out a bit loopy but recovers in time for Madame V’s McGuffin exposition walk & talk, and long story short: giant steampunk rocket with red death payload.
Doc runs into weeping Ada, who can’t quite rat out her unspeakable mom. Who, it turns out, has a prehistoric crawdad snuggled to her bosom, and blinded her daughter tinkering with her crawdad sauce. Ada takes it badly and goes Zatoichi, but still gets suckered into being used as a hostage while mom runs for the rocket. Wrecking shit with chairs appears to be theme tonight, by the way.
The crew fails to stop Mrs. G from launching her rocket, but luckily no one in the silo was incinerated so the plot can continue. Said plot being V&J having removed the payload and Strax having climbed the tower with his huge rifle. A bit of gunplay and Mrs. G takes a bad tumble.
And Ada gets a little closure by not forgiving her deranged mom and going Starship Troopers on Mr. Sweet. These Victorian eps have a little higher body count than the usual.
Back to the TARDIS for bye-byes, and the Doc has been awfully smoochy this ep, as well as not offering the slightest explanation of Souffle Girl’s presence to three people who watched her die. This is a growing problem.
(Rule of 3s: If it’s supposed to be funny, do it three times. Or something. Anyway, we get to see Edmund’s brother faint again.)
For our denouement, we get a reminder that Clara (a) is a nanny and (b) isn’t so computer savvy still. And we get a setup for a kids in peril ep next week, joy of joys.