Dame Diana Rigg channels her inner Bond villain to unleash The Crimson Horror upon the world in Mark Gatiss’ hybrid of Victorian penny dreadfuls, steampunk and Catherine Cookson.
The Crimson Horror deserves kudos for daring to experiment with the established Doctor Who format as the Doctor and Clara are introduced late on in proceedings with their involvement established in sepia-tinged flashback sequences akin to those used in the movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. For the first third of Mark Gatiss’ enjoyable romp, which combined late-1970s Bond über-villainy, the North England-based Catherine Cookson sagas and the lurid air of Victorian penny dreadfuls, centre stage belonged to the popular Paternoster Gang. Following on from their appearance in The Snowmen, the trio of Madame Vastra (the Silurian from the dawn of the human race), Jenny Flint (Vastra’s wife and maid) and Strax (the trigger-happy Sontaran who’s always looking for an excuse to eradicate human scum – preferably with grenades) once again demonstrated their suitability to head up the next Doctor Who spin-off. And whilst the wait for The Paternoster Gang continues Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart and Dan Starkey will return in the Series 7b finale The Name of the Doctor.
Chief guest stars for The Crimson Horror were the legendary Dame Diana Rigg (most famous for her portrayal of the iconic Emma Peel in The Avengers and currently gracing Game of Thrones) and her real-life daughter Rachael Stirling (Tipping the Velvet). Gatiss penned the mother and daughter characters of Winifred and Ada Gillyflower specifically for Rigg and Stirling after appearing with them in theatrical productions All about My Mother and The Recruiting Officer respectively. Mother and daughter seized their roles with gusto and delivered performances that rank amongst the best in this Series 7b of Doctor Who. When the plaudits for best guest actors are dished out in the Doctor Who Magazine poll at series end it’ll be a crime if the family Rigg don’t feature prominently. Diana Rigg merely had to stand there to outact Jenna-Louise Coleman, who doesn’t seem to act too differently between being in a trance and being normal – all wide-eyed and silly grin. The Crimson Horror wasn’t Stirling’s first encounter with the Time Lord as she starred opposite Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor in the 2012 Big Finish audio adventure Trail of the White Worm. (more…)