OK, hold on here. The villain is an old lady named Mrs. Gillyflower? Well, she hardly sounds all that threatening…wait, she’s played by Diana Rigg?
OK, now you have my full attention.
To be fair, the episode had my full attention from the beginning because, well, the Doctor and Clara are missing in Victorian-era London. The audience knows this when a man dies, his skin a solid red color, and the image in his eyes being a shouting Doctor. It’s time to bring in that great detective Madame Vastra, her wife Jenny, and Sontaran butler Strax!
By the by, are these people just regular sights in London? There’s a running gag where the man who contacted Vastra keeps fainting at the sight of aliens, or in the end the TARDIS dematerializing, but Vastra’s veil wasn’t exactly opaque when she pulled it back. Everyone else just seems to take them in stride.
Never mind. The Doctor is missing. So is Clara, but these people remember Clara as, well, someone else who already died, so they don’t know about her. All they know is people volunteering to join the mysterious Mrs. Gillyflower’s planned utopia with her unseen partner Mr. Sweet sometimes turn up dead, red, and rather stiff for corpses. The thing to do is send someone in to look around. Sure, Strax volunteers, but this really is a job for Jenny as the lone human in the group.
And she does find the Doctor! He’s bright red, his skin is rather hard, and he can barely move. That’s so odd for a Doctor who really isn’t known for his ability to sit still. He can’t even talk. The only reason he’s even still in that Victorian warehouse is because Gillyflower’s blind adult daughter Ada took a liking to the poor man and had been feeding him on the side.
By then, Vastra found the key to the crimson corpses was a red poison of some kind, one she knows because the Silurians were aware of it 650 million years earlier.
See, the coroner who gave her the poison didn’t faint. He was made of sterner stuff.
Fortunately, Jenny got the Doctor and his sonic screwdriver to a special chamber that allowed him to reverse the process. He’s so happy, he could kiss her. That gets him a slap. Given he can feel again, he doesn’t mind in the slightest, and the pair go off to find Clara, immobile and frozen under some kind of glass.
See, Gillyflower, like that Great Intelligence jerk, doesn’t think too highly of most people. What is it with this era for that? Anyway, she has Mr. Sweet’s potion that she tests on prospective members of her secret community. Some, like Clara, are merely reduced to immobile statues to preserve for that perfect society. Others turn bright red and die. The Doctor, as he isn’t human, didn’t quite die, and Ada saved him.
Keep in mind Ada is blind because of experiments her cruel inventor mother performed on her. She sounds like Mother of the Year material to me. The Doctor was actually nice to her even when he could barely move.
Anyway, Gillyflower’s plan is to wash the planet with Sweet’s poison, killing off most living things except for those preserved in her personal utopia. Oh, and Mr. Sweet is a small, bright red parasite from the ancient past that looks like a baby shrimp or something.
This is one of those rare instances where the Doctor doesn’t quite save the day because everyone else does for him. Clara uses a chair to smash Gillyflower’s mechanism before he can get the sonic screwdriver set up right. Jenny and Vastra remove the poison from the rocket Gillyflower had prepped, and Strax shot at her with his Sontaran energy rifle, knocking her off a platform and killing her. As for Mr. Sweet, while the Doctor considered just returning Sweet to his proper time, Ada had by then become completely enraged by how little regard her mother had and smashes Sweet to death with her cane.
So, that’s that. Time to take Clara home. Those kids she babysits sure are suspicious. Mostly because they found photos of Clara online in other times and places from previous episodes…including one in Victorian times that Clara didn’t do.
The Doctor may have to explain that bit to her.