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13 May 2013 @ 06:46 pm
The Crimson Horror  
This episode reminded me of Ghost Light. There seemed to be a plethora of ideas. images, and themes, all piled higgeldy-piggeldy on top of each other. In 1989 we didn't really have the language of Steampunk to describe what we were seeing, but they are clearly both evoking the same aesthetic. I'm not sure it's an easy one to pull off, you risk confusing and thus alienating your audience. The Crimson Horror clearly managed this a lot better than Ghost Light but probably at the cost of being less unexpected and surprising.

It occurs to me that I've been using old Who as a framing reference in my discussion of a lot of this season's new Who. It gives me a slight sense that the show is moving backwards, towards 20th Century Doctor Who, and picking up many of the previous version's weaknesses as well as its strengths. I was talking with daniel_saunders about how it has become alot more middle-class, straight and white than it was a few years ago. At the same time the attempt to squeeze traditional Doctor Who stories into 45 minutes, is straining the format.

That said, I think it worked better in The Crimson Horror, than it did in Cold War, or The Rings of Akhaten. This may be because the flashback sequence was able to pack a great deal into comparatively few minutes - though in terms of explanation it really only retrod the ground Madame Vastra et. al. had already covered.

Speaking of the `paternoster gang', I've seen quite a few reviews online hailing this episode as some kind of proof that a spin-off series featuring Madame Vastra, Strax and Jenny would be feasible. I'm not convinced, even leaving aside the issue of the make-up and prosthetic costs (which I understand are a genuine concern). I thought The Crimson Horror highlighted one of the big problems such a show would face, namely that Jenny is really the only character among the three that can convincingly go undercover. I'd also worry that the essentially light-hearted nature of most scenes involving the gang wouldn't work if they tried to carry stories alone - as evidence I offer the way Captain Jack transformed from a happy go-lucky chancer to an angst-ridden hero when required to front his own show. [personal profile] ed_rex makes a plausible argument that, as written here, the paternoster gang are little more than cyphers and most of the awesomeness is actually in the heads of viewers and is more about the potential of the trio than their actuality.

I do think The Crimson Horror was a step up in quality from the run of stories that preceded it. In particular, the character of Ada Gillyflower managed to be more complex that we've been lead to expect, veering between victim and, if not villain, at least a character with a streak of ruthless pragmatism that sets her apart from the normal heros of Doctor Who. It also managed to fit more actual story into its 45 minutes and, at the same time, feel comfortable with its length. A lot of the recent stories have been chamber pieces, focused on a small cast and a limited number of settings. I normally prefer these tighter pieces, but The Crimson Horror's profligacy worked, avoiding the sense that we were being given set pieces for the sake of set pieces which I often feel mars Doctor Who's more extravagant efforts.

Umm... yeah... the Doctor kissing Jenny - I saw it. I don't think I liked it any more than most people who are aware of the basics of how rape culture works. But I don't think I have anything different to say about it.

I was going to write something about how the colour red seems to be very closely associated with Clara, but I've since discovered that there are whole essays out there on the use of colour symbolism in this season of Doctor Who, so I'll just leave it at that.

This wasn't really my kind of story, being over-the-top, sprawling and brash. However, in the context of the last few considerably more modest stories, it made a refreshing change. I liked it.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/98375.html.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on May 13th, 2013 08:15 pm (UTC)
I have never been confused or alienated by Ghost Light! :-P Seriously, it's possibly my favourite story and I think it comes in for unnecessary criticism sometimes.

I think after fifty years the old series references are inevitable. Even if direct continuity references are avoided (and they haven't been), there will be stylistic and thematic continuity, or it won't seem the same. And Doctor Who has done so much in fifty years (especially if you include the spin-offs) that it's hard to do anything really surprising without seeming gratuitous (like the Doctor suddenly kissing people for no reason).

I suppose the nearest thing to a tabula rasa in Doctor Who in the last twenty-five years or so was the TV Movie which, beneath the superficial continuity-overload, was actually trying to tear up the Doctor Who rule-book and do something very different, albeit perhaps out of laziness rather than inspiration - so different that many people (myself included) wondered why it was actually called Doctor Who. The Eccleston season was a more effective departure - but then the series started drifting backwards, stylistically and with Cybermen, K9, Sarah, the Master...

The ed_rex review typifies some of what I said recently about excessive Moffat criticism (and failure to realize aesthetic taste is subjective... yes, I know I probably fell into the same trap circa 2007-9), but the point about fans liking the idea of the Paternoster Gang more than the reality is valid. Though you might say that about all Doctor Who since 1963. Vastra, Jenny and Strax might work better as the cast of the weirdest sitcom ever than a Victorian Torchwood. That would be far too expensive and "niche" to be viable, though.

Agree about the sexual assault, but I don't have anything to add from my own review.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on May 13th, 2013 08:25 pm (UTC)
My memories of Ghost Light on first viewing were that I liked it but I was quite bemused by it.

ed_rex's reviews are fairly vitriolic on the whole (though he liked both Hide and The Rings of Akhaten). However I find they have enough genuine thought and argument in them that they don't irritate me nearly as much as some of the criticism. He also gains points for having the self-awareness to slightly despair at his own cognitive dissonance in compulsively watching and reviewing, week after week, a show he doesn't much like.

And I do think he's spot on about the paternoster gang.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on May 13th, 2013 08:54 pm (UTC)
I confess I have only read a few of ed_rex's reviews (via who_daily) because I found the vitriol for something I still like, flaws notwithstanding, too strong (yes, I tend to take criticism personally, even if directed at things I like rather than me...).

Though I think I was also scared by how much he reminded me of myself a few years ago - I can't read without thinking, "Was I really that bad?" Looking back over some old posts I realized that I was possibly projecting my own real life angst onto what seemed like my only link with happier times, especially as Davies pressed a lot of emotional red buttons for me that Moffat has either left alone or have been pressed so many times by him and Davies that I have grown used to them being jammed down (I will stop this metaphor now).