Vastra: 'I was right then, you and Clara have unfinished business.'
the Paternoster Gang are in town it's always fun and games, but Mark
Gatiss excelled himself tonight. This has to have been the high point of
the season so far, and what made it so perfect is that it was completely
unexpected. Most of us were sat around, biding our time until next
week's Neil Gaiman penned episode, yet tonight's offering had everything we could have hoped for: horror, pathos,
adventure, humour... sonic screwdriver erection gags.
I know everyone's saying it, but the Paternoster gang really do
need a spin-off show. I so want to be in their gang, it's killing me.
In an episode decidedly light on Doctor/companion participation, Madame
Vastra and Co. stole the show. Jenny and Vastra's relationship is so
sweet that I lose a tooth every time I see them, and Strax's warmongering
cracks me up every time. Him threatening to execute his horse for
getting lost, and his suggestion that they tool-up for their trip
up-north (we are rather savage), had me cackling like an old crone—as did the
appearance of Thomas Thomas (TomTom), the Victorian Sat Nav. Great
humour, great comic timing, appalling accents.
Obviously, the Doctor and Clara's accents were as
stereotyped as pale skin, immaculate hair and withering humour on an
evil vampire, but the fact that they were supposed to be winging it,
made me not want to scoop out my ears with a spork. Despite initially
looking visibly surprised by the Doctor introducing her as Mrs Smith,
Clara recovered her composure quickly, and was soon joining in the fun.
(Not that a Yorkshire accent is much of a stretch for a Lancashire
lass.) I said last week that Clara was starting to bed in nicely as a
companion, and tonight she and the Doctor played off each other like old
pros. I loved Clara's face as she stood waiting for the penny to drop
about the smokeless chimney. I'm also loving the closeness of the two
characters and the big smiles they seem to almost constantly exchange.
Gatiss' episodes have a chequered history. His earlier story this
season, 'Cold War', was solid without being spectacular, but I don't
think it unfair to say his efforts prior to that (save the excellent
'The Unquiet Dead'), have been something of a let down. But this was way
beyond anything I was expecting from him. It bore all the hallmarks of
classic Gatiss: from the Victorian charm, to the League of
Gentlemen-esque town, to the Steampunk Sweetville, to the black humour.
The only thing which slightly underwhelmed was Mr Sweet, although he
actually was kind of sweet, so I really can't complain. He was just so un-monstrous.
anything, the real monster was Winifred Gillyflower, played to
perfection by Lady Olenna Tyrell. What a piece of work she was. Rigg
chewed up and spat out her lines like Maggie Smith on steroids She even
managed to speak in her native Doncaster accent—not something you hear
from her that often. I love the way Gatiss took the apocalyptic fervour
of the late 19th century (fuelled by the likes of Charles Taze Russell,
William Miller, Nelson H. Barbour, etc.), wrapped it in a science
fiction shroud, and turned it into a social commentary on Winifred
Gillyflower's archaic (to our modern ears) views on salvation, self
worth, and the effects of sin. Goodness knows what she would have made
of Jenastra. (I just totally made that up! I think.)
other real pleasure of the episode was seeing Diana Rigg acting
alongside her real life daughter, Racheal Sterling. It's always nice to
have a nugget of the serious nestling alongside the humour, and Sterling
played Ada to perfection. It was virtually impossible not to be moved
by her sense of worthlessness and loneliness. She cringed at even the
most fleeting act of human kindness. That she found companionship in
what her mother deemed as monstrous, and her jealously of Clara's
relationship with the Doctor, perfectly highlighted her isolation.
the death of her mother enough to account for her stepping 'into the
light', or is that too simplistic a catalyst for a full 360 degree
turnaround? She after all offered no forgiveness to her dying mother,
nor did she show mercy to the parasite which had replaced her in her
mother's affections. The implication was that the Doctor's compassion,
combined with being set free from the shackles of Winifred's false
religious ideals, were enough to redeem her from a life of self loathing
and bitterness. Try telling that to the Mr Sweet. She absolutely
wrecked him with her stick. I loved Doctor's reaction to her mullering
him—ditto his face when Winifred fell down the stairwell. The humour
was a perfect antidote to the tragedy.
being a tad under used, the Doctor was at the top of his game tonight.
His enthusiasm at being rescued by Jenny (the inappropriate kiss
followed by the slapped face), his joy at being reunited with Clara
(lots of head holding and searching eyes), all felt like a Doctor
content with those around him. And why wouldn't he be? Vastra's
Victorian Scooby Gang, with its sword wielding captain, tight suited
sidekick, Jenny, and the laser gun toting Strax, are the perfect armed
response team. I don't know how I went from hating Strax to loving him,
but it happened. Maybe next week Neil Gaiman can make me love the
—I always smile when they take archaic concepts/superstitions and give
them a pseudo-scientific explanation. (The Octogram, evolution of the
parasitic leech, etc.)
—Parry's Jerusalem wasn't written until 1916. Bit of a continuity error there.
—Loved Mr. Thursday repeatedly fainting at the sight of anything out of the ordinary.
—Great idea to give us the back story in faux-cine style. A device perfectly in keeping with the tone of the episode.
—If perfection was a pre-requisite for entering the New Eden, how on earth did Winifred qualify? Wicked old hag.
—Nice reference to Tegan the gobby Australian.
—I wouldn't like to be in the Doctor's shoes once Vastra finds out about that kiss.
Strax: 'Casualties can be kept to perhaps as little as eighty percent.'
Doctor: 'I once spent hell of a long time trying to get a gobby Australian to Heathrow Airport.'
Strax: 'I think you will do well, Thomas Thomas.'
Doctor: 'Oh, great. Great. Attack of the supermodels.'
Vastra: 'Strax. You're over-excited. Have you been eating Miss Jenny's sherbet fancies again?'
Winifred: 'Forgive me.'
Winifred: 'That's my girl.'
Doctor: 'You're the boss.'
Clara: 'Am I?'