Doctor Who The Crimson Horror by Mark Gattis (book review).

March 24, 2021 | By | Reply More

‘The Crimson Horror’ by Mark Gatiss sees the Eleventh Doctor in a gloriously gothic horror story. The Paternoster Gang of three are instrumental here and the Doctor is absent a lot of the time. In fact it seems he manages to foolishly almost get himself and companion Clara killed, nothing new there then.

The Paternoster Gang comprise Madam Vastra, who is a Silurian woken rather rudely from her sleep by the Doctor to find the world infested with a plague of mammals. Luckily. she meets Jenny who is ostensibly her ladies maid but is actually both life partner and member of the investigative team in Victorian England. The third member is Strax, a Sontaran. Again he has encountered the Doctor and yet somehow survived to discover the delights of Victorian England which include sherbet lemons. It seems sweets are a bit addictive to Commander Strax of Sontar and he also provides much of the humour in the story, although you might not feel the same about confectionery.

The novel version of the story is told by various narrators including Jenny in ‘lawks a missus’ cockney along with other interested parties. It includes some prequel chapters leading up to the main story as, in reality, the whole is rather a thin thing and wouldn’t stretch to a complete novel. No problem, though, as we get a strong idea of the setting in little old England-oop North.

In the main body of the story, Mrs Gillyflower owns a mill and seems to be recruiting bright young worker who may even have all their own teeth to work at Sweetville. It’s modelled on the visions of Cadbury and Port Sunlight but, of course, this one is unlikely to have the workers welfare at its evil heart. In fact there is already evidence of something amiss in the town as bodies are found in the canal, glowing red.

This story feels like it should have been part of something bigger and, in the old days, they would have got a four-parter out of it. The reasons behind the scheme are ultimately not as important as the action and the activities of the Paternoster gang. There is plenty of humour and clichéd Victorian characters and villains. If I had a moustache, I would twirl it. If this was Disney, they would have their own series on the TV. It did spawn a series by Big Finish which eliminates the need for makeup for two of the gang.

As they say, it’s not the destination but the journey that’s important. I remember the episode being very enjoyable and this book firms up the background and cements the gothic feel of it. Presented in the style of a penny dreadful with its multiple, it is nevertheless peppered with comedy which arises from having the curious characters mostly the off-worlder Strax and the intelligent lizard lady. It’s all good fun and is barely a Doctor story which may disappoint some people but he almost in it to provide context and additional narrative.

Clara is even less present and, to be frank, could have taken the day off. It proves the range of stories in the ‘Doctor Who’ stable which continues to make the series enjoyable. The Targets seem to have been chosen for precisely this reason and the recent batch covers different Doctors and genres.

Sue Davies

March 2021

(pub: BBC Books. 192 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78594-504-5)

check out website: www.penguin.co.uk

Tags: ,

Category: Books, Doctor Who

About the Author ()

Leave a Reply