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The Crimson Horror was the eleventh episode of series 7 of Doctor Who.

It featured the return of Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax, who were last seen in The Snowmen. It was the 100th episode of Doctor Who since its revival in 2005.

This episode leads directly into the following one, Nightmare in Silver, due to the Maitland children blackmailing Clara to make the Doctor take them on a trip; they found evidence of Clara's time travelling in history books and on the internet.


In 1893, the Eleventh Doctor's old friends, Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax find an optogram of the Doctor on a victim of the mysterious "crimson horror". They head for Yorkshire, where Jenny infiltrates Mrs Winifred Gillyflower's community of Sweetville to find what has happened to him.


Madame Vastra and her partners, Jenny and Strax, investigate "the Crimson Horror" — a mysterious condition leaving victims with red skin and preserved like statues — after discovering that one victim has the image of the Eleventh Doctor visible in one of his eyes.

Investigations lead them to Sweetville, an idyllic community run by Mrs Winifred Gillyflower and her never-seen "silent partner", Mr Sweet, apparently as a home for the chosen few to help them survive "the coming apocalypse". Jenny goes undercover as a convert and infiltrates Sweetville, where she discovers the Doctor, chained up in a cell, but only partially preserved; the process didn't work because he was not human. Gillyflower tends to dispose of such "rejects", but he has been saved by her blind daughter, Ada Gillyflower, who has become infatuated with him and describes him as "my monster".

Jenny helps the Doctor out and they walk to a strange rinsing cabinet of some kind. The Doctor takes his clothes and sonic screwdriver into the cabinet, activating it with his sonic. A few moments later he bursts out in a maniac joy, thanking Jenny for saving him. He tells her they need to find companion Clara Oswald, who has also been preserved. This confuses Jenny, as she saw Clara killed by the ice woman months earlier.

The Doctor tells Jenny that he and Clara were actually aiming to visit London in 1893, but they instead arrived in Yorkshire. Clara mocks the Doctor for perpetually getting them lost. The Doctor takes it in stride, telling her that it used to be a lot worse; "I once spent a hell of a long time trying to get a gobby Australian to Heathrow Airport." They immediately got involved in the investigation of Sweetville and the red bodies piling up in the sewers. The Doctor and Clara, posing as a married couple, joined the Sweetville community to investigate, but Mrs Gillyflower imprisoned and preserved them. The process worked on Clara, but not the Doctor due to not being human; Ada locked him away, keeping him as her "special monster".

The preservation process on Clara is successfully reversed, and Madame Vastra says the substance used to create the "Crimson Horror" effect is the poison of the red leech, a parasite the Silurians considered a major threat 65 million years ago. The Doctor and Clara confront Mrs Gillyflower, who explains her plan and reveals that Mr Sweet is, in fact, a red leech who has attached himself to her chest. Their plan is to launch a rocket into the skies over England and spread the leech's poison over the planet. Ada, listening in, learns of her mother's plans and confronts her; meanwhile, Clara disables the rocket launch controls.

Holding a gun to her daughter's head, Gillyflower retreats into the rocket silo to activate a secondary launch control; she launches the rocket, but learns moments later that Vastra and Jenny have removed the poison payload. She fires at the Doctor but misses. Strax shoots at Mrs Gillyflower, causing her to tumble and die.

As the old woman lays dying, Mr Sweet abandons his host. Ada shares final words with her mother before brutally killing the parasite with her cane, causing his innards to spurt out. The Doctor grimaces, having originally intended to take the leech back to the Jurassic era so it couldn't do anymore harm. The next day, Ada decides to make the most of her life, while the Paternoster Gang decide to lock the leech venom in their vault. Vastra asks the Doctor how Clara can be back, but he cannot give her an answer.

Later, the Doctor returns Clara to her 21st century home, where she discovers that the two children she helps care for, Angie and Artie Maitland, have found images of her and the Doctor in different points of time — including a nuclear submarine in 1983 and a manor house in 1974. They have found an image Clara does not recognise; it was taken in Victorian London — but she's only been to Victorian Yorkshire. The children threaten to inform their father that their nanny is a time traveller unless she takes them on a trip in her time machine.



General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics


General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.



  • Thomas Thomas, who uses the language of a modern GPS, is an obvious reference to the popular real-world GPS service, TomTom.

Popular culture[]

Foods and beverages[]



Story notes[]

  • This story marks the first time in the revived series that a companion's associates have successfully deduced the person's time-travelling affairs with the Doctor's on their own, along with the Doctor's ability to time-travel, without questioning the Doctor directly or getting a firsthand experience of the TARDIS. Artie and Angie Maitland discovered pictures of Clara's travels from TV: Cold War, Hide, and a picture of Clara during her Victorian life (TV: The Snowmen) on the Internet, which exposed her secret.
  • Likewise to the above, Clara sees herself in a past life for the first time by looking at the Victorian era photo of herself in London (TV: The Snowmen), cluing her in that she really has lived more than one life, which the Doctor confronted her over in their last adventure, but she later forgot due to the day being rewritten. (TV: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS).
  • The Doctor is generally much friendlier to Clara, now that he knows she doesn't have control over her multiple lives. He stops treating her like a ghost and treats her as his companion.
  • Although Jenny and Vastra both question the Doctor concerning how Clara is alive, he neither explains anything to them nor is she ever present for these questions. Thus despite having met, Vastra and Jenny do not know that this is a different person and not the same one revived in some manner and Clara gains no knowledge of her past life from the pair.
  • This story is the only television episode featuring Vastra, Jenny, and Strax that was not written by Steven Moffat.
  • This story marked the 100th Doctor Who episode since the programme's revival in 2005.
  • Filming for this episode began on 2 July 2012.
  • Diana Rigg is credited as "Dame Diana Rigg," the first time such an honorific has been included in a Doctor Who screen credit, by contrast, Sir Michael Gambon was not identified as such in TV: A Christmas Carol.
  • This is the second episode in a row to feature a form of family abuse.
  • This is the second Victorian episode in a row to feature a knighted actor as the main villain after Sir Ian McKellen provided the voice of the Great Intelligence in TV: The Snowmen.
  • This episode contains the televised DWU's first surviving glimpse of a guinea, since The Highlanders is lost.
  • Sweetville is based on the real-world model village of Saltaire, Yorkshire, founded in 1851 by wool industrialist Titus Salt. Titus also had a daughter called Ada, after whom a street in the village is named. Sweetville's name may also reflect the model village of Bournville whose name was later used for a brand of sweet, a chocolate bar.
  • Vastra's client continually faints when exposed to any unexpected or shocking events. This is a satire of how women were culturally perceived to act in the Victorian era.
  • This story contains no extra-terrestrial elements outside of the Doctor, the TARDIS, and Strax.
  • As Mrs Gillyflower launches the rocket, she sings the line "I'll labour night and day to be a pilgrim." This is from Percy Dearmer's version of John Bunyan's hymn, 'To Be a Pilgrim' or 'He who would valiant be'. Furthermore, Mrs Gillyflower sings it to the melody 'Monks Gate', to which the words were set by composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.
  • Matt Smith and Diana Rigg would later appear together in Edgar Wright's psychological horror film Last Night in Soho (Rigg's final film before her death).


The Crimson Horror was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC One on 4 May 2013. Overnight ratings showed that it was watched by 4.61 million viewers live. The final UK ratings was 7.37 million.[1]

Filming locations[]

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • Vastra's veil is far more transparent than it was apparently meant to be, given the reactions to the revelation of her non-human appearance.
  • The image of the Doctor's face in the dead man's eye at the beginning of the episode is different from when it was shown in the flashback.
  • One of Mrs Gillyflower's "Pretty maids all in a row" in the flashback scene blinks.
  • As Mrs Gillyflower is threatening to shoot the Doctor, Clara, Vastra, and Jenny, Strax appears on top of the tower and fires a shot that causes her to fall to her death, however, a moment after she lands, he is right next to the others.


  • Clara expresses particular surprise at the last picture, as Clara herself had not been in Victorian London. This is because the photo is of her echo, Clara Oswin Oswald. (TV: The Snowmen)

Home video releases[]

Series 7, Part 2 DVD cover.

DVD releases[]

The Crimson Horror was released as part of Doctor Who Series 7 Part 2 on May 22, 2013, and as part of The Complete Seventh Series on September 24, 2013.

Blu-ray releases[]

to be added

External links[]


  1. Doctor Who Ratings - UK final
  2. Doctor Who Series 7: Diana Rigg Filming Pics. SFX (3 July 2012). Retrieved on 22 May 2013.
  3. Doctor Who Series 7: Diana Rigg To Guest Star. SFX (2 July 2012). Retrieved on 22 May 2013.