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Doctor Who: Mark Gatiss sets the scene for The Crimson Horror

Sherlock Holmes mystery meets horror film pastiche as Vastra, Strax and Jenny are reunited with Clara, and Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling star

Published: Sunday, 28th April 2013 at 4:02 pm

Ooh, this is a lovely episode we’ve got coming (Saturday 4 May BBC1). Flecked with funny lines and moments of black comedy, The Crimson Horror reads at times like a horror film pastiche, at others like a Sherlock Holmes mystery addled, if not on opium, then on absinthe.


There’s an Avengers woman – and I’m not necessarily talking of Diana Rigg, who makes for a magnificent villainess. As Yorkshire factory owner Winifred Gillyflower she has no redeeming features: she’s just thoroughly vile. But what is her macabre plan for the world..? And where does her blind daughter Ada (Rigg’s own daughter Rachael Stirling) figure in this?

The Time Lord’s popular Victorian chums are back – Vastra, the Sapphic Silurian, comedic Sontaran Strax and resourceful lady’s maid Jenny – in arguably their most successful outing to date. But how can they help the Doctor this time and what will they make of Clara? Remember, they believe they saw her die in The Snowmen.

But that’s enough teasing from me. Let’s hear from writer Mark Gatiss, who has kindly agreed to set the scene for and reveal how he invited Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling onto Doctor Who...

“Diana and I worked together at the Old Vic a few years ago [in All about My Mother] and got on famously. Last year, I was in a play with Rachael [The Recruiting Officer at the Donmar] and we all had dinner after the show. It transpired that they’d never actually appeared in anything together, so the next day I said to Rachael, ‘Would your mum do a Doctor Who if I wrote it for you both?’ She said, ‘Oh yes!’

“I’d already started work on a story about one of those idealised Victorian mill communities and tailored it to suit Diana and Rachael. I wanted to do a properly northern Who – it’s underexplored in the show – and Diana used her native Doncaster accent for the first time!


“I wanted the adventure to feel very distinctive and it really does. A lurid, Victorian penny-dreadful with Vastra, Jenny and Strax and ’orrible murder. It’s very me!”


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