Sunday, September 27, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: The Crimson Horror

Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved. I don't mean liked. I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time. It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode. I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things. I mean give a bona-fide negative review. Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express). Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night.

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required. I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut. What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying. I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 26 of The Nerdist as Whore: The Crimson Horror. My 'translations' are in red.

Oh, Victorian times. They are always something at which the BBC excels.

Oh, Victorian times.  They are almost always the only time in Earth’s history Doctor Who ever visits, even more now with the Pater-nauseating Gang rolling around then.

Period costume drama is like its bread and butter, which is why I always look forward to Victorian episodes of Doctor Who.

So, if a Doctor Who episode were set, say, in Roman times, or during the Scottish wars, or on the Eve of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, you wouldn’t care?

This episode, “The Crimson Horror,” was a good deal different than most such stories in a number for very interesting ways.

They got a genuine acting legend to appear in it: Dame Diana Rigg.  Apart from that, we got a pretty uninteresting story.  No, I take that back: an episode that shows a giant red leech sucking on an old woman's tit MUST be interesting.

I always applaud when chances are taken and can more or less be said to pay off.

I always applaud when 'analytical critics' are on the take and can more or less be said to be paid off.

This is Mark Gatiss’ second episode of the series and, while I was quite critical of “Cold War,”

No, no, I GOT to read that sentence again. 
"and, while I was quite critical of "Cold War"...

Let's pause here for just a moment and use the Wayback Machine to find out just how "quite critical" Kyle Anderson was in regards to Cold War.  The following quotes are directly from his review of that episode, the one he was "quite critical" of.

"“Cold War” is claustrophobic, tense, and pretty harrowing..."
"Gatiss does a lot of great things in this episode, not the least of which is getting the Ice Warrior out of its bulky armor so that it can scurry around the ceilings and walls of the submarine and slaughter people silently."
"So, in the end, masterful direction with a great monster help solid but uninspired performances in an interesting but ultimately troubled script. Mild “like” from me. It’s an episode I’ll definitely watch again."

Color me cynical, but calling an episode "tense and pretty harrowing" and saying that you'll "definitely watch (Cold War) again" doth not suggest "quite critical" to me.  Then again, I never claim to be an analytical critic, just an honest one. 

I have much less to nitpick this time from a structural point of view.

I got my payola check faster this time than I did when I covered Cold War.

This may be one of his best scripts, actually.

And how could you not love an episode with Vastra, Jenny, and Strax?

I could not love an episode with Vastra, Jenny, and Strax quite easily.  Unlike Andy here, I a.) don't want a series about a lizard and human having sex, and b.) want a show where The Doctor isn't just a guest character.

And a Monty Python reference?

This episode is as logical as a dead parrot.

This is one of the more atypical stories in terms of its structure.

This is one of the worst episodes we've seen in terms of its structure.

We’re introduced to the narrative through the aforementioned Victorian Detective Squad who have been tasked with finding out what happened to a man’s reporter brother in Yorkshire in 1893 (Gatiss’ last episode took place in 1983… coincidence?).

We spend a good twenty-odd minutes on Doctor Who showing just how irrelevant he is on this show.  Gatiss' last episode took place in 1983, and this one in 1893, showing that he made a whole episode out of a typo.  Next episode will take place in 1389, where the Doctor will find himself in the middle of the Battle of Kosovo. 

We see that something horrible has happened to him and his wife at the hands of the sinister Mrs. Gillyflower, played by the excellently wicked Diana Rigg. Rigg can currently be seen as Lady Tyrell on Game of Thrones, and she is killing it.

Rigg is appearing on two shows that appeal to nerds, and I, self-proclaimed King of the Nerds (or at least a Functional Nerd) can see her on both (though it is unclear if I get to see Dame Diana's tits on Game of Thrones).  In truth, Game of Thrones, with its dragons, rapes, and wanton killings, is actually more rational than anything on Doctor Who, but why quibble when the loot's so good?

The brother is all red, which the rather grubby undertaker gleeful calls “The Crimson Horror.” In his eye is the image of the Doctor’s face. Dun, dun, a-dun.

First, the rather grubby undertaker gleefully calls it "The Crimson 'Orror", as Cockneys drop the "H".  Second, what song is he quoting: Chopin's Funeral March or the theme to Dragnet?  He could be quoting Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but all of them sound a bit bizarre considering that he is signaling this is a mystery. 

We then get quite a long sequence of the trio traveling up to Yorkshire and beginning the investigation.

We then get quite a long sequence of the trio traveling up to Yorkshire and beginning the investigation.  I was bored with how this was playing out as some sort of The Lizard & The Lady spinoff, though same-sex bestiality always turns me on.  I can't wait for that 'very special episode' where Jenny finds out she got pregnant with Vastra's Silurian secretions. 

Jenny, being the only human one, tries to infiltrate Mrs. Gillyflower’s fire-and-brimstone sermon about the end of the world and the best being chosen to live in her perfect community of Sweetville, named after her silent partner, Mr. Sweet. Nobody has seen Mr. Sweet, least of all Gillyflower’s daughter, Ada (played by Rigg’s real life daughter, Rachael Stirling), who was blinded by her father many years earlier.

Is it just me, or is Anderson making some sort of awful and insensitive pun about the blind Ada being the least of all able to see Mr. Sweet?  I'm sure Mommie Dearest told her the truth: she keeps Mr. Sweet close to her heart.

We also see that Ada has befriended something she calls “The Monster,” which lives in a locked room and has red arms.

Jenny breaks into the mill and finds it not to be a mill at all, but a place with vats of red liquid. A Clamato factory?

Hardy har-har...

Jenny eventually makes her way to the Monster’s room and unlocks it, revealing… the Doctor! All petrified and red-skinned. I was certainly not expecting that.

Jenny helps him get to a chamber wherein, with the help of the sonic screwdriver (aka magic wand),

Well, at least he admits the sonic screwdriver is indeed now basically a magic wand.  #Progress.

he emerges as good as new, ready to jump around and kiss Jenny, much to her chagrin.

Because she’d much rather make out with a female lizard.

I’m not sure I’m okay with all of this kissing Matt Smith’s been doing lately.

Odd.  It didn't seem to trouble you when Tennant was doing it.

Innocent or not, it’s very bizarre. It appears that he’s been like that for weeks, and now he has to find Clara, which takes us to my favorite section of the episode.

Because it gives me another chance to masturbate to Jenna-Louise Coleman.

The flashback section, in the narrative, speeds its way through showing us things we need to know but don’t really have time to see play out.

Rather than actually pace the episode and try to set things up, Gatiss decided that we needed to rush through important information to get to promoting the Paternoster Gang.  Oh, yes, Anderson has much less to nitpick from a structural point of view.      

It also allows us to guess what’s going on before actually knowing what’s going on.

It also allows us to guess what's going on before actually knowing what's going on.  It's not like audiences need to follow a 'plot'. 

I loved director Saul Metzstein’s choice to make this sequence look like an old film strip, complete with popping and flickering sepia tones.

That is because the audience can't be trusted to figure out we're in Victorian times and we have to have these little gimmicks

There are some terrific little jokes in there, not the least of which being, upon Clara’s acknowledgement that they don’t always go where they set out to go, the Doctor saying it took him ages to get a “Gobby Australian to Heathrow.” This was such an excellent reference to the Fifth Doctor’s rather ridiculously long attempt to take air hostess Tegan back to her job throughout the entirety of Season 19.

What I'd ever do to you, mate?

Personally, I don't see why Anderson gets his knickers in a twist over that story arc.  It's not like we haven't had some cringe-inducing ones on NuWho, right?  How many times has the Companion been OH SO IMPORTANT?  How many times has The Doctor COME TO DIE?  And you go off on Tegan?  

Also, the Doctor, in his Yorkshire accent, says “Trouble at mill,” which is almost surely a reference to the opening line of Monty Python‘s famous “Spanish Inquisition” sketch.

Given Doctor Who has become a joke, one wonders why Gatiss would quote from the Spanish Inquisition sketch (though I confess I didn't think of it at the time).   

One joke that I did not like at all was the “Thomas Thomas” kid. I don’t know why that was in there, save the “oh, ha ha” moment, and really took me out of the story for a moment.

It's not funny if you have to explain it. Explain it though, I will.  Thomas Thomas was a joke about the TomTom GPS used in Europe.  Get it: Thomas Thomas was giving Strax directions like TomTom does now, and instead of "Tom Tom", we get the formal "Thomas Thomas".  GROAN! 

It's odd that for a show that people say caters to Americans, whoever heard of TomTom here in the States?  Even if I had gotten the joke, I wouldn't have had "oh, ha ha" moment, more like a "OH DEAR SWEET MOTHER OF MERCY" moment.

I think the idea of turning people into, essentially, living stuffed critters, complete with glass cases, is very creepy.

I scare easy.

Leave it to Gatiss to employ something so insidious for his story.

Leave it to Gatiss to employ something so idiotic for his story.

While the revelation that Mr. Sweet is actually a parasitic creature that secretes paralyzing venom from the Jurassic period is a bit silly, it was explained well enough within the confines of the story.

How they built a rocket ship is totally beyond me, but that, oddly, is something I can overlook.

Oh, my dear Kyle...I get the sense you can overlook a great deal...provided the price is right. Now, is it me, or is that plot exactly like that of the James Bond film Moonraker (which I, Rick Aragon, openly admit to liking.  Guilty pleasure.  No shame)?

Gatiss has the tendency to put too much story into his episodes, thus necessitating the need to move too quickly through resolution.

Gatiss has no editor to trim the fact off his stories.  Therefore, he puts in a lot of set-up leaving no time for resolution (or at least a coherent resolution). 

His setups are almost always amazing, but they fall apart due to lack of time. If each Doctor Who episode were the length of a Sherlock episode, I think he’d be much more at home.

How I long for Wholock (logic be damned).  If maybe he had a two-part story, or maybe if a story were the length of rubbish like Genesis of the Daleks or Caves of Androzani, you know, something B.M.: Before Moffat, we could have something.  However, no one watches that old stuff because it doesn't allow for catchphrases. 

That being said, “The Crimson Horror” gets around a great deal of that, partially through the flashback portion and partially because of not having extraneous characters.

That being said, "The Crimson Horror" gets a around a great deal of that, partially through nonsense and partially because of not having extraneous characters like The Doctor or Clara be a big part of this.

Ada is a great character, and her plight is very relatable.

Kyle Anderson is blind to any faults in Doctor Who, only unlike Ada, his blindness is willful.

Her mother is a nutter and does eventually just become a frothing Bond villain,

Hugo Drax from Moonraker.
His master plan was to kill people on Earth and 
launch spaceships w/a 'master race' to repopulate it.
Glad to know Gatiss is highly original.

but Rigg plays it so well, it doesn’t bug me very much.

Dame Diana Rigg did what she could and played her part so well, though it doesn't bug me very much that an old woman can get tossed off a flight of stairs and still be able to monologue...or have a big red leech sucking on her tit.   

I never dislike seeing Vastra, Jenny, and Strax and it was great to see them take point for the first act of the story, though they do sort of fade away toward the end.

This episode of The Lizard & The Lady got bogged down by the unnecessary character of The Doctor.  What was HE doing on this show, anyway? 

The lack of a spinoff (like Torchwood or Sarah Jane Adventures) this year is lamentable, and I will again state how much I would adore watching a show with those three. Love them to pieces, I do.

Scissor-Sister Indeed.
Prime-Time Family Viewing At Its Finest.

The ending of this episode… Hmm. I’m not particularly looking forward to the kids Clara nannies being part of the next story, and possibly more.

I already know that the next episode is going to suck because these kids are so annoying.

I actually rather liked having a companion whose family dynamic was never really much of the narrative, save the Doctor learning about her folks. Having the two kids find weirdly Photoshopped pictures of Clara and the Doctor (taken when they couldn’t possibly have been) and confront her about it seems out of place. Who needs them?

GREAT!  We're going to be saddled with these meddlesome kids for next week.  Who needs them?  Also, where exactly did these kids get photos taken from a secret Soviet sub?  I know a lot was revealed at the end of the Cold War, but really, with a giant Ice Warrior pounding away, someone was going to run around saying "Cheese"? 
That scene was almost surely a Moffat addition, so I’ll refrain from talking about it too much.

That, my friends, is as close as Kyle Anderson will EVER get to criticizing Steven Moffat.  Let us treasure this very rare moment. 

Suffice to say, “The Crimson Horror” is easily my favorite Gatiss story since “The Unquiet Dead,” and he has more or less redeemed himself for the conceptually fantastic but narratively flawed “Cold War.”

The same "Cold War" that you'd watch again, right?  Is it me, or is there something flat-out odd about watching something that is 'narratively flawed'? 

It’s not a perfect script by any means, but it’s a great deal of fun and has amazing elements to it. This makes me very pleased. More stories like this, please, Mr. Gatiss!

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!
Next week, we have Neil Gaiman’s return story, “Nightmare in Silver,” which sees the return of the proper universe Cybermen and takes place in a creepy-ass theme park. It’s directed by Stephen Woolfenden, who doesn’t have many directing credits, but was the second-unit director on the last three Harry Potter films as well as the first assistant director on the TV adaptation of Gaiman’s Neverwhere.Also, Warwick Davis is in it! How cool!

Next week, we have Neil Gaiman's return story, "Nightmare in Silver," which I PRAY will be better than this Victorian freak show.  It's being directed by someone who worked on the last three Harry Potter films and who knows Gaiman personally.  Also, the guy from Willow is in it!  Well, with credits like THOSE...


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