New Series Episode 105:
The Crimson Horror


In 1893 Yorkshire, Mrs Winifred Gillyflower and her disfigured daughter warn of the impending doomsday, and recruit followers for a community they have established called Sweetville. But something strange is afoot in Sweetville: no one who moves there ever returns, and corpses have been found floating downriver, their skin turned a hideous red. With the body count rising, Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax are asked to investigate Sweetville. But they soon discover that the latest victim of the so-called “Crimson Horror” is none other than the Doctor himself.


In February 2012, script delays for that year's Christmas special, The Snowmen, pushed its recording dates from late spring to mid-summer. As a result, it was decided to pair it with a second episode as Block Six of the Season Thirty-Three production calendar; both episodes would be set in late Victorian times and share returning castmembers Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart and Dan Starkey as Vastra, Jenny and Strax. At one point, executive producer Steven Moffat had hoped to write both episodes himself, but his slow progress on The Snowmen made this impossible. Instead he turned to Mark Gatiss, who was then finishing Cold War.

Gatiss was a fan of Victoriana -- and had set his first Doctor Who script, 2005's The Unquiet Dead, earlier in the same period -- and was agreeable to Moffat's idea that the new story should unfold from the perspective of the “Paternoster gang”. A native of County Durham, Gatiss was keen to set his script in northern England, and settled on a Yorkshire setting. He began to think in terms of factory workers and their miserable conditions after discussions with his friend and fellow Doctor Who fan Matthew Sweet. Sweet was a writer and broadcaster whose first published book had been Inventing The Victorians (2001), a deconstruction of the popular view of the Victorian era; the monstrous Mr Sweet of Gatiss' story was named for him.

Diana Rigg was persuaded to appear after viewing a showreel of classic Doctor Who villains

Other elements of the adventure came together thanks to a quirk of circumstance. Gatiss wanted to match Vastra against a strong female antagonist. He was also then appearing in a stage production of The Recruiting Officer with actress Rachael Stirling (perhaps best known for Tipping The Velvet). Gatiss was also a friend of Stirling's mother, Dame Diana Rigg, who had become an icon of the 1960s by virtue of playing stylish spy Emma Peel in two seasons of The Avengers, and co-starring in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. One evening, Gatiss had dinner with Stirling and Rigg. Aware that the pair had never acted together, he mooted the idea of including characters in his Doctor Who script written especially for them. Stirling was enthusiastic, while Rigg (who had never seen Doctor Who) was persuaded after viewing a showreel of classic villains from the series assembled by Michael Dennis, stage manager on The Recruiting Officer. Rigg was also keen on the Yorkshire setting, having been born in Doncaster.

Early on, Gatiss' storyline was referred to as “Mother's Ruin”, but it had become The Crimson Horror by the time the first draft was completed at the end of March. At this point, it was intended to be the fourth of the eight episodes which would comprise Doctor Who's Spring 2013 run; it was later pushed back to fifth and finally sixth. In Gatiss' original conception, Mrs Gillyflower escaped after the launch of her rocket, leading to a carriage chase through the streets of Sweetville which ended when the villainess was thrown and impaled on a statue dubbed the “Bringer of Light”. Subsequent development briefly saw Clara take over much of Jenny's role, including fighting the Pilgrims in a leather catsuit (itself a reference to one of Emma Peel's most popular outfits).

Sweetville was inspired by real planned communities in the North, such as Saltaire (built in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt to house workers at his textile mills) and Akroydon (developed from 1859 by Colonel Edward Akroyd to service his mills). The unnatural slurry which caused the eponymous “horror” was suggested by the 1966 comedy Carry On Screaming!, in which a chemical sludge turned young women into mannequins. Mr Sweet was derived from “the repulsive story of the red leech”, an untold adventure of Sherlock Holmes mentioned at the start of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventure Of The Golden Pince-Nez (1904). The Thursday brothers took their surname from GK Chesterton's 1908 thriller The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare.

Matt Smith based the Doctor's relationship with Strax on Blackadder and Baldrick

Like The Snowmen, The Crimson Horror was directed by Saul Metzstein. In fact, the bulk of Gatiss' story was recorded before the Christmas special, so this marked the first time that McIntosh, Stewart and Starkey had worked on Doctor Who since A Good Man Goes To War wrapped in late January 2011. It was also their introduction to new series star Jenna-Louise Coleman. Matt Smith was delighted to see the trio return to Doctor Who, and based the Doctor's relationship with Strax on the interplay between Rowan Atkinson's Blackadder and Tony Robinson's Baldrick in the historical sitcom The Black Adder and its sequels.

Street scenes were the first order of business for Metzstein's team, taking them to Rhymney on July 2nd. The 3rd saw filming at two Barry locations: Holy Trinity Church for Mrs Gillyflower's address from the pulpit, and the offices of Barry Dock for Jenny entering the panelled corridor and Mrs Gillyflower on the spiral staircase. The 4th and 5th brought cast and crew to BBC Roath Lock for studio sequences in the cottage, Vastra's dark room, the top floor of the mill and the shuttered room. More street footage was captured at Llantrisant on July 6th, and it was back to Roath Lock on the 7th for some of the climactic confrontation on the staircase leading to the rocket.

Recording for The Crimson Horror then paused for two weeks to facilitate various promotional engagements, including a major panel at the San Diego Comic Con. As such, it wasn't until July 25th that filming resumed at Roath Lock, for more sequences beneath the rocket and in Mrs Gillyflower's parlour. The next day, a gymnasium at Tonyrefail School in Tonyrefail was used for material in the morgue, the laboratory, and the office where the Doctor and Clara pass selection. Then it was back to Roath Lock for more parlour scenes on the 27th and 28th, with the latter day also taking in work on sets for the vat room, the rocket staircase, and the upper window. After the weekend, work at Roath Lock continued from July 30th to August 1st, capturing footage of the rocket and spiral staircases, the mill floor, the top floor corridor, the shuttered room, and the revivification area. Taping on August 2nd began at the canal near Brigantine Place in Cardiff, before wrapping up at Roath Lock with scenes in the scissor lift and the corridor.

Because The Crimson Horror was underrunning, two new sequences were created featuring Vastra, Jenny and Strax

Metzstein then spent the next three weeks concentrating on The Snowmen. It wasn't until August 22nd that work on The Crimson Horror resumed at Roath Lock, with more filming on the sets for the revivification area and the vat room. On August 24th, Madame Vastra's orchid house was really Llandough Castle in Llandough, while Strax proposed a frontal assault on Sweetville at Treowen Manor in Dingestow on the 27th. The chapel exterior was then shot at Roath Lock on August 29th. Inserts were filmed at the studio on October 18th and 25th; the latter day also saw Strax ascending the chimney at Barry Pumping Station in Barry.

This should have concluded production on The Crimson Horror, but it soon became clear that the episode was underrunning. Since McIntosh, Stewart and Starkey would be returning for the Season Thirty-Three finale, The Name Of The Doctor (also directed by Metzstein), it was decided to create two new sequences featuring Vastra, Jenny and Strax. These were the scenes of the Paternoster gang plotting in the carriage en route to Yorkshire and studying Mrs Gillyflower's poster. Furthermore, since The Crimson Horror had now been fixed as the sixth episode of the spring schedule, an epilogue leading into Nightmare In Silver and involving Clara's charges, Angie and Artie Maitland, was shifted from Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS (which had been moved from sixth to fifth in the running order) to the Victorian adventure. The result was two additional days of filming. The new 1893 material was recorded on November 16th at Roath Lock and (for the carriage) at Mount Stuart Square in Cardiff Bay. The Maitland coda was completed on November 26th at a house on Beatty Avenue in Cardiff.

  • Doctor Who News.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #37, Autumn 2014, “The Crimson Horror” by Andrew Pixley, Panini UK Ltd.

Original Transmission
Date 4th May 2013
Time 6.29pm
Duration 44'39"
Viewers (more) 6.5m (16th)
· BBC1/HD 6.5m
· iPlayer 1.8m
Appreciation 85%

The Doctor
Matt Smith
Jenna-Louise Coleman
Mrs Gillyflower
Dame Diana Rigg
Rachael Stirling
Catrin Stewart
Madame Vastra
Neve McIntosh
Dan Starkey
Eve De Leon Allen
Kassius Carey Johnson
Brendan Patricks
Mr Thursday
Brendan Patricks
Graham Turner
Olivia Vinall
Michelle Tate
Urchin Boy
Jack Oliver Hudson

Written by
Mark Gatiss
Directed by
Saul Metzstein
Produced by
Marcus Wilson

Stunt Coordinator
Crispin Layfield
Stunt Performers
Stephanie Carey
Daniel Euston
First Assistant Director
Nick Brown
Second Assistant Director
Heddi-Joy Taylor-Welch
Third Assistant Director
Delmi Thomas
Assistant Director
Danielle Richards
Location Manager
Iwan Roberts
Unit Manager
Monty Till
Location Assistant
Iestyn Hampson-Jones
Production Managers
Phillipa Cole
Claire Hildred
Production Coordinator
Gabriella Ricci
Production Secretary
Sandra Cosfeld
Production Assistants
Rachel Vipond
Samantha Price
Assistant Accountants
Rhys Evans
Justine Wooff
Assistant Script Editor
John Phillips
Script Supervisor
Steve Walker
Camera Operator
Joe Russell
Focus Pullers
James Scott
Julius Ogden
Gary Norman
Camera Assistants
Meg de Koning
Sam Smithard
Evelina Norgren
Assistant Grip
Owen Charnley
Sound Maintenance Engineers
Ross Adams
Chris Goding
Mark Hutchings
Best Boy
Stephen Slocombe
Bob Milton
Gafin Riley
Gareth Sheldon
Supervising Art Director
Paul Spriggs
Set Decorator
Adrian Anscombe
Production Buyers
Adrian Greenwood
Holly Thurman
Art Directors
Amy Pickwoad
Joelle Rumbelow
Standby Art Director
Nandie Narishkin
Assistant Art Director
Richard Hardy
Art Department Coordinator
Donna Shakesheff
Prop Master
Paul Smith
Prop Chargehand
Ian Griffin
Set Dresser
Jayne Davies
Austin J Curtis
Standby Props
Garry Dawson
Helen Atherton
Dressing Props
Mike Elkins
Paul Barnett
Rob Brandon
Graphic Designer
Chris Lees
Graphic Artist
Christina Tom
Storyboard Artist
Andrew Wildman
Petty Cash Buyer
Florence Tasker
Standby Carpenter
Will Pope
Standby Rigger
Bryan Griffiths
Practical Electrician
Christian Davies
Props Makers
Penny Howarth
Alan Hardy
Props Driver
Gareth Fox
Construction Manager
Terry Horle
Construction Chargehand
Dean Tucker
Scenic Artist
John Pinkerton
Assistant Costume Designer
Fraser Purfit
Costume Supervisor
Carly Griffith
Costume Assistants
Katarina Cappellazzi
Gemma Evans
Make-Up Artists
Sara Angharad
Vivienne Simpson
Allison Sing
Casting Associate
Alice Purser
Assistant Editor
Becky Trotman
VFX Editor
Joel Skinner
Dubbing Mixer
Tim Ricketts
ADR Editor
Matthew Cox
Dialogue Editor
Darran Clement
Sound Effects Editor
Paul Jefferies
Foley Editor
Jamie Talbutt
Peter Anderson Studio
Additional VFX
BBC Wales Visual Effects
Online Editor
Geraint Pari Huws
Mick Vincent
With Thanks to
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Conducted and Orchestrated by
Ben Foster
Mixed by
Jake Jackson
Recorded by
Gerry O'Riordan
Original Theme Music
Ron Grainer
Casting Director
Andy Pryor CDG
Production Executive
Julie Scott
Post Production Supervisor
Nerys Davies
Production Accountant
Jeff Dunn
Sound Recordist
Deian Llŷr Humphreys
Costume Designer
Howard Burden
Make-Up Designer
Barbara Southcott
Murray Gold
Visual Effects
The Mill
Special Effects
Real SFX
Millennium FX
Matthew Cannings
Production Designer
Michael Pickwoad
Director Of Photography
Stephan Pehrsson
Script Producer
Denise Paul
Line Producer
Diana Barton
Executive Producers
Steven Moffat
Caroline Skinner

Working Titles
Mother's Ruin

Updated 5th June 2015