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The Fourth Dimension

The Crimson Horror

The read through for The Crimson Horror took place in Cardiff on Thursday, 28 June, 2012 and filming on the episode began the following week on Monday, 2nd July.

Dame Diana Rigg plays Mrs Gillyflower and her real-life daughter, Rachael Stirling, plays her onscreen daughter, Ada. It’s the first time the two have appeared together in a television production.

The adventure is largely set in Yorkshire – the northern county where Diana Rigg was born. As with the first episode written by Mark Gatiss – The Unquiet Dead – the majority of the action takes place during the Victorian era, although in The Crimson Horror the TARDIS lands in 1893, about 25 years later than the earlier story.

At one point Mrs Gillyflower tosses salt to one side, apparently to “to keep the devil at bay”. This refers to a superstition that suggests throwing a pinch of salt over the shoulder brings good luck as it is said to be flung into the face of the devil. In Image of the Fendahl the Doctor notes that salt is deadly to the ancient and evil Fendahleen. He conjectures that this use of salt (against the Fendahleen) may be the origin of the salt-throwing superstition.

‘Do you know the old Romany superstition, Clara? That the eye of a dead person retains an image of the last thing it sees…’ This superstition is referenced by the Fourth Doctor in The Ark in Space. In that adventure he claims there’s something to the belief and he’s able to access the visual memory of a dead Wirrn using advanced technology and his own “exceptional” brain!

The ‘gobby Australian’ referenced by the Doctor is his former companion, Tegan Jovanka. She called herself a ‘mouth on legs’ and continually hassled the Fifth Doctor, hectoring him to take her to Heathrow Airport as she wanted to be an air-hostess. She joined the Time Lord in Logopolis and eventually made it to the airport in Time-Flight. The Fifth Doctor would offer encouragement to her with the words, ‘Brave heart, Tegan!’, hence the Eleventh Doctor’s similar cry to Clara after hearing the scream.

A ‘penny dreadful’ was a type of British fiction publication that emerged in the nineteenth century, typically featuring lurid and improbable stories. Due to increased mechanisation within the publishing industry of that era, each edition cost only one penny - an affordable sum that added to their widespread appeal.

‘…this shining city on the ’ill!’ Mrs Gillyflower is here misquoting John Winthrop (c. 1587-1649), a British Puritan who settled in New England in the 17th Century. In 1630 he delivered a sermon that contained the words ‘…wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill’ in reference to the founding of America. Many US politicians have quoted the line with several of them – most notably Ronald Reagan in his ‘farewell’ speech of 1989 – adding the adjective ‘shining’.

‘Pretty maids all in a row’. Mrs Gillyflower is here quoting the old nursery rhyme that begins, ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary /How does your garden grow?’

The Doctor uses the pseudonym ‘Doctor Smith’ in The Crimson Horror. He has given this alias many times in the past and indeed, in The Vampires of Venice when we glimpse his library card, we see this ID has an image of the First Doctor and identifies him as ‘Dr. J. Smith’.

Back in the modern day, Clara looks at photos of herself on a laptop. The shots also feature Alec and Emma, last seen in Hide and Captain Zhukov and Professor Grisenko from another episode written by Mark Gatiss – Cold War.

The scenes set in the apparently prim and perfect Sweetville street – supposedly in the north of England - were actually shot not far from the BBC’s Cardiff studios in Wales. Production Designer Michael Pickwoad said the street ‘had to look as though it was very trim and proper and almost too perfect… because something dreadfully wrong is going on inside!’ You can find out more about the making of the episode in our special video that takes a look behind the scenes of The Crimson Horror.