Gillyflower, Conan Doyle and The Crimson Horror (2013)


CONAN DOYLE: So Mrs Gillyflower. Thanks for agreeing to this interview.

GILLYFLOWER: You’re very welcome, Mr Conan Doyle.

CONAN DOYLE: Tell me about your wicked plan. It will be most excellent research material.

GILLYFLOWER: With pleasure. You see, I am a prize winning chemist and mechanical engineer.

CONAN DOYLE: Unusual dual careers for a woman in 19th Century Yorkshire.

GILLYFLOWER: Perhaps, although it’s very impolite of you to point that out. And a little sexist, to boot. But I’ll overlook it. Anyway, I was down at the river one day…

CONAN DOYLE: Um, doing what exactly?

GILLYFLOWER: Never you mind. But while I was down there, I came across this fascinating red leech.

CONAN DOYLE: How repulsive!

GILLYFLOWER: Well, maybe to you. But I immediately recognised it as something unique so I captured it and took it home.

CONAN DOYLE: Well of course you did. Who would do anything else?

GILLYFLOWER: Upon examination, I deduced it to be an ancient lifeform, a survivor from the dawn of time!

CONAN DOYLE: Wait, did you say you’re a zoologist?

GILLYFLOWER: No, I am a prize winning chemist and mechanical engineer.

CONAN DOYLE: I see. So what did you do with this leech?

GILLYFLOWER: Well, I discovered that it secreted a deadly organic poison.

CONAN DOYLE: How did you do that without being infected?

GILLYFLOWER: Because I’m a prize winning chemist. Anyway, when I discovered that the poison was deadly enough to kill everyone in the entire world, I saw the potential for it to facilitate a grand scheme I had. Namely to kill everyone in the entire world. Save for a select group of beautiful young people.

CONAN DOYLE: Why did you want to kill everyone in the entire world?

GILLYFLOWER: Y’know, I’m not at all clear on that. Something about moral turpitude and Bradford being like Bablyon.

CONAN DOYLE: Ok, so about this select group of beautiful young people.

GILLYFLOWER: Yes, of course. So I discovered that a dilute form of the poison could in fact temporarily paralyse and preserve human beings.

CONAN DOYLE: Because you’re a prize winning chemist.

GILLYFLOWER: That’s right. Incidentally, it also altered the human body’s chemical composition so much that a person’s last view of the world before death is imprinted on their eye!

CONAN DOYLE: It does a lot of things, this miraculous substance.

GILLYFLOWER: Oh yes. And I had by this stage also developed an anti-toxin to immunise myself.

CONAN DOYLE: Because you’re a prize winn…

GILLYFLOWER: Oh, nothing so vague, young man! No, because I had experimented on my daughter with the venom.

CONAN DOYLE: Oh. Presumably you could have chosen anyone to experiment upon. Why your daughter?

GILLYFLOWER: It was necessary! Don’t you see?

CONAN DOYLE: Not really. And what sort of toxicology experiments result in terrible facial scarring?

GILLYFLOWER: So back to the plan. Having discovered that I could temporarily paralyse and preserve human beings, I set up a sort of gated community complete with its own match factory. To here I lured all sorts of susceptible people looking for work and homes, but I weeded out all the old, fat and ugly ones. I sold it to them on the promise of being saved from the coming apocalypse, when all the time I was delivering that apocalypse! (Cackles madly)

CONAN DOYLE: Where did you get the money to set up this community?

GILLYFLOWER: From my fabulous career as a prize winning…

CONAN DOYLE: OK. So you preserve your collection of people by…

GILLYFLOWER: Dipping them in vats of the diluted poison.

CONAN DOYLE: All that from one leech?

GILLYFLOWER: DILUTED poison, are you deaf?

CONAN DOYLE: Of course. And it worked every time.

GILLYFLOWER: No. Into the canal with the rejects!

CONAN DOYLE: Didn’t people notice when bright red corpses started popping up in the river?

GILLYFLOWER: Yes! But I didn’t worry about being detected. For some reason.

CONAN DOYLE: And the preserved people… didn’t their friends and family come inquiring about them?

GILLYFLOWER: Once. But we pushed him into a vat of poison.

CONAN DOYLE: Right. So the plan is to let the beautiful people sleep while you kill everyone else with the poison. How does that part work?

GILLYFLOWER: I’ve built a rocket!

CONAN DOYLE: In 19th century Yorkshire?

GILLYFLOWER: How many times do I have to tell you? I’m a prize winning chemist and MECHANICAL ENGINEER! The rocket will explode in the atmosphere, and poison the whole world.

CONAN DOYLE: Wait a minute – the world’s a big place. How does exploding one rocket spread this substance over the whole planet?

GILLYFLOWER: It just will, all right?

CONAN DOYLE: And what’s the point anyway? Your little colony of beautiful young things will be living in a world contaminated by your remarkably versatile poison. And the community’s not so big that you can hope to repopulate the Earth. The kids of those hotties will be beautiful and that, but it won’t be long until inbreeding sets in. And who’s going to grow the food, build the houses, farm the livestock…

GILLYFLOWER: We’ve got this all planned out, we’re just not telling you!

CONAN DOYLE: Right. One final thing.

GILLYFLOWER: I should think so too!

CONAN DOYLE: This utopian community – Sweetville? Where’d the name come from?

GILLYFLOWER: From my silent partner, Mr Sweet. That’s the name I gave the red leech.

CONAN DOYLE: You don’t seem like the sort of person who gives exotic poisonous parasites pet names.

GILLYFLOWER: I bet I don’t seem like the sort of person who allows said parasite to attach itself permanently to her breast either.

CONAN DOYLE: You’re nuts.

GILLYFLOWER: It’s been noted.

CONAN DOYLE: Interesting plot though. A very dark and queer business. It reminds me of.. have you ever seen The Avengers?

GILLYFLOWER: I don’t know what you’re talking about.


LINK TO Spearhead from Space: There is much respect paid to that other Holmes, Spearhead writer Holmes throughout The Crimson Horror. The eye image mentioned in The Ark in Space, the selection of bright young things from The Krotons, the mortuary setting of The Talons of Weng-Chiang

NEXT TIME: You embarrass me! But still, please be my plus 1 at The Wedding of River Song.


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