TARDIS File 05-06: The Vampires of Venice
The Big Idea: Amy and Rory need time to rediscover each other before the big day so the Doctor whisks them off to 16th century Venice for a little adventure. But something evil is afoot in the sinister House of Calvierri.
What’s So Great…
- Rory, as portrayed by Arthur Darvill, is a wonderful addition to the story (and for the time being the TARDIS crew). His bumbling but lovable portrayal is no Mickey Jones carbon copy, but believable and funny in its own right. The scene where he disappoints the Doctor’s expectation around the TARDIS’s dimensions is classic and his final tussle with Francesco is hilarious (particularly his makeshift attempt at a creating a cross).
- Toby Whithouse’s script which is brimming with wit and its Doctor Who sensibility is perfect. Once begins to discern certain Whithouse-esque touches when it comparing it to School Reunion (digging under the surface of what it means to be a companion, the confrontation with a cool formidable villain who offers an alliance). When it’s time for Steven Moffat to pass the reigns he could do worse than offer them to the man who brought us the successful BBC drama Being Human.
- The sight gag of Guido wearing Rory’s stag shirt.
- The look of the story is fantastic, aided by the exotic location filming in Croatia and the sumptuous costumes and set design.
- Helen McCrory makes an excellent nemesis for the Doctor as Rosanna Calvierri in a similar way that Anthony Stewart Head did in School Reunion.
- And I wasn’t going to praise Matt Smith yet again, but his performance reaches new highs with the initial scene involving the vampire vixens and his later scene with Rosanna Calvierri where he admonishes her for not remembering Isabella’s name.
- A great final shot where the camera zooms into the TARDIS keyhole, segueing into scenes for the next episode.
Some Quick Bits of Trivia: It is revealed that Doctor has a history with Casanova, and the revelation is given an extra knowing nod considering that Tenth Doctor David Tennant portrayed the infamous lover in a 2005 production written by Russell T Davies. Helen McCrory may be familiar to Harry Potter fans for her portrayal of Narcissa Malfoy in recent films.
Things to Geek Out About:
- The psychic paper gets a good workout in the story producing a joke at Rory’s expense and clueing in Rosanna as to their true Identities
- The Doctor accidentally flashes his library card to the vampire vixens and it displays a picture of his first incarnation. It’s issued to J Smith, 76 Totter’s Lane, Shoreditch, London and it expires in November. 76 Totters Lane is the location of the first episode of Doctor Who, An Unearthly Child which aired in November, 1963. It’s for the Shoreditch library. (A real fan went to town on that prop!)
Did You Notice…The Saturnynian are hiding from the mysterious Cracks and the Silence adding extra gravitas to the season’s arc.
Not to Complain, But… When Amy holds the mirror up to scorch Francesco the sun seems to have already been covered up by the storm clouds.
All things considered: Vampires of Venice packs an amazing amount into 45 minutes, and yet the pacing feels just right. It very much feels like where we should be in the middle of a Doctor Who season and stands well on its own as an entertaining yarn.
The revelation that the vampires are in fact fish-like aliens is a nice twist and contrasts nicely with expectations one might have about much-mined vampire lore (in the same way that robot mummies or holographic ghosts did back in the heyday of Doctor Who). The explanation of the perception filter and its psychological effects, while somewhat talky, was inventive and effective.
Bringing Rory into the mix allows the narrative to address and then put aside the feelings of anxiety viewers might have had at the end of the previous story when Amy made a significant pass at the Doctor, and adds a new spin on how the Doctor effects the lives of his companions (yes, superficially it might look like the Doctor/Rose/Mickey dynamic, but by the end of the episode it clearly isn’t. In fact the climatic scenes with Rory and Amy pitted against Francesco crackle with humour and humanity.
Lines of the Week: Doctor: She kissed me. Rory: And you kissed her back! Doctor: No, I kissed her mouth.
TARDIS File prepared by Scott Clarke
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