The Vampires of Venice
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This week's episode sees the Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive in 1580 Venice to battle what, at first, seems to be plain old Vampires. The episode was written by Toby Whithouse; the series creator of popular Vampire/Werewolf/Ghost BBC3 drama/comedy "Being Human". This is his second time writing for Doctor Who, the first being "School Reunion" way back in season 2. That episode stared Buffy's Anthony Head. So 'Vampires' aren't exactly unknown territory for this man. Surely he should be able to whittle out a good Vampire plot set against the 16th Venice backdrop? Right?
"I don't think that's a good idea do you, I'm a Time Lord and you're a big fish.... think of the children."
The episode starts off fairly well. The scene is set in Venice where a Venetian man begs the queen (of 'the House of Calvierri') to admit his daughter into her school. He can't afford to educate her alone. The Queen, played excellently throughout by Helen McCrory, fulfils his request and, much the man's dismay, immediately takes her from him. The price for him is they break all contact, never to know each other again. We then cut to "present day", or to put it more clearly (this is Doctor Who) it's the night before Amy's wedding. Rory (Amy's fiancé who was introduced in the first episode – in case his dullness forced him from your memory) is having a cliché stag do, complete with oversized stripper cake. Only it's not a stripper who pops out, it's the Doctor. Cue the disappointed Stag do attendee's and a stripper left outside in the cold. The Doctor convinces Rory to come with him and Amy on a trip. It's his Wedding present to them, to try and smooth over the whole 'kissing thing' between himself and Amy. They can go anywhere they like, the Doctor chooses Venice.
This opening examples one the better aspects of this episode, the witty dialogue. The scene in the Tardis is where Matt Smith really goes to town with Whithouse's script. The Doctor is playful, darting from serious to great one liners, all the time poking fun at Rory but without being mean spirited about it. Amy joins in with the sarcasm, enjoying every minute of it. You can see why she was happy to stray from dull Rory. The Doctor and Amy are Mickey and Mallory Knox to Rory's pesky, 'rule ridden' society.
Upon arrival in ye olde Venice they briefly look around and the Doctor imparts a short history lesson on Rory and Amy. Then, across the water, they spot a group of veiled girls making their way into the palace. The man, whom we met in the first scene, stops the girls to get the attention of his daughter, who is one of the party. They all hiss at the man with oddly sharp teeth and scare him off. The Doctor's mind ticks into gear at seeing this brief exchange and he rightly senses trouble in the air. So the Doctor, Amy and Rory split up and head into city to meddle and potentially solve a mystery.
The Doctor catches up with the Venetian man (Guido) and after getting the low-down on events, gets Guido's help to gain access to the palace. Meanwhile Amy and Rory enjoy some sightseeing, but that gets cut short after they hear a scream nearby. They investigate and interrupt a Vampire (the Queen's son) sucking a woman's neck. He hisses off, Amy tries to give chase after him but loses him down what looks like a dead end. After regrouping they quickly discover that these Vampires aren't actually Vampires and the Queen has other plans. Plans which are a little worn out in Doctor Who of late, an Alien race wants to take over the Earth and make it habitable for it's own species.
I'm okay with that basic premise, if done well the classic Alien invasion story is fine. But I don't see that it's needed almost every single week on the show. Why couldn't these beasties just be Vampires? Shoehorning in a twist to this episode means the result is not that great. Compared, as it shall be, to the last two parter it was a bit of a mess. The problem wasn't just not the hackneyed plot though, it was the execution of that hackneyed plot. It was riddled with plot holes and dead ends. Where did the did tidal wave go to? How did Amy's mirror reflect sunlight when it was specifically over-cast where they were? I could go on picking at it, but I won't give the story more time than the writer did. It was badly thought out and the ending fell completely flat.
However it wasn't a total bust, the witty dialogue, great one liners and solid acting from the likes of the Queen (Helen McCrory) and Guido (Lucian Msamati), not to mention Matt Smith's continuing great work as the Doctor, made a sloppy episode, watch-able.
Next week brings a very interesting premise. Guest staring Toby Jones, the Doctor, Amy and Rory are presented with two different realities and they have to decide which is the real one. If they don't choose wisely there'll be grave consequences.