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The Doctor takes Amy and Rory away for

a romantic break but terror awaits in 16th century Venice. What DARK secrets are held by the House of Calvi-erri and who is the mysterious Rosanna?


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.







I really enjoy watching Doctor Who with my husband because we very often have conflicting opinions about the episode. He is on the cusp of being a fan – he wouldn’t go out of his way to watch a story, but will happily join me if I am, and he wouldn’t dream of missing a new episode. He has pretty much liked all of what he has seen in the last five years, although there have been a few moments where he hated something (Fear Her, Midnight). I was expecting quite a lot from The Vampire of Venice (always a fatal error) and wasn’t entirely satisfied with what I got, but Simon adored every second of it. For him to simply be ridiculously entertained for an hour is more than enough. Sometimes, being a critical fan, I forget how mesmerising it can be to shut off your critical faculties and just enjoy something, and after my initial viewing (groaning with displeasure afterwards!) I re-watched the episode with this in mind and found it far more enjoyable the second time. There are problems here, but on the whole this continues Matt Smith’s impressively consistent first season.


Venice is possibly my favourite place on the Earth bar none. I had a fantastic romantic weekend there with Simon three years ago, and it was everything you could possibly hope for; seductive, mysterious, gloriously atmospheric and beautiful. So imagine my disapp-ointment when I watched this story and there were only a handful of shots of the canals and striking buildings – for the odd reason that this story was not filmed in Venice! And then I switched over to Doctor Who Confidential, and there they were, offering up lavish shots of Venice itself! The actual episode couldn’t make it to the city it was set, in but the making of show could? Craziness, and despite Steven Moffat’s rather odd assertion that Venice is all Starbucks and McDonalds these days (huh?) I found the Confidential material far more convincing (obviously).


“Makes you wonder what could be so bad that it would let you think it’s a vampire.”


Okay - thats my rant over. Regardless of my feelings of brevity towards the production decisions, the filmed material is still stylish and sumptuously shot, and this is easily the most expensive looking episode of the year so far. The essence of Venice is there with some well staged waterway scenes and some huge and detailed sets. I adore the grand staircase that Rosanna descends to send her girls out into the town, and the shots of Venice when the Doctor steps from the TARDIS are divine. The lighting is superbly done as well, especially when you consider some of the gondola scenes weren’t filmed on water and the harsh green lighting when Amy is menaced by Rosana and the torchlight escape scenes lit up my darkened front room deliciously.


I will be mirroring the praise I have heard for Matt Smith elsewhere, but just to give a more balanced view I know a couple of people who refuse to watch the show because he isn’t David Tennant; one who thinks hes ugly as sin; and one who thinks hes too young and doesn’t capture the essence of the Doctor. What nonsense! I find Matt Smith immensely likable in every single shot (which I couldn’t say about Eccleston or Tennant) and whenever hes on screen I always find my eyes drawn towards him at the expense of whoever else is around. The Doctor creeping about underground and being threatened by the Calvierri girls is an essential scene just for Smith’s flighty performance. He’s hilarious and flits about like a pixie who is thrilled at the discovery of vampires! Later he commands the attention sitting on Rosanna’s throne, questioning her motives and throwing out great lines like, You’re a big fish. Think of the children. Smith dazzles his way through the story as a witty, seductive and playful protagonist and I don’t think we have had a Doctor this delightfully whimsical since Tom Baker at his height. Plus his entrance as a stag do stripper has got to be one of the funniest scenes ever.


“I owe Casanova a chicken…”

A love triangle in Doctor Who should be about as welcome as the Rani storming into Albert Square (which explains a lot) and whilst I was unsure where the deliciously fanboy upsetting snog last week was going, in fact I was quite surprised at how delicately this was handled. It helps that the three characters are all very interesting - Amy is enticed with the Doctor and his lifestyle, but has lingering feelings for her life with Rory; Rory is a bit of an idiot, but he is capable of sudden clarity and bravery, and wants to prove himself to Amy; and the unsexy Doctor wants to bring them together but doesn’t want to lose Amy. There’s no Eastenders’ style histrionics but a subtle layer of tension that runs through the episode between them. I find Rory a far more convincing stooge than Mickey was in Series 1, his head snapping around in confusion and comically culture shocked throughout but full of razor sharp observations. People do try and impress the Doctor when they are with them and that does very often lead to danger and I’m surprised nobody has pointed this out so nakedly before. I love how protective of Amy Rory is even if his instincts tell him to run away and there is a general feeling of a modern day ordinary guy walking onto a period drama set which is exactly the point. There are some great lines within their tug of war over Amy, Yours is bigger / Lets not go there and I like how the story sees Rory join the crew at the end with both the Doctor and Amy delighted by the idea.  

The main thrust of the story is the Saturnine migration to Earth and Rosanna’s attempt to repopulate her race and create a home for them. It’s a mixture of good and bad really. The good is the Saturnines are a generally fun species with some outstanding design. The first reveal of Rosanna as a giant fish is absolutely terrifying, and Francesco leaping at Rory in his fishy form is a genuinely spectacular visual. Who said the budget had been cut this year? Helen McCrory gives a very good performance as Rosanna and it is easy to sympa-thise with a villain that seduces with a voice and eyes like chocolate. It is a thoughtful performance and not a one note wonder that so many Doctor Who villains can be (Maureen Lipman springs to mind) and I found her sacrifice at the end of the story quite a lump in the throat moment. Its not often you feel sorry for the monster that tried to murder so many people.


“There are ten thousand husbands waiting in the water…”


The blossoming arc is also very well done with more intriguing touches that I think are going to cumulate into one hell of a climax. The talk of the silence descending is terrifying and the Saturnine escaping from the latest threat to the universe has an Unquiet Dead vibe to it. Best of all was that shot through the TARDIS keyhole at the end of the episode, which looks suspiciously like the cracks in time – could it be that our trusty time machine is responsible for all these holes tearing up the universe? There’s so much potential for terror there…


I really like the idea of fish people raising the waters of Venice to create a habitable environment for them to live in but wasn’t that already done in The Stones of Venice, Paul Magrs’ audio drama? And haven’t we had enough of the Doctor climbing great masts and flicking a switch to save the day? It was lousy in The Idiot’s Lantern and Evolution of the Daleks and it hardly makes for a clever resolution, which I have come to expect from the Moffat stories this year. Perhaps Terry Pratchett had a point when he said Doctor Who stories were lazy with their conclusions – Who ex Machina, hmm? Plus there were a few awkward spots of direction in the episode too, the lead into the theme music should have been hilarious but they didn’t cut away soon enough and the Doctor ended up looking like a twat; Rory’s slapstick fight with Francesco should have been tighter and funnier; and the silence descending at the climax was a bit sudden and unrealistic.


“This way you stupid great Spongebob!”


For all these complaints there were some fabulous subversions – I loved how the story cut from the screaming victim to Rory’s stag when I was certain the theme music would cut in, I liked how it was Rosanna to nibble on Amy’s neck rather than Francesco, Guido’s sacrifice was a triumphant moment and the decision to let Rory stay was a surprise.


I know Murray Gold gets some stick for slapping on loud music over dialogue scenes but he more than anyone has ensured the continuity and identity of the show between Doctors ten and eleven and he is responsible for some of the most atmospheric moments in Doctor Who’s history. His work in The Vampires of Venice is extraordinarily good, dynamic and dramatic and capturing the horror and the beauty of the story. A superb score, I love the feet-thumping piece when the Doctor threatens to tear down the house of Calvierri and the shock scream-like music when Rory insults Rosanna in front of Francesco.


“Library card! Of course…”


Simon was grinning all night after this episode. I was less enthused, but this is still a fun episode with a lot to offer if you don’t go into it with too many preconceptions. I hope that one day we can really visit Venice, but this replica still has an exquisiteness of its own.


Copyright © Joe Ford 2010


Joe Ford has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.


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