Doctor Who reviews: The Vampires Of Venice
|REVIEWS - DOCTOR WHO|
Buxom denizens of hell await our heroes...
This week the hand of Hammer-phile producer Steven Moffat shows itself in a Toby Whitehouse script that begins with fan-love for Hammer's 'female vampire' cycle of the 1970s (Countess Dracula, The Vampire Lovers, Lust For A Vampire and Twins Of Evil) and from thereon launches itself into more familiar Doctor Who territory.
The Doctor's emergence from a strip-a-gram cake in the pre-title sequence signals not the urgent resolution to S5's 'crack in time' motif, but apparently the time-lord's determination to re-direct Amy Pond's ardour back in the direction of her fianceé Rory.
To this end, our hero offers the pair an unusually romantic wedding present - a date in 16th-century Venice. But with his typically poor time-parking abilitiies, The Doctor escapes the loss of an old bet with the as-yet unborn Casanova (Tennant reference, anyone?) only to become embroiled in the maiden-seducing antics of a Venetian vampire school for girls, presided over by the the Bathory-esque Rosanna Calvieri and her slightly too-close son.
Of course, these are not vampires, but watery aliens with mind-bending perception shields that neatly explain not only that vampires did exist but exactly why they never showed up in mirrors.
There's not a great deal wrong with this one-off episode: beautiful location cinematography combines with appropriately gothic performances to provide a suitably atmospheric, if not terribly scary, adventure. But then, Hammer films were never really that scary anyway, and their atmosphere is suitably captured in The Vampires Of Venice.
I don't know what to make of new TARDIS-mate Rory - in one sense he's the typical dumb male assistant prototype that has hallmarked new Who, and yet sidesteps the 'It's bigger on the inside than the outside' comment on the TARDIS and even points out to The Doctor - at a minimal acquaintance - the danger that he wreaks on those who are so impressed by his technology and genius.
A nice touch was Matt Smith's admittance that a return to ordinary life from a spell with The Doctor is a hard come-down - something that Elizabeth Sladen had shrugged off at the end of her tenure as a Who assistant in the 1970s but greatly expanded on in new Who's 'School Reunion'.
"Once again Amy Pond shows herself the greatest 'anti-scream' Doctor Who assistant since the savage Leela"
Once again The Doctor's policy of non-inteference is called into question (much as the Federation's frequently was in Star Trek), as he appears to sacrifice the vampire water-dwellers of Saturnine for the 200,000 denizens of medieval Venice. Once again Amy Pond shows herself the greatest 'anti-scream' Doctor Who assistant since the savage Leela...and once again Matt Smith proves that his own comic timing is at least as strong as that of his predecessor David Tennant, in this frantic outing's lighter moments.
The final avalanche of (acceptable) visual effects seems to be becoming a staple of new Who, and the programme might profitably let The Doctor solve a problem in a more quiet manner a little more often, without the world falling around about his ears as he struggles with alien atmosphere-changing devices. We know that there would have been a lot more of this in the 60s-80s classic Who if there had been the budget and technology, but one need only look at the weak Peter Cushing filmic entries to see that this is not what Doctor Who should be about. At least, not too often.
Contessa Calvieri's reference to the 'silence' from which her race ran in exile to Venice combines with a creepy closing shot to let us know that the 'crack in time' theme has at least all of series five to run, something of a let-down after the way last week's episode ended, and the trailer that made us think we might be getting a little closer to this mystery.
The question is, is the Doc fighting off an attraction to Amy based on the pain he went through in his previous incarnation with Rose Tyler, or is he truly a 'changed man'...?
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE HELP SUPPORT OUR SITE, AT NO COST WITH ONE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK 'LIKE' BUTTON BELOW:
If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.