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Doctor Who: Review supplemental on The Vampires Of Venice

REVIEWS - DOCTOR WHO

Here's another take on yesterday's toothy outing to Renaissance Venice in Doctor Who...

Dracula was never quite this bad...

Ah, Venice. Flowing waters. Amazing architecture. The pasta ain't bad too. And back in 1580, school's in for the mysterious Calvierri family, who have funny ideas about education.

The Vampires Of Venice takes its roots from the old Hammer Horror films, and puts a typically sci-fi slant on it. Doctor Who has dabbled in vampire legends before, in tales such as State Of Decay or The Curse Of Fenric. This time, though, the vampires turn out to be giant fish things with an ability to alter the perception of the mind - and very large teeth.

In fact, compared to the aforementioned stories, The Vampires Of Venice was - for me, at least - quite lightweight in terms of scares. Various sources had got their knickers in a twist about airing scary vampire stories at such an early time in the evening. It even looks like the Mary Whitehouse brigade are back, after comments were made on last week's episode. It's like the 1970's never went away.

The Vampires Of Venice, whilst containing the odd shocker (the flower girl coming to grief at the teeth of Francesco), just didn't have enough bite for me, if you'll pardon the expression. The vampires themselves never really seemed to achieve much apart from gliding serenely around with very obvious false teeth - a bit like the characters in The Eleventh Hour. We never got to see the deadly 'husbands' lurking in the sea. And the fish things themselves looked a bit daft in their true form. Whilst the story contained a great deal of atmosphere thanks to the evocative sets, moody lighting and good direction from Jonny Campbell, the end result wasn't half as scary as it had been touted to be.

Despite that, Vampires was still a fun-filled 47 minutes, packed with stunning visuals and amusing moments. The location filming in Trogir, Croatia looked excellent. Since the architecture in Trogir drew inspiration from the Venetians, it was an inspired choice, and added a great deal of ambience to the story. The BBC are always reliably good at producing high-budget historical dramas, and The Vampires Of Venice was no exception. The designs and the costumes were just as striking as the location filming, and gave the story a very glossy sheen indeed.

The cast are generally strong - Mrs Malfoy, Helen McCrory is the best out of the guest actors, adding a real nobility to Rosanna. Lucian Msamati also provides a strong turn as Guido, Isabella's father, and his inevitable self-sacrifice was one of the highlights of the story. Alex Price's Francesco was also a memorable character, even if he brought back unwanted memories of Battlefield's Mordred, the undisputed champion of Doctor Who Mummy's Boys.

The notable new cast member, is of course, Rory, the bumbling bridegroom to be of Amy. Just like Mickey Smith before him, Rory is a bit of an imbecile in his opening stories, running away, moaning and whinging. However, he's also done a bit of reading up on the TARDIS, much to The Doctor's chagrin, when he doesn't comment that it's "Bigger on the inside than on the outside", instead offering a rational scientific explanation. Rory also comments on The Doctor's reckless streak when it comes to whisking his companions off on another devil-may-care adventure. He accuses The Doctor of somehow making his companions want to impress him and put themselves in blind danger. It's only after he gets into a hilariously useless fight to the death with Francesco that he seems to get a taste for adventure (although typically, it's Amy who saves the day by frying Fishy Francesco into oblivion).

Arthur Darvill is generally good as Rory, and gets some amusing moments throughout the story, such as the fight and his inept attempts to get Amy into the Calvierri school. The jury's still out on how well he'll fit in with the established team of Smith and Gillan - could the ineptitude prove to be a little wearing after a while? - but overall, Darvill does a decent job.


"Fans of straight-ahead action adventure probably won't have appreciated the constant domestic interludes which crept in throughout the story"


Fans of straight-ahead action adventure probably won't have appreciated the constant domestic interludes which crept in throughout the story. Rory is rightly jealous of The Doctor, who just put his foot in it in the hilarious pre-titles teaser after he jumped out of the cake and confessed that he kissed Amy. However, this did seem to be a bit too laboured throughout the story, with Rory always seeming to play second fiddle to The Doctor. Rory was relegated to posing as Amy's brother rather than her fiance, and even couldn't hold a candle to The Doctor's source of light (resulting in the inevitable double-entendre - "Let's not go there".) It's only after he proved his worth to Amy in the fight that he actually felt like her fiancé rather than the annoying big brother.

That aside, faults were few and far between. The denouement riffed too much on The Idiot's Lantern and Evolution Of The Daleks for my liking, and wasn't helped by the usual histrionics from Murray Gold's Pompous Choir. Overall, though, The Vampires Of Venice is an enjoyable interlude after the blockbuster two-parter. It also returns to the mystery of The Crack and also the mysterious Silence that Rosanna and her race ran away from. It's right there in that eerie scene at the end, when all goes mysteriously quiet as The Doctor prepares to leave. A neat little ending to a tale that doesn't quite deliver on gothic scares but succeeds as an enjoyable adventure with great production values. And a neat Casanova gag.


BY THE SAME AUTHOR:

Doctor Who: The ten most important characteristics of The Doctor

What makes a hero?


John Bensalhia limbered up for his complete stories reviews of ALL TV Doctor Who episodes with a full four-series review of Blake's 7, and writes professionally and recreationally all over the web. Check out his portfolio of work at Wordprofectors.

 

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