“Vampires of Venice” – Review: Redux

Doctor “There were cracks?”

Rosanna “Some were tiny. Some were as big as the sky. Through some, we saw worlds and people, and through others, we saw Silence and the end of all things. We fled to an ocean like ours and the cracks snapped shut behind us and Saturnyne was lost.”

Vampires of Venice

“Vampires of Venice” marks a significant moment for this blog’s countdown to the 50th Aniiversary. It is the first episode of 21st century Doctor Who that I hadn’t blogged about before and thus, the first review that I have had to write from scratch without some basis of a format on which to base it. There are 24 more episodes currently sitting in such an un-reviewed state, so I am really hitting make-or-break time as to whether I am going to have the where with all to make it to the finishing line. VoV was also the first time, since the post-regeneration scene in “The End of Time, Part Two” where anyone had had the opportunity to see Matt Smith in action in the lead role, courtesy of a clip that ran on the Jonathan Ross show (back when it was still on BBC1) way before the start of the series. However, despite initially being a little bit thrilled, especially because the clip in question featured William Hartnell’s visage on a library card, I recall being rather disappointed when the whole thing finally came to be broadcast, which may go some way to explaining why I never got round to writing a review in the first place.

One of the key developments in the story was the arrival of Rory Williams into permanent companion status after unknowingly being left behind on the eve of his wedding in “The Eleventh Hour”. Rory was originally written and played as being a teeny bit wet. He was sweet enough, in a clumsy yet likeable way but, whereas the female companions, Amy included, seemed to have that sassy swagger about them, Rory is a character that we see here needing to earn his stripes. His indefatigable love for Amy is the character trait that underpins Arthur Darvill’s performance throughout his time on the show and it is because of this love that he has to fight for Amy’s affections against his rival, the Doctor. Of course, the Doctor doesn’t see himself as a rival and deliberately goes to pick up Rory (amusingly by bursting out of the cake) in order, one imagines, to either get Amy to fall in love with Rory or simply to subdue the more amorous overtones displayed by Amy at the end of “Flesh and Stone”.

I quite enjoyed the dynamic that was played out through Series Three between the three of them: the inept way that the Doctor tries to pair them together, the dilemma about which man Amy would choose, and the battle for Amy’s affection that Rory sets  out, which culminates in him getting his centurion on after the Pandorica opens. However, I am getting ahead of myself a little, on screen here we are treated to a main story of an aquatic race of creatures who have infiltrated Venice of 1580, who happen to have some unpleasant vampiric tendencies. The Vampires themselves were very striking in both their human and their native form and the exotic filming location (while not actually being Venice itself: it was Trogir in Croatia), was pretty wonderfully realised. The whole episode looked very good but the plot while fun enough was a little lightweight for my tastes. The vampires were easily defeated from the perspective of plot, although it did require an emotional sacrifice from Guido. That sacrifice was then mirrored by Rosanna who, after realising that she was the only survivor, threw herself to the waiting jaws (I assume) of whatever it was that was living under the water. But not before a last taunt and bit of Moffaty foreshadowing.

Rosanna revealed to the Doctor that they had come to Earth after seeing cracks in the universe. Quite why Earth of 1580 was going to be any different from any other part of the universe in which cracks could appear is anyone’s guess. Equally, quite why Venice fell so completely silent just before Rory and the Doctor got inside the TARDIS is also unexplained – unless that is one of the Moffat threads left to be tied up in the 50th Anniversary tale or the end of Matt Smith at Christmas. I get that “silence falling” (also mentioned in “The Eleventh Hour”) sort of paves the way for the arrival of the Silence, but quite why it actually goes quiet still baffles me. Equally, upon noticing that unnatural quietness descending, it is fairly atypical behavious of the Doctor to just turn around and leave.

Highlight: Rory getting full-time companion status

Lowlight: The easily defeated Vampires.

Talking Point: Why did it go quiet at the end?

Demon’s Run Rating: 11 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 8th May 2010

Marathon Status: On a knife-edge

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