Sunday, May 9, 2010

Doctor Who 5.06 The Vampires of Venice Review

After the last incredible two-parter written by Steven Moffat, Being Human writer/creator Toby Whithouse had his work cut out for him, to say the least, for this week's episode. Surely, a lesser writer would have been daunted by the task, but not Whithouse. As a stand-alone episode, The Vampires of Venice is a fantastic story; well written, well-crafted, and well-acted. Once can almost see this episode as a character piece. As part of an ongoing story arc, it adds more information concerning the crack in time storyline that's been prevalent since episode 1, and it also ushers you in to the next chapter. I will get back to it later.

Uh . . . surprise?

The Doctor is relieved to be popping out of the right cake this time.

The Doctor's entrance in The Vampires of Venice is probably one of the funniest scenes ever seen on Doctor Who since the series' rebirth in 2005. Having the Doctor crash Rory's Stag party (a.k.a. bachelor party) by popping out of a cake is definitely worth a million dollars and was a stroke of genius. Plus, the Doctor honestly and bluntly telling Rory that Amy kissed him moments before in the previous episode was absolutely priceless ''funny how you can say something in your head and it sounds fine.'' The Doctor definitely needs better social skills. And Matt Smith was completely adorable.

Venice in 1580, what a wonderful wedding present!

As an excuse to bring Rory on board the Tardis – and thus get Amy's attentions away from himself - the Doctor devised to take the lovebirds to 1580 Venice as a wedding present for the couple. It was either that or tokens.

Rory wonders is Amy missed him at all while she traveled with the Doctor.

But things are not what they appear to be in 1580 Venice, and Whithouse gives the story a nice twist when it is discovered that he titular vampires are in fact fish-like aliens from the planet Saturnyne, who had escaped their doomed planet through one of the many cracks - some small and some as big as the sky - as they fled the terrifying Silence. These aliens manage to hide their real appearance with perception filters. It was really funny to see the Doctor and Amy's ecstatic reactions upon discovering that aliens, and not vampires, are behind what's happening in Venice.

William Hartnell, the first Doctor, makes an appearance here. The Doctor definitely needs to change his library card.

The Doctor just walked into a 1970s Vampire movie. Will the Bride of Dracula stand up please?

Still, the ''vampires'' operate much like the vampires of lore, drinking not only the girls' blood and then replacing it with their own, but also taking out all the moisture in their bodies. And like mythical vampires, they are sensible to sunlight and UVs. A fact that will be put to good use.

Rosanna Calvierri and her son Francesco hold court at their school.

The main villain of the story is Rosanna Calvierri, the alien leader who passes herself off as a noble woman of Venice, and runs a prestigious school for young girls. But that school has a more sinister purpose than teaching young girls anything like reading, sewing, or needle work. They become part of a nefarious space alien breeding program plot.

Boys comparing the size of their, hmmm, flashlights.

Helen McCrory is absolutely regal and luminous as Rosanna Calvierri – the mother of the aliens. Far from being portrayed as evil, her character is depicted as neither good nor truly evil. She's someone who wants to save her race at all costs. Calvierri's plan is quite is simple: sink Venice and repopulate it with the girls she transformed so they can bread with her 10 000 male children currently residing in the canals of the city. Right. OK.

It's feeding time! Poor Amy, she's now become lunch for the Sisters of the Water

Dear God my lady! Thou are truly ugly!

But of course the Doctor can't let that pass, can he? And even though Rosanna's actions are justifiable in her own eyes, they are apparently not so in anyone else's, especially the Doctor. You just don't mess with the Doctor's favourite race right? But it was nice to see that the Doctor didn't go down the easy road of rage and indignation. There's always a coolness and subtlety to Smith's performance as the Doctor, and he and Helen McCrory share some wonderful scenes together during the course of the episode.

Nice view of the Doctor's hand. Which Doctor am I addressing? Present or future one?

Rosanna makes her intentions known. So does the Doctor.

There is one specific scene I need to point out because I believe this scene features the future Doctor. It's the one right after the Doctor gets electrocuted. Two things make me think it's him. The first is that it happens so soon after the Doctor is electrocuted that it almost seems out of place (and right after this scene, the Doctor is seen with Amy, healing her neck wound with his sonic screwdriver). The second one is that the camera shows us the Doctor's hand first at the beginning of the scene. Exactly like what was done in Flesh and Stone (I talk about the future Doctor here). When we saw Future Doctor, they specifically showed his hands first.

The Doctor likes everyone to be quiet while he's thinking.

Arthur Darville as Rory is a welcome addition to the Tardis and it was a relief to see that he's no Mickey (well, Mickey before he got stuck in the parallel world that is). Amy's fiancĂ© shows himself to be quite intelligent (he has read books about dimensions and so on after his first encounter with the Doctor in The Eleventh Hour), brave (he does fight Francesco Calvierri – played by a great and underused Alex Price - in a sword fight while armed only with a broom), and unafraid of the Doctor. He is the one that calls the Doctor on the fact that his companions want to act bravely to impress him, which in his eyes makes the Doctor dangerous. I'm definitely looking forward to more Rory in the upcoming episodes.

Absolutely gorgeous view of Venice. Rosanna is putting her plan to sink Venice in motion.

The Doctor and Rosanna facing off. Interesting angle . . .

While The Vampires of Venice sped by at a good pace, mingling great moments of comedy and terror and suspense, the resolution to the story felt a a bit too much like a few endings we've seen from previous Doctor Who episodes. The Doctor climbing to the top of a building to deactivate the alien device was reminiscent of The Idiot's Lantern and Evolution of the Daleks. But because of the rest of the episode's quality, I will forgive it.

Amy does not appreciate fish-lobster-boy Francesco to be on top of her boyfriend. It's really a compromising position.

When in danger, use a beauty mirror.

Besides being a stellar episode, there were a few other things that made The Vampires of Venice even more brilliant. First, there was the appearance of the First Doctor (William Hartnell) courtesy of an old library card the Doctor was still carrying. Then the Doctor got electrocuted (maybe I shouldn't find it funny but I did, it was great! haha!). There was the stag party entrance, and the Doctor mentioning that he knows (or will know) Giacomo Casanova  (David Tennant, the previous Doctor, played the famous lover in a Russell T Davies scripted  miniseries titled Casanova). Also brilliant was the quality of the dialogue, and the entire feel of the episode really. Oh and Amy Pond, in a nighty, again.

Ok, now we may be in trouble . . .

The events of The Vampires of Venice also adds more weight to the Doctor's already heavy conscience. Not only does he have the end of his own race, the Time Lords, pressing heavily upon his mind, he now has the added burden of another extinct race. But why now? Is it possible that it will soon again play a role in the later stories? I mean, how much more can the Doctor take on his shoulders?

Holy crap Batman! Oops, wrong TV show!

Before concluding, I have to mention the incredible production values for The Vampires of Venice. The city of Trogir in Croatia perfectly stood-in for Renaissance Venice, and I believe this episode's historical reconstitution and feel is simply on par with The Shakespeare Code (which made great use of The Globe Theatre – The reconstruction not the original) and The Fires of Pompeii (which filmed on location at the Cinecitta studios in Rome – where HBO's Rome was filmed). The costumes were absolutely amazing (as are all BBC historical costumes and sets I have to say), and the cinematography worthy of any feature film I've seen. Cudos to the BBC production team.

That looks suspiciously like the famous crack.

I have to mention last, but not least, how much the end of the episode was chilling, when everything in Venice became silent and not a sound could be heard. The Silence is now coming to Earth. Remember: Silence will fall.

The Doctor feels more trouble is coming.

Last notes: The crack may have been seen as part of the parting clouds towards the end of the episode. We may have seen the future Doctor again, and now, Silence is here.

Next week's trailer for Amy's Choice looks absolutely fantastic and Toby Jones plays a villain calling himself the Dream Lord. I am so looking forward to it.

My grade for this episode: 9.2 /10 (yes, I decided to change my grading system)

What did you guys think of the episode? Let me know if you liked it or not and why.

Some favourite quotes:

Rosanna Calvierri: Why wait? Time ticks.

The Doctor: Rory! That's a relief! I thought I'd burst out of the wrong cake . . . again.

The Doctor: Now then. Rory. We need to talk about your fiancee. [a beat] She tried to kiss me. Tell you what though, you're a lucky man, she's a great kisser. [longer beat] Funny how you can say something in your head and it sounds fine.

The Doctor: [Being cross at Rory cause he didn't say the usual size comment when entering the Tardis] I like the bit when someone says it's bigger on the inside. I always look forward to that.

Amy: So, this date. I'm kinda done with running down the corridors.

Rory: Ahhhh . . . according to this I'm your Eunuch. . .

Francesco: Mother?
Rosanna: Mommy's hydrating Francesco (reminded me of ''Moisturize me'' from Cassandra).

The Doctor: Listen, I would love to stay here, this whole thing, I'm thrilled! Oh! This is Christmas!

Amy: [to the Doctor] Your daughter? You look about nine!

The Doctor: Right, OK, I'll go first. If anything happens to me . . .
Rory: What happened, between you and Amy? You said she kissed you.
The Doctor: Now? You want to do this now?
Rory: I have a right to know! I'm getting married in 430 years!

The Doctor: Frighten, [inaudible Amy?] was frighten. But we survived you know, and the relief of it, and so she kissed me.
Rory: And you kissed her back.
The Doctor: No. I kissed her mouth.

Rory: Yours is bigger than mine.
The Doctor: Let's not go there.

The Doctor: Stop talking. Brain thinking. Hush.

Rosanna: I need an answer Doctor, a partnership, any which way you choose.
The Doctor: I don't think that's such a good idea do you? I'm a Time Lord, you're a big fish. Think of the children.

The Doctor: Blimey! Fish in space have never been so . . . buxom!

Rosanna: You're too late. Such determination, just to save one city. Hard to believe it's the same man that let an entire race turn to cinders and ash. Now you can watch as my people take their new kingdom.

The Doctor: Shut up! Shut up!! That's better [to the huge bells ringing which he has just stopped]

Rosanna: One city to save an entire species . . . was that so much to ask?
The Doctor: I told you, you can't go back and change time. You mourn, but you live. And know Rosanna I did it.
Rosanna: Tell me Doctor, can your conscience carry the weight of another dead race? Remember us. Dream of us.

The Doctor: Rory, listen to that.
Rory: Uh? What? All I can hear is silence.


  1. What? Did the future Doctor show up again and I missed it? Gotta watch it again! Now I'm depending on your reviews to fully comprehend the episodes.

    I thought the story was rushed, I mean, it should have been more that one hour to tell it right or maybe it's just my thirst of the Doctor speaking.

    BTW, I thought it funny in the end when Amy called them "her boys" and Rory didn't like it.

  2. Wow Nathalie, I love your level of detail! You pointed out a lot of things that I had forgotten, which made me love the episode more! THANK YOU! I'm gonna read these every week!

  3. even though he was not credited in the episode it was good to see Benard Cribbins back hunting for Aliens {illegal Aliens}