Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Review: Doctor Who 5.6: The Vampires of Venice

The Calvierris
Doctor Who - Season 31, Episode Six - The Vampires of Venice
Written 16/11/12 

If there's one writer within Moffat's inner circle who's qualified to talk about Vampires it is most definitely Toby Whithouse, who over the past four years has made it his special subject. His four scripts for Doctor Who have all been incredibly interesting, and his last two have been some of my favourites in their respective seasons. It seems to me that Whithouse really manages to balance out all of the Doctor's attributes in this incanation, taking the harsh, noisy analogue of Moffat's writing and filtering it into something clean, digital and much more real. His first go at Eleven, Vampires of Venice isn't perfect, but it certainly embodies a simple sense of fun with the series that Series Five hits on the head.
      After Amy's attempt to bonk him the previous week, The Doctor crashes Rory's stag party to pick him up as a new companion, taking him with Amy off on a romantic trip to Medieval Venice. There, they discover a small segment of the city being controlled by the Countess Calvierri (Helen McCrory, known to the world as Narcissa Malfoy) who takes young girls and keeps them locked in her private boarding school. When rower Guido asks The Doctor for help to save his daughter, the team uses Amy as a mole and investigates the school. They find that the Calvierri family, while appearing to humanity as vicious vampires, are in fact large alien fish who are using the girls as hosts for more of their species and plan to flood Venice to form a new home on Earth.
     Despite the deriviative (marine Vampires, like in The Curse of Fenric) and somewhat plot-holey (have these guys never heard of Oceans?) nature of the main plot, it does provide a good setting for quite a bit of character work as well as the old-style Doctor Who runaround. Whithouse passes up on the opportunity to use Being-Human style villains and instead manages to make Rosanna Calvierri mildly sympathisable as an alien mother only wishing to prevent her species from going extinct. The problem comes with that plot hole; the idea that this species has technology capable of flooding an entire city and yet doesn't realise that if they scooch their fishy asses a few miles down the road they've got more water than you could ever really need.
Vampires. In Venice. Cue obligatory Being Human joke.
     At this stage, the character work is still embryonic and Whithouse, being really good at that sorta thing, doesn't disappoint. Amy and Rory work as a couple, their characterisations, for the moment, being semi-realistic and relatable. As opposed to the character he's arguably emanating at this point, Mickey, Rory is blas√© about the actual tech side of things but can't initially keep up with The Doctor's lifestyle. It's nice to see people actually acting like people would, something that a lot of the New Series lacks. But it's balanced nicely by the hammyness given to Calvierri, and it's a really nice balance that allows us the best of both worlds.
     There are quite a few problems with Vampires' core concept that prevent it from being truly brilliant, but its mix of good ideas and well-executed characterisations make it an enjoyable Doctor Who runaround that Whithouse can be proud of. It's nowhere near as simply cerebral as The God Complex or A Town Called Mercy, but it instead fits Series Five like a glove and it's certainly got its fair share of fun moments.


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