Wednesday, December 14, 2016

From Pretty Much The Beginning, We Know They're Not "The Vampires Of Venice!"

The Good: Performances are all right, The special effects are generally good
The Bad: Moments of silly characterization, Somewhat contrived premise for the adversary, Repetitive character interactions for fans of Doctor Who.
The Basics: Only newbies to Doctor Who are likely to be surprised by the nature of "The Vampires Of Venice," though they are likely to be shocked by how lazy Toby Whithouse is in establishing the character dynamics in the episode.

When Matt Smith took over as The Doctor on Doctor Who, it was unclear what his incarnation of The Doctor would be all about. He was, almost immediately, portrayed as something of a buffoon, as new executive producer and head writer Steven Moffat pushed the show (and The Doctor) more obviously in the direction of humor. For those of us who enjoy deep, serious, science fiction, this was a bit of a disappointment. By the time "The Vampires Of Venice" came up, I (at least) was unimpressed with Matt Smith as The Doctor. Smith's Doctor was often overshadowed by Karen Gillan's Amy Pond. When the new Doctor was introduced in "The Eleventh Hour" (reviewed here!), audiences had no idea how important the character of Rory - played by Arthur Darvill - would be to the narrative. However, in "The Vampires Of Venice," fans had good cause to believe that Steven Moffat was simply retreading where Doctor Who had gone before with Russell T. Davies; The Doctor, Amy and Rory have a troublingly similar dynamic to The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston's incarnation), Rose, and Mickey ("the idiot").

"The Vampires Of Venice" continues the trend of characterizing Matt Smith's incarnation of The Doctor as goofy and given the menace of aliens who have vampiric qualities, the episode works hard to not appear as obvious as it actually is.

Amy follows The Doctor into the TARDIS, hoping that he will bed her, but instead she finds he is obsessed with figuring out exactly what the nature of the crack in the universe that has been following Amy is. As The Doctor and Amy head off to Rory's stag party, in 1580's Venice, Guido gives his daughter into the care of Lady Rosanna Calvieri, much to Isabella's horror (when the nature of her family is revealed to Isabella). At Rory's stag party, The Doctor leaps out of the cake and puts a damper on the party. To give Rory and Amy a Wedding gift, The Doctor takes the pair back in time to Venice. There, the team discovers that girls at Lady Rosanna Calvieri's school are being kept from their family's, like Isabella.

When The Doctor and Amy realize that the girls from the school are suddenly photosensitive, no not appear to have reflections, and have fangs (as well as the discovery of some exsanguinated victims around Venice), they momentarily believe that Venice has been infested with vampires. The Doctor, however, does not believe in vampires and soon they discover just what kind of life forms have infested Venice and they have to work to stop them before Amy, who is undercover in their school, becomes their next victim!

Almost from the outset, "The Vampires Of Venice" mimics "The Aliens Of London" (reviewed here!) in its character dynamic. The Doctor is dismissive of Rory - who is characterized the moment he has lines and his own scene in the TARDIS as smart, aware, and loving of Amy. Despite having figured out the nature of the TARDIS before the events of "The Vampires Of Venice," it takes the bulk of the episode before Rory bothers to change out of his 2010 garb, which makes little sense. Rory, however, is presented as more initially self-actualized than Micky was. Rory challenges The Doctor on the influence he has over his Companions and seeing the young man stand up to The Doctor is pretty satisfying.

A significant chunk of "The Vampires Of Venice" is preoccupied with defining the nature of the alien adversaries. Doctor Who is not the kind of television show that would suddenly buy into the vampire craze and make vampires real on Earth as part of the continuing narrative of the television show. Instead, the apparent vampires are, of course, aliens and that is hardly surprising or original.

"The Vampires Of Venice" is notable for the way it makes another off-handed reference to The Silence. The adversaries in "The Vampires Of Venice" are fleeing the cracks in space that have followed Amy and The Doctor around the first few episodes and in this episode, The Doctor learns that more aliens than Prisoner Zero and its jailer have passed through the cracks.

Matt Smith and Karen Gillen play The Doctor and Amy as carefree adventurers for the bulk of "The Vampires Of Venice." Until the last act, the two are largely easygoing and bordering on outright goofy. Their performances contrast the acting of Arthur Darvill and Helen McCrory, who both play their roles - Rory and Lady Rosanna, the primary adversary of the episode - far more seriously than the two leads. It makes it that much harder to invest in the episode's menace when the supporting characters play drama, while the leads are going for comedic.

The net result is an inconsistent episode that ages poorly the more one views or considers it.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of Matt Smith as The Doctor here!

For other works with Helen McCrory, please visit my reviews of:
The Harry Potter Saga
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Becoming Jane
The Queen
The Count Of Monte Cristo


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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