The Doctor returns Amy to her own time, and decides to take her and her fiancee Rory on a romantic getaway – namely, Venice in 1580. But almost as soon as the TARDIS brings them there, it’s obvious that something is amiss. Venice is under the thrall of the reclusive House of Calvierri, from whose elite school no pupil ever returns. The father of one girl who has been enrolled in this school is demanding to see proof that his daughter is alive and well, and his demands are met with threats of violence. The Doctor and Amy both see members of the Calvierri inner circle reveal vampire-like teeth, but the despite all the traditional signs of vampires – no reflections in a mirror, sharp teeth, drinking blood – the Doctor thinks these vampires are actually aliens. When he discovers a plan to repopulate a nearly-extinct species by transforming Earth into a suitable environment, the Doctor may be left with no choice but to ensure their extinction to save humanity.
written by Toby Whithouse
directed by Jonny Campbell
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Arthur Darvill (Rory), Helen McCrory (Rosanna), Lucian Msamati (Guido), Alisha Bailey (Isabella), Alex Price (Francesco), Gabrielle Wilde (Vampire Girl), Hannah Steele (Vampire Girl), Elizabeth Croft (Vampire Girl), Sonila Vieshta (Vampire Girl), Gabrielle Montaraz (Vampire Girl), Michael Percival (Inspector), Simon Gregor (Steward)
Notes: This episode marks the first appearance of the ninth and tenth Doctors’ psychic paper in the eleventh Doctor’s possession. He also has a library card, under the name of Dr. J. Smith, bearing a photo of his first incarnation. The Doctor has visited Venice in previous incarnation in a variety of audio stories; the fourth Doctor has a fateful encounter with alien insects there in Hornets’ Nest: A Sting In The Tale, while the eighth Doctor visited Venice in the future in The Stones Of Venice. With the exception of a few background shots, none of this episode was actually filmed in Venice itself; a city in Croatia proved to be a more cost-effective location, with a variety of lighting tricks and digital effects evoking the look of Venice. The documentary series Doctor Who Confidential, however, did take Matt Smith and writer Toby Whithouse on location to Venice, stirring up election-year controversy over whether the BBC was making the best use of the funds it gets from the British public via the televison license tax.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Vampires are a tricky thing to pull off in Doctor Who. Long before Buffy and the Twilight series of movies and books make bloodsucking a popular pastime, the dean of Doctor Who script editors, Terrance Dicks, wrote a 1980 script which intertwined vampire mythology with Time Lord mythology, making vampires an alien race that Rassilon himself had beaten back into submission. Since then, it’s hard to do a vampire story without having to somehow give a nod to State Of Decay. The audio stories squeaked by – barely – with another race of vampires in the gritty sixth Doctor story Project: Twilight, and short-circuited vampire mythology in Son Of The Dragon. And The Vampires Of Venice earns a handy exemption too, mainly by revealing that its titular vampires are not really vampires.
The show’s pre-credits teaser is a bizarre morsel of awkwardness, offering further proof that the eleventh Doctor just doesn’t have the same suave cool of his previous two incarnations. Matt Smith has settled into the role nicely, and this scene and numerous others in Vampires really begin to showcase the eleventh Doctor’s distinct, brilliantly scatterbrained personality. The scene in which he produces an out-of-date library card by way of identification – out-of-date enough to bear William Hartnell’s publicity photo! – and then demands “Tell me the whole plan!” is a gem (and it’s probably no mistake that this scene was picked as a taster for the entire season even before The Eleventh Hour‘s premiere. Anyone worried about Amy’s attempt to bed the Doctor at the end of Flesh And Stone can rest easy too – she’s genuinely happy to be reunited with Rory, and she fills out the job description of companion handily, what with chasing after a vampire rather than running away from it.
Rory, for his part, is petrified at the implications of what goes on in the Doctor’s travels, and tries to stand up for Amy anyway; in this respect he reminds me a lot of the rapidly-maturing Joxer from season 3 onward of Xena: Warrior Princess – sure, he’s comic relief, but you believe and, more importantly, like him as a person. I’m glad to see him staying aboard the TARDIS at the end of the show – maybe he’ll get to surpass the untapped potential of Mickey Smith’s all-too-brief stint as a TARDIS crew member.
This is one instance where the location filming really pays off (unlike, say, Planet Of Fire confusingly using Lanzarote as both an alien planet and Lanzarote, or the could-have-been-filmed-anywhere feel of some of Fires Of Pompeii‘s Rome location shoot). With a good deal of digital trickery, Croatia is surprisingly effective as a stand-in for Venice, and Vampires Of Venice winds up with a unique look as a result. It’s a nice stand-alone adventure, even with the hints of the season’s larger story arc tacked on abruptly at the end of the episode.