Doctor Who Review: Vampires Of Venice
Monsters and Doctor Who are inseparable.
They rely on each other for existence both in the real life of the television series, where the monsters are certainly one of the reasons viewers tune in every week, and in the fiction itself, where a Doctor who did not meet and battle monsters would hardly seem like the Doctor at all.
Traditional rules for Doctor Who have monsters that are great and wonderful but somewhat see through and a bit repetitive. They all want to take over the earth, they all want ultimate power and they all want more then they rightly deserve, and only the Doctor can stop them.
But Vampires Of Venice changes this concept, not in the goals of the threat the alien proposes as we have seen races kill for survival before, but the story actually changes the monsters from classic Hammer vampires to a race of aliens who resemble fish, a move that is slightly odd, but brave. It allowed for a story that was not weighed down by Doctor Who’s vampire continuity, but also led to a tale that kind of jarred you a bit, not badly, but enough to make you take notice. One minute your up for a nice vampire tale and the next a species who disguised themselves as vampires take over as the central focal point of the story.
The modern era of Doctor Who has focused a lot on how the Doctor is the last of his kind, so it does create the required tension for him to face another race on the brink of disaster, clinging to life, and to see how the Doctor equates what he feels to be just and fair with knowing what it feels like to have your species die out. Was I alone in wondering if he can watch another alien life form go into extinction like he has seen so many times before?
This makes for some very powerful material to be sure but this is one part of a larger tale, one that involves love and fresh starts as much as destruction and endings, as seen through a son’s devotion to his mother and the opening moments where the Doctor tries to sort out Rory and Amy’s relationship issues. The result isa very cramped forty eight minutes, but still paced so that you can take in the sights and sounds without ever feeling that you have missed anything important.
Intriguing as the aliens plans and actions always are in Doctor Who, Vampires of Venice also has a comedy flavor to it from the opening pre title sequence, something that continues on through out the story, for as scary as the situation is, you can’t help but laugh at Rory trying to sword fight with a broom stick or a man riding a gondola through 16th century Venice wearing a shirt that proclaims ‘Rory’s Stag’. This element juxtaposes with the horrific and science fiction elements just enough without taking away from the whole of the adventure, making for a nice mix of emotions and elements.
Matt Smith continues to shine as the Doctor. I’m becoming a bigger fan of his interpretation every week and from the moment he pops out of Rory’s stag cake he pulls you into the fantasy world of Who.Â You can see this Doctor definitely has a personality separate from his former selves, one worthy of the weight the Doctor himself has to hold as a character; a blend of compassion and contained sorrow and rage which Smith carries off well, making the future growth potential of his Doctor very good indeed.
Amy and Rory were fine but a bit boring, but mainly I think that is because we have seen this kind of thing before;Â in Series 1 (way back in 2005) Rose reunites with Mickey in Boomtown. Not that I’m actively trying to compare the two eras but it just felt the same to me somehow. Although – what else can you do with a scene where people who were separated by the Doctor’s intervention reunite after one of them has seen beyond our normal cozy everyday world (a situation the Doctor attempts to diffuse)?
Vampires might not be to every one’s taste but there is surely enough to sink your teeth into and enough of a mixture of comedy and horror/fantasy to satisfy any and all. Toby Whithouse has done something original with two old time, worn concepts, melding them together to make a third product which although a little rushed it does well as a good mid-season episode that adds to the wide variety of different settings and situations we have been shown so far this year.