This review may contain spoilers.
After a smattering of episodes that have been underwritten and overly diluted by the growing crack-in-the-wall plotline, “Vampires of Venice” brings “Doctor Who” back to what it does well; interesting plots and chilling creatures.
Forget the whimper on which “Flesh and Stone” concluded, “Vampires of Venice” remains the most gripping and entertaining outing yet with the Doctor (Matt Smith) working to fix the broken relationship between Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill). And what better place is there to do it than Venice, the city of romance.
But as the trio take in the sights that ancient Venice has to offer they soon discover something slightly amiss … vampires. And what’s more, they have a dastardly plan to sink the city and bring about an alien invasion.
It all sounds terribly sinister, but what makes the episode such a delight is that it never quite takes itself seriously. Even in the most impossible situations (like being locked in a tomb filled with vampires), the Doctor somehow finds the adventure fun and aloof (as nicely demonstrated by his outburst, “Well this is Christmas”).
Given the ending to the previous episode, the relationship between the Doctor and Amy is pushed slightly to the side in order to allow for some more substantial development of Rory, whom we’ve seen only briefly in the season opener.
Arthur Darvill manages to play the boyfriend card without trending on the same ground as Noel Clarke, the last major tag-along companion, and delivers his lines with remarkable conviction. No one has quite played the bumbling oaf role quite like Darvill and he creates a very fun and interesting dynamic to the series.
There are some scenes of genuine amusement to the episode, such as the Doctor bursting out of a cake as Rory’s bachelor party, Amy’s simple proclamation that she’s had it when running down corridors and a glimpse of William Hartnell.
What Didn’t Work
The Doctor bursting out of Rory’s cake was a good chuckle for all the family but there is something odd about including the setting of a stag party in a family drama … especially one where our hero boldly announces the bride-to-be tried to kiss him.
The vampire fangs were also slightly disappointing, as was the special effects which have so obviously taken a hit this season.
Helen McCrory could have been a much more poignant villainess had it not been for the restrictions in place to keep her character, Rosanna, more of a light hearted queen issuing orders. The same holds true for Francesco (Alex Price), who is also far to camp and flamboyant to be taken as a genuine threat.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Doctor Who” stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. “Vampires of Venice” was written by Toby Whithouse and directed by Jonny Campbell.
“Doctor Who” airs Saturdays at 6.20 p.m. on BBC One in the United Kingdom and at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.