When I first heard about last week's Doctor Who episode, "The Vampires of Venice", I had to wonder if they'd redone the Big Finish audio adventure "The Stones of Venice"
. The TV story takes place in 1580 while the audio is far into the future. Both involve The Doctor and his companion fleeing to Venice to get away from it all and each feature plots to sink Venice into the sea but that's about the only things they have in common.
The Doctor tries to take Amy's mind off of him and so gets her fiancée Rory to travel with them. Destination: Venice. 1580. With the Plague supposedly spreading once more, the city, under the leadership of Rosanna Calvierri, is under quarantine. Our hero learns that Calivierri runs a girls school only they don't seem to be getting much of an education. Instead the girls only develop a fear of sunlight. You can see where this is going.
I'll avoid a plot summary and hit the highlights.
Firstly, I have to admit that the co-ed vamps reminded me of the cursed women at Maiden's Point in "The Curse of Fenric"
. Also, I swear I heard some bassoon in the incidental music in the first half of the program. This is certainly a throwback to the 1970s and a welcome one at that. Quite fitting for a period piece.
So was it worth having Rory around? I can certainly see how involving him may add to or be essential to Amy's eventual fate but, barring that, I wish he could have been left at home. Back in the day, having multiple companions generally worked pretty well because a story lasted for nearly two hours. They could all get separated, in trouble, and rescued very handily in that time. What they did was to add more pieces to the puzzle. Today with stories usually lasting a bit more than 40 minutes, there's not enough time for everyone to add something and so Rory mostly stands around useless. He does lash out at The Doctor by telling him that people do stupid things in an attempt to impress him and, while this is an interesting and important little observation, he does little else.
The cinematography is great. I can only describe the colors as being oversaturated and pale at the same time. The paleness obviously reflects the presence of vampires and is best seen in the white stone of the buildings. Yet there is the green light of one particular chamber and the color of the water as well. A nice clash of colors yielding a wonderful look to the proceedings.
I do want to mention one thing which bugged me. The baddie brings on a large, violent storm in an attempt to sink Venice. The Doctor puzzles it out and disables the machine which was controlling the weather. I just didn't buy that the storm would dissipate in a few seconds leaving a nice sunny sky. Especially after one of the vampires getting a good dose of sunlight after the device had been activated.
And the whole crack in time & space thing continued. Rosanna, who is, unsurprisingly, not a human, explains that her home planet was lost when a great silence fell over it and she and her fellow remaining Saturnynians fell into the crack and ended up in Venice. With everything wrapped up, The Doctor, Amy, and Rory prepare to leave. As they enter the TARDIS, The Doctor notices that Venice falls into an eerie silence.
I liked "The Vampires of Venice". It was an old-style DW story: Doctor and Co. land in historical setting and find that not all is as it seems. There's an alien running around that The Doctor must stop plus he's got to rescue his companion as well. Very formulaic fun. And it looks great as well. But hearing that bassoon drew me back to when stories had time to unfold and mysteries were allowed to linger for a while. Companions spent more time in peril and there were more cliffhangers. The new Doctor Who has done some great things and includes some fantastic stories. Stuff like "Blink", "The Empty Child", and "Utopia" stand with anything the show has ever done. Plus we've got the updated SFX, The Doctor's loneliness as the last of his race, etc. Great stuff all. But we'll never have a "City of Death" or "Invasion of Time". The show can tell a great story in a short time as the new series has shown and as was done in the old series. "The Awakening" is an all-time favorite of mine yet is only 2 episodes (50 minutes) long. But, having been a fan of the show for 28 years, there are stories that I think beg for the old format.