This week’s blog is highly Confidential – with a capital C. Unusually, and against my better instinct, I actually watched a Doctor Who Confidential before seeing the episode it lays bare.
First, I took a saunter down Wood Lane to see a rough cut in DWC’s London office, and then producer Gillane Seaborne kindly invited me to a special screening of the final trim for cast and crew at a swanky club in Soho.
She’s justly proud of this latest edition. For practical reasons, Doctor Who avoided modern Venice like the plague (ahem!) but its sister show threw in a jaunt to La Serenissima for Matt Smith and writer Toby Whithouse, reeling in Signore Venezia himself, historian Francesco Da Mosto. I love the moment when Matt and Toby explain the plot to a bemused Francesco, who laughs, “As a Venetian I start to feel a little alien.”
Silver fox Francesco was at the Soho event, as were several Who luminaries. I pressed palms with Steven Moffat and congratulated him on his Angels two-parter, and he revealed he’s still signing off final edits on certain episodes (7 and 11 were the last in the can) and busy planning his second series.
We also burbled on a bit about the vexed issue of finalising titles. In Radio Times (3 April) Moffat gave us Vampires in Venice. Our preview DVD reads Vampires of Venice, but Toby Whithouse held out for The Vampires of Venice – how it appears on screen.
My sharp-eyed RT colleague Gill Crawford thought she spotted a few vampire actresses among the throng, and had an extended mind-meld with Mr Whithouse about his hit series Being Human, on which she is expert. A third run is filming soon and should air early next year, plus he hopes to pen more Who.
But what of tonight’s episode, I hear you ask? Well, I’m often bugged when modern Who isn’t filmed where it’s set (as long as that setting is on Earth, of course!). I had a problem with Daleks (clearly not) in Manhattan and The Idiot’s Lantern plainly not filmed within 100 miles of Alexandra Palace. And I adore Venice. It’s magical, eerie, decaying… My all-time favourite movie, Don’t Look Now, positively drips Venice. So I longed to see a Doctor Who filmed in Venice.
This latest is shot in Croatia. But I have to say the Who crew have pulled off an impressive illusion. Trogir, a few hundred miles down the Adriatic coast, is a relic of the Venetian empire. The episode has a rich filmic sheen: the opening scene inside the House of Calvierri and the tunnel chases lit only by flambeaux are outstanding.
Terrific cast. Lucian Msamati (Mma Ramotswe’s love interest in The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), majestic Helen McCrory (was that really her jumping in the water..?) and Alex Price. He was (I’m told) ghostly Gilbert in Being Human series one and narrates all this year’s Doctor Who Confidentials.
The vampire girls are a scream with their bonces backcombed like Fenella Fielding in Carry On Screaming. I must admit I yawn at aliens disguised as humans. We’ve seen it so many times now. And Whithouse has used this device in Torchwood (Toshiko’s lesbian affair with a shapeshifter) and in his nostalgic Who, School Reunion (bat-like Krillitanes disguised as teachers).
But his script delivers lots of heroics and funny moments for the Doctor, Amy and Rory. A goofy Mr Ordinary, Rory grounds the drama in a way that ethereal Amy can’t and is a welcome addition to the Tardis crew.