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Doctor Who: The Vampires of Venice ★★★★

Rory joins the Tardis in Toby Whithouse’s sumptuous Venetian adventure

Published: Friday, 18th October 2013 at 6:23 pm
A star rating of 4 out of 5.

Story 207


Series 5 – Episode 6

The Doctor bursts out of a cake at Rory’s stag do and takes him and his fiancée Amy on a “romantic” date to Venice in 1580. The travellers befriend Guido, a boat builder whose daughter has been enlisted into the House of Calvierri. The school is run by the severe Signora Rosanna and her lustful son Francesco, who are turning the young women in their charge into vampires. The Doctor realises that Rosanna is a fish-like alien predator from Saturnyne. Fleeing the crack in time, she and her kind have taken refuge on Earth – and she intends to sink Venice so that her children can feast on the locals.

First UK transmission
Saturday 8 May 2010

November 2009 to February 2010. Trogir, Croatia; Bowls Inn, Caerphilly; Atlantic College, Llantwit Major; Llancaiach Fawr, Treharris; Caerphilly Castle; Castle Coch, Cardiff; Venice; Upper Boat Studios.

The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill
Rosanna Calvierri – Helen McCrory
Guido – Lucian Msamati
Isabella – Alisha Bailey
Francesco Calvierri – Alex Price
Inspector – Michael Percival
Steward – Simon Gregor
Vampires – Gabriella Wilde, Hannah Steele, Elizabeth Croft, Sonila Vieshta, Gabriela Montaraz

Writer – Toby Whithouse
Director – Jonny Campbell
Producers – Tracie Simpson, Patrick Schweitzer
Music – Murray Gold
Production designer – Edward Thompson
Executive producers – Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis

RT review by Patrick Mulkern
Unusually, and against my better instinct, I actually watched a Doctor Who Confidential before seeing the episode it lays bare. In spring 2010, I sauntered down Wood Lane to BBC TV Centre to see a rough cut in DWC’s London office. Then the producer Gillane Seaborne invited me to a special screening of the final trim for cast and crew at a swanky club in Soho.

For practical reasons, Doctor Who had to avoid modern Venice 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. There’s a lovely moment when Matt and Toby explain the plot to a bemused Francesco, who laughs, “As a Venetian I start to feel a little alien.”

At the Soho do, I tackled Steven Moffat on the vexed issue of finalising episode titles. In Radio Times (3 April 2010) he’d given us Vampires in Venice. Our preview DVD read Vampires of Venice, but Toby Whithouse held out for The Vampires of Venice – how it appears on screen.

But what of the episode? 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 is magical, eerie, decaying… One of my “Desert Island Movies”, Don’t Look Now, positively drips Venice. So I longed to see a Doctor Who filmed in Venice.

The Vampires of Venice was shot in Croatia. But I have to say the Who crew pulled off an impressive illusion. Trogir, a few hundred miles away down the Adriatic coast, is a relic of the Venetian empire. The many Welsh locations are well chosen. 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 (apparently, that really was her jumping in the water) and Alex Price. He was ghostly Gilbert in Being Human series one and would narrate 2010’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. Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill have forged a dynamic, quirky threesome.


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