(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)
“She was frightened, I was frightened… But we survived, and the relief of it and… so, she kissed me”
I expected ‘Vampires of Venice’ to be a filler episode. And it was a filler episode. I’m sick of Vampires. The ‘vampire’ phenomenon is resurrected every so often, and the latest resurrection probably began with the dreaded ‘Twilight’ novels. Since those terrible novels, we’ve had the film adaptions of said novels, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Being Human, and more. The appeal of vampires lies in their subtext; the repression and expression of sexual urges. Sexual desire is symbolised by the taking of blood, and the victim is physically invaded and taken over by the vampire. And obviously, this appeals mostly to teenagers, especially American teenagers. Due to the hefty influence of Christianity in America, many teenagers are sexually repressed (no sex before marriage), and grasp at any opportunity to express this repression. Vampire stories are a great way to express this repression of sexual urges. Surely that’s the only reason why the terrible Twilight novels have been so successful?
And thus ‘The Vampires of Venice’ fluidly continues from ‘Flesh and Stone,’ where Amy’s sexual advances were rejected by The Doctor. What better way to express that than have a vampire story? The most pressing issue was whether Doctor Who could anything different with the vampire phenomenon. Of course, they turned out to be aliens, ‘Sisters of the Sea’ from the planet Saturnine. Once again, the aliens were fairly poor CGI creations, but used sparsely to disguise the garishness. The aliens used ‘perception filters’ to cover their true form. This is not the first use of perception filters in Series 5: Prisoner Zero used on, and the Weeping Angels used them. Is there supposed to be a theme here, or just lazy storytelling? Perception filters are another hangover from the Russell T. Davies era, as an easy explanation for something peculiar.
After the super-seriousness of ‘Flesh and Stone,’ the audience needed some relief. However, this relief came from a RTD-esque love triangle, best shown in Series 1 with Mickey, Rose, and The Ninth Doctor. In ‘The Vampires of Venice,’ the tension between Amy, her fiancé Rory and The Doctor was fairly funny, but grated at times. It served a purpose in the story; The Doctor had no idea what to do about Amy’s advances so brought her fiancé into the mix and took them to Venice!
“You have no idea how dangerous you make people to themselves when you’re around”
So how were the ‘vampires’ utilised here? They were obviously an important part in repairing the fractured relationship between Amy and Rory. Even in ‘The Eleventh Hour,’ Amy seemed ambiguous to her “sort of boyfriend.” In the last episode, Amy metaphorically rejected Rory by telling The Doctor she was thinking about who she wants. Then she jumped on The Doctor. So, the storyline of this episode should be viewed as a parallel to this setting. Amy chooses to go undercover and join the House of Calvierri, for the thrill of adventure, much like she chose to join The Doctor for the same sense of adventure. And of course, there is always the element of danger in adventure. She’s ‘seduced’ by the Queen of the aliens, Rosanna Calvierri. And this seduction is completed by the usual vampire act of drinking blood from the neck; shorthand for sexual intercourse. And, if you think about it, ‘Flesh and Stone,’ this episode, and the next episode, ‘Amy’s Choice,’ make a story arc of their own. We have the real seduction in ‘Flesh and Stone,’ the metaphorical act of sex in this episode, and Amy’s pregnancy in ‘Amy’s Choice.’
As a filler episode, it stormed over tripe like ‘Boom Town,’ ‘Fear Her,’ and ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp.’ All of those must be included in a ‘Worst of Doctor Who’ list. VV, however, was entertaining. A logical plot, not an awful enemy, and quite a few laughs. Again, the direction and camerawork is brilliant. Venice looked stunning. Matt Smith improves in each episode, which seems like a hard feat itself, as he is simply superb alreadyAnd again, The Doctor had a choice; either let the aliens take over Venice, or extinguish their entire race. The former meant saving the species; the other meant consigning 200,000 humans to their death.
For a filler episode, it was more than adequate. Compared to the previous two episodes, it was a little light and fluffy, but it entertained. Not to a great extent, but it rarely gave me time for my mind to wander or my eyes to find the time. It continued the themes and subtext of ‘Flesh and Stone,’ whilst doing something a little bit different with the vampire sub-genre we are all too familiar with.
VERDICT: 7/10. An episode to pass the time, but one that I wouldn’t skip when rewatching Series 5!
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(Click here for my review of Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 5: Flesh And Stone)