Just how far would you go to get a child into a good school? That’s the opening question effectively posed by Vampires Of Venice, when a man takes his daughter, Isabella, to the Calvierri School in 1580 Venice. But what happens to the girls who attend the school? Why do the other girls there behave as they do? And why can’t these people spot a bad situation coming a country mile off?
And thus you settle down into what at first glance appears to be a conventional period Doctor Who adventure. Only, even before the credits have rolled, it’s apparent that there’s a bit more to it than that. That’s because Vampires Of Venice isn’t content to be a run-of-the-mill, standalone episode in the middle of a series. It’s got other business at hand too.
It’s worth noting from the off, too, that Matt Smith makes one of the Doctor’s best entrances here. Yet still it’s an episode that – not for the first time this series – doesn’t entirely do what you might expect it to do.
Still, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Reading around some Internet forums in the last week, there seems in certain quarters to be some apathy towards Vampires Of Venice. Certainly after the double bill we’ve been treated to over the past fortnight, it had a tough act to follow. But it’s, as it turns out, a bit of a blast. And it once more leaves you wondering where the really duff episode of the series is coming from. Because the worst we’ve had for the past six instalments is really entertaining telly.
Vampires Of Venice picks up pretty much where we left things at the end of Flesh And Stone, and for the first time since The Eleventh Hour, it brings Amy’s husband-to-be Rory into the action. He, Amy and the Doctor end up in Venice (courtesy of a quite funny opening scene or two), and inevitably they soon find themselves drawn to Calvierri’s school.
That’s where we find the vampires of the episode, and that’s where we find out that there’s more of a job to be tackled than is first apparently obvious.
If that sounds a little bit like traditional Doctor Who, then to an extent it is. What’s more, Toby Whithouse’s script has a great deal of fun with it, throwing in some classic Who bits and pieces to great effect, in a knowing and quite brilliant way (just witness Amy early in the episode noting that she’s fed up of running down corridors). Furthermore, his dialogue crackles too across the episode, and he’s structured a story that fits a single episode like a glove.
We should spare a quick word too on the special effects. Even though we tend to mention them in the reviews, we’re long-time Who fans, and the effects never really make or break an episode for us. But it’s worth noting here that you get some of the best effects work of the series, even if one or two scenes don’t look entirely convincing.
What also happens in Vampires Of Venice is that the weight on the Doctor’s shoulders, and more specifically his mind, continues to escalate. It’s almost getting dull to say that Matt Smith’s performances in the lead role are terrific, but once again, he’s on tip-top form here. The Doctor doesn’t have to stretch himself particularly hard this week, but it’s not tricky to sense that there’s more than one story arc at work here.
We’re not, as usual, going to go much more into the details of the story here, save for acknowledging that Whithouse – the creator of Being Human, of course – has done sterling work here.
But if you were one of the Vampires Of Venice doubters, then – while it’s not the best episode of the series – you can put your fears away. This is another really good episode of a show that remains in quite brilliant form.
Our spoiler-filled review will be live tomorrow night…