Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Calvierri School for Finishing Girls

Astute viewers may notice some similarities between The Vampires of Venice and Toby Whithouse's previous Who script, School Reunion – voracious monsters disguised as humans; the low-key confrontation between the Doctor and the monsters' enigmatic spokesperson; the façade of a prestigious school; the companion's boyfriend playing lemon. By and large it all works well again, freshened up with a change of cast and a spot of location filming. Where it falls down is the ending.

The vampire girls have been dramatically dispatched, Amy and Rory have taken care of the Mummy's boy vampire, and all that's left is for the Doctor to talk chief vampire Rosanna into surrendering. Except that there's still ten minutes of the episode left to fill, so we have Rosanna switching on a machine that magically creates environmental chaos in Venice – including an earthquake, but not the tidal wave the Doctor says should follow – a bit of Batman-walking up the side of a bell tower, and the Doctor flipping the single switch that magically restores the Venetian environment to its former pristine condition. Switch the weather on, switch the weather off, sorted. Instant bobbins.

The episode was doing all right up until then. Nothing too taxing, just a pleasant spot of Hammer homage – ah, the old brushed-back hair and white shifts – and some pretty Croatian locations. (Well done, Croatia.) An innocuous, lightweight episode, a bit of a mid-season breather before next week's tricksy episode and the next two-parter.

Is it just me, or do all the best scenes in this episode have Rory in them? And yet I'd say it's not Rory himself, but the way the Doctor (and in the sword fight scene, Amy) plays off him that brings the scenes to life. I'm a bit hum-ho about Arthur Darvill, or at least about the way he's playing Rory – perhaps he'll grow on me. But the scenes are fantastic – the Doctor producing his ACME strip-light and awkwardly crashing the stag party are comedy gold, and there's some nice perceptive banter from Rory about the Doctor's character.

That's pretty much all I have to say about The Vampires of Venice. It'd be a fairly ordinary monster run-around if it weren't for the zingy comedy dialogue lifting it up, and the slack ending pulling it back down. I think it probably deserves a 6 out of 10.


Christopher Pittard said...

Well, I'll agree with that. I can't add anything more because my mind oddly slid off the surface of this one, probably because vampires are now the default setting for any kind of gothic nowadays and have become remarkably dull of late (and to think nobody remembers *Ultraviolet*...). Mind you, I will point out what every other reviewer in the UK noticed; namely, the staggering inconsistency of having vampires terrified of UV light, but quite happily wandering around daytime Venice. I'll say 5 out of 10, but only to be fair because I wasn't watching it properly.

John Toon said...

Well, they certainly had the rubbish teeth that seem to be de rigueur in all vampire stories these days.

Not *the exact same* rubbish teeth, that's not what I'm suggesting - it's part of the wonder and horror of it that in each case the vampire teeth are rubbish *in a completely different way*. Admittedly I haven't seen what the teeth in the Twiglet films look like; I'm working from the publicity stills from various recent US TV shows.

Re the apparent inconsistency regarding UV light, I think you're overlooking the powerful shielding properties of white veils and big swooshy capes.

The much better inconsistency I've seen mentioned is that Rosanna's entire costume is part of her hologrammatic disguise, yet she's able to discard bits of it before jumping into the canal.

John Toon said...

Oh, there is one other thing about this episode that I keep forgetting (not unlike the episode itself...) - it covers the business of the time crack sometimes doing one thing and sometimes another. Apparently they're all different cracks that happen to look the same. So that clears that up, at least.

Christopher Pittard said...

Y'see, I missed that entirely. Thinking about it further, I'm thinking of downgrading to a 3 out of 10, on the basis that if an episode largely set in a school for nubile young ladies can't hold my attention, then something is badly, badly wrong.

John Toon said...

Ah, you're not wrong there. The script still buoys it up for me, but I'm considering re-evaluating it as a 5. It's certainly a low 6.