Our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, is journeying through all of time and space to bring us his thoughts on every available Doctor Episode. Today is the Eleventh Doctor adventure The Vampires of Venice...
The Vampires of Venice is a disappointment. Normally 'New' Doctor Who suffers from trying to get in too much in too short a time but here I think there's not enough. It's a bog-standard Doctor knocks off new Monster in passing whilst we focus on the bigger picture stories.
Sometimes 'New' Doctor Who stories suffer from a sort of fictional insecurity when they're not key parts of whatever arc the showrunner is obsessed with at the time. They're kind of throw away entertainments. Neither awful nor good The Vampires of Venice is one of those stories. It's all just feels like a first draft. Or a final draft that no one was paying proper attention to because they were all distracted by the big shiny story arc which gets a nod here.
There are some nice moments, but that can be said about the whole of The Moff's era. It's all about the cool moments: The Doctor popping out of the cake at Rory's stag night in the pre-credits sequence, Rory's brave but incompetent battle against Guido, Rory's stinging telling off of the Doctor for being dangerous because people want to impress him...in fact there's a pattern here.
The best thing in this story, for me, is Arthur Darvill's Rory who is both comic relief and the most normal person in Doctor Who since Griffin the Chef in The Enemy of the World. Darvill has fantastic comic timing and can act without looking like he's acting, which is one hell of a talent. His addition to the TARDIS crew is a good thing. He's bounces off both Matt Smith and Karen Gillan as well as making both better.
Although I'm a bit disappointed with Matt Smith in this story. He's great in parts but also on occasion I think he's relying too much on ticks and tricks. He's still damn good to watch but sometimes you just want him to do a little bit less.
Maybe I'm just grumpy.
Helen McCrory is rather brilliant as Rosanna though. Another fine actress whose talents are almost wasted in the part but who - paradox alert - makes Rosanna a far better character as a result. The balance in a performance between acting and writing fascinates me. How much of a good performance is the lines and how much the acting? Great actors can make (mostly) banal lines seems golden, bad actors can make Shakespeare as clunky as a clunky thing.
So yes, I think Helen McCrory is a far better actress than a part like Rosanna deserves but because she is such a good actress she makes Rosanna a far more memorable character. The scene between her and Matt Smith, which ends with the Doctor angry that she couldn't remember the late lamented Isabella's name, is brilliant. And that's because of McCrory. In the hands of an average actress it would probably be nothing more than yet another dull clash between the Doctor and a villain.
Conclusion: reasonably entertaining but tediously average in both ambition and result. If I were a teacher I'd be finishing this with that tried and tested phrase: "Could do better."
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.