Given his success with vampires and other creatures of nightmare in Being Human and his previous success with School Reunion, Toby Whitehouse was a logical choice to bring vampires back into the Doctor Who universe for the first time since The Curse of Fenric way back in 1989 (then called Haemovores).
This is truly a cod horror tale (ouch) with giant space fish disguising themselves as humans and being mistaken for vampires in 16th century Venice. And that’s a flaw of the episode right there: just give us “proper” vampires instead of another set of undercover aliens. Doctor Who has always spun old Hammer Horror tales well (most of the early Tom Baker years exist because of the studio’s legacy). Quite disappointing that the wonderful vampiric brides turn out to be fish, albeit with a fine idea of dress and hair styling.
Come to think of it there are many parallels with School Reunion: the educational establishment, the grand leader having a face-down with the Doctor via a polite chat, the area being sealed off for the final phase of the master plan. Granted the series has always ripped off, sorry, paid homage to various sources of literature and film but reworking the previous script you wrote for the series could be taking it all one step too far. Though Terry Nation never let that stop him with the majority of his Dalek romps.
Romp is a good way of describing the sixth story of Matt Smith’s era with the Doctor enjoying himself immensely when he encounters the “vampire brides” (and a great link to the past with the appearance of the First Doctor’s library card – a lovely nod to the fans that doesn’t alienate the new viewers in any shape or form).
Following Mickey’s “tin dog” role in the earlier story, Rory takes his place aboard the TARDIS with Amy and the Doctor at the conclusion of the story after proving himself worthy. You have to feel sorry for him in many ways. There he is getting nicely pissed on the eve of his wedding to Amy and “the raggedy Doctor” re-enters his life by jumping out of a cake at his stag night. Within minutes he’s aboard the TARDIS and being whisked off to Venice with his bride-to-be for a romantic break, which naturally ends up being nothing of the sort.
The Classic Series did several overseas jaunts (Paris, Amsterdam, Lanzarote, Spain) with only City of Death having a valid and logical reason for the journey. The modern voyages have been off travelling too but without much success. New York was only visited for background shots for Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks whilst The Fires of Pompeii and Planet of the Dead enjoyed more extensive shoots (though the latter hardly seemed worthwhile in any shape or form). With The Vampires of Venice the journey to Croatia for extensive filming pays off in trumps. Can you honestly tell what was filmed on the banks of the Adriatic and what was filmed on the banks of Cardiff Bay? The matching of the the locations is flawless and brings a grandeur to the story that would have been lacking without the decision to get the passports out and head to the airport.
The Doctor’s position as the last of his race is revisited in the final scenes as he is forced to go down the route of genocide in order to safeguard the future of humanity. But the silence is coming and there may be nothing he can do to stop it…