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10 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 799: The Vampires of Venice

Dear diary,

I don’t know if it’s still a lingering hang-over from just how good The Shakespeare Code looked back in Series Three, but the location work for this story never really felt… right to me. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there’s some lovely footage in here, and some great locations used to represent Venice, but something feels… I don’t know. Off about it all. Maybe it’s because everywhere is quite washed out whereas The Shakespeare Code and The Fires of Pompeii really used colour to make a point in their locations? The Vampires of Venice always seemed to be a little beige by comparison. It also flags up a problem I had with Series Five at the time that I have to admit I’ve been somewhat struggling to find this time around - the feeling of things looking a bit cheap or empty on screen. I think I was probably recalling the Dalek spaceship in some ways, but the scene when the Doctor confronts Rosanna looks really bare. They’ve simply placed a throne prop into an otherwise empty room, and it just doesn’t have the impact that the designs for those other historical I’ve mentioned did.

It’s also a little bit of a shame that having gone all the way to Croatia to get some nice locations for bits of this story, it gets let down by some of the weakest CGI the programme has seen for quite some time. There are a few shots where water has been added in to represent the canals which really doesn’t work (I still don’t know if - five years on - we’re at a point where realistic CGI water can be done on a TV budget), and the clouds during that final sequence are so laughably bad that I’m almost astounded they were actually signed off for broadcast. It’s a good job that Doctor Who has a bit of a history of dodgy effects, because this episode certainly places on the scale somewhere quite high! That said, there’s some nice moments where the human characters are morphed into their CGI counterparts rather convincingly, so perhaps it’s just a case of the money being spent in different places?

All of this somewhat marry the story for me, because I’m too busy looking at elements of bad effects, or musing on how empty some of the shots look, to really get caught up in the events of the narrative. Oh, there’s some very nice moments in here, and it feels as though the writing team have finally landed on the way to write the Eleventh Doctor (this is perhaps the first time that there have been sequences that feel tailor-made for Smith), but I’m just not able to get sucked into the tale the way I have the past week or so. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either - it’s, again, just a bit beige.

If I had to pick a highlight from this story, then it would have to be Rory. First time around, I never really got the love for Rory as a character. H was alright, I supposed, but he wasn’t anything especially special. This time, though, I can see that that’s exactly his charm - he’s the character that we’d all be if we were suddenly thrust into the Doctor’s lifestyle. The Eleventh Hour, The Best Below, and Victory of the Daleks all went out of their way to make Amy look like perfect companion material, but this story does completely the opposite for Rory - making him a bit weak, and a bit silly, and a bit bumbling. His trying to fight off a ‘vampire’ with a broom, and making a mess of trying to get Amy into the school are exactly what makes him work - and I’m looking forward to seeing if I connect better with him on this watch through.

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