In which the Doctor attempts to bring Amy and Rory closer together with a romantic trip to the city of Venice. Earlier, he had turned up at Rory's stag do, emerging from a cake instead of the planned stripper, and mentioning how his fiancee had kissed him. Neither Rory nor Amy are happy to be going on the trip. Rory distrusts his fiancee's relationship with the Doctor, whilst she is unhappy that she is no longer alone with the Doctor. The Doctor is unhappy that Rory is not as impressed with the TARDIS as he expected him to be. The ship materialises in Venice in the year 1580, and the Doctor meets an official who tells him that the city is closed to visitors because of the plague, on the orders of Signora Rosanna Calvierri. The Doctor uses his psychic paper to give them a clean bill of health. He knows that the region should be safe from plague at this time, so becomes suspicious of Calvierri. He goes to see her famous academy for girls and sees a man attempting to speak to one of the girls, only to be chased off. Amy and Rory, meanwhile, witness an attack on a woman in the street - the assailant being a smartly dressed young man - with razor sharp fangs. The Doctor had seen the school ladies bare similar fangs when the man had tried to approach them.
The Doctor tracks down the man - a boatmaker named Guido - who tells him that he had enrolled his daughter Isabella at the academy, only for hi to be told he would never be allowed to see her ever again. He now fears for her safety.
The Doctor decides that they must find out what is going on at the school and to free Isabella, so Amy volunteers to enroll. Rory borrows clothes from Guido and together they go to the school to meet Rosanna and her son Francesco - who is the young man they had earlier seen attack the woman in the street. Rory pretends to be Amy's brother to get her accepted. That night, Amy goes exploring as Guido has told her of a way into the school grounds. The Doctor and Rory will break in through this route, whilst Guido waits with a gondola to take them to safety. The Doctor discovers a corpse which has been drained of its bodily fluids. Amy is captured and taken to a room where she will be given a blood transfusion. She kicks out at Rosanna, and the woman momentarily appears as a fish-like alien - her true form. She had damaged a perception filter which makes her appear human. The Doctor meets the academy girls and finds that they appear to be vampires - which he deduces to be caused by the limitations of their perception filters. The eye can translate everything but their fangs.
The attempt to rescue Isabella fails and she is recaptured when she is unable to go into direct sunlight, but Amy manages to escape. The next morning, Isabella is executed by being thrown into the canal, which is full of tiny flesh-eating creatures.
At Guido's home, the Doctor tells everyone that he believes they are dealing with an alien race known as Saturnyns. They come from a nocturnal ocean planet. Guido reveals that he has been stealing and stockpiling gunpowder from the city arsenal, intending to blow up the academy. They hear a noise from upstairs - even though there is no upstairs. The girls from the academy suddenly appear at the window, floating above the street. Ultra-violet light reveals that they have been transformed into Saturnyns. Guido gets everyone outside before sacrificing himself to ignite the gunpowder - killing himself and the vampire women. The Doctor goes alone to the academy and confronts Rosanna. She reveals that her planet has been destroyed when silence fell and she and her son have come to Venice to create a new race of Saturnyns. The girls in the academy had been fed alien blood to turn them into her kind, whilst thousands of males wait in the canals to mate with them - the flesh-eating creatures which had killed Isabella. Amy and Rory, meanwhile, are attacked by Francesco. In the struggle, a mirror is used to force him into the sunlight where he is destroyed.
Rosanna's scheme is to sink the city using a device hidden in the school's tower which will trigger flooding and an earthquake. The Doctor is able to scale the tower and disable the device before it can destroy the city. Her plans ruined, Rosanna elects to kill herself by jumping into the canal with her perception filter still activated - meaning the male creatures won't differentiate her from a human.
Before leaving in the TARDIS the Doctor notices a break in the clouds which looks like a crooked smile, and silence momentarily falls over the city...
The Vampires of Venice was written by Toby Whithouse, and was first broadcast on 8th May, 2010.
Whithouse had previously written the episode School Reunion for the second series, after which he had created and written for the BBC 3 supernatural comedy-drama Being Human.
Despite being hugely popular supernatural creatures, Doctor Who had only rarely featured vampires up to this point. Count Dracula had appeared in The Chase, but this had proven to be merely a robot version in a House of Horrors funfair exhibit. The Doctor likened Magnus Greel to a vampire in that he drained his victims to feed himself. The first time vampires as we know them appeared in the series was in Season 18's State of Decay, a story which had been postponed from 3 years previously when the BBC decided that it might be construed as taking the mickey out of their proposed production of Dracula and had it cut. In this story vampires were real creatures, known on many planets, whose origins lay with a race which the Time Lords had fought against millennia ago.
In the final season before cancellation, the Seventh Doctor and Ace had encountered the Haemovores, which were blood-sucking devolved humans from the far future. The Curse of Fenric recounts how one of them had been brought back through time to the Dark Ages and its travels through Eastern Europe had given rise to vampire myths there.
Another blood-drinking alien had appeared in Season 3, with the Plasmavore which appeared in Smith and Jones.
It had been decided to film the scenes set in Venice on location in Croatia. The city of Trogir offered building similar to those found in Venice, with water features that could double for canals. To make the trip more cost effective, shooting would also take place for a story to be broadcast later in the series - Vincent and the Doctor - where the Croatian countryside would double for southern France.
The main guest star, playing Rosanna Calvierri, is Helen McCrory, who had just found international fame in the sixth of the Harry Potter films - The Half-Blood Prince - in which she played Narcissa Malfoy. She would go o to feature in the final two movies of the series, and is best known at the moment for her regular role of Aunt Polly in Peaky Blinders, which is about to begin its fifth series.
Playing her son Francesco is Alex price, who had featured in Being Human as The Smith's-loving ghost Gilbert. He went on to a regular role in the BBC's adaptation of the Father Brown detective stories.
Guido is Lucian Msamati, who has appeared in Game of Thrones, whilst Isabella is Alisha Bailey.
The story follows directly on from the coda to Flesh and Stone as the Doctor reacts to Amy's attempts to seduce him by getting her to spend time with her husband-to-be. However, there is another of the short Meanwhile in the TARDIS sequences which comes in between. In this, Amy wants to know about other people who have traveled with the Doctor over the years and tricks him into getting the ship to show images of them from its data banks - namely the female ones. This scene was only available on the DVD complete series box-set, and subsequent Blu-ray release.
As far as the story arc is concerned, Rosanna claims that her people fled from "the Silence" and escaped to Earth through a crack in the sky. The city goes silent at the end as the Doctor and Rory look up at the crooked smile break in the clouds. The camera then tracks into the TARDIS key-hole, which we see also looks a bit like the crack.
Significantly, Rory Williams is now travelling in the ship, so becomes a proper companion from this point on.
Overall, a very good story (everyone loves vampires) despite having some loose ends which don't seem to be addressed - such as the canals full of flesh-eating Saturnyns.
Things you might like to know:
- The city official who tries to stop the Doctor and friends from entering Venice was played by Michael Percival. He was the partner of Janet Fielding for many years, who played long-running companion Tegan Jovanka.
- The Doctor flashes his library card at one point, and it bears an image of the First Doctor, as played by William Hartnell. The image is a publicity shot from The Celestial Toymaker. The card gives his name as Dr J Smith, and his address as 76 Totters Lane, Shoreditch, London. This means that the Doctor was using the "John Smith" alias long before Jamie gave it to him in The Wheel in Space.
- The body of water into which Alisha Bailey was to be thrown, and into which Helen McCrory was to jump, was extremely cold. Not wanting the cast members to do anything she wouldn't do herself, Exec-Producer Beth Willis insisted on doing the jump herself first. They all wore wet-suits under their costumes.
- The Doctor mentions not wishing to bump into Casanova on arriving in Venice, glad they have arrived before his time. This might well be a reference to David Tennant having played Casanova in a production written by Russell T Davies just before he was offered the role of Matt Smith's predecessor.
- In designing the look for the female vampires, Steven Moffat wanted the classic Hammer Horror look. The film which illustrates this image best is 1960's The Brides of Dracula, which is set around a girls' school, and the vampire brides wear long white robes.
- Whilst the planet Saturnyne is mentioned a couple of times, Rosanna's race are never named on screen.
- It was noted at the time that both of Toby Whithouse's stories to date were centred around a school. There are other similarities in that both stories feature the boyfriend of the female companion joining the TARDIS crew - and being only grudgingly welcomed by her - and the aliens can disguise themselves as humans. School Reunion also shares themes of the impact which the Doctor has on his companions and their relationships.