Who Review – Episodes 6-9 (Series 5)
Vampires of Venice
by Toby Whithouse
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Vampires are popular. So here comes Doctor Who jumping onto the pasty-faced bandwagon with its very own take on the staurophobic (although I prefer the term crucifixaphobia), blood-sucking, garlic-hating, er, vampire-type people. Except anyone with any Who-knowledge will know that the Doctor has already had a run-in with vampires. And it happened waaaay back in the pre-Twilight/True Blood year of 1980. In fact, it is a well known piece of Gallifreyan lore that the Time Lords and the vampires fought a bloody war many, many eons ago. Well known to some people more than others I would imagine.
But Vampires of Venice doesn’t actually reference the classic tale in any way that I noticed. So is it just jumping on the vampire bandwagon? Probably.
But it’s a fun tale nonetheless, perhaps leaning a little toward the slapdashery side of things, especially toward the end. It’s penned by Toby Whithouse, who also wrote the series two tale, School Reunion, a tale which much of fandom seems to love, but one that I didn’t (despite Sarah Jane, K-9, and Anthony Stewart-Head). But overall, this episode is an enjoyable romp, and the addition of Rory to the Tardis team should prove to be a great device for some some good comic banter. And I should give props for the hilarious pre-title sequence – now that’s the kind of bachelor party I would enjoy…
by Simon Nye
Loads of potential with this episode, but it didn’t quite hit the mark. I’m not going to give a plot synopsis, because you can find that elsewhere…and I’m lazy, but suffice to say we have a new baddie in the form of the Dream Lord (played very well by Toby Jones), who seems to enjoy toying with his prey – whether they win or lose, it doesn’t really matter, as long as they’ve played the game.
There’s a ton of character development in this story, and, as usual, some wonderful humour. This out of any of the stories probably deserves a second viewing. I say that because the pacing just seems ever so slightly off. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but two instances spring to mind, one is the introduction of the Dream Lord, which doesn’t quite work for me dramatically, and the second is the conclusion of the story, which, again, I didn’t find completely satisfying. It’s far from bad however, and at times it is quite moving and heartfelt, with Amy delivering a great line to the Doctor after the apparent death of Rory: “Then what is the point of you?”
And of course the line, “If we’re going to die, let’s die looking like a Peruvian folk band”, is sure to become a classic, and quoted in university philosophy classes the world over.
The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood
by Chris Chibnall
I don’t believe there’s any such thing as ‘proper Who.’ The story-telling possibilities are endless, that’s what makes it such a great show. But if any story this season could be classified as ‘proper Who,’ these two episodes are them, er, it, er, whatever.
The setting is familiar– a small group of humans in a remote village are testing some serious drilling technology, when one of them mysteriously disappears into the ground. Enter the Silurians, an ancient race of humanoid reptiles who ruled Earth long before us monkey-people learned how to walk. These guys appeared in a few classic stories, so it was nice to see them brought back, but for the casual viewer, you need not know anything about the previous stories to enjoy these two. The nice thing about this story is that the Silurians are fleshed out, so to speak; no longer are they just a race of angry monsters bent on re-capturing the Earth. Now they are a fully realized society, some of whom want to destroy humanity, while others want nothing more but to co-exist peacefully. The Doctor becomes the negotiator as he tries to broker a deal between the two species.
The whole feel of the story, especially the first episode, reminds me a lot of the classic series – an isolated village, people vanishing mysteriously, an ancient enemy returning – this is the kind of setting that Doctor Who excels at creating. The actual quality of the episode itself is pretty good. The story is well-told, and I was glad for the two parts instead of having the story squished into one, 42 minute episode. It doesn’t compare to the weeping angels double-parter, but that’s okay.
And actually, writing this review a couple of months after watching the episode, I realize now that the events that take place at the close of the episode – things that directly involve the series-spanning story arc – almost entirely overshadow much of the rest of the episode. I don’t think this is a bad thing though, as the episode’s final revelation is a doozy.
In all, this middle chunk of Series 5 is decent, if not quite living up to the expectations set after The Time of the Angels/Flesh and Stone. But that’s okay – I’ll take middling Who over the majority of stuff on TV any day of the week. And my judgments on these episodes are also tempered because I know what the rest of the Series has in store…and oh my giddy aunt is it ever good.