Previously: The Doctor shouted at Amy and River. A LOT.
The Vampires of Venice
Dani: Venice, 1580. A Venetian dude begs some middle-aged woman who’s dressed like royalty (and sitting on a large, golden throne) to accept his daughter into her school. His girl is 17, and he gets all choked up as he explains that there are no prospects for her because he’s just a common boat builder.
Kirsti: I just spent like 10 minutes in the depths of IMDB, convinced that I knew Venetian dude from something. But no. The best I can come up with is, like, one episode of Spooks and two episodes of Luther. Womp.
Dani: The woman (Helen McCrory, who played Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) says she admires the man’s devotion to his daughter and kindly doesn’t point out that it’s 1580 and sentimentality toward female offspring ain’t exactly the norm. She also glances at her son (Alex Price, who, weirdly, plays Draco Malfoy in the Cursed Child on stage) and says it’s a sacred duty to secure your child’s future. She agrees to accept the daughter, and father and daughter hug each other and celebrate. Then Boat Builder is ushered out. Narcissa and Draco circle Boat Builder’s Daughter creepily, and Narcissa asks him if he likes the girl. Draco says he very much does and then reveals a mouthful of teeth that remind me of an angler fish.
Mari: Unfortunately. And no one can mention anglerfish without me thinking of Hank Green’s song about anglerfish.
K: I’d take the anglerfish any day. It doesn’t have terrifying eyebrows, for a start.
Boat Builder’s daughter screams, but it quickly fades into the sound of Rory happily and drunkenly yelling into the phone as the scene changes to the night of his stag party. Rory’s leaving a message for Amy, who isn’t there and probably doesn’t give a fuck anyway. Sorry, I’m still mad at her for ignoring consent in the last episode. Seeing Rory in his adorable red shirt with a giant picture of him and Amy inside a cartoon heart isn’t helping. YOU DON’T DESERVE THIS ANGEL FROM HEAVEN, AMY POND! (K: She really doesn’t.)
Anyhoo… Rory mumbles his slurred love onto Amy’s answering machine tape (lol, how old is this episode?!) while his mates wheel in a gigantic cake that very obviously contains a stripper. Rory signs off and has the grace to look a trifle uncomfortable about his stripper cake. His friends all chant “out, out, out,” but instead of a stripper out pops Matt Smith. That’s messed up.
K: The stripper music makes the situation even more unsettling.
Dani: The Doctor tells Rory they need to talk about his fiancee, because she tried to kiss him. Arthur Darvill does a great job of portraying both dismay and sorrow at this news, and then the Doctor makes everything worse by telling him he’s a lucky guy because Amy’s a great kisser. Just… no.
Mari: There are times when the Doctor definitely feels alien, but climbing into a giant cake and announcing in front of an entire group of people that Amy tried to kiss him? No, Doctor. You should be better.
Rory and Amy are on the Tardis. The Doctor’s below-decks, fiddling about with tools and wires and basically creating lots of sparks and mini-explosions. He tells Amy and Rory that traveling through space and time can destroy relationships and make people realize how boring their normal lives are, and yada yada yada this is supposed to somehow explain Amy’s recent behavior. Whatever.
He sees Rory looking overwhelmed and launches into a spiel about the TARDIS, how it’s hard to take it all in, bigger on the inside, blah blah blah. Rory quite calmly says it’s another dimension, because he’s been reading up on scientific theories and parallel universes since the first episode, and that is why we will love you forever, Rory. Also because he totally spoils the Doctor’s fun wherein he gets to lord his superior knowledge over the stoopid hoomans. (M: Rory! Rory! Rory!) (K: BEEEEEST)
The Doctor thinks he can solve the Amy problem by sending her and Rory on a date, anywhere in space and time. He takes them to Venice in 1580 (shockingly) and gushes about how awesome the city is. This is the Doctor at his best: when he’s just in love with all the things humans have accomplished and not shouting at anyone.
A dockworker (?) asks for their papers, and the Doctor’s psychic paper convinces him he’s a bishop or something and Amy is a viscountess. Rory, sadly, is her eunuch, which Amy shrugs at and says she’ll explain later. Bitch.
Mari: While I’m obviously excited by the inclusion of Rory, this also means that I get to be SO MAD about him being the butt of all the jokes. Leave Rory alone.
Okay, but… this is a port city, which means it relies on trade to sustain itself. Surely someone bringing in food and stuff mentions that the plague is, in fact, over? Sorry, I’ll stop poking the plot holes now.
K: Please do. The whole thing will crumble around us if you don’t.
Dani: Elsewhere, the girls of Narcissa’s school go for a walk outside, shrouded in heavy veils and carrying umbrellas, while onlookers whisper in awe about the “Calvierri girls.” Then Boat Builder rushes the group, frantically searching for his daughter. I don’t understand why he went from crying tears of joy over his daughter getting into the school in one scene, to freaking out and looking for her in the next. (K: Contrivance?) (D: Oh, yeah!)
Boat Builder rips veils off of women (rude) until he finds his daughter. She doesn’t seem to recognize him, plus the sunlight hurts her. OMG, COULD SHE BE A VAMPIRE? (M: Necessary joke: DOES SHE SPARKLE?) (K: MARI, NO) One of the other Calvierri girls knocks Boat Builder down, then bares her fish-fangs and hisses at him. The girls turn away, leaving Boat Builder lying on the ground. Draco comes over and puts his boot on Boat Builder’s chest, announcing “She’s gone” super dramatically. Then he does the classic cape-swirl thing so beloved by old-timey vampires.
The Doctor tracks down Boat Builder and asks about the girls. BB tells him something evil happens to the girls who go to the Calvierri School because now his own daughter doesn’t recognize him. Also, the girl who pushed him down has a face like an animal. The Doctor decides it’s time he meets this Signora Calvierri.
Cut to Narcissa, who’s kneeling in a courtyard, ceremoniously drinking well water from a fancy chalice. Draco arrives in a huff, calling for his mother, and Narcissa third-personally tells him, “Mummy’s hydrating.” I feel like this is something I should be saying to my daughter when she interrupts me at wine o’clock — “Not now, darling; Mummy’s hydrating.” (M: Only if you want to be awesome.) (K: I find it oddly reminiscent of Cassandra and “Moisturise me!”) (D: Don’t ruin this for me, Kirsti.) Draco announces that the girls were accosted again today, and Narcissa finishes her “special water” with a sigh before lounging on the ground beside the well. (Royals, amirite?) Draco snuggles up to her (eeeeew) and says the longer they wait the more they risk discovery.
Draco says they’ve “converted more than enough” already and it’s time to introduce them to his brothers. Narcissa says she’ll decide when they have enough, but Draco presses on, suggesting he take the girls into the city tonight. Narcissa insists they follow the plan, which apparently is to have people come to them and beg to be taken. Yeah, preeeeeeeety sure that’s not what those girls’ parents had in mind, lady. Draco leaps up like a petulant child and glares at his mother.
Elsewhere, Rory asks Amy what she’s been doing, and as she’s rambling on about the life of a companion he interrupts with the question he really wanted to ask — “Did you miss me?” Amy hesitates and finally just says she knew she’d be coming back, which totally means no. Rory starts to walk away, but Amy whines and cajoles him into staying because this is supposed to be their date. Rory takes a moment to be awed by the fact that he’s in Venice in 1580, and the two set off laughing, never noticing Draco hanging around like a total creeper.
Once the pair exits, Draco follows an attractive peasant woman into an alley. Cut to Amy and Rory, taking goofy holiday photos, when they hear a woman scream. Amy races to see what’s going on, and Rory follows. They find fish-fang!Draco biting the neck of the woman, but he runs away when he sees them. Rory goes into nurse mode and barely has time to pronounce the woman okay before Amy takes off after Draco. She chases him down some lanes but when she gets to the final doorway there’s nothing there but the canal. We get a close up of Amy’s reflection in the canal water accompanied by some creepy music, because this water is, um… super suspicious, I guess?
Mari: SOMETHING SEES HER FROM THE WATER. If only we had a hint as to what, like some fish teeth or something.
K: Whatever could it be. Oh no. The suspense is killing me.
Dani: Something’s killing me, too, but I’m not sure it’s the suspense.
Meanwhile, Boat Builder tries to demand entrance to the school, but it’s just a ruse so the Doctor can sneak in undetected. The Doctor descends a winding stone staircase and ends up in an empty antechamber. There’s a mirror on one wall, and he starts to flirt with himself when several female voices ask in unison why he’s there. He spins around and sees five creepy girls in nightgowns, none of whom were reflected in the mirror. The girls tell him to leave or else they’ll call the steward, if he’s lucky. The Doctor says ‘oooooo’ and his expression turns pervy … until they bare their fish-fangs, and he’s all ‘peace out, yo.’
The Doctor takes Rory and Amy to Boat Builder, who has detailed maps of the secret tunnels that run beneath Venice for the purposes of contrivance. He says one of the tunnels leads right into the school, but there’s a trapdoor blocking the way. Amy says they need someone on the inside, but the Doctor says NO because he knows what she’s thinking: that she pose as an applicant in order to get into the school so that she can sneak down and unlock the trapdoor for them.
K: WHY ARE PEOPLE STILL APPLYING TO THIS SCHOOL WTF.
Dani: Right? At least check the Yelp reviews first, like a responsible parent.
Rory is steadfastly against this plan, and the Doctor claims he is, too, but we all know what that means.
Boat Builder has several barrels of gunpowder he’s nicked from his days working at the arsenal (okay, secret tunnel maps AND an enormous, covert supply of gunpowder… seriously, wtf was this guy up to??) and suggests they blast their way into the school. But the Doctor doesn’t like guns or explosions, so that’s out. Boat Builder is frustrated, because the longer they delay the more his daughter risks being turned into an animal. The Doctor relents, saying he’ll pose as Amy’s father. Amy says no because he looks like a child. He suggests brother, but Amy says that’s too weird and grossly suggests fiancé, instead. BITCH, RORY IS STANDING RIGHT THERE.
Mari: It’s all supposed to be jokes at Rory’s expense and I DON’T GET IT. Listen, the Doctor is (generally) cool but nothing about Rory standing next to Eleven makes Rory seem deficient, at least to me. This is just stupid.
K: “This whole thing is MENTAL!” yells Rory. I wholeheartedly agree.
Dani: So Rory and Amy go to Malfoy Manor (or is it Hogwarts?), where Rory awkwardly and adorably gives his spiel to Narcissa and Draco. Draco recognizes Amy, on account of her chasing him through the streets of Venice after she found him gnawing on the peasant woman’s neck. Did they seriously think that wouldn’t happen? Narcissa once again asks Draco if he “likes” her, and he creepily says he does. Narcissa agrees to take Amy. Rory is herded out.
The steward guy leads Amy upstairs to the Gryffindor dormitory (it’s definitely Hogwarts) and tells her to change into a nightgown. The other girls leave, except for Boat Builder’s Daughter [BBD], who’s sitting on her bed staring into the fireplace. Amy tells her they’re going to get her out of here, but first she needs to know what’s going on. BBD tells her they come for her at night and take her to a room with green light. There’s a chair with straps, but she doesn’t know what happens next because she always wakes up in her bed. And now the sun burns her skin. There are two distinct holes that look like vampire bite-marks on her neck, but given the mouthful of fish-fangs everyone’s sporting I’m super confused by how these precise holes are accomplished.
K: Our old friend, contrivance, obviously!
Dani: Right. How do I keep forgetting about him?
Outside, Boat Builder steers a gondola with the Doctor and Rory toward Hogwarts. The Doctor tells Rory that Amy will be fine, but Rory doesn’t trust him. Good call, Rory.
Back at Hogwarts, Amy takes a lantern and creeps down a spiral staircase into the depths of the school. Outside the Potions classroom she passes a trunk with a corpse-hand poking out but never sees it.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Rory have crossed the Great Lake and reached the secret tunnel. As they make their way to the trapdoor, Rory starts grilling the Doctor about his wayward fiancée.
The Doctor says it totally would’ve been Rory that Amy kissed, had he been there. That’s why he brought Rory here, so he can be on the receiving end of all this we-almost-died adrenaline necking.
Meanwhile, Amy has found the trapdoor and manages to release the lock on it. She starts to leave but runs into the steward, who drags her into the room with the green light. Narcissa confronts Amy about the psychic paper Rory used, offended by the thought that such things could work on her.
Tunnels. The Doctor and Rory reach the trapdoor and luckily it’s still unlocked. They search for Amy and can’t find her. The Doctor says he can’t see anything, and Rory helpfully pulls out a pocket flashlight. This prompts the Doctor to whip out the stupidly large UV light he just always carries around I guess?
Mari: Not until you said something! It’s so subtle! And no one ever makes fun of Rory!
K: Eleven’s era has SO MANY PENIS JOKES and it fucking sucks.
Dani: While the menfolk think about their dicks, Amy is being interrogated by Narcissa. She asks if Amy fell through the chasm, too, and wants to know where she got the psychic paper. Amy sasses her and gets strapped into the chair. An IV bag full of green liquid is hung from the ceiling. Narcissa bares her fangs and bites Amy’s neck while Amy screams for the Doctor.
Dungeon of Let’s-Just-Sit-Here-and-See-What-Happens. Rory is lamenting all the deposits they’ll lose when they cancel the wedding, while the Doctor pries open the trunk Amy passed by earlier. There are several fish-fang corpses inside, and the Doctor says they’ve had all the moisture taken out of them.
Worst Green-Room Ever. Narcissa stops sucking on Amy’s neck, and everyone is acting positively orgasmic. It’s weird. The other vampire girls wander off, but Draco begs Narcissa to let him share when she drinks from Amy because he’s so thirsty. Gross. Narcissa agrees, and the steward watches it all with a look that says ‘I do not get paid enough for this shit.’
K: Honestly, I don’t think you’re getting paid enough to recap this episode, Dani…
Dani: I concur.
The Doctor tells Rory that the corpses didn’t just have their blood taken, but all the moisture in their bodies, as well. Pretty cool how he can tell that just from looking, huh? Rory asks why these girls died and the ones in the school didn’t, and the Doctor guesses that some girls don’t survive the transition. Rory thinks about his missing fiancée and whether she’ll survive the process, and he gets pissed off at the Doctor for putting her into this dangerous position. This leads to a very accurate observation from Rory:
Green Room. Narcissa villain-gloats about their evil plan to Amy: first they’ll drink her until she’s dry, then they’ll fill her with their blood and it’ll either kill her or change her into one of them. Assuming she lives, there are “ten thousand husbands” waiting for her in the water. Amy says no thanks and kicks Narcissa in the stomach. She ends up hitting some electronic doohickey hidden under Narcissa’s dress. It kinda looks like a Sony Discman (sorry, I’m old), and somehow it transforms Narcissa into a giant fish-bug looking thing. Narcissa fiddles with it until she’s human-looking again. Outside, we hear the Doctor and Rory knocking shit over. Everyone goes to see what the commotion is, leaving Amy alone in the chair.
Amy struggles to free herself from the chair but can’t. Luckily, Boat Builder’s Daughter shows up and unhooks the straps for her.
The Doctor and Rory are running down a hallway, away from the pack of vampire girls, when they’re stopped by Draco, Narcissa, the steward, and some more girls. Narcissa mocks their rescue plan, but then Amy and Boat Builder’s Daughter show up and rescue the menfolk. The quartet runs through Hogwarts, with Amy explaining that they’re dealing with aliens, not vampires. Amy and the Doctor are thrilled with this news, but Rory thinks they’re both insane.
Boat Builder’s Daughter leads everyone to freedom, but the sun burns her when she steps outside. She hesitates just long enough for the other girls to grab her and yank her back inside the not-so-magical castle. The Doctor throws himself at the door, which electrocutes him into unconsciousness. Amy freaks out, thinking he’s dead. Then she glances back at Boat Builder, who walks off sadly.
Later, Boat Builder’s daughter is convicted of treason and sentenced to walk the plank. She proudly proclaims that she’s Venetian and can therefore swim. A guard prods her into the canal, where something grabs her leg. She’s quickly surrounded by biting aliens who drag her into the water, and she joins the long list of people who die trying to help the Doctor and/or his companions. Narcissa dismisses her guards and kneels beside the water. Draco admonishes her to change her form before his brothers think they’re being fed twice. She stares into the water and tells the bubbles it’s “not long now.”
Returning to the Great Hall, she finds the Doctor casually sitting in her throne. Okay, but if he was in the castle this whole time WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T HE TRY TO SAVE BOAT BUILDER’S DAUGHTER??? (K: Because he’s an asshole.) (M: Cuts into his gloating time.) The Doctor says Narcissa is a long way from Saturnyne, her home planet. She surmises that he’s the owner of the psychic paper and guesses he’s a refugee like her. The Doctor says he’ll trade her an answer for an answer. Then he proceeds to ramble on about the perception filter she’s using to change her appearance and how the brain fills in gaps and that’s why the girls didn’t have a reflection. It doesn’t matter, so we’ll move on. He asks why can we see their teeth, and it’s because our survival instinct is stronger than the subconscious being duped by the perception filter. Whatever. The Doctor asks where Isabella (Boat Builder’s daughter) is, and Narcissa says it’s her turn to ask questions. So I guess he was screwing off in the throne room because he didn’t know Isabella was in danger? But was that really such a big mental leap?
Narcissa asks where the Doctor’s from, and when he says Gallifrey, she says he belongs in a museum. Or a mausoleum. The Doctor asks why she’s there (what happened to asking about Isabella???), and she tells him because they ran from the silence.
Mari: I was really confused as to why this got flirty for a while?
Dani: Maybe short pants are a turn-on where she comes from?
K: There are many things I’m confused about in this episode. The flirty was just the icing on the cake of weird. (I also have serious issues with the fact that he’s hella pissed about her not knowing Isabella’s name, but apparently gives very few shits about the fact that she, you know, murdered Isabella’s face off.)
Dani: Narcissa summons everyone to the courtyard and grandly announces that the storm is coming. Then her perception filter goes on the fritz and she goes all fish-bug and throws a tantrum and totally freaks out the humans. It’s pretty funny. She eventually fixes it and calms down and tells everyone to gather the girls.
Back as Casa Boat Builder, the Doctor sonic-heals (???) (M: Have we EVER seen that?) (K: Not that I’m aware of? But who knows where Classic Who is concerned…) the wounds on Amy’s neck and pops a sweet into her mouth, which is gross from a germ perspective and also through an infantilization lens. Just… no. He starts pacing and yelling at himself to think. Amy tries to say something and he rudely shushes her and puts his hand over her mouth. Grrr. Then Rory says something, and he does the same to him. Boat Builder also has something to say, and the Doctor snaps at the man whose daughter just died and makes Rory cover the guy’s mouth for him. I’m sure I found this hilarious the first time I saw it, but now it infuriates me. We get it… the Doctor’s brilliant and none of the stupid little humans have anything valuable to offer. Moving on.
Because he’s sooooooo amazing, the Doctor figures out Narcissa’s entire plan, including how she’s going to mess with the environment to sink Venice so she can repopulate it with the fish-wives she’s made for her fish-sons. Then there’s a noise upstairs, on the third floor of the building, even though no one lives up there. The windows break, and we see the fish-girls hovering outside because for some reason they can now fly (???). What the fuck, writers??
K: Seriously. How drunk WERE the writers when they came up with this one?? Or were they watching the Buffy movie???
Dani: Everyone runs downstairs and rushes out of the building, but Boat Builder grabs the Doctor’s lightsaber and goes back inside. The Doctor tries to follow, but Boat Builder bolts the door and tells him to stay back. He lures the fish-girls into the room with all the barrels of gunpowder, screams “THIS IS SPARTA!” (or possibly “we are Venetians!”) and blows the place up.
K: I can’t help but compare Ten and Eleven when it comes to explosions:
Hogwarts. Narcissa presses a button on her throne, and some really bad special effects make clouds and lightning shoot from the tallest tower up into the sky.
The Doctor, Rory, and Amy survey the rubble of Boat Builder’s house. Seeing the sky, the Doctor says Narcissa is initiating the final phase of her plan. Amy takes charge and says they have to stop them, let’s go. But the Doctor tells her and Rory to go back to the TARDIS. Amy argues that he can’t stop this alone, and the Doctor literally shouts at her:
We don’t discuss this! I tell you to do something, Amy, and you do it!
Amy looks hurt and runs away. Rory thanks the Doctor and runs off after her. The Doctor says, ‘yeah, you’re welcome,’ and from the plaintive music I’m sure we’re supposed to feel sorry for the great sacrifice he just made, but all I can think is THANK GOODNESS these men are around to tell Amy what to do and make all her decisions for her and save her from herself. Uggity-ugh-ugh.
Amy and Rory pause to look up at the sky while the rest of Venice freaks out around them. Draco spots them from across the canal and dramatically swan-dives into the water.
The Doctor opens up Narcissa’s throne and starts sonicing the electronic junk inside. Narcissa tells him he’s too late, but the Doctor’s all ‘joke’s on you – all your fish-girls are dead.’ Narcissa tears up and runs off. The Doctor takes another stab at the throne and then runs outside.
Meanwhile, Rory and Amy are confronted by wet!Draco. He goes after Amy, but Rory eventually distracts him with a yo’ mama crack. Rory grabs a flimsy broom and does some crazy swishy stuff with it.
Mari: I hated Amy kissing the Doctor but I’m also not thrilled by “we almost died adrenaline” being the thing they are saying about that kiss. It happens here again, probably for the purpose of giving the audience a big SEE? but it makes Amy seem like she can’t control herself. Not my fave.
Dani: They find the Doctor in the throne room and tell him they’re not leaving. He starts to give out to them, but then an earthquake hits and distracts everyone. The Doctor tells them not to worry about that though — worry about the tidal waves that the earthquake inevitably just caused. He also tells them to start pulling out all the wires on the throne while he goes to search for the secondary power something-or-other-not-important-to-the-plot.
He heads up to the bell-tower and does some sweet Assassin’s Creed cosplay by scaling the side of the building.
Defeated, Narcissa walks to the edge of the canal to break the news to her fish-sons. Her perception filter is wigging out, and she can’t turn it off. She gets a resigned look on her face and starts stripping. The Doctor shows up, and she asks him if sacrificing one city to save an entire race was really too much to ask. He tells her to mourn but also to live. She asks if his conscious can bear the weight of another dead race and then jumps into the water, where she’s quickly devoured by her greedy children. Bummer. Except, you know… she murdered a whole bunch of people, so I don’t feel all that much sympathy for her.
K: NOPE. Also, uh, aren’t y’all gonna handle the fish-men in the waters of Venice before you go?! Or are y’all just gonna walk away??
Dani: Good point. I guess they figure that without mates the males will just naturally die off on their own? They’ve obviously never seen Jurassic Park.
The Doctor finds Rory and Amy and tells them the next stop is the Registry Office so they can get hitched. Amy looks depressed and Rory dejectedly tells them it’s fine, just drop him off where they found him and continue on their adventures. But Amy doesn’t like that idea, either. She tells Rory he should stay with them, just for a bit. She wants him to stay. Rory is delighted and the Doctor looks pretty happy with the idea, too.
There were cracks. Through some we saw silence, and the end of all things.
This wasn’t the best episode, but it certainly wasn’t the worst, either. Having Rory around really helped, as did having the Doctor shouting at women less often. I didn’t care for the aliens at all, and the writing seemed very inconsistent with whether they wanted them to be vampires or aliens or fish. I mean… if they’re going to be aliens with fish characteristics that’s fine. They’ve obviously adapted ways to survive outside of water… but then whey would they EXPLODE in sunlight? I am not aware of any fish that does that. Oh well, it’s still better than Daleks.
Mari: I’ll just add, for probably not the last time that this season in particular does not hold up well to recapping. While watching uninterrupted? Kind of a mediocre romp. As soon as I sat down to parse through my thoughts and read through this recap? All of the worst bits just float to the surface. This season’s writing, more than just the typical blah blah blah SCIENCE of Doctor Who, begs to be consumed quickly and without much thought.
K: Yeah, there are a metric fuckton of loose threads and unanswered questions in basically every episode this season. And yes, every other season is guilty of SOME of that. But this season, I feel like, has it in spades.
Next time on Doctor Who: A pregnant Amy must make a difficult decision in S05 E07: Amy’s Choice.