“The Vampires of Venice“ is the sixth episode in the fifth series of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was broadcast on 8 May 2010 on BBC One.
Following from the end of Flesh and Stone where his companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) had kissed him, alien time traveller the Doctor (Matt Smith) picks up Amy’s fiancé Rory (Arthur Darvill) and takes the two on a romantic trip to Venice in 1580. There they are intrigued by a girls’ school whose students appear to be vampires and discover that they are really alien refugees in disguise, who plot to make Venice their new home.
The episode replaced a different script Whithouse had planned to write, and was designed to be a romantic episode that could also be a good introduction to the show. Whithouse chose the setting to be Venice, and vampires soon entered the plot as he felt they belonged in the setting. The episode was filmed in Trogir, Croatia in late 2009, with the old-fashioned village portraying Venice.
The Doctor, believing Amy’s attraction to him is due to the stress from travel, gatecrashes her fiancé Rory’s stag party and invites the two of them on a romantic trip courtesy of the TARDIS. They land in Venice in 1580 and soon find trouble. The city’s patron, Signora Rosanna Calvierri, claims that the Black Plague runs rampant outside of Venice. The Doctor says this is false and that it appears she is using the plague as an excuse to seal off the city. While investigating they encounter Guido, a boat-builder whose daughter Isabella hasn’t contacted him since enrolling in Signora Calvierri’s school for girls.
The Doctor devises a plan to place Amy inside the school with the help of Rory and The Doctor’s psychic paper. Amy manages to unlock a gate and allow the others in, but in doing so is captured and taken to a chamber. The Doctor and Rory come to believe the women are being converted into vampires
The episode received mixed reviews. Daniel Martin, writing for The Guardian, described it as @beautifully shot” and went on to write: “the way every part of the vampire mythos was explained away by Who pseudo-science was delightful; the stand-off between the Doctor and Rosanna was beautifully played; the dialogue as cracking as you’d expect from Whithouse… and the climactic shot of the Doctor scaling the tower in the rain was just the correct level of broad brushstroke”. SFX reviewer David Bradley also reacted positively, giving the episode four out of five stars. He assessed it as “better structured, funnier and more absorbing” than the previous single episode “Victory of the Daleks” and praised the comedy and acting of Alex Price. However, he thought the “expensive-looking locations are let down by shonky special effects”.
Gavin Fuller gave the episode a negative review in The Daily Telegraph, calling it “highly disappointing” and “a tragically wasted opportunity.” He criticised the writing and plot for “sheer derivativeness”, noting that the opening scene was “similar in concept” to Whithouse’s previous Doctor Who episode “School Reunion” and thought the “aliens-posing-as-humans idea” was taken from that script as well.