Only in Ashes to Ashes could the funeral of a white-hat character be pretty much the most cheerful moment of the episode.
When the motorised curtains fail to close around Viv’s coffin, Gene’s patience snaps and he stalks to the front of the chapel to tug them shut – and say sorry to his friend. Chris can’t help but see the funny side and stands in his pew giggling like a school boy. It doesn’t endear him to the DCI who is feeling his loss acutely.
Chris’s clumsiness at the wake has a ragged Gene snapping at him – not for the last time this episode. There are fans who weren’t impressed with Gene’s loudly proclaimed loyalty to Viv last week, perhaps they’ll be mollified by the neat little bit of backstory slipped in here – that Viv apologised to Gene when he first arrived in Fenchurch East from Manchester because all Northerners look the same to him; and that he promised to look after our Manc lion.
I’m sure it wasn’t just my heart that sank as Keats collared that roll of film from Alex – there can be no good that comes from that man. Although I’m glad to see that his taunting is water off a duck’s back to Gene now, and that Alex and Gene have the nasty piece of work a bit rattled – “Do you think this is a flirty game between you, me and Gene?” he snaps.
The rest of us are enjoying the flirty game however, as Alex ask Gene what he’s doing tonight. “Going to a revival of The Caretaker at the Royal Court,” he deadpans. When, unsurprisingly, this turns out not to be true, and Alex asks him out for dinner, the nation’s women swooned and once again wished themselves into her red pointy shoes. Even his declaration ” Got to warn you Bolly, first date, upstairs outside only…” is sweetly endearing. But there is much to get through before we can enjoy some serious chemistry between these two.
There is poor Chris – starting to feel the pressure both from Gene and the literal disintegration of the world. Is that whistle marking the end of the game, perhaps? There is much talk of final chapters, and fighting for our lives, there is the sheer terror of Ray and Shaz as the corridor fills with unexplained noise – all ratcheting up the foreboding and tension a few more notches. Will we find out what’s in the locked red cabinets? Or are they another red herring. (Is all the red stuff a red herring ? It wouldn’t surprise me if the writers were poking a little fun at us and our many theories.)
It must be tough writing the episodes that fall between the Moffat-penned ones. Stories that would have been marked A* last year, are going to find themselves getting plain old As and Bs this year.
The Vampires in Venice has lots and lots going for it – a great writer (Toby Whithouse creator of the excellent Being Human, and writer of School reunion, new Who series two), fabulous location (even if it’s not actually Venice), stunning costumes and lighting, comedy potential (Amy’s great gangling fiancé Rory) and vampires (Hat Junior has been shouting “Vampires! Vampires on new Doctor Who tonight” for a disturbing proportion of the day).
There are lots of fine moments (more of those in a minute), but let’s get the carping out of the way first. Acknowledging that I’m not the target market for this, I just wasn’t grabbed and there wasn’t a peep out of Junior Hat either. (I know, normally I complain that I can’t hear what’s going on because she’s talking over the show – about the show – non-stop.) I don’t think she was scared, and I know I wasn’t.
I thought it was a bit of shame that Isabella died and I was moved by her brave father (the wonderfully understated Lucian Msamati – aka JLB Matekoni, Mma Ramotswe’s fiancé from The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency) leading the creatures to their mutual deaths – but that was about it on the emotional trauma front. I just didn’t get a sense of jeopardy – sorry guys.
That said, I don’t feel my 45 minutes were wasted. Even A- or B-rated Who is excellent value for money. Shall we bullet point again? I liked the bullet points…
- First things first. One, the lovely little pre-titles scene where the Doctor jumps out of the cake, asks someone to find Lucy – the diabetic stripper – a jumper, and tells Rory that Amy’s a good kisser. Particularly enjoyed the embarrassed silence heading into the titles instead of the usual screaming/plunging/explosion type thing.
- B (two): The Doctor slightly affronted by Rory taking the TARDIS in his stride. “I like it when people say ‘It’s bigger on the inside’.” But, not too affronted – a little tickled too I think.
- Three – or C: Amy thinks she’s ‘done with running down corridors’ – she’s smart, but she knows nothing!
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