Erm, ok. Here we are, at Rory’s stag party, which the Doctor has just crashed rather expertly by jumping out. of. the. bloody. cake! Oh, the pictures emerging in my head. ………. Where was I? Right. The episode actually opens in Venice, with a dad trying to get his daughter into the rather fancy “school” the Calvierris are running, but I’ll get back to that later, because, first and foremost, the first few minutes at the party are, one, hilariously funny, two, so wonderfully quotable, and three, setting the tone for the rest of the episode when it comes to outspoken flirtiness.
Now, then, Rory, we need to talk about your fiancée! She tried to kiss me (cue sympathetic groans from the male audience). Tell you what, though, you’re a lucky man: she’s a great kisser! … Funny how you can say something in your head and it sounds fine.
Why does this set the tone? Because, like the “shipperness” of The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, this episode makes the subtext revolving around attraction and stuff very much the actual text, starting with the Doctor’s slightly queasy reaction to possibly meeting Casanova on the way.
- Rory and the Doctor, discussing Amy and the kiss:
“And you kissed her back?” — “No, I kissed her mouth!” — “Funny!” (Which, in short, means that he did actively kiss her (back), if only for a disoriented second. Ha!)
Comparing UV-light, erm, sabers: “Yours is bigger than mine!” Well. Yes, of course. He’s a Time Lord.
- The general flirtiness inherent in that first encounter between the Doctor and Signora Calvierri:
“A partnership — any which way you choose…” — “I don’t think that’s such a good idea, do you? I’m a Time Lord, you’re a big fish. Think of the children!” (That wouldn’t have stopped Captain Jack, you know.)
- The Doctor discussing Mummy making her boys some girls:
“… waiting for mummy to make them some compatible girlfriends — eww! I mean, I’ve been around a bit, but, really, that’s… eww!”
Anyway. The Doctor takes Amy and a betrayed-feeling Rory to Venice in 1850, as a wedding gift, to give them time to reconnect and to sort things out. Amy, however, can’t always stop herself from being affectionate about or cuddly with the Doctor, which causes awkwardness throughout the episode, even though she does make an effort to remind Rory that this is their honeymoon-come-450-years-early. That awkwardness lends a delightfully screwball-y feel to the interactions between the three of them, sort of escalating in the Amy-plans-to-go-undercover scene. Father, brother, fiancé — what’s it going to be, then? Due to her insecurity about Rory’s frame of mind and feelings towards her, Amy resorts to being friend-ish rather than lover-ish, which doesn’t sit well with Rory at all, but rather amuses the Doctor despite the mess he’s produced. Again. The tension almost completely dissolves, though, when Amy kisses Rory after narrowly escaping Francesco (Signora Calvieri’s son) — is it just me, or does her “mmh!” sound kinda like she’s comparing Rory’s kissing to the Doctor’s?
Speaking of Francesco: “Did you say something about mummy?” Well, if nothing distracts the bad boy, a mummy reference surely will! Also, “Mummy, what’s wrong with your perception filter?” — this creepy mummy thing again…
However, in the father/brother/fiancé scene, you can also see how the Doctor struggles with his own recklessness: When Amy first suggests she go undercover, he’s all against it — Rory: “He said no, listen to him!” — , but when she goes further by saying that she’d be in hardly long enough for any real harm to come to her, we can see how the Doctor gazes at her rather fondly before stopping himself. But eventually, he concedes — Rory: “Don’t listen to him!” — ; he always does when there’s a completely harebrained plan ahead.
Am I thinking what I think I’m thinking?
The only problem being: they aren’t really vampires. They’re Fish in Space. Don’t look at him like that, we already had pigs! Also, the Doctor loves the Muppets. Despite all the love is in the air, there’s actually a planet to save and terrifying creatures to battle. And this is what I loved most about the episode: It’s really one big piece of magnificent dialogue, one wonderful line right after the other, but it doesn’t lose itself or leave the storytelling behind. For instance, apart from all the flirtiness and Who the hell are you, captain of the innuendo squad?!, the encounter between Rosanna and the Doctor really is the obligatory “I’ll ask you nicely; but if you don’t give up, I’ll have to stop (and most likely kill) you” talk the Doctor gives those stepping out of line time and time again. Like this, the entire saving the world thing is packed neatly into the 45 minutes running time, but leaving more than enough space for the Doctor-Amy-Rory-triangle without having to get accused of being too thin when it comes to the plot; which gave it an almost Eleventh Hour-like quality, but not as strongly.
Let’s talk about the Evil Plan, then — the Saturnynians had a cracking problem, literally. Rosanna reveals her race knows about the cracks in the skin of the universe, and what lies beyond: war, silence.. the end of all things. They fled their planet, Saturnyne, but only the male offspring survived, which is why they use the facade of a prestigious “school” to lure young women into their trap (which is a nice dig at elitist education concepts, by the way); to transform them into Saturnynians, compatible with “10,000 husbands” waiting beneath the surface of the Venetian channels, ready to repopulate Venice — and then the Earth — as soon as it’s flooded by the giant storm gathering in the boiling sky. “Saturnyne Mark II.” Thus the Doctor has to climb up all the way to the tower top and disable the storm-gathering-thingy with a simple turn of a switch.
What struck me in the last scene, after Amy tells Rory she really wants him to stay with her: the Doctor has no problem with having them on the TARDIS together with him — his phobia of domestics has dissipated! I mean, Ten willingly took Mickey, but many have argued that he only did that to make himself stay away from Rose. This time, Eleven seems to be genuinely fond of the Boy Belonging to the Companion and, apparently, looks forward to having a part in properly reconciling the couple.
(slightly petulant Rory) “We are not her boys!” — (slightly resignated, but enthusiastic Doctor) “Yeah, we are.” — (now quite cheerful Rory) “Yeah, we are.”
Although jealousy does play a small part in the beginning of the episode, the relationship between Rory and the Doctor is all set to become like the bond between Amy and River Song. Apart from that, I really love Rory in this: he’s not another Mickey, who started out(!) as the useless lump of an infatuated boyfriend, he’s actually up to the game from the start, quick to wrap his mind around aliens and running for your life. And battling a swordsman with a broom. (Love how he tried to be all “Well, let’s just talk this through, alright, just calm down” with Francesco for a second!) Bit of a fraidy-cat, but, oh well. He’s got brains and he uses them — and, oh, his lines are great throughout, and Arthur Darvill is really enjoyable to watch. The most impressive and non-subtextual speech, standing out among all of the ambiguous banter, must be this:
“You know what’s dangerous about you? It’s not that you make people take risks: it’s that you make them want to impress you. You make it so they don’t wanna let you down. You have no idea how dangerous you make people to themselves when you are around.”
Not really driven by the urge to impress the Doctor, but to save his life so he could stop the Calvierris and because his life was over anyway, now that his daughter Isabella was dead, Guido blew himself up by making use of the gunpowder stored at his house, together with the girls that had already been transformed; therefore adding one more to the list of people willingly sacrificing themselves for the Doctor.
Ha, and there I was, thinking that after the latest episode of Ashes to Ashes, I would be spared the electrocution stuff for the weekend, but, well, the Doctor just had to get a buzz out of it by banging on the door… *brrrzzz*
And, of course: The big story arch, the silence. When Rory and the Doctor make ready to follow Amy into the TARDIS, the chatter and general business of the Venetians tidying up after themselves suddenly vanishes, leaving… nothing. Just… silence. Together with a voice-over by Rosanna, it’s getting appropriately creepy around here. (As always: mind the poll/the deal with Amy Pond!)
- The companions haven’t asked about the translation thing the TARDIS does in their heads! I mean, I totally get Rory’s refusal to go all giddy about “It’s bigger on the inside”, but not asking about how they’re suddenly able to understand Italian? Well, maybe they were just too busy.
- LOVE the mirror scene! “Tell me the whole plan! … One day, that’ll work!” — Call me when it does, dear, I wanna hear that story. Also: lovely library card! Always good to see a bit of William Hartnell.
- Another great line coming from Rory, this time about how inappropriately excited the Doctor and Amy are about running into their almost certain doom: “That’s good news.” — “What is wrong with you people?!” Well, Rory, one day you’ll understand. Also: it’s very handy to have a nurse with you, isn’t it?
- Sometimes, the Doctor really is a doctor: treating Amy’s injuries, giving her … what, a sweet? … something; humming at her like a gifted pediatrician — he really does have a way with children in this series, doesn’t he? Lecturing Amy on parent qualities in The Beast Below wasn’t the only marker of this, after all. Seems to coincide with his aforementioned new/reinforced tolerance for domestics, I dare say.
- NEXT TIME trailer: oh, please, let the world in which Rory’s got that ponytail be the dream one, not reality… I mean, I don’t want Amy to have to give up her baby, but… please!
Next episode: Amy’s Choice.