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163 'The Stones of Venice'

CD adventure released March 2001, 4 episodes

Writer: Paul Magrs
Director: Nicholas Pegg

Roots: Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude (widely regarded as the archetypal 'magic realism' novel). Miss Lavish is named for Eleanor Lavish from E. M. Forster's A Room With A View, while Duke Orsino was the love-besotted Duke of Illyria in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night,Great Expectations (The Duchess' room is left unkempt and unattended since her ill-fated wedding day, Miss Lavish recalls Miss Haversham, the name Estella). The Doctor name checks Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli. Charley likens the TARDIS interior to 'something out of Jules Verne' and invokes the book of Daniel ('You're pushing me into the lion's den').

Intertextuality: Whilst examining the Duke's collection of artwork the Doctor spies a portrait of a woman in a jar, probably a reference to Magr's debut BBC Doctor Who novel The Scarlet Empress.

Goofs: At the end of episode three, the cultists' cries of 'Empty!' make them sound like Monty Python's Gumbies. If it's the 23rd century, why are the locals so sceptical about the paintings having come from outer space? Earth's been invaded by Daleks and space travel is in common use by then! The Doctor confesses that he used to name-drop with more ease and frequency 'long ago', which doesn't take 'Storm Warning' into account.

Dialogue Triumphs: 'She must have been - what do you call it? Very beautiful?'

'Let's travel in style; let's raise a glass as we steam down the Canal. And before the world ends, it turns completely upside down.'

Dialogue Disasters: Unnaturalistic dialogue is a characteristic of Magrs' writing, but as a standout: 'I command you to infiltrate the foolish Duke's ridiculous sacrilegious ball.'

Double Entendres: 'Just because I put an end to their 'Reign of Terror'...'

'Let the dog see the rabbit.'

'Knocked out, blindfolded and banged up in a cellar - it's all par for the course.'

'I think you've played with your baubles for quite long enough, Miss Lavish.'

Continuity: By the 23rd century Venice is returning to the sea ( see: 'Future History') and is not only populated by humans, but also its native gondoliers; amphibian humanoids with webbed fingers and toes (it isn't clear how long they have existed - perhaps they date back to the city's formation itself). They can't be directly related to the Fish People of Atlantis ('The Underwater Menace'), as the Doctor doesn't immediately recognise Pietro (who can talk, like his fellow gondoliers) as being non-human. Their ultimate fate is unknown.

It is not explained where 'Estella' is from, but presumably she is human in form and possesses at least some psychic ability or power in sufficient quantity as to see her will realised via the focussing jewels she has brought with her to Earth. With them she is able to place the 'curse' on Venice and prevent the Duke (but not herself) from aging for 100 years. Among the Duke's collection are works from alien worlds (see: 'Untelevised Adventures') including a portrait of a woman in a jar, and a scene involving a volcano and fox-people in overcoats.

The Doctor knows something of Venice's future, but not the apparent cause of its destruction. Previous visits there saw him frequent an old trattorini run by some famous ex-actors. He keeps the key to the TARDIS in one of his shoes. As in 'Doctor Who', he displays special insight into certain individuals - Churchwell in particular. He tells Churchwell that his home is not dissimilar to Venice (does Gallifrey have canals?). He doesn't believe in curses.

Charley's family weren't much for travelling, her father being too protective of her.

According to the Doctor, Ramsay is almost ready to go 'home' because 'he's looking much better these days.' (see: 'Sword of Orion').

Future History: In the 23rd century Venice is sinking for the last time, the victim of a curse put upon its Duke Orcino by his Duchess Estella, an alien at large on Earth. By the time of the Doctor's arrival (the second to last day of its existence) there are no ships left in its ports (presumably the airport has disappeared under the sea), although its citizens still move around via gondolas and vaporettos (unless the Doctor is being poetic it would appear the Duke's is powered by steam).

Untelevised Adventures: The story begins at the end of a previous "revolution" adventure, set on an unknown planet. The Doctor has visited Venice before, at least once during its construction in the sixteenth century. Among the Duke's art collection are scenes of planets with which he is familiar, including one populated by fox headed creatures, and perhaps the planet Hyspero (see: 'Roots').

Location: Venice, the 23rd century.

The Bottom Line: 'Laaavish', but not complicated. 'Stones of Venice' contains a many long speeches which must have looked fine on paper, but somehow don't carry as well in audio. The sound is as always very good indeed, and the story is if nothing else imaginative and diverting. Almost hidden amongst the whimsy the backstory of the 'Charley' subplot continues, with her saying how shocked her parents will be when the Doctor takes her back, to which he softly mutters 'Yes...they will be shocked...when we return.'

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