The Love Vampires

Posted in Audio by - December 09, 2022
The Love Vampires

Released December 2022


The Doctor, Liv, and Helen arrive on a space station in the shadow of a dying star, finding a terrified crew haunted by faces from the past in ‘The Love Vampires’ by James Kettle. These faces are much more than just memories, however, and they’re looking to feed on their chosen victims to subsist no matter the cost.

In many ways, the Eighth Doctor’s Stranded saga opened up an entirely new means of storytelling for Doctor Who, often putting a distinct focus on the characters and using their inner thoughts to drive the plot forward rather than any threatening or alien menace. Kettle found immense success within this format in the brilliant ‘Snow,’ and so it’s natural that he should look to delve deeper into the motivations and desires of this leading trio who have been together for so long and who know each other so well but who are also still a current and open-ended team from a continuing narrative standpoint with their ultimate trajectories yet unknown. ‘The Love Vampires’ unfolds in a very deliberate and introspective fashion as everyone aboard this station lives in fear that they could be the next victim of the vampiric attacks, and Nicola Walker and Hattie Morahan expertly delve into the far more nuanced and reflective natures of their characters who do not need to react to any awe-inspiring threat with frantic urgency as is so often the case. Naturally, Liv and Helen do not necessarily want to discuss their respective pasts with Petko and Jean they have once more encountered here, but the insight afforded the audience and the individual characters themselves offers a firm reminder of who they were and are while allowing them to reflect upon the paths they have taken since.

Unfortunately, ‘The Love Vampires’ doesn’t quite reach the emotional highs that ‘Snow’ managed, in large part because the members of the Becoming race are completely unknown quantities that muddle rather than amplify the intense emotional journeys of the leads. ‘Snow’ worked so well because previous stories in Stranded allowed each of the supporting characters to be a dynamic and well-developed individual that the audience came to know and care about beforehand; attempting to do the same in a standalone story with completely new and unknown characters facing a completely new and unknown threat is simply too big of a task to manage completely successfully in one episode. Nonetheless, feeding off of love via the trust implicit to that emotion is a truly brilliant means of attack that would make these vampires a most welcome recurring threat in other stories, and even the Doctor initially appears not to be immune to their ways as he encounters his own first love who fittingly goes by the moniker the Realist to further accentuate the unique path the Doctor has taken since deciding to leave Gallifrey so very long ago. Looking deep into the Doctor’s past is a bold decision that is handled gently enough here, but the truth behind the Realist and the Doctor’s continuing ability to think far in advance of everyone around him lend this plotline an even greater resonance that allows Paul McGann to showcase an immense range of emotions in short order.

At least somewhat intriguingly, the Becoming as a race has no idea about the mythology behind the vampires victimizing them, and so it’s the Doctor and Helen primarily who must piece together the puzzle before them and try to find different ways to stave off the continuing attacks with garlic tablets, a wooden double bass, and even shadows and light being put to good use. Having an enemy that provides more of an atypical emotional anguish rather than an overtly physical and imposing threat is a strong foundation that allows ‘The Love Vampires’ to stand apart from most of its peers outside of Stranded, but it unfolds in the wrong type of setting with too many unknown and underdeveloped supporting characters- despite strong guest performances- to really allow the raw and very genuine emotions on display throughout to truly resonate as much as intended.

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