TV Review: Casanova (David Tennant)

The first thing your Tennant-Who fan needs to track down is Casanova: written by RTD, produced by Gardner, scored by Gold (much of the crew behind the first four seasons of nuWho) and featuring Tennant as the young Casanova. The story is framed by an old Casanova played by Peter O’Toole reminiscing about his youthful exploits. The biggest problem here is that O’Toole and Tennant look nothing alike. Their accents are completely different and they don’t even bother faking a shared mannerism or two despite playing the same character at different ages. Similarly, the last actor to play Casanova’s son has a harelip that none of the other kids did. That aside, Tennant’s Casanova is mischievous, opportunistic, cheerful, roguish, sexy, clever, mostly good hearted guy if slightly careless and strangely naive. As a young man just embarking on life’s journey and trying to establish himself he meets a young woman who has pulled herself out of direst poverty. She gives this kindred spirit some solid advice then steals his purse and his heart and vanishes.

Using his new found confidence and considerable wit he bluffs his way through gigs as a lawyer, astrologer, doctor and more while actually providing reasonable value along the way since he genuinely studies each topic as the need arises.

While vainly pursuing a beautiful but untouchable young lady, her sisters seduce him and provide the keys to seduce any woman: really listen to her. This allows him to cut an entirely massive and equally enthusiastic swath though the ladies of Venice.

Unfortunately, his true love will not marry him because he’s too unreliable with money. Winning or earning fortunes only to waste the money frivolously or lose it gambling. She needs stability for the ages and has betrothed herself to entrenched nobility with old money.

Some scenes of note include 2 that feature Casanova and Henriette miming to one another across a noisy ballroom and from a pier to a departing ship. Precursors to the mime scenes with Martha and Donna. Also the scenes with the faux castrato (the same actress plays the mom in “Fear Her”) in Pompeii contrast sharply with the Whoniverse Pompeii. Further, Casanova’s manservant, Rocco, is the captain of the installation on The Impossible Planet?

An amusing conceit of the work as they travel from Italy to France to Britain is that they speak English at all times but when they go to a new place Casanova asks “How is my accent?” besides which in dialog they had discussed that he is skilled enough in these various languages to possibly teach them as a way to earn income.

Doing a little wikipedia research I was surprised how faithful an adaptation it is. Faithful to many of the events and some of the characters involved, not to the sequence and duration of events, however.

I recommend the whole thing, but if you’re only watching for Tennant you can fairly safely fast forward through the old Casanova sections. Do watch the ending though.

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