It’s a light-hearted, charming story set in 1980s Italy, indeed it's almost a farce. It does nothing particularly special with the characters of the Doctor and Charley, although it’s not really trying to; there’s a nice moment where the Doctor and “Charleyostiantayshius” the Time Lady step out of the TARDIS to confront the Threllips, and we see a new side to Charley as she imperiously imitates the Doctor’s own race, which calls to mind Storm Warning and her early penchant for disguises. The Doctor taking on the role of leading Vangorr into Ferrara and fooling him into getting hammered is delightful if somewhat unusual as a modus operandi.
The concept of World Cup Fever, spread as plague by physical contact, is bonkers but rather fun. That the TARDIS crew flatter the egos of the foolish aliens by fabricating future aggrandisements and semi-legendary status is a rather nice solution to a forthcoming alien invasion. Unfortunately the Threllips, Vangorr and Thon, are even more paper-thin, inadequate than the silly pterodactyl-like things in Invaders from Mars. The parody Somerset accents just don’t really work. They’re passable, but nothing special. Overall though this is a pleasant way to spend 22 minutes and a reasonable slice of Doctor Who in the Gareth Roberts/Clayton Hickman vein.
“I haven’t seen this kind of celebration since VE Day.”
It’s somewhat implausible that the Eighth Doctor follows football, although his cry of “Viva Italia!” is rather fun, and his enthusiasm to go and party with the Italians is wonderfully infectious.
“I rather fancied a moonlit stroll through some unfamiliar forest to search for some undoubtedly hostile alien creature.”/ “Me too. Come on!”
“They’re a joyless bunch, duller than a turtle marathon.”
“Did you notice those devices attached to their belts that resemble guns?”/ “Yes, what are they?”/ “Guns.”
Gary Russell’s evocative recreation of the forests around Ferrara is beautiful, and good enough that it’s worthy of a bigger, grander story than this in a way.