Last week the Earth was in danger from it’s original inhabitants crawling from under the surface, but this week on Doctor Who, we’re more in what one of the greatest painters ever sees, be it in himself, or in his future, or in the eyes of a scary looking creature staring out from the windows of a church…
And that’s this week’s episode, which bears the rather low key title of “Vincent And The Doctor,” written by Richard Curtis of Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill, and Love, Actually fame.
The plot is relatively simple: The Doctor is showing Amy a good time, trying to make up for the loss of Rory in small ways, but it’s more about alleviating his guilt over what she can’t remember. They go to the Musee D’orsay in Paris and notice a scary face staring out from a window within Van Gogh’s painting, The Church At Auvers, and after finding a approximation of the date the painting was done, decide to back and pay Van Gogh a visit in his final and incredibly product days and do a little investigating. And adventuring.
It’s kind of interesting in that all of Moffat’s previous episodes of Doctor Who during the RTD run of the show dealt with things of an auditory nature, repeated scary catch phrases and noises of monsters, and this series it’s primary more about what is seen. And Van Gogh, dealing with his madness, is the only person who can see the alien creature rampaging through Provence, possibly because of his temporal lobe epilepsy (the part of your brain where God and other wonderful monsters live, as the God helmet taught us), and that monster itself happens to be blind.
The episode is pretty light on the plot and much more character-driven and kind of hauntingly wonderful in that regard. I didn’t dislike last week’s episode or “The Hungry Earth” before it, but ultimately I feel that it may be rather forgettable in the long run, and possibly “Vampires In Venice” as well (this episode was shot in the same Croatian village as that episode, standing in for France this time, rather than Venice), but this one is an odd keeper. And that, in itself, is interesting because a quick scan online has shown me that quite a few have actually hated this episode, which I think it’s a shame. It was lovely in a tragic way, but also rather life affirming of the beauty of both the good and the bad we experience in this brief and temporary life, especially since the Pandorica will be opening in a mere two weeks.
I can’t say enough good things about Tony Curran’s rendition of Vincent Van Gogh, who didn’t have a lot to do in this episode, not really, but did all of it with such incredible weight. The way he delivered the line, “When you leave, as everyone always does, I will be left with an empty heart and no hope” was beautiful in an incredibly touching way that just stabbed at you, and was in an amazing contract with the tears that streamed down his eyes as Bill Nighy’s curator character explained the effect that Van Gogh had on the world of modern art.
And then there was that beautiful scene of Van Gogh laying in the grass with Amy and the Doctor, having them look up at the night sky and seeing it from his perspective, the literal transformation from the real into a starry night.
And Karen Gillan was again, of course, beautiful in this episode, and again, felt somewhat wasted. I quite enjoyed her stuff at the end, after her and the Doctor showed Van Gogh how he changed the world of the future, and the way she hoped that they had had an effect on him that would’ve changed something in his life for the better, perhaps helped him to deal with his demons and live longer…
And the perspective of a time traveler can certainly be an interesting thing, I think we’ve seen so far this season.
It’s interesting watching Matt Smith’s progression as the Doctor this series, not so much in acting, but in writing. Part of that has to do with the showrunner, Stephen Moffat, writing more episodes at the start of the series, but there’s certainly much more of a weight to episodes like “The Eleventh Hour” and “The Beast Below” and, of course, in “The Time Of Angels” and “Flesh And Stone.” Life literally felt like it was on the line in those episodes, the situations were certainly more dire, and the actors/characters shown a lot brighter, and I’m looking forward to next week’s episode, but I’m really anxious to see Moffat return in two weeks as River Song returns (along with Rory and a whole host of baddies, apparently, if supposed spoilers are to be believed), the Pandorica opens, and silence falls…
Next time: The Doctor takes the slow path for a week without the TARDIS, becoming a lodger, playing a little soccer, and discovers the mystery of the staircase that people can go up but never come down.