S5(31)E10 – Vincent and the Doctor – Broadcast Discussion

5th June 2010 • Blog Post by Jonathan Capps •

After Simon Nye’s storming success with Amy’s Choice, Moff’s other new writer taken from the sitcom stable – Richard Curtis, no less – gets a crack tonight with Vincent and the Doctor, which all previews point to being excellent.  Why don’t you tell us what you reckon and we’ll take it from there, shall we?

Jonathan Capps‘ name translates in the old Draconian tongue as “The Oncoming Storm”. Curiously enough, when spelled out backwards, it translates in Kaled as “Gobby Northerner Who Likes Sandwiches”.

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22 Responses

  1. Michael Warren

    I’m really not sure what to make of this one – I didn’t feel immersed in the story, felt the plot was rather thin, some of the dialogue felt off, and Smith didn’t seem as good as he had been in previous episodes. But, I was kind of pleased by the end, and I did like the ending (you really can’t tell it was snowing that day outside the Millennium Centre).

    One major issue I had – Who shouldn’t have modern music as incidental. The use in this episode didn’t fit properly, to my mind. The stuff in EotW was different, because it was actually part of the scenario. Having that in there makes it feel too much like an ordinary, contemporary-era drama.

  2. Michael Warren

    (OK, ignore that bit about the snow…)

  3. Jonathan Capps

    I’m not sure, either. I really enjoyed it, but the ending was laid on very thick and the use of Athlete (I think) was bizarre to the point of shit.

  4. Good episode!

    As Richard Curtis acknowledged in Confidential, there was a danger that he might have focused too much on doing a drama about a real-life historical figure, rather than telling a Doctor Who story. It was definitely more skewed towards the former than I expected, but I think that was a good thing – it made a change from the way earlier Great Artist episodes of New Who (Dickens/Shakespeare/Agatha Christie) balanced their stories. Maybe Bill Nighy’s speech at the end about van Gogh being one of the greatest men who ever lived was laying it on a bit thick, but generally I thought the episode was really good.

    I like the fact that Doctor Who is a series that can do a slower-paced episode like this where its monster is defeated earlier in the episode than we might expect. (Speaking of the monster, glad the episode provided a reason why the characters actually stood the slightest chance against an invisible enemy!)

    I liked the touch of the flyers stuck to the TARDIS in the 19th century burning off when it arrives at the museum. The rear-view mirror thingy was a good gadget too.

    I also loved the line about the Sonic Screwdriver: “From now on I’m only going to be using it for screwing in screws!” :)

  5. I enjoyed it. Although I’m not really sure why. It didn’t seem to do anything particularly well, but did everything adequately enough to be a welcome addition to the cannon. I die like wing mirror contraption it seemed, at first, like yet another ingenious way to do an ‘Attack of the Invisible Aliens’ ep and keep the budget costs down.

    On the basis of the two to date I’d take sitcom writers over Chibnall’s fanspank anyday.

  6. Andy M

    I should probably admit before I write a response here that I consider ‘Love Actually’ to be, not the worst film I’ve ever seen, but certainly the worst film I’ve ever seen at the cinema. But then Blackadder is undoubtebly one of the most magnificent things to have ever graced a TV screen. Curtis just kind of mystifies me.

    So I really, really loved the first 35 minutes of that. The “invisible monsters” stuff. Perfect.

    When that soft rock track kicked in and they took Van Gogh back to 2010 he lost me entirely. So why exactly did Vincent Van Gogh kill himself then? I’ll just pretend this story ends with the Doctor and Amy leaving Vincent’s house and ignore the abominable Keira Knightley chocolate box shite at the end.

  7. Phil1034

    Beautiful, a truly moving piece of television.

  8. Andy M

    Actually, the more I think about that ending the more I think Curtis can just go fuck himself. What’s for next year, the Doctor scoops up Anne Frank, shows her how many copies of her diary she’ll sell, then just puts her back in her boxcar? You just have to be *better* than this when you’re writing an historical Who.

  9. Ploppy

    The historical stuff was overdone, the Doctor Who stuff was underwritten. By-the-numbers, over-sentimental and with no real surprises, it was still a damn sight better than the dullathon that has passed for this show in the last fortnight.

  10. Seb Patrick

    I liked it, but I agree that something about the end felt *slightly* off. Not as much as some, but I do agree that I’m not sure the Doctor should be whisking people off to show their future impact, no matter how much he likes them. And the Athlete track really shouldn’t have been in there. But it was fairly moving, and it was quite brave to do a Who story that took an honest – if a little brief – look at depression (although it simply doesn’t feel right having an “If you have been affected by any of the issues in this programme…” message at the end of Doctor Who).

    Thought it was by far Amy’s best episode so far, too.

    Also – anyone else catch the Blackadder III reference?

  11. Hivewatcher

    Contrafibulators?

    I did.

    “So why exactly did Vincent Van Gogh kill himself then?”

    Because despite of this privileged foresight, he still suffered from acute depression to such a degree that not being alive any more was preferable to him that suffering even another minute of it. Which, for me, was kind of the point.

  12. I liked the bit where they walked the 500 miles from Van Gogh’s room in Arles (south of France) to the church at Auvers (near Paris).

  13. Did anyone else wonder if there wasn’t a secret bit of “season arc” stuff in this episode? I know the crack wasn’t in it, but I get the feeling that the Doctor (from a future episode) revisited Van Gogh to get him out of bed after it looked like he’d be too depressed to join them. I know it could be explained as him simply getting over his depression, but I think it was a little too abrupt from “he’s weeping and bedridden” to “he’s up and raring to go!”.

  14. ChrisM

    I found it a little disjointed* in places but overall I liked it. Hearing the actor’s accent irritated me a bit at the start. Not that I’m suggesting he fake a Dutch accent, it’s just his Scottish accent is so very strong. Then again,to be fair, so was the cafe maid’s English bumkin accent. But then they made a kind of third (or is it fourth?) wall joke out of it when he asked Amy if she was Dutch too… and actually made it all right.

    And although I’m not exactly a Van Gogh fan** I found the ending very sweet, touching and sad. I guess I’m a bit of a sentimentalist. Or a big-girl’s blouse. Or both.

    One thing I don’t usually remark on, which I thought was captured brilliantly this episode, was the way they matched settings to paintings. The cafe is the obvious one, but I think one that really stood out was that early morning view of Van Gogh’s studio/home. The golden sunlight. As I said, I’m not really into Van Gogh, but I knew straight away I’d seen that before in a painting. And the fact it did that with someone who probably just glanced the original painting in passing, that’s quite something. I’m impressed.

    *I’m not sure that’s the right word. Probably not. Awkward, maybe.

    **I don’t dislike his work, I actually found a certain appreciation for it this episode. I just not really an arty person in that sense. Which isn’t to say I don’t like a good picture if I see one. Or that I’m riding on some working class ‘so-called’ reverse snobbery. Art loving is a good thing.

  15. ChrisM

    I’m not sure the Doctor should be whisking people off to show their future impact, no matter how much he likes them.

    Much as I liked that sequence, that thought occurred to me too. But then I thought the Doctor probably figured, “he’ll be dead in a few days time, what’s the harm?”

    Of course there was the chance of changing history negatively as a result, that old butterfly effect thing. I’m not sure how Van Gogh living to old age would have had a negative outcome on the world, but maybe it wouldn’t, so that was another reason. Judging by The Doctor’s response to Amy at the end “I’m not so sure…” I think the Doctor knew that Van Gogh’s fate would be the same regardless though, and just felt the need to give him a last treat.

    Ironically I wonder if the knowledge that he was a success actually contributed to his suicide. As in, “I made it, what else is there?”. I think he would have done it anyway but maybe just for slightly different reasons. Well, apart from the big overriding fact that he is a manic depressive of course.

  16. Seb Patrick

    A point I’d forgotten: although I do think some of the plotting betrayed Curtis being new to Who and not quite getting what the Doctor’s all about, he absolutely *nailed* the character in the scene where he was alone in the TARDIS. One of my favourite moments of the series, I think.

  17. Ridley

    I was indifferent to most of it (possibly due to lacking sleep though) – the death of the monster could have been better – but I liked the ending.

    Didn’t care for the “For Amy” bit though. Liked that it seemed the Krafayis disappeared because van Gogh chose not to paint it (or painted the version everyone else sees), so to have put something on the sunflowers which people can’t look up on the actual painting is a bit of a shame. Or at least hide it somehow.

    Maybe even set it in 1888, not that I know much about van Gogh to know if that would improve the episode somehow.

    “I know evil when I see it.” sort of undermimes all the times we need the Doctor to tell us what something is, no? Unless I missed him saying he was wrong.

  18. Someone on the xkcd forum pointed out a cute little reversal: in Vampires of Venice, the first episode with Rory tagging along, an enemy that could be seen in real life couldn’t be seen in a mirror. And then this, the first episode with Rory gone, turned it round by featuring an invisible enemy that could only be seen when looking in a mirror!

    > “I know evil when I see it.” sort of undermimes all the times we need the Doctor to tell us what something is, no? Unless I missed him saying he was wrong.

    I suppose he was right in that the alien’s species as a whole was vicious and ruthless.

  19. Yes, I think the Doctor said that the species were killers, but this particular specimen was blind and had been abandoned, killing mainly by accident because it was terrified. The Doctor comments that it didn’t eat its victims, presumably because it wasn’t killing for food and couldn’t see them anyway. Hence the line ‘Sometimes winning is no fun at all’.

  20. ChrisM

    I wondered at the Doctor’s reference to the ‘face of evil’ too, considering the sympathetic treatment of the alien at the end, but then I realised the Doctor was viewing Van Gogh’s depiction of the alien. Not the alien itself. Up until the end Van Gogh saw it as evil, and, in the original time-line, painted it as such. Not that he was necessarily wrong either. There are different ways a sentient being can react other than lashing out, even if they are afraid.

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