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Published on June 7th, 2010 | by Brian A Terranova

Vincent and the Doctor

Doctor Who - Vincent and the Doctor, with Tony CurranLast week’s Doctor Who left us with such a heart breaker, with poor Rory no longer among the existing, let along the living, and Amy no longer having any idea of the love that she once had. I can’t tell you how gutted I was to see Cold Blood end in this way – so naturally I would have been extremely annoyed if the tragedy had been skated over in the next episode, in a slot that we have traditionally come to recognise as that held for the low-budget Doctor-lite stories.

I am happy to say that Vincent and the Doctor did not let me down. In fact, my expectations were exceeded when they gave us another touching story, subtly referring to Amy’s loss from the last story.

This is a huge testament to the main cast that they can portray a wide range of emotions extremely convincingly. But then you would expect that from leading actors Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, so what’s more impressive is the casting of Tony Curran as Vincent Van Gogh. What a stoke of luck that the Doctor Who production team were able to hire an actor who looked like a dead ringer for Van Gogh and who can act his socks off.

From beginning to end we were taken through all the emotional ranges a human can possess and never once did it seem too much or to be over-reaching. By the end of the story, despite the sad themes and real life end of one of the worlds most impressive impressionists, we – the viewers – walked away with a very uplifting feeling. And again, despite the sadness of the story it was a great contrast to last weeks ending.

Doctor Who - Vincent and the Doctor, with Tony CurranFull credit must go to writer Richard Curtis, of whose vast body of work I am not that familiar with outside of Blackadder. But just like Steven Moffat before him, his Doctor Who work proved to me that a good writer is a good writer. Pitching a Doctor Who story of an impressionist painter with depression and actually making it all the way to filming on that idea shows true conviction by the artist and his work. Which parallels nicely with Vincent Van Gogh. He knew his pieces were worthy; otherwise he would not have continued painting and trying to sell them.

Vincent and the Doctor‘s location filming added a visual richness to the overall look, which coupled with the perfect (minimal) use of CGI made me forget about the oft-discussed BBC budget cuts. Croatia certainly is a beautiful and versatile place.

What’s interesting still, as if you can cram more interesting into this weeks episode, is the lack of the usual story links that have been building up. Both the Cracks in space and time and the Silence were missing, although the effect of at least one of them was still being felt. Unless there was something that we missed? You won’t have to twist my arm to get me to watch this one again, so I’ll be keeping a close eye for any little hints of things to come myself.

Doctor Who - Vincent and the Doctor, with Tony CurranTen episodes in and with each new episode Matt Smith is showing us more and more why he was the only man for the job. His portrayal of the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor is rapidly moving up the ranks in my favorites list. And for an actor whose name was never even connected with the role until he was announced says a lot. But there was another actor connected to the role for years who makes an unforgettable appearance in this story: Bill Nighy. Playing the Musee d’Orsee Curator, Dr Black, Bill is responsible for one of the story’s most moving scenes. At the beginning I honestly felt that they had wasted his talents with what I thought was nothing more than a funny cameo, but then in the end his role became just as important as the episodes other three main players.

In the end, what we were given in Vincent and the Doctor was not just another adventure in the lives of the Doctor and his faithful companion, but an awareness of a real life struggle for many in the world today, yesterday and sadly tomorrow as well. We were shown how depression can affect not only the people suffering from it, but also how it can affect the people around them – the people who love them.

Most of all, Doctor Who this week showed us that no matter how hard we may try to help someone in need, sometimes the battle to get better just can’t be won. And that no matter how much we may blame ourselves for not doing enough or not being there, that at the end of the day we did what we could and so long as we never stopped trying, we have made a difference in their lives.

TV with a message for making the world a better place, that’s what I like to see.

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About the Author

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Doctor Who and me go way back. I first discovered it on my local PBS Station WHYY in the suburbs outside Philadelphia when I was a young kid; though I am uncertain of the exact age.




4 Responses to Vincent and the Doctor

  1. avatar ChrisL says:

    Nice review, and I agree wholeheartedly that this was an absolutely fabulous episode.
    This series started off pretty dismally but has gone from strength to strength since the “Vampires of Venice”, with each episode becoming almost an instant classic.
    Matt Smith has totally made the role his own now, however I’m still not too enamoured with Amy and find her more irritating than any other companion since Mel – still, can’t have everything I suppose.

    Oh yeah, you mentioned the lack of a crack in this episode. Well if you look closely at the tree branch during Vincent’s last scene, just after The Doctor & Amy head off back to the art gallery for one more look, then you may notice that it takes the same shape as the crack! This may be me seeing things that aren’t there, but the shape is identical.

  2. avatar ChrisL says:

    Oops! Bit of a clanger dropped there!
    When I said the series had gone from strength to strength since “Vampires”, I meant since “The Time of Angels”. This is what happens when posting comments at 1am – my memory starts to go and I get things in the wrong order!

    Anyway, yes, this series has lived up to all of the expectations I had when Mr Moffatt took the helm. Apart from episodes 2 & 3, they have all been fantastic, and if my suspicions are correct about the many things that appear at first glance to have been continuity errors but are in fact brilliant pieces of Moffatt’s genius, which will be explained in the finale, then this could well be the greatest series ever!

    Obviously, if they turn out to actually be continuity errors then I will be totally deflated and will demand that heads roll in the editing department :-)

  3. avatar Rick714 says:

    I’m not ashamed to admit that his is the first time in history that I openly weeped at an episode of DW. That gallery scene hit me like a sledgehammer. Bravo.

  4. avatar Rick714 says:

    Just watched Gladiator again yesterday—after Ceasar dies and Maximus is taken to the woods to be killed? He’s on his knees in the woods, he asks at least for a quick death so one soldier stands behind him with the sword, ready to slice down—it was Tony Curran, Vincent!

    “Hey,” I shout, “it’s Van Gogh!” :)

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