“He’s drunk. He’s mad. And he never pays his bills.”
Regardless of whether or not you agree that Van Gogh, the titular Vincent of this tale, is the “greatest artist of all time” by the end of this episode you’ll have fallen in lurve with the man, if not his paintings.
Who new~boy Richard Curtis demonstrates, with some style, just how powerful Doctor Who can be. Just how funny, compelling and, ultimately, heart-breaking time travel can be. I don’t mind admitting that I teared up with some severity during Vincent and the Doctor – a testament to both the writing and the actors involved.
Tony Curran (magnificent in Red Road if you haven’t seen it) pulls off the artist and his mental issues immaculately – which, considering this is a ‘tea~time family’ show is no mean feat. For example, the scene where we find Van Gogh face down on his bed crying will scare you more than any of the aliens and monsters the Doctor has previously faced.
It’s not handled lightly either, his depression forms a significant part of the plot and is addressed head on, as it were. And the ongoing repercussions from last week are felt in a very real and meaningful way. But, being a Curtis invention, there’s laughs to be had too. Matt Smith, as always, is delightful (though does have to face a few demons himself, saying, “Sometimes winning is no fun at all”) with some wonderful physical manoeuvring and verbal dexterity (inviting himself to stay with the artist is high~larious). Watch out, also, for a superbly tittersome monologue in the TARDIS as he plays with his new/old toy (‘classic’ Who fans are in for a treat too). Also be on the look~out for a heart~warming cameo from Bill Nighy, his bow tie~based interaction with Matt is sublime.
The first scenes with Van Gogh meeting Amy and The Doctor are particularly amusing and we find Curtis’s Provence full of regional accents and a wonderful excuse for the artist’s “accent.” The writer also finds time to stick in a cowboy motif with Gallifrey’s finest stating that he’s “new in town” whilst later on Van Gogh appropriates his iconic hat, easel and brushes like he stepped out of a Spaghetti Western.
The set design and direction are by some stretch the finest this year; from Van Gogh’s bedroom to the various attacks of the ‘invisible’ monster (the ‘monster’ being a very small, though interesting, part of this story) and some striking POV shots. In particular, I would highlight a scene where the trio are lying on the ground staring into the sky. Those familiar with Van Gogh’s work can imagine what happens but it is a beautiful scene, again showing us that Doctor Who can be a bit different every now and again.
Vincent and the Doctor includes a number of difficult choices for everyone’s favourite Time Lord, questioning the very nature of time travel and the results of his ‘meddling’ (and he questions his use of the sonic!) Crucially, however, this is a story about one man, Van Gogh and his pain. There’s no happy end in that sense, Curtis is clever enough to show that “bad things” happen. Though this is certainly a tear~filled forty~five minutes or so we do also get the “good things”, thankfully, resulting in one of the most memorable outings for The Doctor to date. One can only hope that Richard Curtis is invited back very soon.
BLOGTOR RATING 10/10
For clips, interviews and pics, visit the episode section HERE