Before I start, I'd just like to thank everyone for their kind words following my Glee post yesterday. It means a lot!
Anywho, a quick-ish review of possibly my favourite Moffat-era Doctor Who so far coming up after the jump.
When I heard that Richard Curtis would be doing an episode of Doctor Who, I was very happy. Being a big fan of Curtis, I was instantly aware of all the possibilities that having him write a script would bring - most notably, clever humour and a lot of emotion.
And I'm happy to admit that I was right.
Vincent van Gogh is someone I recognise as one of the greatest artists the world has ever seen. I remember in school being fascinated by his range and use of colour, being so impressed with how different he was to anything else I'd seen at the time. So to see some of my favourite paintings of his (most notably a clever homage to 'The Starry Night', which was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen) paid tribute to in such a wonderfully written episode was a joy for me.
I think it's pointless me going on about how good Matt Smith and Karen Gillan are as a duo - their chemistry is so flawless it's like they've been travelling through time and space for an eternity.
But I thought it was interesting how well Gillan played off of Tony Curran, who I'll get round to in a moment. As sad as I was to see Rory's shock exit last week (though I hope it's not the last we see of him), I like that we were given a window for Amy to have a new love interest, even if it was only for one episode.
But yes - Tony Curran in a really quite genius turn as the tormented painter. I understand that van Gogh was supposed to be Dutch - so where the Scottish accent comes from I don't know but then again I don't think it really matters either. Being a family show (and I do worry that sometimes people on the internet forget that Doctor Who is, primarily a family show), I think Richard Curtis and Curran got the right balance with van Gogh in terms of portraying his depression and loneliness, without ever making it seem depressing as an episode. It was clever in a Pixar-esque way; the adults could appreciate it on a completely different level, while the kids could simply enjoy the action.
At the same time, the episode managed to be very funny - in particular I liked the Doctor's unapologetic barging into Vincent's room and waking him up, and Bill Nighy and the Doctor complimenting each other's bow ties. The whole thing itself was mostly a light-hearted romp, and I think that's a really important thing for Doctor Who to have.
In the end though, I reckon the episode will be remembered for how it resonated emotionally with the audience (or at least, with me!). The idea of the monsters not really being that bad has been done before, but usually it doesn't work all that well (for instance, that weird parasite thing that invaded Chloe Webber in 'Fear Her'). Here though, the poor blind creature that was running around like a headless chicken (or in this case, a headless giant chicken) went from being something quite spooky - invisible monsters are always eerie - to being a poor thing I felt really sad for. One of my favourite moments from Matt Smith so far was him subtly touching the giant chicken thing (does it have a name? I think I missed that) as it died, frightened.
My favourite scene of the episode though, and just an epitome of how brilliant everyone involved with this episode is, was the Doctor taking van Gogh to the present day in order to see how one day he would be appreciated for all his work. Kudos to Tony Curran, kudos to Richard Curtis, but I also think Jonny Cambell deserves a mention as the director for how he handled that scene - having Dr. Black, the Doctor and Amy all talking in the background while we whizz around with an emotional Vincent was just sheer brilliant. In fact, I'm going to watch it again before my hail of bullets.
Okay. Back. Wow.
So - I think I've talked about everything I have to say in detail, so here's a bullet point list of everything else I loved about this bloody brilliant episode of Doctor Who:
- Lovely as the moment was, was anybody actually suprised that the sunflower painting mentioned Amy's name?
- Caught the slip-up where the Doctor accidentally calls Vincent 'Rory'. Glad to see not everyone's forgotten about our favourite Murse.
- For non-BBC viewers, I thought it was interesting that the Beeb followed the episode with a mini-PSA about depression advice. It didn't take anything away from the episode and actually was an interesting reminder of how people who genuinely would have needed help would have had to have suffered back then.
- Didn't spot the cracks in the walls this week, did they just not appear?
- I did however notice the references to the First and Second Doctors. The is the third time we've seen the First Doctor this year, and I'm quite happy with that - it's encouraging younger viewers (like myself, to be fair) to go back and read up on/watch very early episodes from the 60s.
- Finally, I liked that Curtis didn't think to change van Gogh's fate - it would've cheapened the story and robbed us of the sad little scene in which the Doctor reminds Amy that even though they didn't save his life, they at least made the few days they spent with him a whole lot better.
Just friggin' loved it. Three more to go!