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27 June 2015 @ 04:24 pm
NuWho Rewatch: Vincent and the Doctor  
In which the Doctor notices an alien creature in one of Vincent van Gogh's paintings and instantly becomes embroiled in Vincent's life.

I'm mildly surprised that I was clearly vaguely disappointed with Vincent and the Doctor when it first aired. At the time I blamed the giant chicken, which may have had some measure of truth in it. While Vincent and the Doctor is attempting to handle some very serious themes, both the nature of depression and the interpretation of Van Gogh's oeuvre, it isn't afraid to be a little silly about it. Everything from Bill Nighy and Matt Smith complementing each other's bow ties, through the Doctor attempting to pay for Van Gogh's drink and culminating in almost everything to do with the giant chicken is laced with humour and, this time around, that seemed to gell much better. Doctor Who does need to acknowledge its inherent silliness a little, particularly with a subject like this where it could easily end up looking very po-faced and appearing to treat itself as far more profound than the format really allows it to be.

I do like the fact that Van Gogh and the Doctor meet largely as equals. Van Gogh likes the Doctor but he isn't particularly impressed by the Doctor's Time Lord status and, in fact, asserts the superiority and unknowability of his own vision in the face of the Doctor's assertions and platitudes.

I think this is probably one of the best NuWho stories, certainly the best of the fifth season and quite possibly the best of the "celebrity historical" style of story, since it integrates not just Van Gogh into the tale but tightly binds in what he did and why it is significant.

If I were to quibble Vincent and the Doctor doesn't really have a great deal for Amy to do, in part because Vincent is in a pseudo-companion role, but even this is used to good effect when the Doctor accidentally refers to him as Rory. In contrast to Mickey, who the Doctor never really wanted around, this shows us that, in the Doctor's mind, Rory was very much a companion. It does allow Amy to form her own relationship with Vincent, which is separate from that of the Doctor but I remarked in my previous review that a lot of this seems to be so she can be the receiver of info-dumps on the audience's behalf.

Still, this is an excellent story, taking interesting and serious material, which it handles with a deftly light touch. I was happy to rewatch.

metanews coding: <a href=http://louisedennis.livejournal.com/301816.html>NuWho Rewatch: Vincent and the Doctor</a> (LJ) <i>Discussion of the fifth series episode</i>

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/162607.html.
wellinghallwellinghall on June 27th, 2015 08:12 pm (UTC)
I had completely forgotten the chicken, which may show my general level of engagement with NuWho.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 27th, 2015 08:17 pm (UTC)
Well, it must be said, I'd forgotten a lot of the details of the chicken. I blame this on advancing years because I'm sure in my teens I remembered every detail of pretty much every Doctor Who story I'd seen.
wellinghallwellinghall on June 27th, 2015 08:19 pm (UTC)
Advancing years probably has something to do with it in my case, too.
louisedennislouisedennis on June 27th, 2015 08:25 pm (UTC)
Though, if truth be told, I generally tell myself that its because I have thirty more years of memories in there now and there is only so much room for details of giant chickens. It's also kind of nice to be able to rewatch something and still be surprised by the details (not that I have nearly as much time for watching, let alone, rewatching things as I did in my teens).
wellinghallwellinghall on June 27th, 2015 08:28 pm (UTC)
Nor do I, and that's without as many family commitments as you.
louisedennislouisedennis on June 30th, 2015 11:00 am (UTC)
I look forward to that mythical point in time when I shall be both cash and time rich!
wellinghallwellinghall on June 30th, 2015 05:41 pm (UTC)
As an actuary, I am used to making forecasts about time and money, and assessing the probabilities of them occurring; and I am not very hopeful :-(
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on June 27th, 2015 11:51 pm (UTC)
I also forget details of new Who compared to old Who. I can even measure it by which questions in the DWM crossword I need to google and which I know straight off. Whether it is advancing years, lack of rewatching or lack of emotional engagement is not clear to me.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on June 27th, 2015 11:50 pm (UTC)
As someone who has suffered from depression my teens to the present, I was very impressed by the way it was handled here: not too heavy for the timeslot, but not attempting to downplay it or jolly it (or Vincent) up.
louisedennislouisedennis on June 30th, 2015 11:04 am (UTC)
I think one of the important things the story does is stress that you can't simply "cheer up" someone with depression, it just doesn't work like that.
Pollyjane_somebody on July 10th, 2015 09:06 pm (UTC)
This is absolutely one of my favourite NuWho stories, possibly one of my favourite Who stories full stop. Like Daniel, my own experience of depression led me to be appreciative of the way this was handled. What did NLSS Child make of this story?
louisedennislouisedennis on July 12th, 2015 10:25 am (UTC)
NLSS child needed a little interpretation to understand the details of what were going on, not just the ending, but also the way Van Gogh's painting was being used in the story. She enjoyed it though.