Vincent and the Doctor is an episode unlike anything else this season. The episode was pretty much a pure character study on Vincent Van Gogh and dealt with his mental issues in a way that was pitch perfect for a children’s show. The best part is that the study was pulled off while staying true to the characters of Amy and the Doctor while dealing with the repercussions of the previous episode.
It all starts off with Amy and the Doctor going to the art museum to see the Van Gogh wing. Apparently the Doctor has been taking Amy to see all these glorious things she wants to see as of late for no apparent (as far as she knows) reason, which does make her slightly suspicious but not to the extent it becomes a real issue. The truth of course is that her fiancée was just killed and erased from existence in the previous episode and only the Doctor remembers the great Rory. So he is doing his best to do everything he can for Amy to be happy.
While at the museum the Doctor sees a monster in one of Van Gogh’s paintings and they are off to the past to help stop a monster with one of the greatest artists to ever live. What they find though is a bit heart breaking.
It is well documented that Van Gogh’s work was not appreciated while he was alive, his paintings were considered worthless when he passed away, and he did suffer from mental illness. But seeing it (or a dramatization) is another issue all together.
Vincent is instantly taken with Amy and the two flirt as the Doctor does his best to try and find out about the monster. There is also a little matter of mysterious deaths happening in the city. The monster is brilliantly an invisible monster that only Van Gogh can see (and later the Doctor using a special device that is essentially a rear view mirror that can identity the true form of things), this is surely a cost issue, but it gives the audience some doubt on whether or not the artist is really insane like the villagers claim he is or not.
We quickly find out that he does suffer from depression, but works through it to help the Doctor and Amy stop the monster who is really just a blind vicious creature who has lost his pack. With the day saved, the Doctor does something for Van Gogh, he takes him to the museum in present day and shows him all the work he created and that eventually people did love his work. The episode ends with a heart breaking moment when Amy believes that showing Van Gogh how he becomes appreciated he wouldn’t commit suicide, she finds out that he still went through with the act. Time didn’t change, no new paintings were created, and he didn’t live for several more years, but he did add Amy’s name to one of his works.
While it would be easy to say that this episode was created to be like an after school special about depression, I would disagree. Tony Curran who played Van Gogh made the whole thing work perfectly. His performance made you buy into him as the artist, and had you rooting for him at every turn. His flirtig with Amy made you smile, his loneliness and anguish made you want to cry and give him a hug, and you truly hoped he would be okay even though you knew his eventual fate. The little scenes showing how he saw the world were also beatiful and worked, especially the Stary Night scene and his conversation with Amy about how she was so sad.
Speaking of Amy, Gillian also gave a layered performance. She was happy go lucky, chasing a monster and hanging out with her favorite artist of all time, but she also had a sadness about her. Not only for Van Gogh, which really only came up at the end, but for her lost love Rory who she is unable to remember.
Finally we got to see a unique side to the Doctor this week While he was there to stop a monster from hurting people, he was working hard to make two people happy. Usually the emotional state of people isn’t something that registers for him, but here he is going beyond out of his way to make people as happy as possible. First by taking Amy to places that will make her as happy as possible, and then at the end by taking Van Gogh to see the future of his work and all the love and respect his work has.
The monster itself was a bit weak, I can’t even recall the name of the invisible beast, and they did flip flop a bit on how to deal with it. Was it a blood thirsty vicious beast or was it a sympathetic misunderstood creature? It really didn’t matter in the end, the monster wasn’t the point this week, it was all about the characters and their interactions, and those bits were perfect.
The continuity bits also made me happy. Rory is remembered by the Doctor, he even calls Van Gogh Rory once by accident. Amy is remembering him as best she can even though thanks to the Crack he never existed. She is mourning him subconsciously. We also got a nice little wink to Doctors past again seeing pictures of the first and second Doctor during the trial of the detector which was nice. We didn’t get an appearance of the Crack in this episode, which isn’t an issue. We know about it thanks to the Rory references, and really it would of harmed the episode if it made an appearance, this was about characters as I’ve said several times before. And those characters dealing with sadness and loss.