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Summer TV Club: Doctor Who "Vincent and the Doctor"

We had to do it.
We had to do it.

You knew it was coming, and as summer draws to a close (in October, since this is Houston), Jef felt that our readers had suffered long enough without the TV Club watching and ruminating on a Doctor Who episode. The episode in question is from the 5th Season, "Vincent and the Doctor."

The episode opens with the Doctor and his companion Amy admiring the works of Vincent van Gogh at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Because of the Doctor's amazing vision, he notices a monstrous looking creature hidden in one of the windows of the painting The Church at Auvers. That is about all it takes for this Doctor to rush to judgment and take his flying TARDIS back to van Gogh's time to figure out what's what with this alien monster thing.

Clear as mud? OK let's go.

ABBY: So... wait, what?

JEF: I've always gotten the impression he was just looking for an excuse to take Amy to meet van Gogh. The monster was just ancillary.

PETE: That seemed to backfire on the Doctor, or maybe I'm reading the simmering sexual tension between the two of them wrong. He seemed a bit annoyed at the way Amy and van Gogh were so taken with each other.

ABBY: What was it about this ominous figure in the painting that so convinced the Doctor that there was something wrong? To be perfectly honest, I've seen that painting (not in real life) many times and if you told me there was an alien monster in one of the windows, I would totally believe you.

JEF: You make a good point. He obviously has no idea what the monster is because we go through the whole identifying schtick. All I can guess is that is has something to do with the unique way The Doctor sees the universe. What doesn't look particularly ominous to us is as plain as day to him.

PETE: And yet he didn't have any issue with everyone in Provence speaking with an English accent.

ABBY: So, Vincent is the only one who can see this alien monster, but this is never explained. Or did I miss something?

JEF: It's a metaphor for mental illness, a really good one according to my wife who rewatched it with my while doing her psyche clinicals in nursing school.

PETE: The Krafayis definitely works better as a metaphor. I've seen Scooby Doo villains that were more menacing. But then, you could say that about pretty much any Doctor Who bad guy.

ABBY: If you were a painter and you saw an alien monster, wouldn't you incorporate it in a lot of your paintings? I think that's what was going on with Georgia O'Keefe's vagina paintings.

JEF: You need to go to one of those "We Are Women" meetings where you look at your privates with a hand mirror, love. To answer your question, though, that's the exact plot of Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model."

PETE: Artists are kind of expected to incorporate the horrors they witness in everyday life into their work. That's how you got Guernica, The Scream, and the Spice Girls movie.

ABBY: Do you think the Doctor Who writers are somehow insinuating that the reason van Gogh was a lunatic had something to do with the fact that he saw an invisible alien monster? Was it the monster that made him cut off his ear? Or maybe the monster did the ear cutting himself!

JEF: No, I think they were trying to show him as a man that was so deeply different that it made him haunted. In retrospect though, I can't believe they didn't pull the ear thing in this episode. It's so obvious!

PETE: If the monster was going to menace a mentally unbalanced post-Impressionist, I wish it would've gone after Gaugin. At least that way we would've had some topless Polynesian babes.

ABBY: Here is my issue with this show, and I will tread lightly as I know this show is highly revered. I've seen enough of this show and it never seems like the stakes are particularly high. There is always some alien hell-bent on destruction but with very little effort (a screw of the sonic screwdriver or whatever) all is well in the world. It feels like this episode, on a normal serialized program, would be a throw-away episode. But that's how I feel about every Doctor Who episode. You may now rip me a new one and hate me forever.

JEF: It's a very unique thing in modern TV, I think. Each writer is encouraged to do their own little self-contained episodes and take on the universe rather than adhering to this massive, overall arc. For the most part, each adventure is meant to represent that one moment in time, not the whole overall season story.

PETE: I'm not a serious watcher of the show so I may be entirely off-base, but a lot of the Matt Smith episodes seem ... rushed, somehow. I don't know if that's due to his portrayal, or Moffat's guiding hand (I know he didn't write this one), but I liked the parts of "Vincent and the Doctor" that de-emphasized the monster stuff and concentrated on van Gogh's interaction with Amy and the Doctor.

 

Nothing like a Doctor Who fan video!

ABBY: Did you guys know that the actress who plays Amy is now on Children's Hospital? Just letting you know.

JEF: Who cares? We should be more excited she's in Guardians of the Galaxy!

PETE: Bill Nighy was the museum curator! And he was only vaguely creepy!

ABBY: I was sort of let down by the ending. Why wouldn't van Gogh's trajectory in life have changed once he had the knowledge that he would be a great painter?

JEF: See, that's why I was wondering what you meant by all is well with the world. That's the point of the story, in my opinion. Even meeting The Doctor, discovering he wasn't imagining the monster, seeing how beloved and acclaimed he is in the modern era, all that, and it wasn't enough to keep van Gogh from killing himself. Sometimes there are no cures, no fixes, no magic even with time travel. Sometimes people are sick, and they die, and there is nothing you can do about it. That's why this adventure is so beloved and brilliant.

PETE: I was afraid they were going to return to the present and find out van Gogh had sunk even further into depression and destroyed all his works, effectively erasing himself from existence. It would've been more in keeping with the lessons of "Treehouse of Horror V."

ABBY: If the Doctor and his companion came back and brought you to the future and you found out that you guys became world renowned for writing pointless television reviews, how would you do things differently? Or would you?

JEF: Wouldn't change a thing, except I might take a few more days off.

PETE: Better than becoming famous for writing about 132-lb scrotums, I suppose.

ABBY: The episode got kinda cheesy at the ending. Is that normal for this show?

JEF: I promised myself I wouldn't accuse you of being a lizard person...

PETE: I liked Tony Curran as van Gogh. I don't know that his portrayal was - comment dites-vous? - "historically accurate," but I appreciated the emotion he brought to the role.

ABBY: Which Doctor do you guys think is the hottest? I think David Tennant.

JEF: I like Paul McGann, because someone has to.

PETE: Doug Ross. Oh fine; Peter Davison, I guess. He had that Starsky & Hutch-era David Soul thing going.


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