“Is this how time normally passes?” – Vincent and The Doctor, Episode 10, Series 5, review

This review has taken a while.

This review has taken a while because I’ve had to question the original intention of Doctor Who – what it is there to do. I’ve had to think on the purpose of the show and not the purpose of, say, the subtle use of a shot or prop to hint at further in-show workings.

“Will you follow him?” “Of course.”

Some things just don’t truck with me well. One of them is over-sentimentality.

It used to wash – in fact, if I’m entirely honest, I think that it used to affect me quite easily – but it no longer does as the years have crafted me into something leaner, smarter and stronger.

This episode was full of huggy, teary, feely moments soundtracked by Athlete (was it? God I hope not. Sorry Athlete but you’re not very good.)

This put me off the episode and, I have to be honest, retrospectively tainted the whole thing for me.

“Could you breathe quieter, please?”

However two things saved this episode from ruin: a fine performance from Tony Curran and the gadgets.

Oh the gadgets – them first: that identifying species thingy from his smelly two-headed godmother? Loved it. Don’t care that it didn’t have a name. Loved it. It was everything I like about the new series – a little bit nerdy, a little bit fanboy, good-looking in a very weird way and just damned fun with its printy goodness. The further explanation of the ketchup/mustard buttons in the TARDIS? More please.

My my, Mr Curran – you’re rather a bit good, aren’t you? A fine turn, a very convincing similar visage and combined with an excellent beard, I couldn’t fault you.

Unlike my good Mr Smith and Ms Gillan in this episode: Smith wasn’t hardly as quick or energy filled as on previous occasions, I can’t tell if this is him mellowing into the role or just an off day – I hope the latter; Gillan wasn’t terrible but not stand out either. Bill Nighy was an enjoyable touch but a sidenote for the parents nonetheless.

“There there. It’s alright.”

The episode itself was directed well, edited well and the art direction was obviously beautifully done – the moment when the night sky unfolds into a brilliantine swirl of colour was slightly intoxicating.

It was this that made me think so long on this review.

What was the original intended purpose of Doctor Who?

It was to inform the audience about historical events while entertaining them. This episode was a guided tour around a Van Gogh exhibition with all the historical details brought to life [admittedly played with by inserting a monster] but this really was affective. Watch kids the country over take a new interest in Van Gogh this week. See them ask/answer Van Gogh questions in the class/playing field.

This made me rethink my negative view on the episode and so I watched it again.

It’s not half bad and certainly does the trick.
[I just wish the Athlete(?) music wasn’t in there.


3 thoughts on ““Is this how time normally passes?” – Vincent and The Doctor, Episode 10, Series 5, review

  1. Its funny – I watched this one twice, too, and had a similar reaction.
    The thing is, I knew it was going to be over sentimental; it was written by Richard Curtis, ffs. But yes, the Athlete moment was misjudged, a bit painful to watch and the music really is inexcusably bad – ie, just like any finale to any Curtis movie. This had to be expected. But if you wanted a brtipop song to fill the gap, why not the Manic’s ‘La Tristesse Durera’ – a song about the letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother?
    Curran was superb – the bedroom scene was genuinely shocking and upsetting, and I loved the moment when the Doctor announces ‘we’re leaving’ after being told to by a wailingly depressed Van Gogh.

    However, a few major gripes with Curtis’s typically insensitive writing.

    So Van Gogh was plagued by LITERAL monsters? Not just severe manic depression? This seemed pretty heavy handed to me; I actually felt as though the monster could’ve been taken out completely to the script’s benefit, and it would have been a more delicate way to handle the dichotomy between a fragile, frustrated and tortured mind…and a big parrot with a mohawk.

    Why was there ‘for Amy’ written on the sunflowers at the end? Are British audiences so thick they couldn’t read a single word of French (the language they were surely speaking… In Provence…)?

    But yes, like you, I understood the intentions a lot better on the second viewing. It had some genuinely beautiful moments – the setting and the subject were gorgeous and well worthy of a Doctor Who show. And it was interesting at the very least to see what Britain’s most famous and successful film-maker would do with it.

  2. You’re right, you know – I too had thought ‘This might be a sentimental festival’ but hoped that Moffat would reign the bugga in and say ‘Oi! This is fantasy-sci-fi and my name’s not RTD – we’ve no love for all that lovey bollocks here so sling it!’

    He did not.

    I think anything the Manics has done might be considered too subtle for what a lot of critics are now presuming to be the dumb Doctor audience simply because it’s watched by children – kids are bloody smart, dammit! Ah well.

    I think that also answers your ‘why not in French?’ Unless, of course, the TARDIS turns all written text into the viewers native tongue – that, I suppose, could explain it. If only it was on the original, now that would be interesting.

    Right again on the heavy-handed: I think a lot of writers presume that all fantasy-sci-fi tropes are simply large metaphors for human conditions [which admittedly is often the case] but there’s far more room to do things than simply that; unfortunately, Curtis didn’t see that room.

    However the art director on this episode did – I can’t agree more about the beautiful setting and subject.

    More good historical figures looked at in depth, please!

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