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Doctor Who 5.10 Vincent And The Doctor

5.10? Really? This season's flying past.

This was a frustrating episode for me. Almost everyone seems to have loved it, and there was a wonderful episode in there somewhere - but it had to struggle through shifting layers of problems, only being fully revealed a couple of times. I should confess to an almost complete lack of interest in Van Gogh's art, too - I react to it with a resounding "meh". I've been to the Musee D'Orsay, and was more impressed with the actual building than any of the contents. (To be fair, it's a truly awesome building.) I can't even remember if I saw the Van Goghs, which is terrible, I realise. (This is not an anti-art thing: the Centre Pompidou, the Dali museum and parts of the Louvre were amazing! Just, I've never got into Impressionism.)

The idea of going back to save Vah Gogh from an alien and in the process give him a few more good memories is fine. There were some pure golden moments, like Eleven's "good things" speech and the trio lying hand in hand looking at the stars. (I've been accused of having my slash goggles on too high a setting lately, so I'll refrain from giving my thoughts on Vincent and Eleven's handsiness.) There were some beautiful little touches, like the Doctor mistakenly calling Vincent "Rory". I really, really like Matt's Doctor, and I loved the mad inventor tropes tonight, and his nervous energy. Tony Curran as Vincent did some nice work on the pair of wordless emotional scenes, and Karen Gillan did some actual acting, which is nice, although some of her line readings were still too confrontational for me.

There was some nicely executed imagery and metaphor to do with Vincent "seeing" the world more and differently than others, so he can paint wonderfully, see the-alien-whose-name-I've-forgotten, and somehow sense Rory's (lack of) existence even though he's been erased from time. It was contrasted with Amy's lack of memory of Rory, and the-alien-whose-name-I've-forgotten's invisibility and blindness. Imagine being blind and invisible, and forgetting how to speak because nobody's spoken to you for so long. That's loneliness, right there, and the alien died of it - like Vincent soon would. Structure, we likes it. I feel like there should be a parallel with the Doctor too, but can't see it immediately - although the Doctor's near-immortality physically is interesting to compare with Vincent's imminent suicide and also with his near-immortality artistically, it doesn't seem to come into the same category. (Tangential thought: what if the Doctor and Amy caused/ hastened Vincent's suicide by showing him that the work he'd done already was enough to make him the Best Artist Ever!!1!, so he had no more ambition?)

But now we get to the problems I had with the episode, and I've got to lay the blame pretty much at Richard Curtis's feet. I thought the saccharine sentimentality was worse than most of RTD's excesses, and a bit surprisingly, the script was terrible - full of stilted sitcom phrasings, people narrating their own actions, and speeches directed at the viewer. It just all seemed so obviously written. I didn't warm to the actor playing Vincent, and was surprised at the end when I realised it was Tony Curran who I usually quite like (although not enough to recognise, apparently.) His acting was a bit declaimy and theatrical - I checked, and Curran does indeed do a lot of theatre work - which meshed particularly badly with the overwritten script. I might have dealt with all that better if his accent hadn't grated so much with me - it sounds like a particular kind of natural Scottish accent which has been scrubbed and shaped and sharpened to ensure that the Rest Of The World (ie England) can understand it. I don't think he sounded like that in This Life, but I might force myself to watch it all again, just to check. And because watching Jack Davenport in FlashForward the other day made me go "Aww, Miles".

The "SF" plot was pretty much incidental, which is just as well, because it didn't make much sense. If the-aliens-whose-name-I've-forgotten weren't so heartless and mean that they abandoned lone soldiers in all the places they'd been fighting, why were there lone the-aliens-whose-name-I've-forgotten scattered all over the universe, as the Doctor claimed? Or was his snazzy identity-reading thingy wrong? Why was it invisible, anyway, did they say? (It's another example for the series theme of disguised identity, anyway.) The Doctor and Amy were utterly useless in the fight - looks like Vincent didn't need them to go back and "rescue" him after all! Pitchforks FTW.

The climactic "Van Gogh 101" speech was every bit as bad as the "good things" speech was, er, good, and even The Fantastic Bill Nighy couldn't pull it off convincingly. Nice bow-tie, though. What else? I like that they tackled the issue of depression, but some of it was done in a kind of ham-handed, speechifying way, especially compared to things like the natural treatment of the kid with dyslexia a couple of weeks ago. It skirted round the edge of the problematic "mental health issues = artistic (or real) superpowers" trope a couple of times, too.

Oh, but to end on a high note, the seeing-invisible-aliens device was great, and the snazzy identity-revealing thingy, and of COURSE the typewriter is a printer. That can do photos. So much love for the Professor Branestawm TARDIS. (Mustard!)

I can't give things ratings any more. TV is like politics or sexuality - the deeper you look into it, the more you see you need some kind of three-dimensional hyper-linked Venn-diagram-cum-flow-chart rather than a simple sliding scale. I will rate using a system of florid analogies, instead: this episode was like watching a satellite view of the world on a cloudy day. Everything is perpetually shifting and sometimes all you can see is a carpet of grey, but other times you can see amazing shapes in the clouds, and now and again the skies will clear and the stunning potential of your view is realised. And it's worth all the time you spent staring at grey.



Jun. 6th, 2010 10:18 am (UTC)
Yay, the reviews are back!

I won't comment yet as I've yet to see the episode though.
Jun. 6th, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC)
Well, the review is back, anyway! No, I will try and review the last three, anyway.


bad wolf
Notes from extinction

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