Sunday, June 06, 2010

Three hankies for Vincent (and the Doctor)

Bit quicker off the mark this time, so if you don't want to know the score, look away now.


Anyway. The Doctor is being nice to Amy: she doesn't know why but she's getting plenty of great TARDIS trips - ah, those unseen adventures - and now she's here to see the Musee D'Orsay and an exhibition of Van Gogh's work.

I'm going to take off my art historian's hat now before we get too far into things because frankly it just isn't that relevant here. I know the problematic stories and histories and 'genius' of Van Gogh and I just do not care.

There were other things I didn't care about for Vincent and the Doctor. I do not care it clearly had a really budget cheap monster (Moff didn't even need to ask). Why don't I care? Because we saw enough and it was brilliantly suggestive. Plus, as much as I love The Mill, old fashioned handmade stuff looks great. Plus the episode had brilliant gadgets. AND it had a Scot as one of the world's most famous Dutchmen. Genius.

(Actually, it must have been quite a week in the UK for Tony Curran's family: a core role in Friday's Mentalist AND a Doctor Who episode).

I digress.

Because what I am trying so hard to do is NOT burst into tears for the umpteenth time about this episode.

As my title indicates, for me this was a three hankie episode of Doctor Who and I haven't had one of those in a while. Of course it was emotionally manipulative - it's Richard Curtis for goodness sake: the man lives and breathes manipulating emotions. Moreover I don't mean that statement as a criticism. Curtis does emotional manipulation DAMN well. Bravo to him.

I liked so much of this episode. Stuart Ian Burns - in a review that frankly should be framed as a great review - has already picked out the lovely scene where the Doctor finds the TARDIS covered in posters and just cuts through the paper to let them inside --- and then on landing at the D'Orsay we see fragments of the paper burning off the TARDIS. Beautiful. Even if he did beat me to mentioning it. So I'll just pick out some of the other bits - and there were plenty.

I liked the cross references to Who-Back-Then. City of Death revisited. Monsters that you didn't always see. Visuals of Hartnell and Troughton. Neat.

I liked that there was just enough of a hint about Rory -- The Doctor cheering Amy up (though she doesn't know she needs it), Vincent's madness allowing him insight into the hidden loss and Amy's tears, the Doctor's slip of mentioning Rory in the heat of the attack from the monster. Just enough and NO heavy-handed flashbacks. Hurrah.

I liked that Bill Nighy was so wonderfully used: he wasn't the central figure, but he was so key to the tone of the piece - the bow-tie humour, the passion for Van Gogh's work, the half-believing shake of the head and shoulders against the encounter.

I liked the unsubtle integration of Van Gogh's work into the narrative - for once, that made sense to bring everything into the frame. And the scene where Vincent, Amy and the Doctor lay looking at the stars and the sky blurs and changes into Starry Night? Breathtaking.

And I liked that the Doctor couldn't, didn't save Vincent. That even knowing his brilliant future couldn't save Vincent from his own depression. Because that IS what depression can be like. Even if you were shown, if you KNEW you were brilliant, it wouldn't necessarily be enough to chase all the demons away. Strong stuff within a children's programme, for early evening Saturday family entertainment.

But all of this pales next to that wonderful scene in the gallery when Vincent hears himself described by the Curator. To say that this showcased some classy acting by Curran and Nighy doesn't get close to capturing what they could do. That this was conveyed in such a simple way - the rotating dais to allow movement around them - was delightful.

Its a great scene and I will happily admit that by the end of it I was in tears. And then for poor Amy to go back, hopeful of them seeing more great work by Vincent after their intervention... (Cloud worried for a minute that Vincent may not have ended up great at all, that they would return to an even darker future changed by their trip but I trusted Curtis and the Moff to not go THAT off-narrative)

And I'm such a soft-touch that yes, even the Sunflowers got to me. Amy's realisation that they hadn't changed the ending - that time hadn't been able to be rewritten - was so touching.

Okay: unleash hell on me for all the holes you found and the things you hated about this episode. I don't care. I loved this episode. Even if I do need three big hankies to get me to the end.


Anonymous said...

I loved it, and I've been misty eyed ever since. Leaving aside Curtis and his talent for emotional manipulation, who *wouldn't*, given the chance, want to take Vincent from his despair to the future in which he's everyone's favourite painter? It seems to me that if they'd copped out from this obvious good reason to use the TARDIS, they'd have been letting everyone down.

Loved the starry night scene, too. Would have been better without any visible monster at all, but still one of the few I'd gladly watch again.

Anna Lowman (annawaits) said...

It was a lovely mix of brave and sentimental - not a mix you get all that often! And, yes I loved the Rory mentions too, especially the Doctor saying his name in error.

Persephone said...

I'm afraid I found it a bit sappy, Lisa, and I really didn't care for the manipulation of the mood-setting song at the end. It wasn't bad, just not compelling, and like Love, Actually, probably won't bear up under repeat viewings (unlike "Amy's Choice" which I've already seen three times and loved each time).

I did like the art direction, though. The matching of scenes with Van Gogh's paintings was very cleverly done. I also have no complaints with the casting of Tony Curran (or Bill Nighy!)

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

One person's "emotional manipulation" is another's "sappy" is another's "heart-breaking". But you loved Amy's Choice and that seems fair enough to me - everyone will have their own favourite eps, as ever.