Visiting an art gallery, the Doctor and Amy see an alien face in a painting by Vincent Van Gogh, and decide to travel back in time to discover the truth first hand.
This episode tries its best to tug at our emotional strings, but it tries too hard, and too obviously. In the limited time span of one episode it’s not really possible to show any rapport between Amy and Vincent. He seems to fall for the wide-eyed lass with little reason, and her sympathy for him is more based on what she knows of his future than the man himself.
This being the current style of Doctor Who, we have to have a monster, with the slight twist that even though the creature is from a brutal race we are meant to have slight sympathy for it at its demise. A further, and cheap, apsect of the creature is that it is invisible. Of course the solution to this problem is obvious, and nicely ironic; just chuck a bucket of paint over it. I’m surprised no one thought of that.
Evidently Vincent suffered from deep depressions, which led to his suicide, but here that is displayed by him crying on bed. I know this is truly a children’s show these days, but I feel the subject of depression has been somewhat over-simplified. It also made the well-meaning announcement over the end credits about people being affected by the “subjects raised” rather ridiculous. I suppose broadcasters just can’t be too careful these days. I do wonder how this portrayal of depression would affect children viwers. What happens if a child sees another child crying on their bed? Will they now get upset that that means the other child will die?
Bill Nighy’s performance is a highlight of the episode, as a slightly quirky enthusiast of Van Gogh. Unfortunately, I don’t share the episode’s appreciation of the artist – I think there have been far better over the centuries – so the constant talk of how great Van Gogh was just passes me by.
Then we have the Doctor show Vincent that in the years to come he will be appreciated, by taking him to the 2010 art gallery. Vincent is barely phased by the time travel, but that’s par for the course for nu-Who. It’s a lovely idea to show someone, anyone, that their life will have meaning, but why the Doctor chose this one particular person is slightly strange. And we’d already seen this idea in Eccelston’s turn as the Time Lord, when in just one sentence he achieved the same result, by telling Dickens that his stories would live forever!
One tiny niggle, Van Gogh wasn’t English, so why were the words on the vase in the chrysanthemum picture in English?
And I’ve never seen an episode with so much hugging…!