Summer TV Club: Doctor Who "Vincent and the Doctor"
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."
We had to do it.
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.