Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"...See what I see, Doctor."

And we're back to Season 5 of Doctor Who! Are we all happy? Yes, I knew we were.

I mean, seriously.
The only issue with this is that the next episode I have to talk about is Vincent and the Doctor. And I have a similar problem with Vincent as I do with Amy's Choice. What do you say? It's just fantastic. There is Bill goddamn Nighy, for heaven's sake! In a bowtie! (There is no conceivable way that man can get cooler now, by the way.) And possibly the world's only Scots Van Gogh. :)

To a certain extent, the entire episode is one long love-letter to Van Gogh; it's just the DW cast being prompted to fangirl by the scriptwriter. And you know what? I'm totally okay with that. Van Gogh is...a game-changer. If his life story -- misery compounded by depression made slightly worse by no money and some bad drinking habits -- doesn't grab your attention, then try some of the artwork:

If that doesn't do it for you on some level...I would really be interested in knowing what does.

Anyway, Vincent is a brilliant stand-alone: it manages to combine "monster of the week" with "story arc advancement" with character development and some rather unexpected darkness and pull the whole -- potentially very volatile -- mix off with grace, humor, and a great sense of gentleness.

Tony Curran was, I thought, excellent as Van Gogh. If Curran himself does not suffer from depression -- and I sincerely hope that he doesn't -- then he has watched those of his friends or family that do. Vincent's mood swings didn't feel faked or melodramatic: they felt, sadly, both convincing and familiar.

The Doctor's bafflement when confronted by Vincent's difficulties feels a little disingenuous -- but in the besthearted fashion. It feels to me as though he is trying to jolly someone out of something he feels himself, far too often. He knows where Vincent is coming from and, sadly, where he's going to -- and he can't do much about it. This always troubles him; it's one of the things that continually make the Doctor sympathetic: he wants to help and, too often, he simply can't. If he interferes, then he might make things worse or, more frequently, be unable to change anything. In Vincent's case, as in so many others, we as watchers want him to interfere: by the end of the show, we want him to save Vincent from himself but he can't.
Off to find a monster.

Amy, too, gets some nice moments, most around her memory as Vincent clearly realises there is something very, very wrong in her recent past and tries to empathise but fails since she can't remember what's wrong! Mostly. Sometimes it seems as though she can remember feeling very sad about something -- but not why and the Doctor is being no help here. He doesn't seem to have made up his mind yet about what he's going to do about Rory's death and Amy's memory.

The "monster of the week," too, gets a complicating touch at the end. For most of the episode, it seems like a pretty simple, almost Supernatural-style "find and kill" caper: the monster is the Krafayis (and if you wonder if I had to look up how to spell that...why, yes, yes, I did), invisible, lethal, and exceptionally badtempered. The Doctor explains at one point that it's a solitary killer, abandoned by its packmates when it fell behind, now lost and alone on Earth with no other drive than murder. Seemed a little unlikely even at the time, but okay, and Matt Smith sold the concept really well.

Vincent and the Krafayis. Well. Vincent anyway.
When the creature is half-accidentally killed...things are slightly different. It can speak -- at least after a fashion -- and it's afraid as it's dying. This was really unexpected for me: I was anticipating, as I said, a basic "find the bones, salt, and burn" deal -- something even the Winchester boys could take care of! This complicated the entire episode: suddenly the Doctor was uncomfortable, even guilty, at events he had pushed along, and Vincent was left with a grim parallel to his own existence as the town vagabond. The Doctor comforts the Krafayis and Vincent tries his best to philosophize something good out of it -- but I'm not sure how convincing that is. What felt more real was the pain all three characters felt as the Krafayis died -- and they all realised there might have been a different way.

Not to end on a bum note -- but can we talk, just for a minute, about the end of the episode? No, not the actual end end -- I'm not that fascinated by credits! -- but the bit in the museum. You know the bit I mean:

Doctor Who 2005 5x10 Vincent and the Doctor 3
Uploaded by IDavros. - Classic TV and last night's shows, online.

The opening bit -- if you haven't seen the episode and feel like spoilering yourself for a good cause -- until about two minutes in or so.

So often when the Doctor grabs someone out of time and thinks, "I know what will make them think of ice cream and puppies!" it ends badly. Lets think. What's a recent example? Oh, yes, I know a good one! Adelaide Brooke from Waters of Mars.

This felt rather like a reaction to that: "Look, it doesn't always have to end badly. Sometimes there is the ice cream and the puppy." And a fantastic, tear-jerking monologue from Bill Nighy that attempts to boost Vincent's ego and, for Amy anyway, give hope that he won't go back and commit suicide. Of course, we know the Doctor can't really change time; he never can -- part of the reason, I imagine, he looks so sad throughout most of this episode. Vincent's fantastic and he can't do anything to help him.

So what's the end call on Vincent? "The good things don't always soften the bad things, but, vice-versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant." Oh, my, Doctor, what could you be talking about?

"There's so much more to the world than the average
eye is allowed to see."


Lyn said...

Finally...back to Doctor Who! Though thanks for steering us toward Downton Abbey - we don't stay up that late - really - but it's on our Netflix queue. I haven't read your blow by blow...Spoilers!

"Vincent" was one of my favorite series 5 episodes. I was right there with Amy HOPING (tears streaming down my face) that Nighy's beautiful speech about VanGogh would change his history. Quite remarkably done...

KarraCrow said...

@Lyn: Hehe -- there are lots of spoilers in the Abbey liveblog -- I think it will age well, though, so you can bookmark it and return post-Netflix. It's a fun show, so far, if not taken too seriously. I hear there's a Series 2 in the works.

I think "Vincent" is going to end up being one of my favorites of Season 5 -- right up there with the Weeping Angel two-parter and "11th Hour." They managed to keep the sense of inevitability without abandoning hope for change in the story -- amazing stuff.