I was so excited about seeing Van Gogh in this episode. He’s one of my favorite artists; I have “The Starry Night” on my wall, and “Café Terrace at Night” as a mousepad. It was one of the greatest moments while I was in London to get to see some of his works. I think it’ll be interesting to deal with his madness…or was it madness? Either way, the people in Van Gogh’s village think he is mad, and regularly throw food at him and his funny hat. (Or, they may be confused that a Dutchman, living in France, has a Scottish accent…)
There is an invisible creature of some kind attacking those in the village. Van Gogh is the only one who can see it, fueling his apparent madness. Of course, if you ran around the village taking swings at invisible monsters, people would think you were crazy! The Doctor eventually rummages through the TARDIS to find a device that will allow him to see the creature. It’s a kind of mirror, so he can only see behind him. Basically, all he can do is run away from it, but it works well.
I have to say kudos to the art department. Many of the sets and scenes are taken directly from some of Van Gogh’s paintings, including his straw “ugly” hat, his bedroom, the café, sunflowers, the starry night. I appreciate even more the way that Van Gogh sees the world. It’s unique, filled with vibrant colors that he observes in a completely unique way.
This is a different Doctor Who episode, as it’s really more of a tribute to a historical figure than an adventure including a historical figure. It’s a lot like “The Shakespeare Code” from Series 3, though there were more moments dwelling on him as a person. It was a fantastic, character-driven episode that I greatly enjoyed.
There is a cameo by Bill Nighy, one of my favorite British actors. He plays a docent at the Musee d’Orsay, where there is a Van Gogh exhibit. The episode is bookended with this museum, and Van Gogh gets the chance to see his future success, with Bill Nighy’s character giving a moving speech about Van Gogh’s work and impact.
“What’s the worst that can happen?
You could be torn into pieces by a monster you can’t see.
As, yes, well…I’ll be back faster than you can say, ‘Where’s he got to?’”
“I remember watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel. I kept telling him, ‘If you’re scared of heights, you shouldn’t have taken the job mate!’ And Picasso, what a ghastly old goat. I kept telling him, ‘Concentrate, Pablo, it’s one eye, either side of the face.’”
“If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s an unpunctual alien attack.”
“Sonic never fails.”