Vincent and the Doctor

* I have mixed feelings about Richard Curtis – I’m not keen on his films but Blackadder is one of humanity’s greatest achievements – but either way it’s a huge coup for the show to have an episode written by someone of such fame and calibre. Also, it means seven out of ten episodes so far this series have been by comedy writers. It’s definitely working.

* Bill Nighy! I’ve been to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, and we didn’t get Bill Nighy showing us round. Nor did all the Dutch people speak with Scottish accents. Tony Curran, who I don’t think I’ve seen in anything else before or since, is absolutely faultless as Van Gogh, absolutely nailing all the sides of his complex personality.

* It’s the return of that old cost-saving favourite: the invisible monster. With The Doctor arming himself with a gadget that’s mostly comprised of a wing mirror, it lends a pleasingly old school feel to the middle of the episode – a little pocket of non-challenging runaround fun, but with a constant air of sinister darkness to spice things up a bit.

* Then Vincent Van Gogh accidentally murders the alien for being blind, and the main plot is over pretty quickly. This allows for a luxurious amount of time spent wrapping up the character stuff, starting with the superb Starry Night sequence. I’m a philistine when it comes to art, but even I love Van Gogh’s work.

* Then suddenly I’m crying, and it’s not because of the unwanted presence of Athlete in my ears. The Doctor is playing fast and loose with the rules of time by taking Vincent to meet Bill Nighy, but it’s so joyous that my reaction was much the same as Vincent’s. Then The Doctor and Amy’s return journey takes your freshly warmed heart and breaks it in to tiny pieces, but it’s making a very important point. It doesn’t flinch from the true horror of depression, which is that it’s completely immune to logic and reason. This is exactly what a show like Doctor Who should be doing for its young audience.

* I was about to say that it was clever to make the consequence of the adventure be the removal of the monster from the church painting, so that the painting ends up looking like it does in real life, but then they revealed that Sunflowers now bears the dedication “for Amy”. That’s now post-impressionism canon.

RATING: 9

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