Sunday, 13 June 2010

Dr Who: Vincent and the Doctor

I’m not sure how to begin this blog entry. I’m not sure how to write the middle or how to conclude either, so it could be interesting.

I’ve never blogged about Dr Who before. However, I found the recent Van Gogh episode profoundly moving. I know – it was written by Richard Curtis; it consequently contained more cheese than the story of The Stinky Cheese Man, I ought to feel manipulated etc etc, but I don’t.

I agree with Dan Martin’s review in The Guardian: the episode would have been even better without the monster, however the krafayis entertained my children who remained startlingly unmoved by the subsequent scene in the gallery. As I watched Van Gogh's (Tony Curran) speechless appraisal of his paintngs on display to the public, tears were trailing down my face and dripping onto the floor. Alice fetched a tissue and rubbed my face with it. Sam said, ‘you’re not crying are you mum?’ Cue snorts and eye rolling from all three of the boys.

The Athlete track in the background: take all your chances while you can – you’ll never know when they’ll pass you by really finished me off. It made me want to say to the kids, 'I hope you’re listening – take all your chances while you can.' But nothing would have been more likely to discourage them from taking all their chances, so I remained silent as Alice sandpapered my face and the boys sniggered.

As Gerard McGarry writes: 'The fact that they didn't prevent Van Gogh's suicide was quite poignant. Bittersweet in that there aren't always happy endings, and difficult for Amy to hear because she'd literally seen the man alive a few minutes before. Despite their attempts to raise Van Gogh's mood, the effect was only temporary. It provided a great moral counterpoint to the "nobody dies today" cries we've heard in Doctor Who - you can't save everybody, but you can at least make a positive difference.'

I’m not all that keen on happy endings. Endings should, by nature, be sad because they conclude, finish what we greedily wish would go on. Margaret Atwood’s poem ‘Cell’ makes this point better than I can:

                                        All it wants is more
amnesia. More life, and more abundantly. To take
more. To eat more. To replicate itself. To keep on
doing these things forever. Such desires
are not unknown. Look in the mirror.
(Atwood, Eating Fire, p.319)

Thumbs up to Dr Who for providing bow tie jokes and aliens while simultaneously depicting the beauty and sadness of life.


  1. Oh, I loved that episode so much, I think you've covered it very well! I too was bawling and agree completely about happy endings, nothing I write ever seems to have a happy ending! I also thought Richard Curtis deserved a huge thumbs up for solving my main bugbear about Dr Who - breaking that ridiculous, plot-lazy device - the sonic screwdriver! I wish they'd throw it into the crack!!!

  2. Thanks Claire. I love Dr Who! I also love(d) Torchwood (still upset about the way that all ended).
    I liked the way the sonic screwdriver was mocked in the Vincent episode:

    Vincent: But you're not armed.
    The Doctor: Yes I am. I've got overconfidence, this (suitcase) and a small screwdriver.

    Watching Dr Who is my favourite family activity next to hiking :)