11 Episodes of the Eleventh Doctor: Vincent and the Doctor

#2 Vincent and the Doctor written by Richard Curtis

Oh, the Doctor Who feels. This episode is full of them. The show opens with Amy Pond fangirling over van Gogh paintings at the Musee d’Orsay with the Doctor spotting something alien painted into one of the artist’s pictures. Eleven decides to take his companion to investigate the strange face in the van Gogh portrait and meet the painter. At this point in the series (this is episode 10 of Matt and Karen’s first season together), we have watched the relationship develop between the Doctor and Amy, while the Timelord Victorious lay dormant inside of him. In a previous post, I briefly discussed the idea that the Doctor is a god, and when he acts like a god, people get hurt. In Vincent and the Doctor, Amy develops a relationship with a troubled Vincent van Gogh, even though she knows less than a year after their meeting, he will commit suicide.

Vincent, Amy and the Doctor on a starry night.
Vincent, Amy and the Doctor on a starry night.

Just like Donna in The Fires of Pompeii, Amy Pond is forced to understand that not everyone can be saved. Eleven effectively tells Amy that Vincent will indeed die, his death is a fixed point in time and even their visit cannot change the sadness that will lead Amy’s favorite artist to take his own life. It is a sad lesson that every companion of the Doctor has to learn; they are travellers, they may participate in every day adventures and mishaps, but if the Doctor meddles in history or the future, bad things will happen. He understands his own power and chooses not to abuse it, while Amy (Donna, Martha, ect.) feel the Doctor should be saving people all the time, no matter what the consequences are. The Doctor realizes not only the enormous risk on van Gogh’s life by involving him in a Doctor/companion adventure but also the constant danger that time travel can have on a time itself.

What I enjoy so much about this episode is the development of Amy’s character in terms of Moffat’s overarching story line. She has lost Rory to the crack in time and doesn’t remember her future husband. She has bouts of incredible sadness that she can’t explain. Van Gogh, being the sensitive artist that he is, can “hear the song of [her] sadness” and knows she has lost someone. Van Gogh see things that others cannot, and therein lies the premise of the episode; the artist is able to see an invisible alien that is killing people in the village. He can also see a sadness emanating from Amy that not even she understands or recognizes.

The Doctor tries not to alter the future while van Gogh paints the invisible monster.

While the Doctor is trying to move Amy away from the unpleasantness that is lost-in-time Rory by whisking her away to explore the universe, he inadvertently triggers deep seeded emotions that will cause her to re-imagine her lover and recreate him as Rory the Roman. While we vaguely understand the Timelord’s grasp on time, Amy’s adaptive power over the crack in her wall is relatively new and even the Doctor doesn’t realize what she is capable of. This episode sets up beautifully the themes of season 5, 6 and even 7, including the challenges of time travel on a large scale, the personal relationships that develop across the time vortex and the powerful and passionate Amy Pond.

Lastly, one can’t mention this episode without discussing the powerful and angsty ending, in which the Doctor and Amy take Vincent to the future and the Musee d’Orsay where he gets the chance to listen to the curator with the bow tie talk about the work of esteemed artist Vincent van Gogh. It is a touching scene, one that cannot be overlooked when discussing the power of the Timelord. The Doctor decides, against his better judgement, to take Vincent to see his future as one of the most popular artists in the world. It’s bittersweet, because after the adventure, while Amy is positive the intervention saved van Gogh from suicidal tendencies, the Doctor knows better. When Amy finds out that they did not save him, she is crushed and viewers are too. Come on Wholigans, I challenge you to watch that last scene without tearing up. An impossible task!

 Vincent and the Doctor




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