The (New) Doctor's Finest Hour
July 29th, 2010 12:34pm EDT
Well, the latest season of Doctor Who has come and gone, and we've now all met the eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), his Scottish hottie companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), and her boyfriend/ fiance/ husband/ 2,000 year old plastic man Rory (the brilliant but often overlooked Arthur Darvill). Together they've faced the revamped Daleks, saved 16th century Venice from vampire-alien-fish, and even used Amy's memories and the universe's greatest prison to restart all of creation and bring the Doctor out of the abyss of non-existence.
In all, it was a very good season: Matt Smith added a new energy to the character and brought some of the Doctor's joking nature back, which we had lost in David Tennant's last few specials (having knowledge of one's own impending death does tend to put a dampner on things). Also, Amy's attraction to the Doctor, despite her love of Rory, added to the interactions between the trio, and Alex Kingston's episodes as "the Doctor's future" River Song made me desperately want more of her in the next season (hell, I wanted more of her in this season, but I'll have to get over that).
However, the single best episode, and the one that proves these new people are just as good as any that have worked on Doctor Who before was "Vincent and the Doctor." With Rory temporarily wiped from all existence, and Amy mourning the loss without really remembering him, the Doctor decides to take Amy to as many fun things as possible to make it up to her, which leads them to encounter a monster hidden in one of Vincent van Gogh's paintings. So, off they go to meet Vincent (played as the quintessential tortured artist by Tony Curran), an alcoholic, manic depressive who is utterly convinced he is the worst painter in history, because no one in his time likes anything he paints. The three stop the monster (who turns out to be a blind, invisible alien that no one wanted to kill, despite what it had done), but that's really just the tip of the iceberg for this episode.
Vincent can see so much more than he should, like the monster, or the complex shades and beauty of a starry night sky, or even Amy's sadness over something she can't recall. This is what seems to make him so depressed, the fact that he sees so much more than he should, including death, decay, loss, and destruction (he even comments once how sunflowers make him sad). But he sees such amazing sights too, and in the most mundane of objects or people.
Both to cheer Vincent up, and to convince him of how great a painter he really is, the Doctor and Amy bring him to the present to show him his masterpieces, lining the walls of the Musee d'Orsay, where a curator (an uncredited Bill Nighy, believe it or not) describes him as, "the greatest painter that ever lived."
Moved to tears and inspired, Vincent returns to his own time, and creates the works that will make him a legend. He will, sadly, still be committing suicide shortly thereafter (the show couldn't mess with history that much), but that adds a bittersweet feeling to all of it: as if this one adventure both made him the painter we know him as and made him happy, if only for a relatively brief amount of time.
This is the episode out of the entire season that I am picking for definitive evidence that Doctor Who is as great as it ever has been, and will continue to be great in the future, and by now, you should all understand why.
Photo Credits: BBC Worldwide America Inc