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14 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 803: Vincent and the Doctor

Dear diary,

Watching this series on original broadcast, my interest had dropped off a little bit by this point. It was nice weather out, I had a lot going on… making sure I was home on a Saturday night ready for Doctor Who felt like more of a chore than it ever had before. It didn’t help that when I was catching up with stories like The Vampires of Venice and Amy’s Choice, they simply weren’t grabbing me in the way I hoped they would. Eventually, I’d stopped even trying to be home on time, and I’d simply catch up with the new episodes a day or two later on the iPlayer. The night this one aired, I happened to catch the first ten minutes while I was getting ready to go out, and couldn’t help thinking that of everything for a good month or so, this was an episode I’d rather like to stay home and see as it went out.

Vincent and the Doctor is a very different kind of Doctor Who story, isn’t it? When the series manages to pull in a writer like Richard Curtis, you very much think you know what kind of story you’re going to be getting, but then this script goes out of its way to present you with something that completely goes against all your expectations, and really leaves you with a lot to think about, even when it’s finished. It’s a bold move, and one that I think is pulled off very well - managing to create something that’s both deep and thought-provoking, while also having enough action and drama to keep you riveted throughout.

In many ways, this story takes lots of things that I’d enjoyed with the Unicorn and the Wasp, and filters them differently. Whereas the likes of Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria, and Shakespeare were very sure of themselves during encounters with the Doctor (even if they tend to get that knocked during the course of the adventure, both Christie and Vincent are presented as being flawed. As being human, in fact. I also like that this tale doesn’t shy away from showing what that can mean. There’s no pussyfooting around the fact that Vincent’s troubles and depression led to his suicide, and the story makes sure to portray that in a sensitive, yet hard-hitting way. Any’s reaction upon reaching the gallery to find that Vincent still took his own life at a tragically young age is absolutely heart-breaking, and the Doctor’s response is one of my favourite lines from Doctor Who. I could quote it verbatim at the drop of a hat, because it’s so beautiful, and poignant, and very true; 

THE DOCTOR

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. Hey. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.

I don’t want to dwell on the sombre tones of the story too much, though, because there’s an awful lot of humour and levity sprinkled throughout the script which is far more what I was expecting to find from Curtis, and really helps to make the whole thing. For starters, I love the adaptation of the Unicorn and the Wasp gag, in which the titles of Christie’s books being inserted into the script is substituted for visual gags based upon Vincent’s work. The interactions between Vincent and Amy are wonderful, too.

I’ve very little else to say about this story, really, and there’s so much to like that I don’t really want to dwell on the few let downs (once again, the CGI seems to falter a bit in this one), so I’m going to leave it there for now. Not the kind of story that Doctor Who could tell very often, but one which works perfectly as a nice one-off.

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