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Van Gogh Doctor Who - The Ex-Communicator

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June 6th, 2010


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12:15 am - Van Gogh Doctor Who
A very mixed episode by Richard Curtis, one of the most famous screen writers ever to produce a script for this show - he's the writer behind Blackadder, Four Weddings and a Funeral, the Bridget Jones film, Notting Hill and the Skinhead Hamlet.

The scene with Van Gogh writhing on his bed in despair and misery was unlike anything I can remember seeing in Doctor Who before, I was literally shocked and also impressed. And throughout the emotion was explicit, which is very typical of Richard Curtis. Things which are not normally said between people are said, and the world doesn't come to an end. Tony Curran gave a performance which did justice to the writing. I think the script managed to push the emotion up to 11, teetering on the brink of a great sea of cheese, without losing the audience. Very good. The visual design was also unusually good.

However, I think the entire monster sub-plot was woeful shite. Perhaps Curtis was told he had to have 'a monster threat'. In any case he clearly didn't believe in it or understand what it ought to be like. All the authentic feeling simply drained away. The monster was about as dangerous as an escaped tiger. No, a tiger would have finished them off tout de suite. He should have left the monster out completely, and structured the show in a way that suited his own style better. It would have been easy enough to create some other pretext to travel to Provence.

(10 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:hafren
Date:June 6th, 2010 07:22 am (UTC)
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Maybe the monster was what he had to put in to fill up the space left by cutting dialogue after he'd apparently been told he had the doctor talking too much?
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From:communicator
Date:June 6th, 2010 07:37 am (UTC)
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Oh, really? That does make me think he was at times forced to write in a way that didn't suit him. I think if they bring a top rank writer on they should let him have his own way, just for one episode.
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From:altariel
Date:June 6th, 2010 08:20 am (UTC)
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I thought the monster worked very simply as a physical manifestation of Van Gogh's illness. It was a good extra touch that it was blind, so afraid rather than monstrous - although perhaps that does leach some threat retrospectively from the narrative. I loved this one, like being taken by the hand and led through a paintbox.
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From:communicator
Date:June 6th, 2010 08:28 am (UTC)
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I think it could have worked as a concrete metaphor, but for me it didn't pack enough punch to bear that weight. I don't feel Curtis was comfortable with the approach. I appreciate the reach-out to the viewer to convey love of art.

(ETA - spelling corrected - Crutis?)

Edited at 2010-06-06 08:28 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:vilakins
Date:June 6th, 2010 10:38 am (UTC)
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That's what I thought: the episode was wonderful and visually beautiful apart from the monster (which of course killed a young woman), Curran was amazing, and the beauty and depiction of art and mental illness should have been enough.

I wish they'd gone with the monster being van Gogh's, perhaps a personification of the villagers' hostility or his own depression, and just made it about him, art, ways of seeing, and the fact that sometimes we can't help.

It's my favourite so far, monster and inconsistency about it aside.
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From:communicator
Date:June 6th, 2010 05:56 pm (UTC)
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Yes. It's nice to see them aiming at something as ambitious as this, even if it didn't work in all respects for me
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From:vilakins
Date:June 6th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
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I think it could be a classic without the monster: an exploration of time travel and what it can and can't do (which is SF enough), art, mental illness, expression of one's self. Van Gogh could have painted the monster as part of himself, then painted it out after meeting the Doctor and Amy and finding out that his art spoke to later generations. As it is, the story has a large, lumbering flaw, but it's still one I want to watch again for the joy of the art, the sets (I loved the bedroom) and Curran's performance.
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From:gfk88
Date:June 7th, 2010 08:03 am (UTC)
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I'd missed the last couple of episodes because this series really isn't doing it for me. But I happened to see this one.

At the end when they go back to the museum for the last time, we were both shouting "All the paintings will have gone!" But they hadn't. Really Mr Curtis, if you're ever going to get anywhere in your screenwriting career, you need to listen to our advice.

[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:June 7th, 2010 08:24 am (UTC)
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I thought that might happen too, but there wasn't time to put it right again. I think it would have been a better prog if like vilakins said it was an exploration of time travel and the urge to save people. I'm just getting my back seat driving in tune ready for the World Cup: 'Oy Curtis, You do not want to do that.'
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From:sugoll
Date:June 7th, 2010 08:24 am (UTC)
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I felt that they couldn't make up their minds about the monster. It would have worked as a metaphore for Vincent's turmoil, particularly since only he could see it, except that the monster turns out to be from somewhere else. So why could only Vincent see it?

I didn't take the visit to the gallery to be unambiguously a good thing, either. People already thought Vincent was mad - a day's experience of monster-fighting, boxes larger on the inside and a trip to the future where he's the greatest artist ever can't really have helped balance him for the next six months, when he has no evidence that it really occurred.

And they have an episode of running around from a thing that's "attacking", and then, at the end, does the Doctor (and not Amy) manage to understand what it's saying? They didn't pick up on all the "Help, help" earlier?

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