Archive for the ‘Season 5’ Category
‘Vincent and the Doctor’ recently re-aired as part of BBC America’s The Doctor’s Finest. An accompanying website quotes writer Richard Curtis:
“I’m terrifically moved by the life and fate of Van Gogh. He’s probably the single great artist—in all formats—who received no praise whatsoever for his work. If you look back at Dickens[*], Chaucer, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci…all hugely famous in their lives. And then this one incredibly popular artist with no praise at all, literally selling the one painting. It was that thought which initially made me wonder whether or not we could use time travel to put that right.”
That is certainly Amy’s intention in the story. She thinks that by appreciating and encouraging him, she can offset his misery sufficiently to extend his life, allowing him to produce many more paintings and perhaps receive some long-overdue acclaim. The Doctor takes the direct route, bringing Vincent to the present to witness his legacy:
“… to me, Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly, the most popular great painter of all time. The most beloved. His command of colour, the most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world. No one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.”
Sadly, Vincent’s illness is beyond the reach of a few words. Bipolar disorder** can’t be cured by kindness any more than heart disease can. Still, their visit was not in vain.
“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. 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. And we definitely added to his pile of good things.”
* The article mentions the Doctor’s visit to Charles Dickens occurring at a “relatively untroubled” point in his life. However, when Nine and Rose first meet him, Dickens is in fact in despair. His marriage over, he travels alone; he has begun to feel old, used up. “Even my imagination grows stale,” he says. “Perhaps I’ve thought everything I’ll ever think.” By the end of the story, he is of course reinvigorated by his adventure; it is implied that their ghostly encounter supplies the ending of Edwin Drood. He, like Vincent, does not live beyond his known span, passing just one year later; but as the Doctor says – in reference Rose’s experience of a man long dead in her time:
“We’ve brought him back to life, and he’s more alive now than he’s ever been, old Charlie boy.”
Doctor Who gives people life.
** The true nature of van Gogh’s illness remains up for debate, but the show depicts him as bipolar. Moffat-era Doctor Who is one of the few places on television where the experience of mental illness is treated with compassion and respect.
The Eleventh Doctor’s first Christmas special is a delight. A classic story, sweet and funny and sad, with music and, for some reason, sharks. It’s wonderful. This in spite of the Doctor’s inexplicable inability to relate to women, and some Amy/Rory silliness. Kazran is wonderful in all forms, and Abigail is a gem. Also, one of my favorite quotes comes from this episode, with regard to the universality of winter holidays:
“We’re halfway out of the dark.”
And of course, one of the Eleventh Doctor’s best:
“In 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.”
However, in spite of having seen it at least twice before, somehow I never noticed that Abigail’s family doesn’t age. In the ‘present day,’ when Kazran is 60ish, Abigail’s sister’s children are young teenagers at the very eldest. The boy – the one that Kazran very importantly doesn’t hit – looks about twelve. In the past, when Kazran is maybe 18, Abigail’s sister’s children are not much younger. The boy seems about eight, though he could be six. How does Kazran age 40 years while these children grow by maybe five?
Why have I never noticed this before? And how has no one mentioned it? For me, the rest of the episode is so perfect, I’m happy to overlook it. However, not many other fans feel that way. I’m surprised at their silence.
Still. Spectacular episode, beautifully written and acted, classic literature, inside jokes, and of course, the music.
Last night was a smorgasbord of Doctor Who: the latest from Twelve as well as Eleven’s first season finale. Thoughts on both to follow.
First, ‘The Forest of the Night.’ I love a title taken from poetry. (Here’s the poem.) This one’s a little bit silly, a little bit scary, a little bit saccharine, but overall good fun. Clara/Danny stuff is interesting without being melodramatic. I really like chill Danny: he knows this Clara, and loves this Clara, and is willing to accept a little chaos in the bargain. I do enjoy the conversation about wonders at home vs. wonders ‘out there.’ I like the kids, who manage to be kids without being horribly obnoxious. (Ugh, ‘Nightmare in Silver.’) I love the idea of a protective forest.
We get Missy back again in this one. She is managing to stay interesting, in part at least because not everything seems to be going her way. She alternates cackling evil with an almost human frustration as her plans gel and then fray. I really really hope Moffat doesn’t screw this up. Next week’s episode looks great, but there are plenty of opportunities to go horribly wrong.
After that we watched ‘The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang,’ so I could get the DVD back to the library on time. It’s mostly enjoyable, with a number of great little moments, but it also suffers from melodrama and plausibility problems. I realize it’s silly to debate plausibility in a show like Doctor Who, but there does seem to be a line somewhere. The protective forest I could buy, with a grain of salt of course, at least in part because I was enjoying the episode so much. I was engaged. Same with silly Robin Hood. But the conspiracies here – both in favor of and opposed to the Doctor – leave me rolling my eyes. Moffat wants to bring all his toys back to play together. It’s not delightful like RTD’s Daleks vs. Cybermen in ‘Doomsday;’ it’s just too much somehow. Did I come into this story with preconceived notions? What is it about these ideas that don’t take off for me? I was not engaged, I was bored and mildly annoyed. It doesn’t seem fair.
Melodrama is also an issue here. It’s not one of my favorite things, and certainly a problem RTD had as well. All the epic sweeping emotion between Amy and Rory, and River’s for the Doctor, definitely trigger some eye-rolling. Rory’s whole guarding the Pandorica thing has no story value, no function except to build up the romance. It’s artificial and annoying – especially since I don’t think it’s particularly romantic.
River’s criminal aspect is also a problem. I straight-up despise it. It’s a valid character choice, I suppose, but one I desperately wish hadn’t been made. I understand all of S6 would be different without it, but still I miss Library River. And I’m annoyed by all the setup for S6. I guess I see the value of doing it, but once again knowing how it goes makes it less intriguing than irritating.
There are definitely things I like about the episodes. The Doctor’s speech atop the Pandorica, the stuff about memory (though it too is a bit much in places), the way he plants himself in Amy’s mind – silly maybe, but very well executed. The acting is, as always, spectacular. Something old, something new, a perfect description of the TARDIS. And Amy and Rory’s delight in running away at the end is contagious. Overall I’m left in a good place, even if I didn’t spend the whole time there.
I should be keeping track of the writers of these episodes I’m re-watching, because I always end up wondering after the fact. Here’s Series 5 so far:
‘The Eleventh Hour’ – Stephen Moffat
‘The Beast Below’ – Stephen Moffat
‘Victory of the Daleks’ – Mark Gatiss
‘The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone’ – Stephen Moffat
‘The Vampires of Venice’ – Toby Whithouse
‘Amy’s Choice’ – Simon Nye
‘The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood’ – Chris Chibnall
‘Vincent and the Doctor’ – Richard Curtis
‘The Lodger’ – Gareth Roberts
The last two are Moffat again.
Whithouse and Chibnall – and I think Gatiss – I’ve mentioned before. Gareth Roberts is another repeat offender, responsible for ‘The Shakespeare Code’ in S3, ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp’ in S4, Craig’s S6 return in ‘Closing Time,’ and S8’s ‘The Caretaker.’ None of these are among my favorites. Simon Nye and Richard Curtis – the latter best known for Hugh Grant romantic comedies – have not returned.
Both of these are fairly thin episodes with really lovely moments. Every scene with Vincent is a gem, and Bill Nighy’s speech at the end is a work of art in itself. This is also the first – the only? – episode I can think of in which the Doctor actually tries to comfort his companion’s hurt feelings. Mostly he doesn’t have the patience for feelings. This may be why younger/newer fans find Twelve so jarring; Eleven was such a nice guy by comparison.
James Corden is wonderful in his episode, but I find his humiliation through the first half – while important to the story – hard to stomach. Just not my thing. And the story itself is weak. Still, Craig and Sophie are sweet and it’s nice to see that whole thing get off the ground. And the missing second floor is cool.
‘Vincent’ is sort of a take on the classic historical, where the Doctor goes to meet someone cool from the past and finds something weird – in this case, a monster. Overall it works pretty well, though obviously the point of the story is Vincent. And once again, as with Madame de Pompadour in particular, and probably others I can’t think of, the story sticks to the character’s personal truth as much as possible.
‘The Lodger’ is kind of a weird pointless episode. Not sure what they were going for here, except maybe to demonstrate that the Doctor is good at everything and to give James Corden something fun to do. If it wasn’t for Corden’s fabulousness – and the lovely Daisy Haggard – the whole thing would probably be a write-off.
Only two left in the season, and the DVD is due back Monday – will I finish it, or will I have to wait?
By the way, in case anyone’s interested in the non-existent numbering controversy, there’s one major (and one minor) reference in ‘The Lodger.’ Eleven shares his background with Craig via headbutt, then indicating his face he says ‘Eleventh.’ Clearly in his mind his is the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor. Of course anyone can take or leave anything they like – I prefer to leave Clara’s interaction with One, for example – but personally I take this as a pretty firm indication that to the Doctor at least, the War Doctor is not the Doctor at all.
The second part of the Silurian 2-parter is fairly depressing. We have terrible examples of both species in Ambrose and Restac. Props to Nia Roberts, who sells the frightened, overzealous, and then repentant mother well. We have a near agreement shot to pieces. We have bitterness and loss on both sides, and no way to win. And we have Rory.
(I neglected to comment on ‘Hungry Earth’ about the first appearance of Neve McIntosh, now best known for Madame Vastra. Here she plays militant sisters. All the Silurian cast members are excellent. The production choice to make use of the actors’ faces was a good one.)
On the other hand, we have Nasreen’s spectacular negotiations, and her willingness to continue representing the human race alongside her new love in a lizardy future. We need to meet her again. Come on, time travel!
Not a happy-ending episode. Some setup for the season arc. I wonder if the payoff is better the second time through.
First time through S5 I rolled my eyes at this one and its sequel – what is it but ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians,’ Take Two? Well as it happens, it’s quite good. Scary things out of the ground stealing people, frightening little boys and their mothers. Fantastic side characters. Rory getting to Do Stuff. I’m sorry I can’t watch Part 2 (‘Cold Blood’) tonight, as I’m quite engaged!
Two highlights: One, as I’ve mentioned, Moffat’s treatment of disability. The boy Elliot has dyslexia. “I can’t do the words,” he tells the Doctor. “That’s all right,” says the Doctor, “I can’t make a decent meringue. Draw as if your life depended on it.” With the Eleventh Doctor, it’s okay to not be able to do things. It’s okay to be differently abled. Elliot can’t read and it doesn’t make him weak or helpless or broken. He can do other things. He’s curious and brave and he can draw like hell and he wants to be Sherlock Holmes. Reading is a struggle, maybe out of his reach, but it doesn’t hold him back.
Two, the fabulous Nasreen. She’s brave, brilliant, curious, non-white and over forty. She gets to ride in the TARDIS – she even gets a dash of romance! I remember how her story ends – it’s certainly better than some – but I would dearly love to have seen her as a companion. What couldn’t the Doctor do with her on his side!
(It seems the actress is a fan! Here are some of her feelings on the subject: video and article.)
Chris Chibnall wrote this episode, he of the glorious Broadchurch and cringe-worthy ’42.’ Definite points in his favor.
ETA: What are the Silurians but a reflection of the Israel/Palestine conflict? All this concern with who was there first and wiping out the other…