Vincent and The Doctor

As a child I remember feeling more than a little frustrated by the historical stories in Doctor Who. Stories like Marco Polo, The Aztecs, The Reign of Terror and The Crusade whilst compelling always seemed to lack that certain something. In other words there weren’t any aliens and monsters in them. This was probably a good thing since it did develop an interest in history within me, but at the time…  I remember Marco Polo seemed particularly frustrating since the TARDIS was in need of repair and in the possession of Marco Polo, while its crew were stuck in the middle of the political intrigues of the time. As an adult I now find it a delightful story and it has become, retrospectively, one of my all time favourites. A pity then that it was one of the early stories that was wiped by the BBC and is now missing from the archives.

Perhaps there is a problem with historical stories in that they don’t appeal to youngsters? They’re liable to seem too much like a history lesson. The new series makers have obviously decided to deal with this problem by combining history with monsters. Up until this story I had considered this policy annoying at best and sacrilegious at worst. Vincent and the Doctor however managed to create a convincing story featuring Van Gogh despite the inclusion of a monster. The kids had their alien and, possibly without realising it, learnt something about one of the most important artists 19th century at the same time.

Tony Curran’s portrayal of  Vincent Van Gogh was so well done that, frankly, it didn’t matter if there was a monster in the story or not.

Not only was the history (explanations, casting, acting and locations) done to a high standard, but the issue of depression was handled sensitively and movingly. I know of at least two fans of the series who suffer from depression and both felt the episode did their condition justice. Something of a special story I think.

Written by Peter Grehan



One comment


    Frank Sable

    June 8, 2010

    I think historical dramas are harder to plot. It’s easier to throw in a monster or alien and create the drama, but creating a historical drama without one means developing real characters with believable conflicts. Human beings can be the most frightening adversaries because their intention isn’t obvious from their appearance. You see a Dalek or a bug eyed monster and you don’t have that dilema to trust them or not. You know they are bad. But even if you suspect a human you constantly have to give them the benefit of the doubt, otherwise you become the monster!

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