Red Scharlach (redscharlach) wrote,
Red Scharlach

An ear in Provence

Before I get on to tonight's Doctor Who, I turned on the TV just before the episode and caught the last minute of Shrek 2, which I believe to be a charming landmark moment in children's movies. Yes, kids, undeniable evidence that a donkey and a dragon had sex. And nobody raised an eyebrow. Rather puts the folk who object to Time Lord/human shenanigans on species-ist grounds in the shade, doesn't it?

Anyway, time for some thoughts about Vincent and the Doctor:

  • Being a Francophile nerd, my first thought at the beginning was "no, that's not the real Musée d'Orsay" but I was rather delighted when the real one turned up later. Which is good, because it's my one of my favourite buildings ever.

  • Bill Nighy didn't really get to do anything much to justify turning up, apart from being Bill Nighy. But I suppose that's what he's generally known and loved for, so fair enough.

  • But taking the guest star crown for this series is Tony Curran, who was pretty bloody stellar as Vincent, somehow getting the right mix of angsty, earthy and flirty. Also, bonus meta-points for having him fight an invisible monster, given that he played the Invisible Man in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (although you'd be forgiven for having wiped all facts about that film from your brain, given that it was A Bit Poor). Still, he will always be Lenny the half-naked plumber from This Life to me.

  • According to the BBC News site, Richard Curtis had trouble with the Doctor's dialogue and had to do a rewrite. Frankly, I think he could have used another one: there was definitely something off about Eleven's speech and attitude for chunks of this. All that talk-to-himself Tennantish stuff alone in the TARDIS, about his dull godmother with two heads: what the heck was all that about? And the impatience outside the church was irritating too: "Is this how time normally passes? Really slowly, in the right order?" was a nice line but made the Doctor too much of a petulant child. Plus he really ought to know where an invisible monster is by facing the same way as the one person who CAN see it. Like Vincent, he may be mad but he's not stupid.

  • Amy was also oddly squealy this week. Did Richard C. not get the memo that companions don't scream these days? And it seemed especially misplaced because Amy generally tends to exhibit too little fear in the face of danger, rather than too much.

  • So yeah, the actual meat of the story was a bit blah. A big invisible chicken-headed dinosaur with abandonment issues? Um, okay. I guess invisible monsters have cheapness on their side, and since they apparently blew the budget on going to Croatia and Paris, maybe that was reason enough.

  • Precisely why Vincent could see the monster was sort of mooted as a question and then never answered. The BBC webpage Fact File says that it's because some artists are special and can see the universe in a different way, but that bit got cut out. It also felt like there was some technobabble missing about why the Krefeyis (sp?) can't be seen, but can be seen in the Doctor's wing mirror gadget: after all, they gave us a techno-excuse for why the fish-vampires had the opposite condition (can be seen by eyes, but not in mirrors).

  • The three-way flirtiness was all to the good, however, even if it was a bit of a rerun of The Shakespeare Code. Still, they totally had a life-affirming orgy in the TARDIS on the way back from Paris, n'est-ce pas? You may also like to know that added non-canon support for the Doctor/Vincent (god, the Doctor's such a tart for historical figures) can easily be found by watching The Yellow House, in which John Simm plays Van Gogh. (Well, if you handwave all the Van Gogh/Gauguin stuff, that is.)

  • The ending WAS very moving, but it did skirt a little close to the borders of self-indulgence and very slightly beyond. After all, the exchange with Dickens at the end of The Unquiet Dead ("My books, do they last?" / "Oh yes." / "For how long?" / "Forever.") managed basically the same thing with much greater dramatic economy and without some Coldplay soundalikes Athlete anthemically blasting away in the background. But I suppose the fact that anything in this season managed to move me at all is a great feat, so well done for that.

  • Also, Amy showed some actual compassion for someone and was likeable. Blimey, it's only taken 10 weeks. I also liked Vince being able to perceive Amy's loss: it somehow seemed to give the Rory situation more weight than any feelings she ever put across when Rory was actually present.

  • Odd bits I liked:
    • "You're from Holland, like me." - ha, it seems that lots of countries have a Scotland!
    • The poster-covered TARDIS resembling one of those Parisian advertisement thingies (they're called colonnes Morris in French, fact fans).
    • The refreshing avoidance of any references to ear-removal. The ear-cutting incident actually happened a couple of years before the episode was set, but the fact that Vince still has his lobes intact is fine by me: it would have made a joke out of something they were trying to take seriously.

  • Odd bits I didn't like:
    • Somehow Arcadia has switched from being the location for Time War happenings so traumatic that the Doctor fears he may never come to terms with them, to being a place for a jolly outing to cheer up Amy. Maybe there are two Arcadias? Or maybe bits of the Doctor's memory have gone AWOL as well.
    • More random pictures of William Hartnell? Once is clever, twice and you risk looking like you're out to score fanboy points as a distraction from other failings.
    • The Doctor calling Vincent "Rory" by accident. Not only an unsubtle mix-up, but also an unlikely one, given that one of them has a fully rounded personality, and the other one didn't...

  • In conclusion: a bit uneven but packing a proper emotional punch for once. Also, reasonably educational about art and depression, and thus fulfilling a worthy BBC remit! Can we say contender for best episode of the season? I believe I can, although the limp quality of much that has gone before probably helps a lot.

  • Next week, James Corden: decidedly NOT a clue to quality drama. Oh dear. Adjust expectations back to zero and let's see what we get, shall we...

And before I conclude, a quick heads-up for any Virgin TV customers who are reading this. The Virgin Central on-demand whatsit has currently got Life On Mars series 2 in its free showcase folder, which is excellent since I've been itching for a rewatch since the Ashes to Ashes finale. So if anyone wants me for the rest of the weekend, I'll be in the back of a Cortina with Gene Hunt...
Tags: doctor who
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