I just don’t get Doctor Who, the much-loved BBC TV series. However, I was curious about this weekend’s episode because it featured as its central character Vincent van Gogh, who regular readers will know is a particular favourite of mine. So I watched it.
I suspected that actor Tony Curran would make a rather good Vincent – which he did – and that the script, by Blackadder writer Richard Curtis, might offer a rip-roaring story of vision and illusion, passion and pathos (in a Blackadder Goes Forth sort of way) and perhaps even tackle some of Vincent’s internal demons. But I was seriously disappointed.
The script was so weak and went nowhere, and as a van Gogh aficionado the shocking errors in the chronology and geography of Vincent’s life were glaring, irritating and lazy. For example, the church in which Vincent, the Doctor and his sidekick end up to defeat the monster is not even in Provence. And where in Vincent’s life was this rustic farmhouse where much of the action took place?
Historical inaccuracy apart, the script went nowhere, which is such a shame, because there is so much fascinating stuff in Vincent’s life which could have made a rich seam for a great storyline. How about a monster which turns colour to monochrome? Or sunflowers which through Vincent’s vision become alive and dangerous on the canvas? Or Vincent’s inner demons which force him to do violent things like ear-mutilating?
There were some nice touches; actor Tony Curran made a cracking job of Vincent’s unstable, explosive fragility; the cackling Arlesienne women outside the café at the beginning wore the correct costume; and the mock up of Vincent’s bedroom was great. And the CG which made the crows flap over the cornfield was wonderful as was the CGd starry night at the end.
But the overblown, syrupy, tear-jerking bit at the end where Vincent is seen in a 21st century gallery overhearing Bill Nighy sing his praises as the greatest artist of all time had me reaching for the sick-bucket.