Vincent and the Doctor
Vincent and the Doctor was the tenth episode of the fifth series of BBC Wales Doctor Who. It saw the Doctor befriend another famous figure in Vincent van Gogh and, quite darkly, explored the lead-up to his suicide.
Along with Amy’s Choice, this story neither features a crack in time, nor does it make any mention to the Silence. However, Rory’s absence is alluded to, giving the episode a defined place in the season’s story arc.
The Eleventh Doctor and Amy visit the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. It is showing the works of Vincent Van Gogh, who is Amy’s favorite painter. Amy asks the Doctor why he is being so nice to her; he has been taking Amy to several places she wanted to visit and other peaceful locations, such as Arcadia and the Trojan Gardens. She jokes that she’s suspicious, to which he defensively tells Amy that he is always nice to her, and that there was nothing to be suspicious about. Amy tells the Doctor that she was just joking, but wonders why he’s not. Before she can question the Doctor further, a child says, “It’s the doctor,” prompting them both to look behind them to see a child looking at the painting of Vincent’s doctor.
They then inspect a painting in Amy’s guide book, with her being excited to see it in person. However, as Amy is enjoying it, the Doctor has found a rather disturbing face in the window. He gravely informs Amy the face is not a nice one. Posing as an inspector with the psychic paper, he briefly interrupts the curator, Dr Black, demanding to know when and where the painting was made. Asked for specific facts, Dr Black tells the Doctor that the church painting was probably completed between the first and the third of June 1890. Complimenting Dr Black’s bow tie, the Doctor grabs Amy’s hand and drags her away. When Amy tells him she wants to see the rest of the paintings, the Doctor tells her that it’s a matter of life and death — they need to speak to Vincent Van Gogh!
The TARDIS materializes in Auvers-sur-Oise. The Doctor and Amy begin their search for van Gogh. Finding a café featured in one of his paintings, the Doctor questions two waitresses cleaning the tables outside. They say van Gogh is a mad drunk who never pays his bills, and, when the Doctor says he’s a good painter, they laugh heartily. The café owner rushes out, followed by a red-headed man trying to bargain with him. The owner exasperatedly informs him the painting is no good for a trade (given that it will frighten the other patrons); the man must either pay or leave. The Doctor (after wordlessly pointing out to Amy that the patron is Vincent) offers to pay for the man’s drink or to buy the painting, so he can use the money to buy a drink. Vincent van Gogh turns around and demands to know who the Doctor is. The Doctor tells him that he’s new in town. Vincent tells the Doctor that there are some things he needs to know: 1) He pays for his own drinks (this earns more laughter), 2) If the Doctor wants to stay in town, he better not buy his painting, or he’d get laughed out of town; 3) Amy’s cute. Before the painter can resume haggling with the café owner, Amy offers to buy a bottle of wine which she will share with whomever she chooses, to which Vincent agrees.
Inside the café, the Doctor introduces himself. Van Gogh misunderstands the title and believes him a doctor sent by his brother; the Doctor explains that he’s not a medical doctor. Trying to make casual conversation, the Doctor learns from Vincent that he has arrived right before he is to paint the church. Amy sees a painting Vincent has with him and quickly corrects herself when she when she praises it as one of her favorite paintings. The painter then wonders if Amy is from Holland like himself; Amy honestly says no, but the Doctor “corrects” her and says “yes.” Vincent and Amy begin flirting, but stop at a scream from outside.
In the street, they find a young girl has been brutally killed. Her mother pushes her way forward. Upon spotting Vincent, she takes out her grief on him, blaming him for her daughter’s death. The crowd throws stones at him, and the Doctor, Amy and van Gogh leave hastily. The Doctor learns this is the second recent murder. Vincent asks the Doctor and Amy where they are staying, which the Doctor takes as an invitation to stay at Vincent’s studio.
At the studio, Vincent apologizes for the mess his collective works make and leads them inside. When the Doctor keeps asking about the church, Vincent catches this and begins wondering what he’s up to. However, he puts a pot for coffee on one of his works, prompting Amy and the Doctor to tell him to treat them better as they are precious. Explaining about how he paints, Vincent tells them that he believes that there is so much more than what the normal eye can see. Having traveled throughout all of time and space, the Doctor says that he doesn’t need to be told. After a bit too much coffee, Vincent begins rambling on about how he hears the colors and the world telling him to capture the mysteries on canvas. The Doctor calmly tells Vincent that he has had enough coffee and offers to make some calming tea. However, he then notices that Amy is not in the room any more, as he hears her screaming from outside.
Both Vincent and the Doctor find Amy on the ground. She says that something attacked her while she was looking at the paintings. Vincent begins screaming in horror and backs away from them. The Doctor thinks that he is having some kind of fit as Vincent charges past them with a pitchfork; the painter tells them to run as he swings the pitchfork around. The Doctor encourages Amy to take cover while he calms Vincent. However, Vincent yells for the Doctor to duck as he is swept off his feet by something large and invisible. Realizing Vincent is not having a fit, but can actually see the beast, he grabs a stick to help fight it. As he cannot see it, he uselessly swings the stick around to help cover more ground, and Vincent wards the creature off single-handedly. Vincent tells the Doctor, who is still swinging the stick around, that the beast has left. The Doctor asks Vincent what the creature looked like.
Leading them back inside, Vincent whites out a canvas — much to Amy and the Doctor’s horror — and proceeds to draw the creature on it. The Doctor is shocked by what it looks like and decides that something in the TARDIS can help identify what it is. He instructs Amy to look after Vincent and make him comfortable as possible; he then jokes to her, asking Amy not to “let any invisible monsters in the house”. The Doctor returns to town with the painting, unknowingly being stalked by the invisible creature. Just as it tries attacking him, the Doctor enters the TARDIS.
Inside, the Doctor rummages through a drawer full of junk, apologizing to the object he is looking for as he thought it was an embarrassing gift from a dull two-headed godmother with bad breath. Pulling out a portable device, the Doctor hooks it to the printer on the console and smiles at the device; it shows his first two incarnations and his personal information. The Doctor frowns at the sight of his past faces. Seeing that it works, the Doctor shows the device Vincent’s painting, which it misinterprets as a parrot and polar bear, unable to clearly make out what it is. Annoyed, the Doctor thinks he’ll have to make Vincent paint something better.
It’s dawn by the time the Doctor exits the TARDIS. Strapping the device to himself, the Doctor does not notice the creature reflected by the device. Having got a clear image of the creature, the device beeps, giving the Doctor the information about it; he mistakenly believes that it needed some time to get it right. Reading the information, the Doctor feels sorry for the “poor, brutal thing,” wishing to see it again soon. Upon seeing the beast’s reflection, he calmly says “but not that soon”, before running off to escape it. To obstruct the creature’s path, the Doctor drops debris behind him to slow the creature as he hides behind a corner. Using the mirror on the device, the Doctor finds that it has left in a different direction. He turns around, only to be scared by Amy; he demands to know why she left Vincent unguarded. Amy explains that though she loves his artwork, she finds it hard to like Vincent’s snoring.
The next morning, the Doctor wakes Vincent, who steps into the courtyard to see Amy surrounded by sunflowers. She suggests he paint them, but Vincent explains they are not his favourite. He finds them complex, half-living and half-dying, but it would be a challenge, to which the Doctor responds that he believes that he’ll rise to the occasion. Giving Vincent a print-out of the creature, the Doctor explains that it’s called a Krafayis. They travel through space in packs, a brutal race of scavengers. This one has apparently been abandoned. It will kill without mercy until it is killed — unlikely, given its invisibility. Nonetheless, he assures Vincent they can stop the killings if he will paint the church. Vincent agrees and the Doctor informs him that, afterwards, he and Amy will leave. Once Vincent has departed, the Doctor expresses concern at putting him in such a dangerous situation; if he is killed, half of the paintings on display in the Musée d’Orsay will vanish.
After a while, the Doctor and Amy have gotten tired of waiting for Vincent getting ready. Wondering what is keeping him, the Doctor finds the painter lying in bed, sobbing. He is devastated that the Doctor and Amy are prepared to leave him, like everyone else. The Doctor attempts to console him, but Vincent grows angry and orders him out. Back with Amy, the Doctor explains that Vincent has a fragile psyche and will kill himself in just a few short months. Taking this into consideration, the Doctor tells Amy that they will hunt down the Krafayis on their own, but before they can leave, Vincent appears at the door, ready to go.
On the way to the church, Amy tries to talk to Vincent about his depression, He says if she can “soldier on,” then he can too. This confuses her, which prompts Vincent to reveal he can hear her sadness and believes that she has recently lost someone. He also points out she is crying, which she hadn’t realised. They stop in the road as a funeral procession, for the girl who was killed last night, passes; everyone glares at Vincent. Amy questions the Doctor, wondering what his plan is this time. However, the Doctor tells her he’s got something like a plan, “only more greatness”; he’s armed with overconfidence, a sonic screwdriver and the device in his briefcase.
At the church, Vincent begins to paint. The Doctor spends the time talking to Vincent about his past meetings with Michelangelo (who took the job of painting the Sistine Chapel despite being afraid of heights) and Pablo Picasso (who he tried getting to paint normal faces). As it becomes night, the Doctor becomes frustrated as the Krafayis is not punctual, confessing to Amy that something doesn’t feel right. Vincent sees the beast in the window. The Doctor goes inside, ordering his companions not to follow him. Vincent questions Amy as to if she will follow the Doctor; she responds, “of course,” prompting Vincent to tell her he loves her. Inside, the Doctor “fights” the creature, but when his device is destroyed, he prepares to retreat. Outside, Amy and Vincent hear the chaos. Amy runs inside, calling for the Doctor.
The Doctor attempts to exit the church, but bumps into Amy. Despite being annoyed that she disobeyed him again, he forces her to hide in the confessional with him. They whisper to each other as the Krafayis attacks them. The Doctor remarks the Krafayis has incredible hearing. As it tears the confessionals apart, Vincent appears, brandishing a chair to distract the beast, allowing the Doctor and Amy to escape. The Doctor tries stunning the beast, but since he can’t see it, he can’t tell if he has the right setting; Vincent says it pleased the beast instead. They take refuge in another chamber. Vincent sneaks away to retrieve something. In his absence, the Doctor attempts to reason with the creature, telling it he too is alone and he knows how it feels.
The chamber windows blow out as the Krafayis breaks in. Vincent returns with his easel, holding it like a weapon. He says the creature is making its way around the edges of the room. The Doctor calls himself an idiot for not noticing this sooner, saying he is getting old; the Krafayis was left behind because it is blind, but he yells his deduction, allowing the beast to know where they are. As it attacks, Vincent stabs the Krafayis with the legs of the easel. It collapses, badly wounded and dying. It begins crying it is afraid, and the Doctor consoles it as it dies. Vincent mourns he didn’t mean to kill it, only wound it, and that he understands its lonely existence…
Amy, Vincent, and the Doctor lie in the grass outside the church. Vincent encourages the others to see the world as he does (we see the night sky turn into Vincent’s Starry Night painting). The Doctor admits he has seen amazing things in his life, but nothing quite as wonderful as what Vincent sees. Vincent tells the time travelers he will miss them when they’re gone.
The next morning, Vincent attempts to push his self-portrait on the Doctor as a parting gift, but the Doctor, knowing what it will be worth one day, refuses it. The painter takes this in stride; he’s used to having his works of art refused. Vincent admits that, despite his experiences over the last couple of days, he won’t do well on his own. As the Doctor and Amy depart, he gets an idea, asking Amy if she’s had the same one; she doesn’t as she’s thinking about grabbing breakfast at the café. The Doctor calls to Vincent, telling him to tidy up as there is something he wants to show him.
They take him to the TARDIS, which is now covered in circus posters; the Doctor slices through them with the TARDIS key and opens the doors of his time machine. The Doctor reminds Vincent that they talked about the wonders of the universe before showing him inside. Upon seeing the inside and examining the exterior, Vincent becomes amused that he’s the one that’s “crazy,” while they have managed to remained sane. The Doctor explains some of the buttons on the console, secretly steering the TARDIS. Vincent is amazed by all the Doctor has told him and asks that they come back to the café, and explain more about the wonders of the universe. However, the Doctor tells him that there is something they wish to show him first.
Stepping outside, they have taken Vincent to the Musée d’Orsay in 2010; the time vortex energy has reduced the posters covering the TARDIS to cinders. Explaining where they are, the Doctor and Amy lead Vincent into the museum, leaving his hat back in the TARDIS to avoid arousing suspicion of his identity. Led through the building, Vincent looks in awe at the exhibits, then is even more surprised when he is led into the section dedicated completely to his paintings. While Vincent stares at people enjoying his work, the Doctor finds Dr Black again, asking if he can summarize where Vincent stands in history. Amy positions Vincent close enough to hear his response, as Dr Black praises Van Gogh for turning his pain into incredible beauty, calling him not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men of all time. Vincent is reduced to tears by these words and the Doctor starts to apologize, thinking that it may be a bit too much. However, Vincent assures him he’s crying tears of joy. He hugs Dr Black and thanks him for his kind words before leaving with his friends. Dr Black is confused, and suspects the truth before thinking better of it.
Vincent is returned to 1890, where he comments on what has happened and thanks the Doctor for truly helping him where other doctors have not; the Doctor is equally joyous, bidding his new friend farewell. He then tells Amy that should she grow bored of the Doctor, she may return and they will have a big family. Amy tells Vincent that she’s “not the marrying type.” Leaving for home, Vincent hears the TARDIS leave and turns back to see it gone. He then leaves, happy, and sure he will use his experience to change himself into a new man.
The Doctor and Amy return to the Musée d’Orsay. Amy is certain their time with Vincent changed him. She is ecstatic at the prospect of all the new paintings that will hang in the exhibit. However, she is disappointed to find no new paintings and hear Dr Black still announce to tourists that Van Gogh committed suicide at the age of thirty-seven.
Amy is heartbroken that they didn’t make a difference in Vincent’s life at all, but the Doctor rejects this. He says that good things can’t remove the pain of bad things, but bad things can’t spoil the good things and they certainly added a large amount of good to Vincent’s life. The Doctor shows Amy that the face of the Krafayis is no longer visible in the window of the church. Another change becomes evident as they prepare to leave. Amy sees Van Gogh’s painting of sunflowers, now dedicated to her. Amy jokes that if she had children with Vincent, they would have had really red hair. The Doctor jokes back, saying it would be the “Ultimate Ginger”. Amy cries as they both laugh. The Doctor comforts her.