“Vincent and the Doctor” is one of the best-loved of all the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures, fully justifying its place in BBC AMERICA’s selection of The Doctor’s Finest because it takes the chance to right a historical wrong, while being unafraid of telling some of the essential truths about a famous artist’s troubled life.
While “The Shakespeare Code” and “The Unquiet Dead” saw Shakespeare and Dickens at relatively untroubled points in their lives (Will’s script worries notwithstanding), the Doctor’s trip back to the South of France in 1890 coincided with Vincent Van Gogh‘s descent into mental illness, which itself matched a burst of creativity so dazzling that it made it into Richard Curtis‘ script.
Oh, and there was an invisible alien too, just for good measure.
Read BBC AMERICA’s recap of “Vincent and the Doctor” here, and here are 10 points of interest, some of which may be new to you:
1. This is not Richard Curtis’s only dalliance with the Doctor. He was the executive producer of the 1999 Comic Relief Doctor Who spoof “The Curse of Fatal Death,” preceding the relaunched show by some six years. And who wrote that spoof? Why, a plucky young upstart by the name of Steven Moffat. Richard also wrote and directed the movie “About Time,” in which a family finds they can time-travel. It stars Bill Nighy, who also appears—uncredited—in “Vincent and the Doctor.”
2. Part of his motivation in writing the script was simply to try and offer Vincent Van Gogh a little overdue credit. He told SFX: “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.”
3. Richard was inspired to approach Steven by his children, after they all watched the Tenth Doctor adventure “The Next Doctor” with their next door neighbor, David Morrissey. David, Who fans will recall, played Jackson Lake, the man who believes he is the Doctor, in that very episode.
4. When the TARDIS is covered with posters, some of them are for the Café du Tambourin at 27 Rue Richelieu in Paris, the first place to exhibit Van Gogh’s artwork.
5. We know the Doctor has a granddaughter called Susan, a clone daughter called Jenny, and we know he’s been married (at least twice, once to River Song and once to the mother of his children, and therefore grandchildren, although we might also add a couple of celebrity weddings—Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth I), we know he has a brother (“Smith and Jones”), and we may have even seen his mother (“The End of Time”). This is the first mention of the Doctor’s godmother, whom he refers to as having “two heads and bad breath,” and as being both “smelly” and “excellent.”
6. One of the plot themes that had to be abandoned during editing was that the Krafayis, the invisible monster that plagues Vincent, was mentioned in a scary book of children’s stories the Doctor read as a child back on Gallifrey.
7. Another earlier idea from Steven Moffat was that the Krafayis was originally one of a pair and that Vincent’s accidental killing of one would cause the second to kill itself rather than live a solitary life. He later went back to this idea, albeit without the tragic ending, in “Hide.”
8. When we see the Doctor, Amy and Vincent in the bar, there’s a very quiet accordion playing Murray Gold‘s “I Am The Doctor” theme in the background.
9. Some of the exterior shots for “Vincent and the Doctor” were filmed in Trogir, Croatia, to achieve the look of 19th century southern France. The same town doubled for 16th century Venice, as the crew also shot “The Vampires of Venice” while they were out there.
10. The song playing when Vincent tearfully sees his work displayed in the Musée d’Orsay and meets Dr. Black is “Chances” by the British group Athlete.
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