Sunday, 1 December 2013

Vincent and the Doctor, The Lodger, The Pandorica Opens & The Big Bang

Vincent and the Doctor

From the bland to the sublime, this is the series that never fails to surprise. To think that an episode so simple could be so perfect, this is without a doubt the best new series episode I have seen so far. It deals with depression as a topic, and Vincent Van Gogh as an inspiration. It has lighter moments, sad moments, and a great deal of empathy. It is gloriously shot, it looks superb on the screen with a wonderful mix of colours akin to that in Van Gogh’s paintings.
Tony Curran - brilliant as Vincent Van Gogh.
We start some time after the previous episode, so we have conveniently bypassed the affects of losing Rory (for the Doctor at least as Amy has forgotten) and we start in Paris with a lovely guest appearance by one of Britain’s finest actors, Bill Nighy. Some lovely bi-play between him and Matt Smith concerning their bow-ties mostly. Then we are transported back in time and meet Vincent Van Gogh himself, and Tony Curran gives an amazing performance as the tortured painter.
Bill Nighy.
And here’s the rub – what makes this episode so special. Other than it was written by the amazing Richard Curtis of course. When we saw Churchill, Dickens and Shakespeare they were somewhere near their best. Lively, amazing characters, but with Van Gogh we see a sadder side. A truer side you might say – going from highs to lows, the extremes of his bi-polar condition. The monster in the story is as much a metaphor for his condition than any real monster, which shows an incredible subtlety and care in the writing which elevates the episode far beyond the ordinary tale.
The climax, when Van Gogh sees the future and how his work is regarded today is an emotional high point of the story, I challenge anyone watching not to be incredibly moved by that moment. Then the sadness that all that happened didn’t prolong Van Gogh’s life juxtaposes emotional highs with grim reality.

Is this a traditional Doctor Who episode? Far from it. The plot is actually very thin to non-existent, but we see that when handled with care we can get an amazing 45 minutes from little to no plot, but a lot of love. And yes, apparently by this stage Van Gogh should be missing an ear. Can’t say that affected the story for me at all though…

The Lodger

James Corden guest stars as Craig Owens.

‘The Lodger’ is a bit of fun. A lot of fun actually. A very different story to the previous episode, this one really highlights the emphasis on comedy that has been a feature of series 5. Karen Gillan takes a back seat in this ‘companion-light’ tale, interestingly the Doctor-light stories appear to be a thing of the past. Probably for the best there’s only so much that could be done with that format.
We are introduced to Craig Owens, played by James Corden who apparently is well known in Britain for ‘Gavin and Stacey’ (I think that’s the name, a sitcom, again I think). And it all works very well thanks mostly to Matt Smith who really gives a fantastic comic performance. Being really ‘alien’ seems to be what distinguishes Matt Smith from David Tennant, who I think is the most human of all the Doctors. When Moffatt replaced Tennant with Smith, he still had a young actor in the role and so
they needed to differentiate the two in some way. Smith still runs around a lot, relies on the sonic screwdriver for everything and speaks very very fast, especially when explaining things. All these things Tennant did too. But Smith’s Doctor seems to understand humans a lot less than Tennant’s. He easily becomes a fish out of water when he doesn’t understand things.
Here we have him confusing football with cricket at one point, interesting as the Doctor has in the past been a huge cricket fan, especially in his fourth and fifth incarnations. Anyways, the misunderstanding (he offers up 3000 pounds for rent at the start for example) is where in lies the interest for this story. Yes, we have an alien spaceship on top of a stair case in the house, but that’s by the by. It’s more about watching the Doctor trying to infiltrate and appear like a human (as the TARDIS can’t land until the space ship is dealt with) as anything else. And it’s about Craig’s life too, about him falling in love, not wanting to leave where he lives.
We even have a scene where the Doctor plays football and is brilliant at it. Interesting choice. Oh well, we’ve already seen him be brilliant at cricket. Is there much to the tale? Not really. It doesn’t move the series on as a whole, it’s almost a place holder as we build for the big finale. But the episode is highly enjoyable, and next to ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ we see that the show can be many things, side by side.

The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang

River Song impersonates Cleopatra. 

The first series ‘finale’ under the new regime. It’s a hard story to rate. Firstly,  I’d rate it as better than any of the RTD series finales. There’s no question there. It was suitably big enough, interesting enough, and packed a punch. It mostly made sense, BUT it did fall straight back into the trap of solving everything with a big ol’ reset button. AND the ending is either confusing or just a plain fairytale, devoid of any science fiction type of explanation.
The Cyberman comes back to life.
So where does that leave us? Well we start with a look back at some of the guest stars from the season as Winston Churchill (Ian McNiece) makes a reappearance and then Liz Ten (Sophie Okonedo). River Song (Alex Kingston) said they would meet again when the Pandorica opens in ‘Flesh and Stone’, so we can presume that this one is going backwards in time for her.
Rory is back.

The first episode is fantastic in many aspects. Rory (Arthur Darvill) is back as a Roman soldier – turns out as an Auton. There is a host of the Doctor’s enemies in this, although this is not a story about fighting off an invasion or the alien hordes. They see the Doctor will be responsible for destroying the universe, that his TARDIS is responsible for the cracks and the universe destruction. So they trap him in the pandorica. Rory shoots Amy because he’s an Auton, but then all the baddies disappear and he becomes his own man.
The Doctor goes with a Fez.
Amy is kept alive by being put in the Pandorica, opened by the sonic screwdriver as the Doctor from the future gives it to Rory. There’s a lot of playing with time in the story. Meanwhile River Song is trapped in the TARDIS as it is exploding, presumably what destroys the universe and makes the cracks. Why is it exploding? No explanation is offered. HOWEVER Amy, Rory and River are talking in the first episode of series six (spoilers) saying that the Doctor shouldn’t meet himself, last time he did, the universe was nearly destroyed. Well the Doctor does meet himself in the museum in the future where the Pandorica is being held. He is using River’s vortex manipulator, he gets shot by a Dalek, ends up in the Pandorica, uses the Pandorica to reboot the universe by moving it to the TARDIS and the original atoms of the universe explode through the TARDIS recreating the universe.
Amy inside the Pandorica.
However, the TARDIS was at the centre of the explosion with the Doctor on board. River says the Doctor will die. The universe is reborn, it’s Amy and Rory’s wedding day, they have all forgotten the Doctor. But seeing River’s TARDIS diary sparks a hidden memory for Amy and she remembers him, and then the TARDIS reappears with the Doctor dressed for the wedding. So Moffatt seems to be saying the Doctor was saved because Amy remembered him. Also, the base
The Daleks rises.
code of the Universe has been mentioned as being the date of the wedding – but it’s never actually intimated as the significance of the date. Was the Doctor always destined to return on  that day?
To me this was a well made episode, with several questions left unanswered. It is possibly the most confusing Doctor Who has been since episode one. Are these questions which will get answered? I doubt it now. And thus it was made a
very difficult episode to judge. I loved the stone Dalek, I loved the timey-wimey stuff, but I find ‘remembering the Doctor’ a weak way to bring him back, and why was the TARDIS exploding? That’s the biggest question mark of all and no-one seems to have a good answer for that!
PS. Caitlin Blackwood returns also as young Amy and again is brilliant!


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