Episode Title: "Vincent And The Doctor"
Written By: Richard Curtis
Story: While visiting the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, The Doctor and Amy Pond notice a strange creature in one of the paintings by Vincent van Gogh, and decide to travel back in time to investigate. The pair meets the famous painter, and discover that his well-known personal struggles aren't the only problem he's facing in 1890 — there's also a mysterious creature prowling the city streets, and Van Gogh is being blamed for its bloody work.
Oh, and Van Gogh happens to be the only one who can see the creature. Geronimo!
The Who, What and How: "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Love Actually" screenwriter Richard Curtis makes his debut in the "Doctor Who" universe with this episode, and brings his knack for witty dialogue and poignant, emotional moments to the time- and space-traveling duo's adventure with one of the world's most famous artists.
Fresh off the loss of Rory in last week's episode, The Doctor and Amy travel back to 1890 to investigate the mysterious creature's presence in Van Gogh's painting, and they find that the painter (expertly played by Tony Curran) is far from the world-famous artist that the world knows him as today, and is instead seen as a local pariah of sorts. Not only is he the town drunk, but he's also prone to dramatic mood swings and deep bouts of depression — and he sees a terrifying creature stalking the streets that no one else perceives.
Amy helps Van Gogh to open up, and The Doctor agrees to help. Cue the attack by the invisible monster, and Van Gogh being blamed for one of its victims' deaths. The Doctor eventually deduces that the creature is a Krafayis, a vicious predator that usually travels in packs, and he and Amy set out to deal with it as Van Gogh deals with an attack by his own inner demons.
Rejoined by Van Gogh at The Church at Auvers, the setting for the painting in which the creature first appeared, The Doctor sets out to stun it and figure out a way to get it off Earth. Van Gogh saves The Doctor and Amy from a sneak attack by the Krafayis, and ends up taking it on himself — only to have the creature impale itself on the painter's easel. The Doctor realizes that the creature was blind, explaining why its pack had left it behind, and why it had been lashing out at the city's inhabitants.
The trio then spends the night looking up at the stars, and Van Gogh explains his unique vision of the world. Faced with Van Gogh's lack of confidence in his own work, The Doctor and Amy take him to the 2010, and show him how highly his work is praised in the years to come. Van Gogh breaks down in tears, overcome by the realization that his life's work will indeed be recognized and appreciated.
Amy believes this will keep the painter from committing suicide later in life, but when she returns to the museum, she finds that he still took his own life in 37. The Doctor explains that they added some small amount of good to his life, even if they didn't change the end result.
Final Word: One of my favorite episodes of the season thus far, Curtis managed to perfectly nail both the clever dialogue and emotional resonance that "Doctor Who" is capable of. Tony Curran also provides one of best standout performances of the new season, and it would be a shame if this is all we get to see of him as Van Gogh. More of Curtis and Curran, please!
Everyone involved in this episode should be complimented for its handling of Van Gogh's mental and social struggles, and the way this element of the story contributed to a greater tale of how vision in all its forms shapes our lives.
While I wouldn't want to see "Doctor Who" episodes rely on such emotionally heavy adventures week after week, "Vincent and The Doctor" set itself apart from earlier episodes for number of reasons — chief among them the fact that it almost had me in tears. The most emotional "Doctor Who" episodes generally involve the potential exit of The Doctor or one of his regular companions, so its says a lot about the episode that someone we only met for the first time in this adventure is able to wring such an emotional response from the audience.
Finally, a great job all around by Matt Smith and Karen Gillan as The Doctor and Amy, respectively, who manage not to overshadow Curran's performance while also making the best of Curtis' excellent story. This one has me looking forward to next week's episode even more, and the approach of this season's finale a mere episode or two away.
"Doctor Who" airs every Saturday at 9 PM EST on BBC America. Let us know what you think of the latest episode in the comment section or on Twitter!