W.T.F. is ‘Doctor Who’?: first four episodes you need to start

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Vincent van Gogh in “Vincent and the Doctor”

“Vincent and the Doctor” Season 5, episode 10

“In my experience, there is, surprisingly, always hope.” – the Doctor

What can I say about this episode? Ask any Whovian — name this episode, and you’ll receive a chorus of weepy sighs.

The Eleventh Doctor takes Amy Pond to a Vincent van Gogh exhibit at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, where they find a monster painted into one of his pieces. Thus, the Doctor grabs Amy by the hand, and they run to the TARDIS to find this monster and save Vincent van Gogh.

This is a monumental episode for any art lovers or van Gogh lovers, rife with references to his life and his art. It brings his paintings to life as we step into his world.


Most importantly for me is how it shows mental illness in a de-stigmatized light. The way the museum curator, played by Bill Nighy, talks about van Gogh’s mental illness and subsequent suicide is poignant, yet non-judgmental. It shows Vincent in a state of despair, raw and vulnerable. It’s honest.

"The Doctor says to Amy, “This is risky.” Amy: Riskier than normal? The Doctor: Think about it. This is the middle of Vincent van Gogh’s greatest year of painting. If we’re not careful, the net result of our pleasant little trip will be the brutal murder of the greatest artist who ever lived. Half the pictures on the wall of the Musée d’Orsay will disappear, and it will be our fault."

The Doctor, too, corrects van Gogh’s language when he calls himself “mad,” explaining “depression is a very complicated—“ but Vincent stops him before he can finish his sentence..

My second favorite part of the episode (the first I can’t tell you because it’ll completely ruin the ending) is the fact the monster is invisible to everyone but Vincent. It’s real; it exists, but it’s invisible.

This is a poetic way to illustrate how certain people experience the universe differently from the rest. In the same way that no one person sees a color exactly like another, it yields to the idea that the lens through which creative souls perceive their environment is tangible and magnificent.

It gives the artists among us a romantic fantasy that helps us feel a little less abstract, a little more understood, and thus, grounded.