The Doctor and Amy use their magnificent time-traveling device to... Go to a museum across the Channel from Amy's home time/space, although one presumes before her wedding day, and no explanation is given as to why this particular adventure is so banal, or why the brilliant/adorable Bill Nighy is given such a small part to completely rock. Also, everybody in every scene including the Doctor constantly talks about how van Gogh was the greatest artist who ever lived in the history of humanity, which is just sort of weird and annoying, but makes more sense -- higher emotional stakes -- when you think about how this was written by the guy who wrote Love, Actually and Four Weddings & A Funeral and just about every other manipulative brainless thing that fooled you with British accents.
They see something scary in a van Gogh painting, so they head over to Provence in the year before he killed himself to save him from the monster so that he can kill himself. The artist is just wonderful, beyond or including his intense manic-depression, and instantly falls for Amy, because "girls with zero qualities other than bitchiness" is apparently most boys' dating algorithm regardless of century. The monster is invisible, but not really a metaphor for van Gogh's craziness, because his craziness is already an offensive metaphor for his actual craziness. At one point, the villagers in Provence actually throw rocks at him because he's such an outcast. We join him at his cute little house and put up with his bipolar bullshit for awhile, but eventually chase the invisible monster to a church, where van Gogh kills it, like, with an easel.
Then they all realize that the monster, which the Doctor identified as this brutal beast with nothing but viciousness in its heart, was actually blind and just wanted to give them hugs and bake them cookies, so van Gogh cries. Then they all hold hands in the field and hallucinate and bake each other a bunch of cookies and giggle and roll around in the grass and who knows what else, but it's super queer. Then they leave van Gogh so he can kill himself, except at the last second they decide they haven't put him through enough already and so, just to be condescending, they take him to the aforementioned museum thing so he can hear Bill Nighy talk about how amazing he is. (This whole time there is a very loud song playing and a bunch of people weeping, just like in both Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones's Diary II: Edge Of Reason.) Then Vincent cries, goes home, and kills himself.
Amy sort of takes this as a personal affront, because of futility and mental illness and how Rory died but she still doesn't remember him, and because van Gogh shouldn't have killed himself after meeting her and Bill Nighy, but before she can really get upset about that she sees van Gogh wrote her name into a painting, so then everything's cool.
Yeah, it's up there with "Amy's Choice" as one of the best of the season, and definitely it's one of the most distinct and enjoyable episodes I've seen on this beat, but if you're not in the mood to be relentlessly dicked around and fucked with and tearjerked, I think you should wait to watch it until you're in a better or more forgiving mood, because you could end up having a very negative experience. But if you're in the mood, probably you'll really love it. I know I did.
Next week: James Corden -- aka (in ascending order) Smithy from Gavin & Stacey, aka Fletch from Lesbian Vampire Killers, aka roommate of wildly hot Dominic "Hop On My Motorcycle Anytime" Cooper -- does something totally adorable, I'm guessing, and there's a lot of low-budget running about, but everything turns out okay in the end. Or maybe -- given the way this season is going -- he suddenly and without warning commits grisly suicide. Either way, though.
It's a sunny day in Auvers and Something's moving through the corn, but we don't know what it is yet. Vincent sits in his funny French straw hat and paints the crows as they take flight.
2010, Musée d'Orsay, and Bill Nighy the Art History Gighy is explaining in his patrician accent about how the thing with the crows is one of van Gogh's last paintings. "Those final months of his life were probably the most astonishing artistic outpouring in history. It was like Shakespeare knocking off Othello, Macbeth and King Lear over the summer hols." Pause, wait for laughter. The docent reminds us that he did all of this without "hope of praise or reward," because he was an ignored genius in his time. Also crazy, which carries a stigma generally.
Just ask Amy and the Doctor, two individuals who could give Vince a run for his money in the crazy department. The Doctor, we're stipulating and for once we haven't determined this for ourselves, is feeling bad about getting her fiancé vanished from all time and space, so he decided to give her something special, a hop across the Channel in her own time, to see art. I mean, if Amy had any sort of actual personality we could say she was an artist, or at least crafty. "You're being so nice to me. Why are you being so nice to me?" she asks. It's very sad. This business of Amy is very sad.
She says it's suspicious: He's taken her to Arcadia and to the Trojan Gardens, and now this: Home, or something like it, to see beautiful earthly familiar things. I mean, she's never been to the Musee d'Orsay so it's sort of special, but it's not time-and-space special, which is exactly what the Doctor should be doing for her right now. He promises there's nothing to be suspicious about, and his tone is so intense that she realizes they're not joking. But then why he's being so nice to her?
Bill Nighy discusses van Gogh as "possibly the greatest artist of all time," which seems to be the line this episode is taking, which seems like a silly claim to make about anybody, ever, but if you look at this episode as the "Unicorn & The Wasp" of this season I suppose it makes more sense. It's called "Vincent & The Doctor" but only because this is a story by men, for men: It's really a story about Amy, just like Agatha was a story about Donna we didn't know yet. Why are you being so nice to me?
The Doctor is a mad old wizard who takes the sine waves of Vincent's existence and instead of riding them, like we do, or evening them out with drugs, like Vincent could have, does both at once. Two hearts, one for sorrow and one for joy. We've only got the one. Amy's only got one: