Tonight saw a very different Doctor Who episode. Yes there was the monster and the mystery, but on a deeper level this was a story about the beauty and importance of life, and also the inevitability and unavoidable nature of death.
Tony Curran's Van Gogh is a brilliant character study of the tortured and insane Van Gogh. Not afraid to shy away from his depression, and eventual suicide, the family show delved into territory many adult shows wouldn't touch, and handled them with both tact and brilliance. The clever line about he and Amy sharing the same "dutch" accent is a stroke of genius, and it means that we don't have to put up with a horrible forced dutch accent, and can instead just cope with what we get and ignore it.
Richard Curtis, a self-admitted lover of Van Gogh, having studied his paintings and his life story many times, does well to bring out the deeper nuances of the man who never knew he would be famous, and his emotional climax of Vincent in the Musee D'Orsay is one of the best realised scenes in Who. As the camera pans around and you just see the utter joy on Vincent's face as Bill Nighy's Dr Black explains that Van Gogh is not only the greatest artists who ever lived but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.
Perhaps its just because I like his art, but the references to his paintings in the sets and in the scenery were amazing. The cafe, the bedroom, and the sunflowers were enough to make me squee, but the Starry Night synaesthesia sequence was amazing - its probably my favourite Van Gogh, and the idea that that was just how he saw the world was interesting and unique.
Ironically in this episode it is the Doctor and the series story which take hits this week - the scene with Matt blindly waving a rake about served only to make him look silly, and take the focus of our hero. This episode was very standalone from the series, and except for the brief mention of Rory (probably inserted for exactly this reason) it could have simply been a 45minute biopic about Van Gogh in which Amy and the Doctor just happen to feature.
As a Van Gogh story then, this was simply beautiful, and one I'd probably give 5*. Even as a standalone Doctor Who story it's a 5* work of art. But right now, just moments after losing Rory, and just 3 weeks from the season finale, this episode seemed to sort of go off on a tangent from the series as a whole, and I'm not sure when we look back on this series, the placement of this episode is going to make sense.