I don't normally do random reviews on my journal, but this time I figured why not.
So far I've been a fan of Doctor Who's fifth season of the revived series. I've loved Matt Smith and the eleventh Doctor, and even the rather obvious theme of the
ButtCrack in the universe, as I'm genuinely interested in seeing where that goes. Personally, I'm hoping that it somehow connects to the events in the End of Time, because A) So far season 5 has had very very little connection to the previous four seasons, which weakens it a bit, and B) it would be really really cool. Of course, whether Moffat will do that remains up to speculation, but I would be a bit disappointed if there wasn't SOME nod to the RTD era. But I digress.
The tenth episode of this season is more of a stand alone, there weren't any references to the
AssCrack, and it could easily have been watched without any prior knowledge of the show. This was a bit refreshing, particularly after the last two parter. I suppose the reason why I feel compelled to write a review of this is that everyone's been singing its praises as the best of the season and maybe even the series, and while I thought it was great, it definitely had some major pit falls. However, I will start with what I liked.
On a superficial note, this episode was absolutely gorgeous. There were many many shots that were just lovely(I'm thinking particularly of Amy sitting surrounded by sunflowers) and the starry night scene was a wonderful use of special effects(something Doctor Who isn't exactly known for). The scenery was beautiful and the overall look really lent itself to the mood of the episode. Considering it was an episode about an artist, it was a great idea.
Matt Smith continues to be awesome. This is not new or surprising, but it's still worth noting considering there are still those who don't like that he's not Tennant. What I like about Matt is that he manages to convince me that he's an old soul, something Tennant never really did despite all the verbal reminders. I'm hoping Moffat leaves romance for the Doctor OUT of his tenure, because it was a major complaint I had about the RTD era. Naturally, this wasn't Tennant's fault, and I do adore the man, but Matt approaches the role from a completely different and more subdued angle, which is greatly appreciated. As for actually episode at hand, yes, Matt Smith is awesome, he works perfectly with the material given and I believe he always will.
Tony Curran as Van Gogh was excellent, as was the characterization of Van Gogh in general. He wasn't just a historical figure they happened to work with(as they did with Shakespeare), he was a fleshed out character with depth and real emotions. They didn't tip toe around his mental issues too badly, though I understand that there's only so much heaviness they could get into for a family scifi show. I thought it was interesting, and pretty sad actually, how awkward and hesitant the Doctor was when it came to Van Gogh's depression. I think he handled it like he would handle his own issues, he would try to look at them from a purely objective and unemotional stand point, despite obviously caring, and when faced with them head on, he wouldn't know what to do. Of course Amy on the other hand is immediately emotionally invested, although she wasn't really holding The Idiot Ball this episode.
The ending, the ending, the ending. I know that's what everyone's jizzing themselves over, and it really was so lovely. There isn't really much more that needs to be said.
And of course there were the other nice little tid bits of lightness and humor, which added a nice balance, considering the subject matter. I particularly loved Amy and Eleven talking about how if she had kids with Van Gogh they would be the Ultimate Ginger and Bill Nighy's character.
Now, for what I didn't like.
My main nit pick for this episode, and why I wouldn't call it perfect, was the fact that the alien had very little to do with the rest of episode. Now this wouldn't be such a problem if it didn't take up so much screen time to the point where it takes away from the emotional impact of the theme. It's a shame really, as I feel like they missed out on great depression/monster metaphors and they didn't really make much of an effort to connect the alien to Van Gogh's experience. It seemed like the script was written and at the last minute Richard Curtis was all "Oh shit this is Doctor Who, I need a monster!" and he just threw it in with no thought of cohesion. I suppose it bothers me so much only because of the missed potential. I feel like something was missing in their portrayal of depression/suicide that could've been remedied if only the monster was handled better.
The only real complaint I have for the ending is the song. It's not even that the song itself was bad, it just wasn't Doctor Who. It reminded me of other tv dramas that always have sappy indie-rock songs at the end to add to the emotional impact, and Doctor Who has never needed that, especially not this time. I don't know, maybe I just wasn't used to how different it was from the standard formula of the show, but I still don't think it was at all necessary. That and the whole "For Amy" thing in the painting, that was kind of weird.
At one point I also saw some unfortunate implications in this episode. Of course, Van Gogh had to kill himself, there was no way around that(although it's never explained why. The whole fixed points in time thing has always been selective and inconsistent). But one can't deny that there's an odd message in there. Van Gogh realizes that his life's work will one day be appreciated as some of the best in all of art history, but even after that his depression still gets the better of him. I feel like that very nearly says "Hey all you depressed people, nothing will ever make you feel better", but I suppose that's just one way of reading into it. But hey, despite that it manages to be a very hopeful ending, which I suppose is a credit to the writing.
Karen Gillan still can't act, sorry. She's gorgeous, and while I'm still on the fence when it comes to Amy as a character, Karen doesn't do her any favors. Particularly next to Matt Smith and Tony Curran, who acted circles around her. I will admit that she has her moments, and I have a feeling that she got better the more she worked(I can only say that I have a feeling, since the episodes were filmed out of order), so I'm hoping I'll like her more next season.
And that be all.