Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

A really lovely story about the Doctor and Amy helping Vincent van Gogh to cope with his depression.

Well, that's what it becomes about anyway. The first two-thirds feature the three friends charging around after an invisible monster that can only be seen in a mirror. It's exciting, tragic and fun in the classic Who tradition, especially because it's all so effortless.

Although there are brief appearances from Bill Nighy as an art critic, this is a three-hander, and benefits greatly from it. Writer Richard Curtis' realisation of the famous Dutch painter is expressed so well by Tony Curran's performance, that I had to wonder if they were going to keep him on for a few more episodes.

The TARDIS is made good use of with its collection of ancient technological gizmos, one of which - via another still - enables the first Doctor to sneak in for only his third appearance this season.

As it's the same photo that we glimpsed on the Doctor's library card four weeks ago, this is technically a flashback to The Vampires Of Venice. With the same director shooting both episodes as part of the same production block, it's a pity they lazily took both images from the same original, because it makes one of them ingenuine. In Doctor Who lore, where did the first Doctor actually strike that exact pose - in a photo-me booth, or in front of that building?

Conversely, the following photo of the second Doctor is a familiar publicity shot to us, but seen for (I think) the first time within the series' canon, and therefore new.

The overall plot looked a little weak when the krafayis was finally defeated by van Gogh himself, rendering the Doctor and Amy's roles merely as those of observers, but the final act then firmly restored them.

One area in which Doctor Who has often fallen short is in its exploration of what one might actually do with a time-machine. Story after story features the TARDIS being left forgotten in the background. Here however the travellers nip back and forth between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries with ease, and the sight of van Gogh taking-in the display of his own works in present-day Paris was the stuff of magic.

Vincent: "I still can't believe one of the haystacks was in the museum. How embarrassing!"

The music for this whole sequence really comes into its own, in some contrast to earlier in the show, when there had still been a bit too much of it swamping some of the dialogue. However, despite the chaos of The Vampires Of Venice, director Jonny Cambell knows his trade well enough to have recorded the speech clearly, or at the very least ADR'd it well in post, so this is fine.

Also, the mixture of shots of the monster when visible and invisible is extremely well balanced, keeping the tension strong, without looking cheap. Downer that the alien did look a lot like a giant turkey though.

However despite the comedy-writing dream team of Steven Moffat editing Richard Curtis, the episode's funniest line still has to go to the BBC-1 continuity announcer at the end...

"If you've been affected by the issues raised in this programme and you'd like details of information and support, go to If you don't have internet access, you can call the Headroom Action Line..."

"Hello? Yes, I keep on getting attacked by a giant invisible turkey from another planet that can only be seen in mirrors..."

All in all, despite such an awkward title (just call it The Madness Of Vincent Van Gogh already), this is the second Doctor Who story in a row to succeed on pretty well all fronts.

With only three episodes left to go this series, dare I hope for this high standard to last?

Amy: "So you were right. No new paintings. We didn't make a difference at all."

Doctor: "I wouldn't say that. The way I see it every life is a pile of good things and bad things. Hey. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And, we definitely added to his pile of good things."

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