Ooo, this episode so nearly worked. It had all the elements you would expect of a classic episode, but they somehow contrived to fumble it. This one was written by Richard Curtis (of Black Adder, Vicar of Dibley and 4 Weddings fame) and he’d apparently been sent back to rewrite it several times because of there being ‘too much talking’. Well, it’s a shame they didn’t let him go with his original (which probably had stronger intellectual content), because what we ended up with was something that tried to do too many things, spread itself thin and just didn’t have the chance to do any of its parts the full justice they deserved. Such a shame, cos all the essential ingredients were there – yet again, I found myself thinking it should have been a two-part episode if it was gonna resolve its drama fully.
So, in just 45mins we had all the following crammed in – the life and madness of Vincent Van Gogh (who’s hated by the local villagers because his art’s no good), an invisible monster murdering the locals, a love story between Amy and Vincent (because they both have orange hair), a consideration of the metaphysical importance of art to civilization and time, strange referencing to traditional myth (the basilisk, St George and a few others), a new gizmo that the Doctor got from his godmother (who had bad breath) and a few fight scenes. Phew. It all ended up a haphazard mish-mash. Fundamentally, the story should have driven itself with these two themes 1. is the invisible monster actually Van Gogh’s madness made manifest? 2. is Van Gogh actually the serial killer and reviled by villagers who suspect him of foul deeds?
Sadly, the story spectacularly failed to realise or establish the two connections/dilemmas I mention above. The plot (and Doctor) stubbornly insisted on Van Gogh’s being a misunderstood hero, whereas it would have been far more interesting if he’d actually been far more riven by id and ego. In the end, we had several stories running in tandem and never crossing-over to add value to each other.
Oh, woe is the viewer of this series! Since they’ve lost Russell T Davies as the main writer, there’s far too much writing by committee, meaning that we lose a consistent, single authorial/editorial voice. Better to have a good-but-flawed episode than a technically-perfect-but-bland effort. 6 out of 10 only.