Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Doctor, Vincent, and Me

I'm late (as I am for everything. I need to have a Late to the Party category for the blog) jumping on the Dr. Who bandwagon. Or rather, Tardis-Wagon. Band-Tardis?

I finally started watching. I'm on Season 5, Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith. I really struggled through the first/Eccleston season (okay, I know it's not the first season of all time and relative dimension but you know what I mean) and I only persevered because my daughters assured me that soon all would be well and better than well.


It took me awhile because at first I was just so irritated by cheesy effects and slimy monsters. The Daleks drove me batty and I wasn't having much fun with the Cybermen either. Goo and metal? That's all you've got, Universe?

But somewhere around the intersection of David Tennant and Rose, at the corner of Martha and Donna, something clicked. I stopped saying, "Are you sure this will get better? I mean, yeah, I liked that one about Rose and her father, and 'The Empty Child' haunted and touched, but...." and I began to sheepishly murmur, "I think I kind of completely love this show." Sometimes I'd add, "Except when it's slimy. Can we have more time travel, please?" Then River Song would show up, totally out of time-sync, and I'm all, "That's what I'm talkin' about."

I'm still moving slowly through it, as I watch only when I'm working out. (Clearly, I don't work out enough.) At any rate, yesterday I watched "Vincent and the Doctor." Yes, I knew I was being emotionally manipulated ...

... but I didn't care one bit.

I began to love Vincent Van Gogh  -- when? I can't even remember exactly when it started. I love him the way I love coffee and breathing. He just is, has always been. He was the first artist who spoke to my heart on a level I couldn't articulate. My tattered copy of Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh still lives on a bookshelf, having survived a number of book purges over the years. I have more books about Van Gogh than anyone needs. I didn't see his work in person until I was in my 40s, and I remember the moment vividly. The beauty I had detected in two dimensions -- on posters and in books -- leapt to life, blazing. The strokes, the texture, the color... I couldn't stop the tears. The painting wasn't even a favorite, and it was certainly a sedate one by all standards. Still.

(If you're late to everything, too, and haven't seen the episode, and don't want spoilers, stop reading now....)

Obviously I was fully primed for this episode to touch me and it did, hitting all the right chords -- exploring what is inexplicable about art and beauty, cocking its head to see how an artist experiences the world, eliciting sighs at the picture of lying in a field, holding hands with your best friend and Vincent, looking up at a starry sky, considering how we are connected.

Perhaps the most significant detail for me was the episode's monster. Sometimes, with Dr. Who, I think, do we have to have a monster? Can't we just time-travel today?

But ... an invisible monster that only Van Gogh could see? As a depression metaphor, it was a brilliant little detail that touched me as Van Gogh touches me: quietly, and with tears. It was the only kind of monster that would or should work with a Vincent episode, and it was the monster that, despite their attempts to cheer and assure him, The Doctor and Amy couldn't fully vanquish either.

I think I kind of completely love this show.

I have to go work out now.


Charlotte {WaltzingM} said...

The depression metaphor really hits home this week with the passing of Robin Williams too, doesn't it? That is one of my favorite episodes. My girls love Doctor Who like you do. They refuse to watch the slimy or creepy episodes. I have pulled out a handful of episodes that they will like and they have watched those. My experience was just like yours. I had to push myself past Eccleston and even past Rose through Martha to get to the Donna episodes. And then, Amy came along and I liked her but didn't love her until Rory was there but then Rory was gone. Sigh… I've been re-watching episodes here and there, picking out the ones that my girls will like. You've got the Lodger coming up (nothing slimy) which is a lot of fun and then the Pandorica episodes to look forward to!

Charlotte {WaltzingM} said...

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship was another one they liked (only a little dinosaur slime, but it's funny slime not creepy slime) because it has both Mr. Weasley and Filch in it! (The actors, not the characters.)

Teresa said...

I was also a latecomer to Doctor Who, but my sons managed to convince me and we've had the best time watching all the (newer) seasons together over the past six months or so. I pretty much clinched Mom of the Year when I surprised them by hanging a TARDIS shower curtain in their bathroom. :-) The Van Gogh episode you referenced was one of our favorites, but then so many of them have sent us scurrying to the internet to look up some historical/scientific fact or other. Bonus: my twelve year old will be the eleventh doctor for Halloween this year.

Karen Edmisten said...

The depression metaphor really hits home this week with the passing of Robin Williams too, doesn't it?

-- Indeed it does. I had the same thought. May he rest in peace.

And you are so sweet, Charlotte, acting as the Slime Guide! :) I watch every single episode but I find that slimy and metal villains bore me. :) There is usually something else that captures my imagination, though, so it's always worth it in the end.

Teresa, a TARDIS shower curtain? You do rock. Yes, the show is full of fun historical references and science-y stuff, and it's fun to watch it with my older girls and I'm looking forward to sharing it down the road with Ramona, too. My older ones love to quiz me on where I am in the series and what I'm thinking about various developments.

My middle daughter was the 11th Doctor for Halloween last year!

Karen Edmisten said...

Teresa, did you see the Gingerbread Tardis we did last year? It's here.

Charlotte {WaltzingM} said...

"I watch every single episode but I find that slimy and metal villains bore me." Me too! I love the characters and the relationships enough to ignore the slime and the annoying metallic voices.

sarah said...

I used to watch Dr Who way back in the beginning when I was just a little kid and tv was still black and white. I was haunted for many years by "exterminate, exterminate" - and last year when I came upon a Dalek on the street of our local town, there for the opening of a comic book store, I actually walked into a tree trying to avoid it, lol!

But the past few years the show has been on a channel we've been unable to access until recently, so only in the past couple of months have I been able to watch it again and introduce it to my daughter. Such intelligence, such fun, such love for storytelling, in these shows ... I'm only sad I missed out on the best doctors, I don't much like the look of the new one.

Karen Edmisten said...

Charlotte, yes, the characters and relationships are what keep me coming back.

Sarah, which new doctor do you mean? And your story about the Daleks -- wow, what a testament to the power of images in childhood! I'm sorry it drove you into a tree! :)

Teresa said...

Oh, we are SO making a gingerbread TARDIS this year. Thanks for the idea!