We’ve come out of the David Tennant years after the first two weeks of BBC America’s The Doctor’s Finest, a weekly series of programming celebrating the best of Doctor Who‘s recent years, and with week three we travel headlong into the Matt Smith oeuvre with two of the most popular and beloved episodes. These two episodes, “Vincent and the Doctor” from Series 5 and “The Doctor’s Wife” from Series 6, were sentimental favorites and, interestingly, each written by a celebrity guest writer, Richard Curtis and Neil Gaiman, respectively.
To discuss these episodes Saturday night at 8:00pm on BBC America, host Hannah Hart is joined by robot builder, former Mythbuster, and geek icon extraordinaire Grant Imahara. And don’t miss next week when Hannah will be joined by Osgood herself Ingrid Oliver to talk about the 50th Anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor.”
For more of my thoughts on “Vincent and the Doctor” and “The Doctor’s Wife,” keep on a-readin’.
Vincent and the Doctor
Series 5 was sort of unprecedented in Doctor Who to that point. Obviously, it was the first following the departure of the man who ran the show for four series and five specials, Russell T. Davies, as well as the actor who became almost inseparable from the role of the Doctor, David Tennant. This meant new showrunner Steven Moffat and new Doctor Matt Smith had to really hit the ground running, and but for a couple of missteps, they did just that, creating one of the tightest and most cohesive series the show had ever produced.
By time episode 10, “Vincent and the Doctor,” came about, Series 5 had already deepened the arc mystery and *spoilers* only just taken companion/fiance Rory Williams away, erasing him from existence to everyone but the Doctor. And so, it seemed time for a very heartfelt, if a little schmaltzy, episode, and who better for that than the kind of British schmaltz on the big screen, Richard Curtis, whose film work included Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually?
The episode deals with issues like mental illness, artistic integrity, one’s own legacy, and, well, a giant invisible chicken that’s also blind. Some of those are more universal than others. Tony Curran gives an utterly heartbreaking performances as Vincent van Gogh, today considered one of the finest artists ever but in his day a complete penniless failure who also suffered from horrible bouts of depression. This episode doesn’t pull any punches with that, and even though it gets a bit maudlin, it allows Amy Pond to realize that sometimes there’s nothing even they can do.
The Doctor’s Wife
This is an episode that, for me, came out of nowhere. Originally intended to be included in Series 5 (interestingly, it would have been episode 11, meaning it would have followed “Vincent”), Neil Gaiman’s first contribution to televised Doctor Who aired as the fourth episode of the sixth series and had to reincorporate Rory, who by that time was back in the living world. This is a love letter to the show, as well as being another tear-jerker with an astoundingly good guest performance.
After getting sucked into a bubble dimension following a distress call from another Time Lord, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory find themselves on a weird junkyard of a planet. The planet itself is alive and calls itself House (voiced by Michael Sheen) and eats TARDISes, but first it needs to remove the heart and soul, the living part, of it, transferring its essence into a person, Idris, played by Suranne Jones. While Rory and Amy are trapped inside the TARDIS, with House creating a nightmare world of space time, the Doctor and Idris bond, and get to talk, in a very funny and heart string-pulling way.
Series 6 wasn’t my favorite series. It was pretty uneven, but a handful of episodes truly were great, and “The Doctor’s Wife” is right up there among those. While I personally thought “The Girl Who Waited” was the masterpiece of the series, “The Doctor’s Wife” is more than worthy of the praise it received, including winning both the Ray Bradbury Award and the Hugo Award.
Be sure to tune in Saturday night at 8/7c for both of these episodes, plus discussions with Hannah Hart and Grant Imahara, looks back at the episodes in question, and exclusive looks ahead to Series 9, premiering Saturday, September 19th. All of this only on BBC America.