Vincent and the Doctor

MondayThere is a fantastic episode of Doctor Who titled: Vincent and the Doctor.  The basic premise is that the current incarnation of The Doctor and his companion, Amy Pond, travel to Provence in 1890 in order to hunt down a monster haunting the Church at Auvers.

As you may know, Vincent van Gogh was known for his “artistic temperament” of extreme highs and extreme lows suggesting that he suffered from bipolar disorder.  If you watch the episode, you may see van Gogh in a familiar light.  At least I do.

I always cry when I watch this episode.  Tony Curran does an impressive job of portraying Vincent van Gogh.  He portrays van Gogh as sensitive, passionate, determined and strong, yet so susceptible to the moods that claim us all.  When The Doctor tells Vincent that he and Amy will be leaving when the job is done, Vincent leaves the room and falls into a screaming, crying fit.  It’s heart-wrenching.  It’s familiar.  How many times have I done that in my life?  I haven’t a clue.  And I don’t think I would like the number if I could count them all.

Vincent van Gogh must have seen the world in such a spectacular way: full of both beauty and pain. One quote from the episode is, “It seems to me, there is so much more to the world than the average eye is allowed to see. I believe, if you look hard, there are more wonders in this universe than you could ever have dreamed of.”  Van Gogh saw the world in all of its magnificence. Perhaps because of our bipolar we too can see more of the world than the average person.  More of the pain.  More of beauty.  We certainly feel more – the deepest, darkest pain of depression and the brightest, bursting pleasure of mania.

“It’s color! Color that holds the key! I can hear the colors.”  The ravings of a mad man or of an artistic genius?  Or both?  Vincent continues, “Every time I step outside, I feel nature is shouting at me: Come on! Come and get me! Come on! Capture my mystery!”  Have you ever felt like that?  I have.  I feel that way about photography.  I will see an object or a composition – an image that impresses upon my mind and begs me to photograph it.  Sculpture virtually screams at me.  Am I mad too?

Lying in a field with Amy and the Doctor, Vincent describes how he sees the world, summarizing with, “Everywhere we look, the complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes.”  The Doctor then replies with, “I’ve seen many things my friend, but you’re right.  Nothing quite as wonderful as the things you see.”

That’s the point, isn’t it?  The normals will never see what we see.  They will never feel what we feel.  But that’s what makes us special.  I think, in a good way.

I’ll leave you with a final quote from the episode.  This occurs between the Doctor and a curator at the Museum d’Orsay, 2010:

The Doctor: Between you and me, in a hundred words, where do you think van Gogh rates in the history of art?
Curator: Well… um… big question, but to me, Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of colour most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.”

Note: all quotes are property of the BBC and the television production Doctor Who.  Any   errors in transcription are mine alone and my apologies are extended to the creators.

© Monday and A Canvas Of The Minds 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Monday and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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16 thoughts on “Vincent and the Doctor

  1. This is wonderful, Monday. I love how you ostensibly put the focus outward, on this man, this beautiful, tormented, genius painter, but you let a great deal of your life and feelings bleed through into your writing.

    I feel the same way about photography, I’m a snob for my 35mm, but I have taken to carrying around a three dollar garage sale digital that I got, because I will spy a beautiful tree, or once even a bunny. Now I see lots of bunnies, and it may sound foolish, but you’re right, it was like this bunny “beg(ged) me to photograph it.”

    I’m so glad you wrote this, it was exactly what I needed today. 🙂

  2. I love doctor who, and in particular this episode. I thought that it did an interesting job of depicting depression. That even though Vincent was better for the time being, and even though he was depressed he could do some things, it ultimately didn’t cure him. There wasn’t the magic off switch that Amy thought she could flip to make him better. I appreciated how they did that, where he wasn’t cured from just a single adventure. It’s a much more realistic portrayal of how mental illness actually is, it’s something that’s life long and isn’t done away with by even The Doctor. It’s something always there, and something that not everyone succeeds at fighting. A rather sobering portrayal from a sci fi adventure show, don’t you think?

  3. That’s the point, isn’t it? The normals will never see what we see. They will never feel what we feel. But that’s what makes us special. I think, in a good way.

    I think we’re special in the way that we get the full human experience. The norms will never be able to see the world through our eyes. They’ll live out their mundane, useless existances. And we will have 1,000 lifetimes of experience when we lay our heads down for our final rest.

    • Respectfully, Lulu, I have to clarify a point. I’m thinking you didn’t mean for it to come off this way, but you don’t have to carry a diagnosis to do brilliant things, just as many people who do carry them never do much that is memorable.

      Like I said, I don’t think that’s at all what you meant, knowing you as I do, I just wouldn’t want someone who didn’t to get the wrong idea. 😉

      • Oh no, that’s not at all what I’m getting at! I was talking about the “norms”. You know to what population I am referring to. Norms doesn’t just refer to people who don’t have a label slapped on the. Consult the Luluisms dictionary.

          • Totally glad we clarified! Yeah, like I tell the kids at school, “Hatin’ is bad. Don’t be hatin’.” Except, I’m hating on the norms, because they completely content to be absolutely ignorant of all of this.

  4. Manic Monday, I remember the exact moment when I knew that what I felt was not what most people felt, and that I was lucky for it. I was driving along, I can see the intersection approaching and feel my heart so filled with joy that I was certain it would burst.

    I do have to agree with Ruby, though, “. . . [Y]ou don’t have to carry a diagnosis to do brilliant things, just as many people who do carry them never do much that is memorable.” And I will even go further with it. I think our judgment is often compromised by our moods. When we’re manic or hypomanic, we know we’re brilliant, and when we’re depressed, we’re certain nothing we do is worthwhile.

    So how do we find the true balance point, the reality by which to judge what we do?

    • No, you don’t have to have a diagnosis. But I’ve seen a lot of people in depressive epsiodes create and accomplish seriously amazing stuff. Even if self-esteem is non-existant in the creator. Poe, Plath, etc.

      No person, norm or not, is ever an accurate, objective judge of themselves. It is impossible. So there is no balancing point. It’s up to people to follow their passions and do what they do best. Because whatever comes out is what it is. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

      • I agree that it’s difficult to judge yourself objectively, but I think there is absolutely a way to find a “balancing point” (and yes, I know I was the one who originally posited the question on balance). When the pain of the constant rejection or non-recognition outweighs the joy or pleasure or even just release afforded by the act of creating, that’s when you stop.

        Of course, from my perspective, if you’re doing anything in your life with external validation as the prime motivator, you probably shouldn’t be doing it at all.

        • I never said anything about an external motivator. What I was saying is that the affected person may think that they produce garble when using creativity as an outlet while others regard it as fine art, lit, etc. Validation was never the prime motivator and shouldn’t be for anyone.

          • My apologies, I wasn’t very clear in my comment (you’ll get to understand my method better as you get to know me more). The first paragraph I wrote was the response to your comment about judging yourself objectively, the second sort spun off from that and was more me just thinking aloud, not as much a direct response to what you said.

  5. Always says:
    2011/10/03 at 6:05 am
    My apologies, I wasn’t very clear in my comment (you’ll get to understand my method better as you get to know me more). The first paragraph I wrote was the response to your comment about judging yourself objectively, the second sort spun off from that and was more me just thinking aloud, not as much a direct response to what you said.

    Oh, LOL. Yeah, I do that a lot too. Sorry about the confusion! But you’re absolutely right, in the instance that there shouldn’t be an external motivator. No one should have to pander for affection or acceptance. What a lot of people fail to realize that most everything they need is burried within themselves.

  6. Interestingly enough, I am watching this episode right now. C.S. and I have been ripping through the second Doctor Who series. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be awake, but I wanted to mention that my memory must not be to terrible. This was written three months ago, and all I could remember was the title.

    And I’d like to mention that I’m not fond of Matt Smith. Tom Baker and David Tennant are my Doctors.

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