29 March 2020 2121 Views

What this country needs..Right Now..is a DOCTOR! Live Tweet Party Tomorrow.

by James Murphy


The world might be in a bit of bother. For sure! But let us not forget that streaming services, social media and of course, Doctor Who remain a lifeline to escapist entertainment and community spirit. And so it is apt..that Emma Freud is leading the charge. Picture the nicest, sweetest, kindest, loveliest girl. Then multiply. By infinity. Nope, not even close to dear ‘Em.


Tomorrow; 7 pm GMT. YOU can watch VINCENT AND THE DOCTOR, in a team, led by the lovely Emma, via her Twitter feed. Tune in, tweet your live reactions. Matt Smith does not tweet. But he is joining via Em’s account. Richard Curtis and Bill Nighy also on board.

This is an opportune moment to review the Matt Smith tenure in the TARDIS. I love his first and second seasons. It’s a shame they broke up his final turns into some weird formats and schedules. Also a bit sad that he left when he could still be there; a vital leading man.

Matt played the Doctor as a kind of cross between Pat Troughton and Peter Davison. And it worked very well, especially given the natural contrast between his youthful looks / age and the 900 + year old Time-Lord. Drawback was the reversion to The Doctor being ‘alien’ and ‘eccentric’ again (ghastly costume; having gone so far in the preceding seasons to make the character cool again).

Matt was a professional footballer, before injury turned him to acting. His beloved parents are a guiding light and his adorable mom also tweets on occasion. His career is in an awkward phase of transition. He could have played Prince Phillip all the way to the end of The Crown; quite why they recast just to get nominally ‘older’ is beyond me.

There is a tendency to have Smith crop up as British baddie of the week in franchise fare (Morbius, Terminator, almost Star Wars). But he’s not yet 40. The best is indeed, yet to come. Indeed, I think he could be an action/romantic hero. Am surprised he is not in the mix for the next James Bond, frankly.

Karen Gillan was to my mind, served poorly by the Amy Pond character. Because there is no character. Steven Moffat is an awesome plot-smith but he cannot for the life of him, craft a character arc. Describe Amy’s character. No, I can’t, either. There is also an element of pure luck to her now being crowned movie star, c/o Avengers and Jumanji.

But there is no doubting her talent, drive and beauty. I suspect that Karen will be one of the best writer/directors in film over the coming years. I picture her running a studio, wining Oscars. Amy Pascal via Kathryn Bigelow.

Bill Nighy of course is known to many as THE greatest asset in many a Curtis rom-com; second only to Hugh Grant (both actors were offered the Doctor role in Doctor Who). Nighy can play anything in any genre. Panto villain in Pirates of the Caribbean: sure. Newspaper editors, avuncular uncle / mentor figures: easy. Adulterer of the week in middle class BBC Rumpy pumpy rompy-pompy (Mens’ Room). Vampire Prince. Demon King. Rock Star. Politician/Business Leader. Always him. Yet always..not. Great voice, mannerisms and a writer’s ear for dialogue (he once went to France to write a novel..came back as an..actor). His bridging cameo roles in Vincent and the Doctor are moving, funny, informative: a masterclass in understated yet irreplaceable acting craft.

Tony Curran does an exceptional job as Van Gogh. You have seen this guy, everywhere, without ever placing him. He is THAT good an actor. This Life, Gladiator, Daredevil, 24, Ray Donovan; and so on. There is a pervading toughness to him, which is why he excels at action. But also, a wounded vulnerability, without ever being weak or showy in his method. So it’s natural to find the actor as Van Gogh: capturing a frustrated, tortured, talented soul. There is no shirking the depression or death, yet there is also a unique preserving of warmth, reality and vitality.

The episode itself is a vintage, classic piece of Doctor Who. There is a morality and a social relevance (mental health; Dr Who cannot save you from yourself) and a joyous compassion. No didactic moralising; no patronising or pontificating. But teaches us lessons. There is even an adventure / monster of sorts, though one could argue that is redundant and merely analogous to Vincent’s struggle? Some Black-Adder in jokes, naturally. This is textbook Richard Curtis. Such a shame he has not as yet returned to the series. Hope springs eternal.

I have fond memories of this season/era of the show. I was in Cannes, I think? Round about then. The festival, like everything else, sadly on hold but soon to return, triumphant! Connection? Well..I bumped into Benicio Del Toro while I was there in 2010. He very kindly ushered me into the VIP area and we had a few cocktails, swapping stories of film. He touched his heart when I mentioned Barbara Broccoli; said he would love to come back and play a lead villain; having been a henchman in Licence to Kill.

Ah THAT Bond film. I paused and started talking about Timothy Dalton, who was the then James Bond in 1989 when Benicio was making his debut in the 007 universe. Awkward silence. Had we run out of chat? I kept it going, though. ‘ah yes. Tim. He was in Doctor Who last year!’.

Benicio now looked VERY confused. ‘Doctor Que?’. Not a natural sci-fan, I grant you. And yet? He went onto appear in Star Wars AND Guardians of the Galaxy. And I take full credit for that development in his career 😉



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