One of the benefits of having a time machine, as the Doctor does, is that the past no longer needs to be a mystery. This is something his traveling companion Amy Pond discovers when on a trip to the Musée d’Orsay museum in Paris. As the pair enjoy the work of her favorite artist Vincent Van Gogh, the Doctor notices a mysterious figure hidden in the background of his 1890 painting The Church at Auvers, and rather than having to wonder why or how it’s there, it’s a simple enough matter to take the TARDIS and travel back to that year to find out.
When they get there, however, what follows is an unusual adventure by the normal standards of Doctor Who. Sure, there is a literal monster involved — facing alien monsters has always been, and always will be, a key part of the show — but the true story is that of a tortured genius, an artist of almost unparalleled brilliance, damaged by his own personal demons and unappreciated in his time.
The relationship and sense of understanding that develops between Vincent and Amy underpins the episode. Amy can empathize with Vincent’s hollow sense of loss, since although she doesn’t know it at the time, she’s still affected by the events of the previous episode “Amy’s Choice,” in which her fiancé Rory died and was wiped from existence, leaving her with no memory of him. For his part, the artist sees a kindred spirit in this strange Scottish girl from the future.
You can read the rest of the article as well as watch some bonus videos over on the BBC America website.