The Doctor (Matt Smith) takes Amy (Karen Gillan) to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, where they admire the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. The Doctor notices a detail in the Church at Auvers that looks like an alien and decides to travel back to speak to van Gogh (Tony Curran) about it. In Auvers-sur-Oise, they find van Gogh sitting by himself in a café. A young girl is murdered nearby and when they go out to see what happened, they are stoned by townsfolk who think that van Gogh, as a mental patient, must be responsible.
That evening, van Gogh confesses that his paintings are not desired by anyone. Amy goes outside and is attacked by a creature that only Vincent can see. He sketches it for the Doctor, who pronounces it a Krafayis. Van Gogh joins the Doctor and Amy at the church, sees the creature, and paints it. He saves the Doctor and Amy from the Krafayis, which is blind. It is injured and van Gogh suffers with it.
They take van Gogh in the TARDIS to the van Gogh exhibit at the Musée d’Orsay. He is overwhelmed when he hears art critic Doctor Black (Bill Nighy) say he was the greatest artist and one of the greatest men who ever lived. They bring him home and then return to the present. Amy thinks there will be many more paintings but discovers that he still committed suicide at 37. The monster no longer appears in the church, and Vase with 12 Sunflowers is marked, “for Amy”.
Most of the episode was filmed in Trogir, Croatia, where The Vampires of Venice was filmed, and many of the sets were modelled after van Gogh paintings. Curran’s performance was highly praised, and the episode received mainly positive reviews. John Moore said it was “utterly useless but absolutely art” paraphrasing Oscar Wilde. Writer Richard Curtis hung van Gogh prints all over his house and his children helped with the story. Bill Nighy was uncredited but unmistakeable. The sets of the Café at Night, Vincent’s bedroom, and Starry Night were brilliant reproductions of the paintings.
It was nominated for a Bradbury and a Hugo award, but it lost the former to the film Inception and the latter to the Doctor Who episode The Pandorica Opens. After the broadcast, a suicide prevention number was announced. Bill Nighy was actually offered the roll of the Doctor once, but said it came with too much baggage. The self-portrait was altered slightly to look more like Tony Curran. Because of the TARDIS translation matrix, Vincent heard Amy speaking Dutch. It’s a sweet, sad little episode and I’ve always loved it.