Spoiler Level: Low
Wow. That was really moving.
One of the things that I always loved about the old Hartnell historical stories was they really made the past come alive, and actually made me interested in learning about the Aztecs or the Romans or whatever time period they were set in. And I have to say, this is probably the first of the "new historicals" to recapture that.
Like all the other "new historicals" they've done since the show returned, there's the obligatory monster causing trouble, just like when the Doctor met Dickens and Shakespeare and Queen Victoria. But once Vincent Van Gogh comes on the scene I forgot all about the fact that the Doctor was monster hunting; his character is just that interesting. I really didn't know anything about Van Gogh before seeing this episode besides the fact that he was the artist who cut off his own ear and mailed it to the woman he loved. Well, that and the fact that the British pronounce it "Van Goch" while we pronounce it "Van Go." But if you put any of his paintings in a line-up, I couldn't have picked it out.
But now I find myself wanting to learn more about him and his artwork. I think the description that the art director made about him sums it up-- a man who fought such terrible inner demons yet transformed them into such positive and colorful artwork. That's very inspiring.
Oh, and I also learned that his name can also be pronounced "Van Gothf."
Kudos to Richard Curtis and Tony Curran for doing such a great job on making him feel so true to life and like a real person we could really relate to, and not just another name from some stuffy old history books. This episode is exactly what historical episodes should be.