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  • Writer's pictureStuart

Doctor Who does American Gothic

I thought that this week's Doctor Who episode "Gridlock" was cracking. A good old-fashioned high-concept romp just like the sci-fi shorts I loved in my childhood by writers like Nicholas Fisk and Malcolm Bradbury. I've been giving Russell T a hard time of late, but his writing on this episode was subtle and considered. I was amused, though, when later watching Doctor Who Confidential when everyone skirted around what I thought was an atheistic subtext.

Anyway, subtext aside, the art design was lovely in this episode, in particular the Blade Runner-esqe exteriors and the VW Campervan-like vehicles with their varied interior design.

However, the point of this post is to see if anyone else spotted the visual reference for the couple in the pre-title sequence, featuring an American couple in their vehicle being attacked by a mysterious force outside.

This couple were based on the subjects of a very famous, and often pariodied 1930 painting called American Gothic by artist Grant Wood. Legend has it Wood was driving through Iowa and he spotted a very Gothic-looking window on a house and wondered who might live in a house like that. He posed his sister, Nan, and his dentist Dr. Byron McKeeby outside the house and American Gothic was born. It was a controversial painting, with some seeing it as a realistic portrayal of repressed, puritanical Mid-Westerns - not surprisingly this insulted many others.

Although they may appear to be husband and wife, Nan said that they were father and daughter - probably only because she was said to be offended as she was only thirty and Dr. McKeeby was in his sixties!

The painting has inspired many film and TV parodies, including The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Simpsons and even the Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie reality show The Simple Life.

See if you can spot it in the Desperate Housewives title sequence (it ain't difficult).

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