6.3 – “The Curse Of The Black Spot”
A mysterious “siren” is disintegrating pirates, one by one, on a becalmed ship. Those about to be taken have always sustained some small wound and are marked by a Black Spot. The Doctor and the Ponds turn up, in response to an apparent distress call. Naturally, Rory finds himself almost instantly cursed. Can The Doctor figure out what the hell is going on?
“Let’s do one with Pirates,” said some bright spark in the Doctor Who production office. Nothing wrong with that; it’s been done before back in “The Smugglers”. In fact, this episode is an unwitting prequel to “The Smugglers”, as Hugh Bonneville’s Captain Avery is referenced in the older story. Apparently writer Steve Thompson wasn’t aware of this which is a pity because it would have been the one clever thing in the whole story.
It starts off quite well. The pirate ship set looks great, as do the costumes. There’s misty weirdness, the Black Spot and screaming death. The Doctor and his chums turn up and Smith is on instant form. There’s a plank to be walked and Amy, all dressed up as a pirate, swashing some buckle. And then Rory gets cut and earns himself a Black Spot. The problem with killing a character is that, when they return from death, it becomes much harder to kill them again. From the moment Rory is cursed we know full well that he will not die. We should care. The pirates are just monster fodder. Rory, on the other hand, is a regular. What if he dies? Well, what if indeed! Rory’s already died, ergo he is absolutely not going to die here – especially not in a mid-season piece of fluff like this. Rory being cursed is somewhat symptomatic of the whole episode. It should be something to ratchet up the tension but it’s not. There is no tension. The whole thing just flops about for 45 minutes.
There are a few good lines for The Doctor here and there; his dismissal of the whole concept of a curse is pretty sharp for one thing. The Doctor is flying on his wits here and keeps getting the nature of the Siren wrong, which provides something approaching tension and at least he’s doing some thinking. Hugh Bonneville as Captain Avery is fine but he doesn’t have the material that, say, Michael Gambon had to work with when he guest starred. He has some decent banter with The Doctor (he’s not in awe of him but sees him as a fellow Captain) but their exchanges lack the spark of The Doctor and Churchill or the respect that grew between The Doctor and Octavian.
We stumble on without a great deal of excitement to ever smaller spaces as the Siren picks off the other pirates and The Doctor still keeps getting it wrong. The Pirate ship seemed exciting and evocative at the start but now it gets reduced to a bunch of unremarkable wooden cabins. Eventually, a doubloon drops and The Doctor decides that everyone should get zapped by the Siren and everything becomes clear. In a set nicked straight from the movie Coma, we learn that the Siren is an automated holographic sort of doctor – not out to hurt anyone, just doing what she is programmed to do. Which is what “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” two-parter was all about. Except that story was a classic piece of tension-filled drama which served as great piece of character development for The Doctor. “The Curse of the Black Spot”, on the other hand, is so dull I’ve found myself starting to review a different episode.
Sure, I could cope with all of this. This story could just be a bit of filler coming after the heavy-weight opening two-parter. But then Rory insists that Amy has to resuscitate him when the life-support gets turned off. Why Rory and not the expert in everything that is The Doctor? Because she’ll never give up. Because Amy loves Rory and Rory loves Amy.
How many bloody times?! Do we have to be reminded every fucking episode now? It was settled back in “The Vampires Of Venice”. We had a little further nudge in “Amy’s Choice” and then Rory died (first time round) and we really got the fucking message. Then he came back, because Amy was never really going to forget him even though he was wiped out of history. And of course it was fucking Rory that Amy wanted when she got captured only the previous week. WE GET THE FUCKING MESSAGE – THEY LOVE EACH OTHER! WELL, THEY FUCKING SHOULD, THEY GOT FUCKING ENGAGED AND MARRIED!! OR ARE THE REST OF US JUST GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS?? ARE ONLY SUPER SCI-FI TV COUPLES ACTUALLY IN LOVE?! DO WE HAVE TO BE TOLD EVERY FUCKING WEEK?!!
If this hadn’t been a bunch of formulaic scenes with a generic bunch of pirates in a story ripping off a much better story, maybe I wouldn’t have got so annoyed when the tears started flowing and Amy had to save Rory because they just love each other so fucking much. But it’s just an unoriginal story with some pirates so, when we are reminded, once again, that the Ponds are in love, it really fucking grates. Fuck this episode. 3/10.
Written and edited by Richard Barnes