Doctor Who #872: The Curse of the Black Spot

"Worried because I'm wearing a hat now? Nobody touch anything sharp!"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 7 2011.

IN THIS ONE... An alien siren is taking pirates off their 17th-century ship and putting them in her space hospital.

REVIEW: Pirates? This should have been a fun romp, and Doctor Who hasn't really done proper pirates (on TV) since the now-lost The Smugglers. However, I find it has very little originality, even if I ignore its obvious attempt to tap into that other franchise that has a Captain Jack. Writer Stephen Thompson is basically trying to pull a Moffat, using such tropes as SF windows that look into a past era (The Girl in the Fireplace), a medical program gone wrong (The Empty Child) and Rory getting himself killed (name it). We even get arc beats practically identical to the previous episode's (the eyepatch lady, the positive/negative pregnancy). The lack of freshness might have been forgiven if the script and direction had otherwise been good, but they aren't. I expect the pirate ship could have escaped its predicament sooner or later through a plot hole. You've got a kid who hides aboard ship for 8 days before making his presence known. You've got a monster that springs out of shiny reflections and a plot that thus hinges on the calmest of calm seas, but choppy waters will also work. The Siren's appearance causes the "cursed" to get on a morphine high, unless it doesn't. The Doctor's about to fall off a plank, but Amy still takes the time to play dress-up. And the pirate crew ends up on an alien spaceship, which is really no bother to pilot.

But the botched moment for me was Rory's resuscitation. It's supposed to be the big emotional moment of the episode, but it's directed (and/or written) in the most dire fashion. First, it feels like there's a piece missing. I think we should hear how Rory the Nurse told Amy to do that CPR on him. Second, he puts his life in her hands because he knows she will never give up on him. But when the time comes, she DOES give up (what is this, Titanic?!). And after she's given up, he coughs up a little water and is fine. WTH, guys!?! Of course, everything leading up to the climax is equally suspect. The Doctor keeps jumping to the wrong conclusions - just one mistake after another - but we're supposed to believe his giant leap that the siren/EMH isn't disintegrating people but saving them, without a shred of evidence or dialog to support it! This might be his worst performance ever. If only the episode was somehow about the Doctor's mistakes, but it isn't, or at least, not clearly. No more than it is about piracy (though the eyepatch lady might be a pirate as well), or about uncertain parentage (if the boy's legitimacy had been in question, it might have linked thematically to Amy's baby). The elements are there, but they aren't exploited.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The DVD contains an atmospheric prologue, basically Captain Avery reading from his journal, as a montage of shots flashes on the screen. It's quite a bit better than the finished episode, actually.

SECOND OPINIONS: 10 and 1 Things About The Curse of the Black Spot, my original review, shows more clemency and asks more questions.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - A bitter disappointment. Confused and forgettable.


Andrew Gilbertson said...

Awwww, we disagree at last. :-( I though this one was fun. Not epic or a major part of the arc, but atmospheric, cool effects and fun concepts, and a fun thread of constantly re-theorizing base don new evidence. Harmless, not part of the overall storyline... but, like the old days (by which I mean RTD's, I guess... :-) ), not every story HAS to. To me, it was just light fun- and succeeded admirably in that, even if, as you say, the resuscitation ending fell a bit flat.

FYI, this story isn't tagged as Doctor Who- it didn't come up on the list I was reading through and I had to search it out.

Siskoid said...

Thanks for the heads up, fixed it.


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