Doctor Who – The Curse of the Black Spot Review (or “Three Cheers For Self Contained Episodes”)

Steven Moffat’s second season in charge didn’t exactly get off to the best of starts with the opening two parter. As you’ll have read, I found it to be pretty ghastly.

But you know what they say; once you reach the bottom the only way to go is up.

Can The Curse of the Black Spot turn the tide?

Let’s hope so.

Doctor Who – The Curse of the Black Spot Review: What’s This One About?

A Siren attacks a pirate ship. Or does it?

Thoughts – Three Cheers For Self Contained Stories

When I first watched The Curse of the Black Spot, I felt underwhelmed. Or maybe I didn’t, but my brother did, and his lack of enthusiasm brushed off on to me. After all, he’s the guy who even liked The Doctor’s Daughter when it was first broadcast.

The idea was that it was a bit of a nothing story, and it didn’t progress anything.

And you know what? In retrospect I think that’s a good thing.

Why can’t Doctor Who stories just work as individual, self-contained adventures?

'Mon then!

‘Mon then!

What’s wrong with having an episode that doesn’t involve River Song or spend time worrying about The Doctor being killed? As I said in last review, we know fine how that Story Arc with the Doctor being killed is going to pan out, so why not just take a break from it.

And on the whole, that’s exactly what The Curse of the Black Spot does.

So it deserves to be praised for that.

The Episode Itself

But what about the episode itself?

It’s not spectacular by any means, but it’s not bad.

I like the setting and the theme for a start, It looks good (even though it seems like it’s been made on the cheap by building a pirate ship in a studio and turning the lights down around the set) and it feels quite authentic.

And the idea of a Siren that lures these pirates to their death is fresh for Doctor Who as well.

Of course, there had to be a swerve in that it wasn’t really a Siren, but rather a medibot on a space ship occupying the same space in a different universe as the pirate ship (*yawn*) but that’s what you come to expect from a show which feels it has to find complicated explanations to tick certain boxes when a simpler one might have been better.

But that doesn’t really put me off.

Indeed, I found it a bit light, but ultimately fun.

That’s not to say there aren’t issues; there are always issues.

How Does A Cut Finger Put You On Life Support?

Ok, so all it takes for the Siren to spring into action is if someone breaks their own flesh.

But at the same time, if anyone has any ailments, whether they be internal or external, the Siren will also come for them.

Hmmm.

A few points of order.

  1. If that’s the case then surely everyone will have been taken in by it. There’s no chance – if a cut finger calls to her – that anyone would be healthy enough to escape her attention, especially at the time that was set.
  2. How does a cut finger put you on life support? Ok, Rory was drowning (even though that seemed a little bit quick) and the boy had Typhoid Fever, but the rest of them were not in  state that requires mechanical life assistance. A plaster would do.
  3. If we’re then to assume that they automatically get transported onto life support when the Siren touches them, how come the Doctor, Amy and Avery aren’t?

Sure, I get a bit anal about details like these, but I imagine if I wrote a Doctor Who story or if I was the Script Editor or Producer, I’d like things to make sense when challenged, rather than for something nonsensical to happen just because it helps the story move forward.

Again, let me stress that I’m not so pernickity that I felt it ruined the enjoyment, but I do feel the question has to be asked.

Rory And The Story Arc That Never Was

So let’s go back to Moffat and his obsession with Story Arcs for a minute.

"Ok" (Dammit, there's a better joke in there somewhere but I'm tired and can't find it)

“Ok” (Dammit, there’s a better joke in there somewhere but I’m tired and can’t find it)

He seems to have backed the wrong horse as far as I’m concerned.

Since, as I’ve said, everyone knows the Doctor won’t be dying and that River is the one who shot him, that particular arc is a busted flush.

When I watched this for the first time, I wondered whether the bit where Rory died…again, was going to kick off a Final Destination style arc.

That would have been quite good would it not? To have a companion that keeps on evading death by the skin of his teeth; a companion who should be dead but isn’t? Considering Rory’s ultimate fate, I reckon that could have worked pretty well.

Anyone else?

Random Observations

  • Another point of order: What happened to The Boatswain? Avery’s son broke his skin with the cutlass and he was never seen again? Unless NetFlix has cut a scene, he seemed to just never turn up again after that scene, and it’s not as if The Siren got into that room.
  • I’m getting really sick of that “I’m Amy Pond and this is my friend, The Doctor” scene at the start of these NetFlix episodes. Turns out they were added to the US and Australian broadcasts, presumably to try to “Introduce” the character to these people from foreign shores. That ship sailed near on 50 years ago, I’m afraid.
  • Why did they have to throw all the treasure overboard, rather than locking it away in a box or putting it all in one room?
  • Oh, I know why; so they could have a cheap moment of morality when it turns out Avery values the treasure higher than the safety of his own son.
  • I don’t think Amy would be a more talented swordswoman than a pirate, do you?
  • And isn’t it a little bit convenient that while everyone else was so desperate to get at the Siren that they couldn’t be held back, Rory managed it just fine?
  • Calling the pirate captain Avery is one of these things that kinda bugs me. It’s the equivalent of the “Cheap Pop” – i.e. when a live performer of some description gets a cheer by shouting out the name of the town/city they are performing in that night. To call him Avery is to try to get long term fans to think “Wow, it’s the pirate from The Smugglers; this is awesome”. For shame.
  • And speaking of cheap, the bit where the Doctor touches “Alien bogies” is unbecoming of a Doctor Who story. Doctor Who appeals to children, but it’s not and never really has been childish.
  • How did the TARDIS get aboard the other ship?
  • And how did Rory not cough up any water when he drowned?
  • Hiring a model rather than an actress to play the Siren was a good idea, especially considering she didn’t have to do any acting.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – The Curse of the Black Spot Review: Final Thoughts

When I come to list all the Doctor Who stories in order, I think the Curse of the Black Spot will be solidly in the “Average” category; somewhere just below the middle.

By no means is it a classic, but neither is it particularly flawed.

It’s fun, inoffensive and has a fresh look about it.

So it did its job fine.

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2 Responses to Doctor Who – The Curse of the Black Spot Review (or “Three Cheers For Self Contained Episodes”)

  1. Slavin Ivanov says:

    Regarding Rory, I vaguely remember reading theories about his numerous deaths and according to them, he was a bit like Captain Jack- a fixed point in time. Everyone thought he had some special purpose, but in the end he couldn’t even say “Goodbye” to the Doctor.

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