TARDIS File 06-03: The Curse of the Black Spot

TARDIS File 06-03: The Curse of the Black Spot

The Big Idea…  The TARDIS crew materializes a board a pirate ship somewhere in the ocean. The pirates themselves are being picked off one by one by a beautiful siren from the high seas

What’s So Great…

  • The scene where the Doctor, Rose and Avery look back on to the pirate ship while on board the alien spacecraft. It’s just cool.
  • A story which starts out seeming like it is going to be a jolly “yo ho ho” romp with Pirates and a monster at sea ends up on a spaceship in a universe that’s in another dimension. Only in Doctor Who, you say……
  • The Doctor solves things by figuring things out, but it’s nice that for once he initially makes a mistake – that the Siren is gaining entry from water – from making what seemed like a logical deduction. It adds a touch of believability to the character to make him occasionally fallible

Some quick bits of trivia: Captain Henry Avery was actually a real-life pirate who abandoned his family and commission to sail under the black flag. He stole the Mughal of India, a huge treasure, and was one of the few pirates to never be caught. The story was filmed in Cornwall on a docked 17th Century ship.

Things to Geek Out About…

  • This story in some ways serves as a “prequel” to the First Doctor story The Smugglers (1966) , Doctor Who’s first pirate tale which concerned the exploits of the Doctor, Ben and Polly getting mixed up with a group of 17th century smugglers who are trying to get their hands on the hidden treasure of Captain Avery (who we see in this story)
  • The TARDIS, the Doctor and the viewers at home still have no idea if Amy is pregnant or not, nor why the TARDIS can’t make up its mind about it. We now have the Doctor worried about Amy about something she doesn’t know about, and we have Rory and Amy worried about the Doctor for something he doesn’t know about.

Did You Notice…

  • Amy has another vision of the freaky woman with the eye-patch, this time making comments of the sort that one might hear from a Nurse helping a mother delivering a baby for the first time…
  • While there have been a lot of complaints that the CPR administered by Amy to Rory shouldn’t have worked, the Doctor’s expression as he is watching her do it– and complete non-help in the scene – followed by another check on her possible pregnancy, makes us curious as to whether this CPR was administered deliberately poorly. In other words, was Rory brought back by Amy by other means, such as being willed back to life? Or was it just really a badly directed CPR scene?

Not To Complain But… the pirate who got wounded by Avery’s son appears to have been captured by the Siren in a deleted scene.

All Things Considered…  Given that this was the only episode of the first half of the season that wasn’t either going to be part of an epic two-part story or written by Neil Gaiman, and coming after a breathtaking opening adventure, it was always going to be tough for The Curse of the Black Spot to make a huge impact on viewers. This is the episode designed for a break in the epic nature of the season and give the crew a bit of a fun “romp” – as no series can be epic 100% of the time, that would just be tedious.

The episode starts off with “fun romp” levels pushed to maximum levels, with a series of post-modern jokes from both the script and the characters, and with Murray Gold’s incidental music screaming “this is a romp” at the audience (which some might find irritating given that the music is no longer “incidental” when that happens). It seems like we’re going to be set for a full 45 minutes in and off a pirate ship with cutthroat pirates and sexy villainess, which makes the unexpected switch of the setting to a spaceship in another dimension all the more enjoyable. The second half of the episode is also loses much of the “jolly romp” feel in the process which also keeps things from being monotonous.

One minor criticism is that the viewers are left to work out for themselves why it is the Doctor, Amy and Avery do not also end up in stasis in one of the “sick bay” beds like everyone else brought there by the Siren. We can reasonably infer that because the Siren is intelligent and is able to reason and figure out that, for example, Amy is Rory’s husband, it figured out that the trio were coming to be collected by her in order to be transported (something that the other members of the crew and Rory had no knowledge of or ability to communicate). We may also be able to infer that it is because there are no spare beds in the sick bay. Or it could be that they would eventually been transferred to a sick bay and the Siren hadn’t gotten around to doing it yet (we never actually see how long it takes the others to get there – although Rory installed in a bed fairly quickly, but unlike the others he was actually on the point of dying so presumably the Siren would have recognized that). With a trio of possibilities a line of dialogue to explain might have been nice – but at least there is enough to go on for people who are worried about this sort of thing to make a reasonable inference.

The revelation of the true nature of the sexy siren (as played by Lily Cole) is a nice twist, only dampened somewhat for the more seasoned viewer who might recognize that “deserted spaceship breaking down causes problems for humans” has been done a couple of times before in the new series (The Girl in the Fireplace and last season’s The Lodger). Taking this into consideration along with the fact that the episode does not seem to add any new questions to the story arc but repeats a couple, this episode may be more enjoyable for the more casual, less dedicated viewer. However taking the episode from Pirates of the Caribbean fantasy to a more traditional science-fiction Doctor Who story is a good move – if Doctor Who is going to do material that is contemporaneously being covered by Hollywood movie franchises, it needs to do its own unique take on the subject material making it distinct from the franchise in question. The Curse of the Black Spot does just that – unless the forthcoming Pirates of the Caribbean movie also features an ending where Captain Jack Sparrow and company are flying a spaceship….

Line of the Week: “Toby!” “Rory!” “The TARDIS!”

TARDIS file prepared by Gian-Luca Di Rocco

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