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Wednesday, 30 of September of 2020

Doctor Who – “The Curse of the Black Spot”

If this is just because I’m a captain, too, you know you shouldn’t feel threatened. Your ship is much bigger than mine and I don’t have the cool boots or a hat even.

While technically the third episode of the season, “The Curse of the Black Spot” feels very much like a second episode in that I wasn’t particularly crazy about it. “The End of the World” was okay, prized only for the camp of a particular scene; “Tooth and Claw” has moments; “The Shakespeare Code” is pretty horrible; “The Fires of Pompeii” is dull; and I liked elements of “The Beast Below” more than the actual execution.

Some of this is just that the opening episode of any Doctor Who series is typically very strong (as was the case this series), and the follow-up is, understandably, a bit of a way for everyone to catch their breath before moving on the next big scary-scary. And while not as horrible as “The Shakespeare Code”, “The Curse of the Black Spot” is incredibly dull. The sense of fun I think they were aiming for (“It’s the Doctor! With actual pirates!”) never really came through for me, and I kind of have to blame the premise.

Why blame the premise? Because it’s entirely too much pirate stuff. Plank walking, buried treasure, boy stow away, mutiny, Sirens, swordplay, pistolplay, and storms on the highsea. All that was missing was a parrot or a monkey. With all that genre stuff in there, the episode largely plays it straight, with our trio just there for a bit of flavor, and to be more bits in peril. But the peril and the genre stuff never really cohered into anything interesting, and the genre bits are never really tweaked enough to make the episode worthwhile. It ends up being as blandly inoffensive as “The Fires of Pompeii”: reasonably interesting idea but nothing really comes about of it.

Moments of promise peeked out, as the Doctor’s interactions with Avery were immensely entertaining, and hinted that the episode might’ve been better if the genre pile-up hadn’t gotten in the way. Likewise, I appreciated not only the twist of the ‘Siren’ being a medical hologram, but that the pirates become actual space pirates by the episode’s end. Indeed, I think I would’ve rather seen the episode played out backwards, with the Doctor trying to get these pirates back to their right time after being shanghaied into space, with the typical pirate antics appearing on a sleek spacecraft.

As I was watching the episode, I thought to myself how much I’ve come to like Rory. Initially, I was rather cool on Rory, worrying he’d become another Mickey. But the show has made Rory immensely lovable and noble (being a centurion for 2,000 years will do that to a (synthetic) man), giving him more depth than Mickey ever had. So I’m considerably annoyed by the show’s continued insistence at trying to kill him off, or pretending to. He deserves better than that. And we all deserve better than that truly horrible CPR sequence. “No, it has to be you, you won’t give up!” And then she does give up, but he comes back to life anyway. Sorry, Doctor Who, but you’re going to have to do a lot better to make your pseudo-CPR scenes have emotional heft after the last one I saw.

So while seeing Amy in a pirate get-up was fun (and her arc beyond that in this episode was to be annoyed that the siren was prettier than her, a friend pointed out to¬† me), and we get a quick cameo by the eyepatch lady, not much to hang one’s hat on in this episode. Ah well. At least Neil Gaiman’s episode is next week.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • I spent the entire episode going, “WHO IS THAT?” in reference to Captain Avery. Turned out it was Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham himself!
  • “And the gun’s back. You’re big on the gun thing, aren’t you? Freud would say you’re compensating. Ever met Freud? No. Comfy sofa.”
  • “Mm-hm. Yeah. Apparently. That’s new. You had to gloat, didn’t you!” “I’m not gloating.” “I saw that look just now. ‘Ha ha. His ship is rubbish.'” “True.”
  • As I’m always happy to plug great work, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Antenna is doing weekly Doctor Who posts from Matt Hills, a terrifically smart guy, and his posts thus far have been great. Check ’em out!

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