Doctor Who – The Curse Of The Black Spot – Episode review

Before we get into this week’s Doctor Who review, a gripe.

When I watch Doctor Who, I sometimes monitor Twitter to gauge the reaction of fans. I also read blog and newspaper reviews later on to see what other people are saying. And I’m almost universally appalled at people’s inability to acknowledge the flaws the series has developed. The responses range from the orgasmic “wow! best thing on TV EVAR!” on Twitter to the fawning reviews that ignore paradoxes and inconsistencies simply because Doctor Who is a national/geel institution and we must never ever criticise it OR THE BBC WILL TAKE IT AWAY FROM US AGAIN!

Not so tonight. Even SFX and Den Of Geek are dinstinctly turned off by [[The Curse of the Black Spot (Doctor Who episode)|The Curse of the Black Spot]]. And rightly so. The seafaring storyline was a bit of a snoozer before the episode even started. Personally I’m not into pirate tales, not even Pirates Of The Carribean. However, I was kinda hoping that the episode would focus on some of the quirkiness between the main characters.

Sadly not. Lots of tired pirate jokes, unfortunately, and a tepid storyline by any standards. You know most of it from the trailers: a pirate ship is beseiged by an apparition who appears every time a crew member is injured. She lures them in with a song, and when they touch her, they disintegrate in a cloud of dust.

The Doctor’s deductive skills are at a low ebb this week as he repeatedly tells everyone to disregard all his previous theories every five minutes. Not a fan of this less assured Doctor. On the plus side, it makes the danger seem real, but I preferred the Doctor who’d stride into danger with a bit of swagger. Even when Amy was giving Rory the kiss of life, The Doctor gave up shockingly soon. Honestly. Is this the kind of guy you want backing you up in a fight with some aliens? The Tenth Doctor would have fought tooth and nail to save your life. Not so much Eleven.

Anyhoo, the pirate storyline. What can I say? It borrows heavily from other Doctor Who episodes in recent memory:

  1. Bad Wolf: Rose Tyler takes part in a version of The Wekaest Link where losers are disintegrated. It later turns out they’ve actually been teleported elsewhere. Similar to what happens with the ‘siren’ in this episode.
  2. The Girl In The Fireplace: A Moffat classic, this has a bunch of repair droids gone rogue and a spaceship that has access to historical locations. Bit like the pirate ship and spaceship occupying the same space in this episode.
  3. Robot Doctors: Really. They’re everywhere in Doctor Who. You think they’re malicious monsters and then they turn out to be robots following a flawed programme. Look at Doctor Moon in Silence In The Library or the aforementioned clockwork robots in Fireplace.

I don’t know if that list means that I watch too much Doctor Who or the show is leaning too heavily on the same themes…

Though even in its execution, the revival of the pirate crew and The Doctor allowing them to continue being pirates could have been done with more style. I mean, they were becoming Space Pirates, for crying out loud! Those scenes could have been a tad more ‘knowing’ with a few puns thrown in for good measure. I’m thinking Joss Whedon could’ve spun that ending better.

Later on, after Amy’s saved Rory’s life and The Doctor’s proven to be thoroughly useless, they head to bed. But The Doctor is still scanning Amy’s womb for signs of pregnancy, and the TARDIS still can’t work it out. Which leads me to another list:

Things that are wrong with The Doctor scanning Amy Pond

  1. It’s just a tiny bit creepy. Especially because she has no idea what’s going on. Now, I know he’s not the kind of Doctor that has to abide by NHS rules, but there’s probably all sorts of invasion of privacy stuff at play here.
  2. You can buy a pregnancy testing kit in a chemists for a couple of quid, but a machine as mysterious and clever as the TARDIS can’t work it out? What’s that all about? I posit that Amy’s womb is a perception filter.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the strange woman who appears in a hatch in the wall. She’s back again tonight, telling Amy that she’s doing fine before disappearing again. What do we know about her? Well, she’s appeared in 1969 and now in the 17th century. She’s appeared exclusively to Amy, so it seems she’s bound to Amy in some way. *scratches head*

I’m more looking forward to next week’s [[The Doctor’s Wife (Doctor Who episode)|The Doctor’s Wife]], which at least promises a slightly mad Suranne Jones and a sinister villain. Is this the guy who said he’s killed hundreds of Time Lords?

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  1. jefft

    Not a quote from the End of Time, but..

    Is it me, or was that the most stupid rescue plan ever?
    Everyone else appears to have died, Rory is drowning, let’s all go ‘poof’ with the siren and that will sort everything out?

    Have to agree this time Gerard. A bit by the numbers , serving to tick off a list, and get a few series clues in on the way. 

  2. Gerard McGarry

    Just rewatching with the kids now. My 7 year old son, 15 minutes into the episode said “I’m guessing the people the siren touches go somewhere.” It was that predictable.

    1. jefft

      And yet.. I cant recall the last time I even graced any other show with a rewatch.

      Apart from Spooks and Downton Abbey box sets.

      Must say something.

  3. pirho

    OK, not one of my favourits by any means, have to admit it, the Doctor was totaly useless in this one.  However, the preview of next week seems interesting, the ood are back, and if I heard right, a time lord city?  The Doctors Mother?

    1. grift

      when the tardis starts talking to the doctor (in the preview), it sounds like the haunted house from the “bad dream house” story from one of The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” episodes. inspiration? hm..

    2. Gerard McGarry

      The way I heard it, the woman thinks she’s The Doctor’s wife and the place they travel to is some kind of ‘bubble universe’ outside of our universe. I put some information on the wiki page for the episode.

  4. sgreco1970

    very predictable in some ways, we all knew they were being transported and the clincher was when she touched the kid. But from there it sort of just devolved into this stream of conscience Moffat style of rambling adventure that requires way more exposition to pull off than is wise. I’m really starting to think Moffat just isn’t up to the task. I sincerely hope things improve soon.

    Its a pirate ship and a siren – no, its a spaceship and a doctor hologram -no, its an alternate universe –yeah, one in which an 18th century pirate and his throat-nozzled 12 year old can learn, somehow, to fly a starship… Good lord, Moffat, what are you smoking?

    Anyway, I also expected the sliding door woman with another cryptic sentence, and there it was. No info there tho, just foreshadowing. Next episode could be interesting tho, we’ll see. otherwise, this episode started out really promising. I loved the swashbuckling Amy. But its devolution into absurdity and contrivance just lost me. Shame, really, this series had started out so strongly with Astronaut.

    1. grift

      yea, it was obvious that the siren wasn’t killing them when she poof’d the kid. in fact, i was shocked that the doctor didn’t even try to save the child, which is completely uncharacteristic of our favorite doctor. so knowing that the show’s creators would never kill a child (as shown in the rather lame reveal in s6e02 with the child in the space suit), all the urgency and threat of the siren disappeared =(

      i’m also wondering… doesn’t the poofing of the sirens’ victims look a bit like the poofing of the silents’? perhaps they’re not killing their victims either… hey, the weeping angels didn’t kill their victims, per se (until moffat changed their MO in “the time of angels”), so anything’s possible..

    2. Emperor Gregor

      It wasn’t written by Moffat. It was written by someone called Stephen Thompson. That’s what’s wrong with it. It feels like a filler script given to a developing writer. Though the story arc should have come from the scripting team, led by Moffat.

       Undoctor-like?. I wonder if that’s significant. I thought at the time he was letting Amy save Rory for the good of their marriage. But yes, it’s a bit feeble and so was he. Not our doctor at all

      Also – that was a very tame resuscitation.The real thing – the kind that Rory would have taught her – can break a rib or two

      Re the pregnancy – one friend has suggested the baby can time travel hence the yes/no result. Or, alternatively, Amy is flipping between universes/timelines.

      I want to know who has that Alan Rickman soundalike voice in The Doctor’s Wife.

  5. sgreco1970

    “I posit that Amy’s womb is a perception filter.” -best line of the night.

    I think the situation is that the TARDIS is reading the baby as being both there and not there at the same time. its not that it can’t figure out if she’s pregnant, its that she’s simultaneously pregnant and not pregnant, in a quantum flux sort of way. Is that a sign of a Time Lord baby or is it something even stranger?

  6. jefft

    >>I think the situation is that the TARDIS is reading the baby as being both there and not there at the same time. its not that it can’t figure out if she’s pregnant, its that she’s simultaneously pregnant and not pregnant, in a quantum flux sort of way. Is that a sign of a Time Lord baby or is it something even stranger?<<

    Dream Lord

    She’s still choosing.

    1. sgreco1970

      seriously, that’s…that’s… you might just be right.

      but…surely the whole season isn’t a dream, that’d be lower than a clone. So…how does this factor in?

      1. jefft

        I can’t see that actually being the cause. But I think Amy is having future echoes of the scariest Maternity nurse you ever saw.

        Amy’s baby is .. let’s say ‘unusual’ and debate whether Time Lord or  ‘human with a Time Head’ later. (Moff has set both up).

        He’s also set up the case for multiple planes/dimensions at once. (See next week.. “the universe isn’t where we are going”)

        Eyepatch lady is just making ‘its all right’ noises. Another Buffy and late RTD-era trope: various people having prescient knowledge of the future.

        (The Woman on the Bus being the worst example of that. ‘He will knock 4 times’. Tosh. What was wrong with ‘Dont let Wilf go into a portaloo’? )


        1. redblu

          Amy’s baby as being the product of an unstable timeline, and that’s why the TARDIS can’t decide (I’m not even going to go to the possibility of her incubating a Silent).

          One theory, which I don’t hold as likely, but which would be incredibly bold to the point where I’d impressed and support the move (whilst fans come after Moffat with pitch forks) is that the Doctor actually is dead, that the child is that of River and the Doctor. Amy ends up raising it as a foster parent, and we get a female “Doctor” (i.e. the Doctors true daughter) in future.

          Unlikely yes, entirely ignores amy’s pregnancy? absolutely, make fans angry? Certainly. But I love a good curve ball me 🙂 It would be a way around the regeneration limt that’s for sure.

          All the theories I’ve heard thus far have been pretty ridiculous, but it’s been fun hearing them and bouncing some back.

        2. sgreco1970

          I don’t know, you actually may be on to something here. Little came of that Amy’s Choice episode except the notion that it was all due to a little piece of pollen. But in that instance, she was dreaming and in 1 dream she was pregnant and in the other she was not. Now we have the mystery face saying “I think she’s just dreaming” and the TARDIS saying she’s pregnant and not pregnant at the same time.

          Either way, i definitely do not see it as the TARDIS’ inability to figure it out, I firmly believe she is simultaneously pregnant and not. Sort of Schroedinger’s Baby ;p

    2. grift

      1) there was the dream lord episode

      2) the TARDIS can’t seem to figure it out

      3) the eyepatch lady might be her doctor/nurse… telling someone (possibly rory/doctor) “she’s dreaming” and then telling amy to “stay calm” (perhaps while in labor?)

      4) series 5 seemed to be created by amy’s imagination. the romans, the pandorica, her parents returning at the end, etc. the doctor explains it by saying the crack was taking images from her mind throughout her life.. but why was the crack in her room in the first place? and is it possible that this entire new universe was created by amy/amelia’s hope and dreams and fears, etc?

      5) perhaps she really doesn’t know if she wants to be w/ rory or the doctor yet. and until she figures it out, her pregnancy won’t be positively positive/negative. again, maybe because this whole universe is unfolding from her thoughts.

  7. Amy Hannah Burrows

    i loved the curse of the black spot more than Moffatt’s over clever episodes,it was fun with evry1 pitching in,i love Pirates of the carribean so yeh my fave so far,& i think i saw a Ood in next episode so well done DW beards r cool xx

  8. redblu

    Didn’t enjoy this much at all, didn’t hate it, didn’t make the angry like Last of the Timelords or Love and Monsters, but couldn’t find a lot to like. The story was almost identical to a Big Finish audio, the Whispering Forest, which in turn was accused of being derivative of the Empty Child at the time.

    The behaviour of the siren fitted poorly with the explanation given, it’s hard to blame the Doctor for not getting to the conclusion.

    After Amy and Rory had been written so well last week their relationship seemed much more distant this week for no good reason. The Doctor seemed more concerned about Rory than Amy did.

    Even the performances of the regulars were not up to their usual standards. My hope is that most of these problems stem from the episode being a last minute replacement for the Mark Gatiss episode pushed back to next year.

    What really annoyed me though was the “space pirates”, who just managed to figure out how to fly a space ship, no problem. Whilst I understood peoples reaction to spitfires in space last series it didn’t frustrate me quite as much, that has gone down as my least favourite momemnt in Moffat who to date however.

    Hopefully at some point you’ll come to see that the reason fans “awknowledge the faults” as you put it is absolutely nothing to do with some belief that the show will be pulled, but that we either a) don’t see it the same way or b) found said faults to be insignificant. Sorry, but that sentence just struck me as childish.


    Still, on a more positive note, very much looking forward to next weeks episode. The clips and trailer look very interesting indeed.

    1. jefft

      >>What really annoyed me though was the “space pirates”, who just managed to figure out how to fly a space ship, no problem.<<

      Although they tried to write around that by having Avery identify compass and astrolabe on the TARDIS console ( he would have had a hard time doing that on any previous console), we could be generous and say that the bit at the end when they fly off is actually after several days’ training by the Doctor, which due to the contraints of a 45 minute episode they didnt even have a chance to montage in.

      This episode would have been better in ‘classic’ who where they would have had more time to flesh it out. It needed dad/son development. It could have done with the TARDIS finding the signal and zoning in on it.

      The siren shouldn’t have gone red & furious, which made no sense at all. (She wasn’t disinfecting Amy when she blew her across the decks)

      It definitely needed someone sitting there shouting ‘but thats tosh. And that makes no sense. and that and that…’ 

      Within the context of the alien doctor /ship remit, no-one on life support needed to die.

      The Doctor could have ‘repaired’ the alien holo-Doctor and it could have fulfilled its objectives, whilst at the same time re-crewing the ship and completing its mission.

      The alien ship could have had training machines to bring Avery up to ship driving standard.

      What they could have done, with an extra 15 minutes time…

      1. sgreco1970

        “It definitely needed someone sitting there shouting ‘but thats tosh. And that makes no sense. and that and that…’ “

        -I agree. I think that’s the danger of having Moffat write AND produce. He’s good but needs reining in.

        “The siren shouldn’t have gone red & furious, which made no sense at all. (She wasn’t disinfecting Amy when she blew her across the decks)”

        -yes, it felt like 2 scripts mashed together.

        “This episode would have been better in ‘classic’ who where they would have had more time to flesh it out.”

        -Frankly, since Moffat said season will now be cleft into two half-series, I don’t see why they just don’t go back to the old multi-episode-one-storyarc format. I’d be more interested in the silents/riversong story anyway, let it flesh out fully over 6 episodes.

        1. redblu

          “Frankly, since Moffat said season will now be cleft into two half-series, I don’t see why they just don’t go back to the old multi-episode-one-storyarc format. I’d be more interested in the silents/riversong story anyway, let it flesh out fully over 6 episodes.”

          Agreed, I wouldn’t mind a half season of arc stories and a half season of standalones. Mixing the two doesn’t really work for me.

          But on the “that’s tosh” aspect (I know Gerard will disagree with what I’m about to say), RTD pretty much used his first draft script and it showed. At the same time he went in and did huge rewrites to other writers, sometimes alienating them in the process. By contrast Moffat seems to be taking huge care with his own scripts and too lax when it comes to other peoples (especially if they are friends such as Mark Gatiss). As a result I’ve found I’ve gone from looking forward to other writers contributions in the RTD era, to looking forward to the showrunners in Moffats. That said Chris Chibnall did a better job under Moffat (even if still not a particularly good one), and newcomers Nye and Curtis created two of my favourite episodes.

          This script was a last minute replacement to Mark Gatiss’ which was bumped up to the second half of the series though, so there may just not have been the time to polish it (which isn’t an excuse, but leaves me more hopeful that it’s a one off mistake).

      2. Emperor Gregor

        Or to put it another way – the plot was to intricate for the time slot. Aristotle has something to say about that in Poetics. The father/son relationship didn’t really add to the plot, did it. A good captain has the same responsibility to his crew. Could have been cut and we wouldn’t miss it. As you say, they didn’t exactly develop the relationship, did they?

    2. Gerard McGarry

      At 34, I’m not accustomed to being called childish, RedBlu!

      We’ve had this discussion before, but it’s a constant source of frustration for me that people whoop and cheer even the weakest episodes of Who. And if you’d watched the #DoctorWho hashtag on Twitter last night, you’ll know what I mean.

      For me, it’s a clear case of Emperor’s New Clothes. Day Of The Moon neatly sidesteps the cliffhanger that The Impossible Astronaut set up. It then goes off on a weird tangent where Canton – an ally five minutes ago – is chasing down and ‘killing’ The Doctor’s companions. I’ll admit I loved the darker episode, but hated what felt like being jerked around by Moffat. But to follow up a two-parter that touched on some incredible story possibilities with a patently derivative episode of filler was what I’d call a cheap insult.

      I’ve had long-running concerns with Steven Moffat’s running of Doctor Who. Unnecessary changes to the branding for the entire programme, a weird 5th series that’s left us unsure whether most of it was written off as a dream or a fairytale. Complete inconsistency in even his own villains, The Weeping Angels. All while self-publicising the series’ ‘genius’ writing, wonderful dynamic between the companions and patting themselves on the back about how clever they all are.

      I don’t think the series has become any better as a result of all the changes. Thankfully, there were a solid number of people on Twitter who were starting to grumble about these very frustrating aspects of the show. And there’s nothing wrong with complaining, because if the series has truly spun out of control, then pointing out the flaws may help in restoring some of the quality to the show.

      1. sgreco1970

        yeah you’re not alone. I really like the cast, the visual direction, sets of series 5 and 6 -but the scripts are bothersome. I feel last night’s was the worst by far in a long time. I do hope things improve.

      2. redblu

        I didn’t criticise you for complaining, I criticised you for accusing people who don’t share your take on the show of pretending, of having fake opinions, as if your intepretation was the only possible one. There is something childish about accusing people of lying about their own opinions if they don’t coincide with your own. Notice though we’ve almost never agreed in the past I’ve never made such a statement before.

        I liked the fast pace, I actually think we’ll return to those past 3 months later, but everything that was set up in that cliffhanger was addressed over the course of the episode. I didn’t complain about it because it didn’t bother me, indeed it ranked up very highly in my list of favourite episodes. 

        I’ve never ignored Moffats faults, those that I do agree with, the odd hole in last series finale, Amy keeping pretending to see in flesh and stone. They’ve just never overwhelmed the positives. In the case of last weeks however none of the issues you took with the episode did I see in the same light, it’s as simple as that.

        Note I didn’t much care for the RTD era, I was the grumpy one sat at the back shouting “BOO!” when the Slitheen came on screen, but I had no vested interest in it. I praised Midnight, Cornells and Moffats contributions alike, but was generally dissapointed with the shows new direction as a whole. I’m sure I went so far as to ask how someone could possibly have enjoyed Love and Monsters, Fear Her, Last of the Timelords, Journey’s End, the Lazarus Experiment, I’m pretty certain I did. I just don’t think I ever accused anyone of pretending to like the show.

      3. Emperor Gregor

        The chase takes place 3 months later. I suspect we might get that gap filled later on. That’s one of the things wrong with this whole story arc. It’s BITTY. If we have 2 doctors, two time streams etc, it’s going to get even bittier.

        The Doctor’s Wife, for instance, takes place in a “bubble” universe. I heard that description of the multiverse over 20 years ago – multiple universes constantly popping into existence like bubbles coming out of a percolator. I suppose the cracks in the universe enable the Tardis to flit between them. But I thought the point about the Time Lords is that they were sealed in a Time Lock, except for those who were “out of town” when it happened – not easily imaginable during a galactic war. 

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