Doctor Who Recap & Review: The Curse of the Black Spot

DoctorOnThePlank

Directed By: Jeremy Webb
Written By: Stephen Thompson

A TCC RATING OF

How can one follow up such a mind-bending two-parter as Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon? Simple. They can’t, and they don’t in the third episode of the new season. Instead, the overall arc takes a backseat to a simple pirate story, which we’ve outlined below in this week’s Recap and Review!

The Curse of the Black Spot opens with the crew of a pirate ship being tormented by a malevolent Siren, who marks their hands with a black spot before disintegrating them completely. The Doctor arrives just as one of the pirates bites the dust. As per usual, the Doctor makes light of the situation while trying to explain how he got there.

It doesn’t work. The pirates, lead by Captain Henry Avery, make The Doctor walk the plank. Amy decides to take matters into her own hands and attempts to rescue everyone. In the ensuing scuffle, she cuts one of the pirates as well as Rory. Everyone stops. Instantly, black spots make their way onto Rory’s and the pirate’s hands.

As if on cue, the Siren makes her appearance. She emerges from the water and enthralls Rory and the pirate with her song. They both act like they’re drunk and the pirate stumbles his way to the Siren. He reaches out to touch her and she disintegrates him instantly. Rory tries to follow suit, but Amy stops him. Before Amy can get much of a word in with this newcomer, the Siren goes all red and tosses Amy aside like she was nothing. Cue the whole everyone running away thing.

Everyone makes it to the lower decks to try and regain control of the situation. They don’t get very far when one of the other pirates gets bit by leaches. As he tears them away, the black spot forms on his hand causing the Siren to appear. She disintegrates him as well, and the Doctor postulates that it might be the water that’s letting her invade the ship. Captain Avery suggests they go to the magazine where they store their ammo, as that would be the driest place on board the ship.

Amy looks mighty fine in pirate garb. Just sayin...

When they reach the magazine, they find that the door has been opened recently. Upon further investigation it’s discovered that the Captain’s son Toby stowed away onboard the ship due to his mother’s ill-timed death. Captain Avery doesn’t get a whole lot of time to be mad as he realizes that Toby too has the black spot. The Doctor further postulates that it’s not just the wounded that the Siren feeds off of but the sick.

The Doctor gets an idea and employs Captain Avery to join him in the TARDIS. Once they get there, the TARDIS acts up and starts to quake. They make a break for it and as they exit the TARDIS disappears.

Meanwhile, the other crew decides to mutiny against the Captain’s orders and leave. Toby confronts them and they reveal the nature of Avery’s work, which distresses the boy. He cuts one of the pirates with a nearby sword, sealing his fate on the ship. The other pirate gets away.

Captain Avery and the Doctor meet up with the rogue pirate as he makes his way to get the treasure. They try to stop him but he’s got them outgunned. He makes it to where the treasure is stored before being taken by the Siren. The Doctor investigates the room and finds out that it’s not actually the water that brings about the Siren, but rather reflective surfaces.

Quickly Avery and the Doctor break all reflective surfaces that they can, and dump all the treasure onboard the ship. They get back to the rest of the gang and tell them to wait for a change in the weather before they emerge. The Captain attempts to reconnect with Toby, and he learns that his wife had waited for him to send some kind of word back. She waited until her very last breath. Captain Avery leaves his son, unable to deal with the guilt.

Lily Cole wants to disintegrate you...

Meanwhile, Amy gets another vision of the strange woman with the eye-patch that she saw at the orphanage in the previous episode. The strange woman assures Amy that everything will be fine before disappearing once more.

The Doctor seeks out Captain Avery after the exchange with his boy and tries to talk some sense in to him. They both connect on the level of being solitary travelers out in the vast unknown and that it’s better to travel with a crew than to be all alone. “Things can suddenly change when you’re least expecting,” the Doctor says.

Without much warning, a storm hits and everyone does their part to keep the ship afloat. Captain Avery commands his son to get a compass and other supplies. Toby drops the supplies accidentally on his return, revealing that the Captain had kept one of the more reflective pieces of treasure from his collection. This summons the Siren, who disintegrates Toby in an instant.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, the mast hits Rory and knocks him overboard. Amy tries to go in after him, but the Doctor has a better plan. He gets everyone to cut themselves with a blade and opens up the last barrel of water on the ship. The Siren disintegrates them all.

Only…it’s not actually disintegration.

The Doctor, Amy and Captain Avery wake up in a rather strange looking spaceship. From the window they can see where they just were, to which the doctor infers that there’s in fact another ship occupying the same space as the ship they were just on; or rather, that this new ship and the current ship occupy the same space-time coordinates.

Upon inspection, they find out that the original crew of the spaceship died from a virus they caught when they came to Earth. Further exploration reveals a rather ornate sick bay, which houses the original crew of the pirate ship, Toby, Rory and the TARDIS itself. Toby looks to be as healthy as ever and Rory looks as if he never fell overboard.

The Doctor finds out that the black spot itself was the result of tissue samples being taken, but is interrupted when the Siren returns. Captain Avery shoots at the Siren despite the Doctor’s warnings and she goes into red-mode once more. She generates an energy field and the Doctor just barely avoids being burnt to a crisp.

The Doctor then reveals that the Siren is in fact a medic program built to heal her sick crew and that to relinquish control of any of the patients she must get express permission. Amy does this to gain control of Rory once again and her and the Doctor take him aboard the TARDIS to heal him. Since unplugging him from the medic program puts his body back in the state it was when he was underwater, he nearly drowns. Amy saves him using CPR and the three of them go along their merry way.

Meanwhile, the captain and his crew take the new ship and fly off into the cosmos.

See? Lily Cole wants to..like...zap you..and stuff!

Here’s what we at Technicolor Commentary thought about the episode:

Amber

I kept forgetting that this episode was on and reading my book instead.

The blah-ness of the episode made me really miss River.

I hope that the dual universe thing comes into play later, sans the lamest pirates ever.

Jon

PROS: The revelation that the Siren was just a medical program doing her job instead of an actual demon of the sea is perhaps the biggest “pro” for this episode. I like that Doctor Who can take myths and legends and give a Sci-Fi spin on their origin.

CONS: The episode was most definitely filler and as such wasn’t really the type of brain-bender that we’ve gotten a bit spoiled on with Moffat. Also, I’m not convinced that The Doctor could have had enough information about that ship within a ship to make suggesting they let the Siren take them be a plausible option. Seems a bit too convenient for even the Doctor.

  • I agree with Amber; the episode was rather “blah”, and I kept getting distracted from it. I think, if someone had never seen an episode of Doctor Who before, they might have been plenty entertained by it. However, as someone that’s seen all of the episodes from the RTD/Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who, I was sorely disappointed.

    Not only was it rather “blah”, but it was extremely formulaic and helped reinforce the idea that Moffat has some very obvious crutches he leans on for his storytelling. How many times are we going to revisit the idea that monsters only exist when you’re looking at them a certain way, or you’re looking at some other object in just the right way? We saw it with the Angels, we saw it with the Silents and we’ve now seen it with the Siren (I’m sure there were a few other examples, too, but those are the freshest in my mind).

    Also, how many times are they going to use Rory’s death as a way to try to propel the show forward? I saw someone else mention yesterday that Rory is starting to become analogous to Kenny from South Park.

    This episode seemed to be some sort of amalgam of plot points from various episodes in the past; all just smashed together in a crummy way. We had the “ship looking at you from an alternate dimension” concept from The Girl in the Fireplace, we had the “don’t look at the reflection” concept that’s similar to the ideas I mentioned above. We had the “Rory’s dead” concept from seemingly every episode since Moffat took over. We had the “it’s not really a monster, it’s just a misunderstood automaton” from multiple episodes (most notably “The Empty Child” two-parter). And then, we tried to wrap it all up into a nice package with the “Let’s take the concept of an incredibly popular movie that’s getting ready to come out, and has absolutely nothing to do with the world of Doctor Who, and plop our characters in the middle of it”.

    I honestly believe that this week’s episode would probably rank the absolute lowest for me out of the entire Davies/Moffat era of Doctor Who.

    • I guess I’m just slightly more forgiving since I like the “it’s not really a monster, but a misunderstood automaton” gimmick. But otherwise, I agree that this episode leaned WAY too much on previous elements from previous episodes. I would say that it gains that extra little half-TV rating up top because it still managed to be somewhat amusing and there were some good moments involved. But, that was more just me being generous most likely.

      I suppose they were wise to move this from the 9th episode slot to the 3rd, as this could have really damaged any end-season momentum they have planned.

      All that said, this episode beats most Dalek episodes to a pulp. I’d take Rory dying each episode over some scrap metal being non-threatening. Daleks stopped being cool after the Eccleston season. 🙂