The Curse of the Black Spot reviewed
Some pirates, some curse
Good grief, but I'm getting tired of finding fault, but there really isn't much good to to say about the third episode of Steven Moffat's second series in control of the TARDIS.
"The Curse of the Black Spot" is a fairly generic, back-in-time adventure featuring a mythical monster that (of course) is anything but supernatural. Or should have been.
In truth, it's quite a lot less than a generic episode. It makes "The Unquiet Dead", "Tooth and Claw" or "The Fires of Pompeii" (never mind the superior "The Shakespeare Code") seem almost brilliant by comparison.
No sense, no continuity
My notes assure me that "The Curse of the Black Spot" starts off pretty well.
We open with an atmospheric scene of a longboat approaching a becalmed and befogged 17th century sailing ship. On board, the captain declares a sailor doomed; he has scratched his finger. Moments later, an etheral song is heard above-deck, the sailor up, screams off-stage, and is gone.
The small crew follows, but finds nothing, not even blood. Well, nothing but the the Doctor, flanked by Rory and Amy. The Doctor's "Yo! Ho ho!" as unamusing to the pirates as it was awkwardly embarrassing to this viewer.
In no mood for jokes or stowaways, the pirates soon have the Doctor walking the plank, Rory to follow. Sent below decks, Amy happens upon both a tricorne and a cutlass, and swings into swash-buckling action in time to save both.
To her credit, Karen Gillan more or less pulls off this unlikely bit of business, even if I have a hard time imagining that Amelia Pond has ever found the time (never mind the physical strength) to wield a cutlass.
Still, six or seven minutes on, we're still in "this might work out as a bit of a lark" territory.
But the six-minute mark is the high point. From here on in, it's one nonsensical bit after another.
Just off the top of my head,
- Where'd all the drinking water go? There are only a half-dozen crew members left aboard — have they been dumping the drinking water over-board for laughs?
- Speaking of that missing crew, why is it that at the end of the episode we only see the half dozen we did at the start?
- The stowaway's identity (yes, there's a stowaway) isn't credible: if the Captain had been so long at sea that he didn't realize his wife had died months before, how did his son find his way on board so recently? And,
- if the Captain's son did find the ship, it must have been obvious even to a father-idolizing boy he wasn't sneaking aboard one of the British Navy's ships-of-the-line.
- Around the 24 minute mark we get the big reveal that the siren's way in isn't water, but any reflecting surface. A mirror, polished metal, very still water. Yet, except for the opening scene, the sea in this episode is never mirror-calm (see screen-cap at right).
- Rory's near death (surprise! Rory dies (but not really) again!). Even inside the TARDIS, with all its Time Lord tech (not to mention the Doctor himself), we are supposed to be on the edge of our collective seats while Amy performs CPR then, unaccountably, gives up — only to see Rory cough himself back to life all on his own.
- Oh yeah. And somehow our 17th century pirates have no problem switching gears to run an (alien!) starship. (More on that last, anon.)
Excuse me a moment while I shake my fist at the clouds and cry, "MofffffAAAATTTTT!"
Where's the show-runner? For that matter, where's the continuity editor or even the guy who goes for coffee? This episode is so badly plotted, it's like what I imagine bad fan-fic is like.
Sorry. But I feel like I'm going to go hoarse complaining that Moffat spends all his time on the big picture, but none at all on such "unimportant" matters as character or plot, or common god damned sense.
Good fantasy, as with good science fiction, requires — once the fantastic rules have been set in place — that the rules be respected.
This time out, we are expected to believe that the Doctor just hands the keys of an alien starship to a blood-thirsty ("I've seen your father gun down a thousand innocent men") 17th century pirate the way an indulgent father might toss the car-keys to his slightly wayward son.
That the Doctor does set this murderer free to roam the galaxy in search of interstellar plunder is as unlikely in terms of the established character as it is unlikely that same 17th century pirate could pilot that alien starship in the first place.