Here we are today to talk about the pirate episode of season 6. I know, I know: it has a real name. Black Spot something-or-other. But, honestly — are we ever going to call it anything other than “the pirate episode”? No, we are not. So lets just start as we mean to go on and leave it there.
But first: a public service announcement from the end of A Good Man Goes to War: WHAT THE FUCK! SERIOUSLY. WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK WAS THAT ABOUT.
Moving on. Spoilers, yada yada.
The Curse of the Black Spot. (I did say it had a real title.) Overall, this has much the same feel as, for instance, Victory of the Daleks. It’s a fun, charming monster-of-the-week that tries to do something a little more serious at the end and, depending on how much you liked the rest of the episode, succeeds or fails accordingly.
I have heard people complaining about this episode because it’s not like the season openers were. To sidetrack for a minute and be fully honest, I don’t really read the Tor.com posts about Doctor Who (the first link) because I don’t like their DW bloggers. They seem to me to be all new series fans who expect the show to be something that, in its DNA, it isn’t. But that’s a post for another day. (If nothing else, the episode Teresa Jusino talks about in her post, The Web Planet, is one of my favorite Hartnell episodes. I love the bugs; I love the planet; I love Ian. So bite me, Ms. Jusino: if your taste is for the adrenalin-driven and simplistic, I suggest you try Supernatural or Battlestar Galactica. Or, say, The Hills. And get the hell out of my party.)
Ahem. *kofkof* Sorry about that: bad fan moment. I get no cookies. Go your ways, Ms. Jusino: I’m sure there’s room enough in the TARDIS for all of us.
Anyway, no, Black Spot is not the most exciting episode that the first half of season 6 has to offer: it is a fun way to spend 45 minutes. The TARDIS lands on a pirate ship that is being haunted by a siren who claims anyone who is injured or sick on the ship; even a minor cut is enough for her to turn up and whisk off the luckless sailor to — heaven knows where. Or the Doctor knows where. There’s also a grumpy captain and a mysterious stowaway.
Arthur Darville gets to have a marvelous time in this episode doing a cod version of Alan Tudyk’s fantabulous stoned turn in Death at a Funeral. Rory is injured fairly early on in the episode and the siren keeps trying to take him away; Amy and the Doctor basically sit on him, but his behavior when the siren around is a hoot.
Turns out the siren can enter the ship — to claim the aforementioned injured victims — not simply through the water around or on the ship but through any reflections. It may be that all reflections are now open doors from one universe or dimension to another. (Is anyone else harking back to the Family at this point? ‘Cause I swear, if that little girl with the red balloon starts popping out of mirrors, I am going to haul my couch out away from the wall so I can hide behind it.)
Now, personally, I think Black Spot is doing something at least a little more interesting than a lot of the reviews I have seen of it seem to think. The siren, it seems, is a medical program from a ship stalled in the same area as the pirate ship but in a different dimension. (Stones of Blood!) The siren is also not being as unhelpful as everyone thought: what she’s trying to do is carry out her program and heal the injured and sick. (The Empty Child!) Seems like her program is a little damaged, though, and she can’t quite figure out how to do her job right: all she can do is place people in stasis and leave them. (The Doctor Dances!) So, if nothing else, there are a crap-ton of series nods in this episode which are endlessly fun.
There are some lovely moments in this episode: the captain and his stowaway son; the siren and Amy in the stasis chamber; Amy and Rory in the TARDIS — plus another near-death experience for Rory which got the response from the three of us watchers: “Oh, please, no, not again — c’mon, Rory!” And sighs of relief all ’round when he didn’t die (Kenny was funny…but only on South Park.) And the Doctor is yet again confronted with his desire to save everyone — or at least to try and keep people from killing people or things until the situation is understood.
I really do think if you just take this episode for a cheerful, amusing romp with pirates, it’s a pretty solidly good time. Yes, the CPR is wrong; is there a TV show that gets it right? Yup, there are dialogue goofs and continuity fluffs and it’s just generally not perfect. Gosh. Shall we all storm the studios of BBC Wales and burn the place down now? Does the story hang together as tightly as (we hope) the season openers will (in the end)? Well, no — but if everything were Day of the Moon, frankly, I don’t know if I could cope. And there are space pirates at the end? Do you understand this, people? Space frelling pirates! Okay? Yes? Are we all good now?
So when it comes time to click into that third episode, make some good tea or get a glass of wine, pick out your favorite candy, and relax a bit. (Oh, except for when the woman peers through the wall at Amy. Tense up then. ‘Cause, believe me, when you hit the end of the season, you’re going to wish you spent a lot more time being tense around those moments.)