Post Game TV Recap: DOCTOR WHO S6E3 Curse of the Black Spot

Post Game TV Recap: DOCTOR WHO S6E3

Pirates are fun to write about - they steal things, quaff rum, beat each other up, and occasionally get disintegrated  by ethereal sirens when they get a boo-boo. Sorry, what?  Oh, never mind, just pay attention...


by Steve Thompson

Directed by Jeremy Webb

A pirate ship is becalmed in the water and beset by a spectral woman who comes for the crew whenever they become injured or sick, like a shark preying upon the weak. But when The Doctor and his friends arrive to help. they're not met with laurels and hearty handshakes. Hiding from the creature, they discover the Captain's son Toby stowed away in the powder magazine, marked with the same black spot as any other injured man. The Doctor first theorizes that the creature uses water as a portal, but later realizes that any reflective surface could be used. As the ship is weighed low with treasure, there's many shiny things that could be used. The TARDIS seems to run away, leaving The Doctor and his companions stranded. Soon, Toby falls victim to the seeming sea witch, and after falling off the side of the ship, even Rory is lost. With all but the captain gone, and options running out, The Doctor tries a desperate play, and allows the siren to take them. They awaken on an alien ship and come to a surprising realization - the ship is occupying the same space as the pirate vessel, is deserted, and the mysterious woman is a holographic doctor program, passing through the portals to the other ship and grabbing the injured, not to kill them, but heal them. They have only seconds to release Rory and keep him from returning to his pre-treatment condition, AKA dead from drowning. Quite a close call indeed. 

This was a perfectly good done-in-one episode of the show, with a nice plot, a good bit of comedy, and a new twist to the monster of the week. It had its fair share of plot holes and missing scenes, but sometimes it's fun to just let go of the details and enjoy the tale for what it is, a little diversion in your day to keep your head away from the walls.


Hugh Bonneville (Captain Avery) - It's amazing the level of talent the new Doctor Who series has been able to attract, both by its quality and the simple adoration the people of Britain have for the show. Hugh Bonneville has a two-decade long resume, appearing in both film and TV, including Notting Hill. He most recently appeared against Maggie Smith in the period drama Downton Abbey.

Lily Cole (Siren) - Lily is a spectacularly popular model in the UK, for her lithe frame and ever so slightly otherworldly look. She first appeared on film in the recent St. Trinian's remake, a film, along with its remake that has served as a sort of Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon nexus of Doctor Who actors. She played Valentina in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus and will be in Roland Joffe's new film Here be Dragons.

Lee Ross (Botswain) - While his role in the episode is somewhat aborted (he vanishes from the ship and the narrative offscreen, presumably in a cut scene), Lee and Steven Moffat have a long past. Lee played Kenny Phillips on Press Gang, Steven's first series, co-written with his father Bill. 

THE MONSTER FILES - The Siren is far from a monster, but she's the latest in a long line of misunderstood beings in the show. The Beast Below was captured by the people of England, thinking they'd need to force it to help them. Many other monsters have taken the form or been mistaken from creatures from mythology. The Zygons were behind the Loch Ness Monster, and in recent years The Doctor has met analogues for both werewolves and vampires. Bok from The Daemons was an animated gargoyle. Fenric took its name from the wolf that would attack Odin in the time of Ragnarok.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS - Trivia and production details

WE'RE PROBABLY NOT THE BAND YOU CAME TO SEE TONIGHT, BUT IT'S ALRIGHT, 'CAUSE SOON WE'LL GO AWAY - This episode was supposed to be in the second half of the season, and was swapped with Mark Gatiss' story fairly late in the schedule. There is the remote possibility that they thought this episode could better serve in this somewhat...unenviable position. People are SO keen to see next week's episode (don't worry, I'll get to it), this one suffers from Opening Band syndrome. Everyone's too busy craning their necks to see if they can catch a glimpse of the headline act, they all but ignore the one on stage, and in some cases start actively deriding it. It happens FAR too often in comic books nowadays - a new creative team are announced months ahead of time, and the current issues become a massive lame-duck session. But for the record, I've been turned on to some amazing bands in the Opening Band spot, including The Washington Squares, The Jack Rubies, and a band that opened for the B-52s called The Eurythmics. So don't blow off those things that feel like they're in your way.

AND STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING - There were some major questions left unanswered, most of which in the person of Captain Avery. His reasons for becoming a pirate, the lust for gold seemed sadly under-explained. Similarly, it's not explained, and must be assumed, that he and his crew have had some change of heart after their recent adventures, and are now merely going to explore, and The Doctor did not just release a bunch of pirates in an alien spaceship with questionable weapons capacity onto the universe.

"Or does nobody actually say that?" The Doctor has met more than a few pirates over the years. They made the title on the Douglas Adams penned classic The Pirate Planet about a planet-sized ship that materialized around other unsuspecting worlds and plundered them, leaving behind a compressed husk. And back near the end of the Hartnell era, they met up in The Smugglers with a crew looking for the treasure of...Captain Avery.

"You should dress as a pirate more often." Yeah, if anyone's surprised that Amy's potentially preggers...

"Curses, big with humans, means bad thing are happening but you can't be bothered to find an explanation" - The Doctor's become a lot more impatient with Earthlings in the latest incarnation. He used to be unforgiving with authority figures in the Pertwee years, and his first on-screen conversation in the first episode was positively rude. So it's always interesting that no matter how much they annoy and disappoint him, he never misses a chance to save them.

"Abandon Ship!" - As he advised River last season, if there's no one in the TARDIS, the engines shut down. But she was in the process of dematerialization, and when the shut down occurred, it was in phase between the pirate ship we've seen and the alien ship we'd yet to see. 

"Please ignore all my theories up to this point" - The Doctor's been a lot more fallible in recent years, which does open up the narrative opportunities a bit. This is one of the recent times where he's still the one that sorts things out. Of late, Amy's done a lot of the last minute brain-waving, which runs the risk of turning her into Wesley Crusher. Saving Rory was perfectly logical, as it further cements their relationship, and allows for that little foray off to the second floor to...perhaps...provide the final causality step for Amy's questionable bun/oven ownership?

"The greatest adventure is having someone share it with you" - He's clearly trying to talk Avery into reconsidering taking his son home, but at once he's talking about himself. He said it best when he asked Dona Noble to come with him; "I just want a mate". That she misunderstood him does not dilute the truth and simplicity of the statement.

"There are lots of universes nested inside each other, now and again they collide, and you can step from one to the other" - A similar event allowed the TARDIS to cross over the the parallel world that brought us the new-era Cybermen. Many years before, an experiment with Stahlman's Gas led to a trip to the parallel world of Inferno

BIG BAD REPORT - Being a more stand-alone episode, we didn't seem to get as many new tidbits, but what we got was cherce.

"We all have to go sometime" - The Doctor's glib remark is taken quite seriously by Amy and Rory who've already seen what certainly appeared to be his end. That's still up in the air obviously, or at the very least is quite a ways off. 

"It's're doing fine. Just stay calm" - So apparently the woman with the eyepatch is watching for, or over Amy and not the little girl (unless, of course, the little girl is in fact Amy's here-and-not progeny). The sliding Speakeasy panels have appeared twice so far, and in neither case have the statements seemed exactly connected to what's going on around. It's possible the images are appearing out of of order, and the woman is looking at other moments in time when she says these things. After the extra Doctor in Flesh and Stone, we've learned that we've got to question almost everything we see. 

CLEVER THEORY DEPARTMENT - Does anyone ever recall seeing mobiles on a pirate ship before?  I'm going to go out on a limb a bit. I think the mobiles are recurring on purpose. We saw the first one in the room of the mysterious girl last episode, and it too seemed a tad out of place, and made from very odd items. It had a very space-y vibe to it, as the ones on the ship were of a more maritime tack. No idea what they might mean, but a thread is a thread.


Neil Gaiman. I could stop there, couldn't I? The Doctor's Wife. And I'll give you one more bit - the plot point that he appropriated from The War Games is right there in the teaser. A week couldn't be any longer if I was waiting for the Wells Fargo wagon to bring my band uniform.

Vinnie Bartilucci does have an old-school TARDIS key hanging from his car keyring, but it doesn't have the constellation of Kasterborous on the back, so it's a bit rubbish.  His blog The Forty Year-Old Fanboy is where he writes things that cross his mind when he doesn't have a pen and a nice white wall handy..

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