Look At Their Brilliant Beards

Episode three already! Where does the time go? As Saturday night’s episode, “The Curse of the Black Spot” got underway, one of the first things that struck me was just how versatile and how distinctive the music of Murray Gold is becoming. When the siren initially came upon the scene to take the first of the pirates and that wonderful Siren’s song began I just wanted to go online after the episode and buy the soundtrack there and then. To contrast between the American themed melodies of the previous week was a joy. I genuinely think that keeping Murray on board was one of the most savvy moves that Steven Moffat made when re-launching his version of Who last year as it gave a much needed thread of consistency between the RTD-era and The Moff’s. If truth be told, it was entirely an episode of contrast to what we had seen in the first two weeks as we witnessed a return to the closest thing resembling normalcy on Doctor Who: The TARDIS crew arrive for a nice little base-under-siege, standalone adventure with some pirates and a siren. To be honest, the lack of heavy plot-lines and story arcs was something of a relief after the brain-twisting of the previous two eps. And, most importantly, it demonstrated once again that this is pretty much the only programme where, literally, anything could happen from week to week. It keeps us replete with healthy topics to debate at any rate.

It was interesting to note that the variety of locations and sets used in the US-based stories (Oval Office, Monument Valley, Haunted House. etc), were replaced here by essentially, three set pieces: “on deck” (brilliantly realised), “below deck” (suitably cramped) and “on spaceship” (a touch, “meh”). Dare I say, there were a number of instances when it all looked a little too staged but overall the effect was good. There were one or two pieces of odd direction too. Look at the first appearance of the Siren when she rushes up out of the water. Instead of the camera sweeping upwards to follow her ascent and reveal Lily Cole in all her haunting glory, we get a static camera looking at the water when the Siren flashes up and out of screen in the blink of an eye. This is followed by a cutaway that seemed to focus on the Siren’s legs and cut off the top of her body like the party snaps of a drunken uncle. A little later the dramatic impact of Rory being thrown overboard in the storm also seemed to lack the necessary oomph. Another thing that puzzled me was the Doctor’s actions during the Siren’s appearance. On first viewing I felt it was very out of character for him to stand a watch as another pirate was taken by the Siren, at a point in the plot when we were supposed to think that they were being killed. It could be explained away somewhat by the suggestion that the Doctor was initially under the Siren’s anesthetic spell but it wasn’t exactly clear and is another example of the direction seeming a little ill-thought through. There was talk, I seem to recall of this being brought forward in the schedules from the later half of the season, and may be there is some evidence of things being a little rushed. While I’m on the subject of things that annoyed me, the final one was on the spaceship when the Doctor put his hand in the “Sneeze… alien bogies”. I had a dreadful flashback to the burping bin in Rose, as if there was a very small but quite obtrusive little slice of pandering to the most juvenile element of the audience. It was entirely unnecessary and took me out of the moment completely.

However, these were, at worst, niggles and they should not detract too heavily from what was a very pleasing little story. And one my favourite things about it was Rory. In all the preamble to the episode, it was Karen Gillan’s Amy that was getting the attention, with her pirate attire and promise of a sword fight but Arthur Darvill stole it for me. As promised, he has been coming up with some of the best comedy lines and turns in this series, to wit, “Look at their brilliant beards!” and his performance was quite nuanced and very watchable. Of course, towards the end of the story we were treated to an oh-no-surely-Rory-is-not-going-to-die-again moment as Amy tries to give him the kiss of life after the delayed drowning. Some of the potential drama of this scene was lost because of my intrinsic belief that there was simply no way that they would pull that stunt on us again, but they dragged it out for so long that I did let out a little sigh of relief when the coughing kicked in. I’m no expert in CPR by the way, but was that recovery in any way realistic?

Here’s a little scene for all you fans to go and replay. When the TARDIS gang are down in the gunpowder room and the Doctor decides to go up top with Captain Avery, Amy says to the Doctor, “If you get an itch, don’t scratch it too hard.” to which the Doctor replies “We’ve all had a go sometimes” and a really, really weird look passes between the three of them. Any ideas what that was all about? Superficially, it seemed to just be a joke or throwaway line, but the look that they all had made me think that there was a deeper meaning. The more obvious continuity pieces this week were two-fold and quite crow-barred in. Firstly, was the re-appearance of Eye-Patch Woman with her comment “It’s time. You’re doing fine. Just stay calm”. Did anyone else think that this is the kind of thing that a midwife would say?  And speaking of pregnancies, Amy’s on/off bun-in-the-oven made another appearance with the Doctor surreptitiously scanning Amy at the end and possibly proving that you can be “slightly pregnant” after all. I have no idea where this plot is going.

So, in summary, we have a pirate tale on the high seas complete with every kind Jack Sparrow inspired checklist of must-haves: walking the plank, cabin boys, treasure, curses, sword-fights, three-pointed hats, mutiny, et al. But, as is always the case with Doctor Who, it cleverly avoids any of this ever becoming cliched because there is always the fantasy element that needs a rational explanation, in this case provided courtesy of the revelation that the siren was a Voyager style holographic doctor trying to save the sick and injured. Not exactly a massive twist that the audience would never had guessed but entertaining enough for me.

Fazzinchi Score Update:

  • The Impossible Astronaut = 16/20
  • Day of the Moon = 16/20
  • Curse of the Black Spot = 12/20
    • fazzinchi
    • May 12th, 2011

    Cheers, Scott. That makes a lot more sense now.
    All the best, Kev 🙂

  1. The Doctor actually says “We’ve all got to go sometime,” so the look (between Amy and Rory, at least) relates to not being able to tell the Doctor that they’ve seen him die. As for the Doctor’s look, he knows that River, Amy and Rory were keeping things from him in the last story, and I suspect he’s guessed what it is…

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