Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer DVR Dump: Doctor Who 6.03: "The Curse of the Black Spot"

“If this is just because I’m a Captain, too, you know, you shouldn’t feel threatened. Your ship is much bigger than mine, and I don’t have the cool boots or a hat, even.”
-The Doctor

We continue our journey through the first half of Doctor Who series 6 with a fairly entertaining pirate-themed one-off. This episode has a title (and music) that are rather blatant “Pirates of the Caribbean” rip-offs, but I’m a big fan of Captain Jack Sparrow and company, so I’m good with that. Even though everyone was complaining that the preview for this looked cheesy, I figured I’d like it anyway because it was about pirates. I was half-right. I didn’t love this episode when it first aired. I thought it was rather unimaginative after the opening two-parter blew me away with its production values. I must say that I enjoyed it significantly more on rewatch, though. I appreciated that it wasn’t a two-part episode, and I appreciated that it was a fairly simple story. Yes, I like television-as-art and shows I really have to think about, but sometimes, what’s great about Doctor Who is the simplicity and the ability to get lost in fantastical stories. Those types of episodes have been rather few and far between in the Moffat era.

The episode opens on the pirate ship before the TARDIS even arrives. The crew are doing their pirate thing, when all of a sudden, they start to hear singing. It’s a siren, and they all start to freak out. It turns out the pirates have good reason to be afraid. One of the pirates, who was unfortunate enough to be marked with a black spot on his hand, up and disappears. Not long after the pirate disappears, the TARDIS materializes, bringing the Doctor, Amy and Rory to the ship. Needless to say, they don’t exactly get a warm reception by the pirates. Amy is taken below decks, and the Doctor and Rory are positioned to walk the plank. The Doctor tries to talk his way out of trouble, but the pirates aren’t taking kindly to his trademark wordplay.

Surprisingly, it’s Amy who comes to the rescue. While below decks, she found a bunch of pirate garb and swords, and she decides to use it to save the boys. She manages to hold her own swordfighting against the pirates, which kind of surprised me at first. The Doctor covers his eyes at one point, when Amy has decided to swing across the deck on a rope, which I found pretty adorable. Amy crashes into one pirate and scratches him. The pirate says that Amy has killed him, which probably starts to explain why Amy was having so much success with her swordfighting. The pirates are petrified of sustaining any injury at all, because that’s what causes them to be marked with the black spot and draw the Siren. The pirates aren’t fighting aggressively because they think any minor scratch equals death.

In the middle of the chaos, Rory gets scratched and gets a black spot. The siren song starts, and Rory starts acting really strange. Giddy, almost. It’s a very entertaining performance by Arthur Davrill. The only way I can think to describe it is to say that it reminded me of the series 2 episode “New Earth” where Cassandra is inhabiting the Tenth Doctor’s body and checking him/herself out in the mirror. Rory is held back by Amy from getting to close to the Siren, but the Siren does take the pirate Amy scratched. The Siren doesn’t like Amy at all for keeping Rory from crossing over, and she turns red and sort of hisses at her before vanishing.

Everyone moves down to the ship’s hold, but it doesn’t provide any additional safety. The Siren appears again and takes yet another pirate. The Doctor figures she must be using water as a portal (there were puddles in the hold), so the safest place is probably the ship’s armory. Gun powder needs to be kept dry to work, after all. The group hears a noise in the armory, and it turns out that a young boy had stowed away in a barrel. The boy is the Captain’s son, named Toby. He’s coughing like crazy, so he’s clearly very sick. The Doctor thinks everyone should get in the TARDIS and leave to escape the Siren, but the Captain disagrees. The Captain thinks there’s a curse on the ship and leaving won’t do any good. The Doctor states several times throughout the episode that he doesn’t believe in curses, because curses mean you’re helpless. I found that philosophy pretty interesting. The Doctor in all three of the incarnations I’ve seen definitely does have control freak tendencies.

The Doctor takes the Captain to the TARDIS, and it’s fun to watch the Doctor show off. He does the whole “bigger on the inside” routine, of course. The Captain is somewhat impressed, but probably not as much as the Doctor would like. The Captain says that a ship is a ship, and he would probably be able to figure out how to fly the TARDIS easily. The TARDIS starts going wonky, so the Doctor and the Captain abandon it and return to the pirate ship. To make things even worse, the Siren takes the TARDIS. While the Doctor is showing off, mutiny is brewing back aboard the pirate ship. The crew breaks the news to the Captain’s son that his dad is a pirate, but he doesn’t want to believe it. His mother, who passed away recently, always told him that his father was a respectable Naval officer. The crewman who is being the most troublesome to the Captain’s son ends up with a back spot after a scuffle.

The Doctor and the Captain find the mutiny in progress, but before it has a chance to go very far, the Siren comes for the chief mutineer. The Doctor then figures out that it isn’t just water the Siren uses as a portal, it’s any kind of reflection. Of course, just as the Doctor is realizing that, the Captains son is polishing a piece of metal nice and shiny. The Doctor and the Captain get into the armory just in time and take the metal away. The Doctor starts trying to get rid of anything potentially reflective, forcing the Captain to start throwing his treasure overboard and breaking out the glass in the windows. The Captain really is not at all happy about the throwing treasure overboard part of the deal, especially when the Doctor wants to throw away a fancy crown. While this is going on, Amy sees a quick flash of the creepy lady from the window in the orphanage door in “Day of the Moon.” At the time, it was rather confusing and bizarre.

The Doctor and the Captain have a chat about whether the Captain can possibly change his pirate ways to take care of his son. The Captain doesn’t seem to think he can. He loves treasure too much. There isn’t much time to dwell on this, though, because a big storm brews up and the crew has a hard time sailing. The ship lurches, and the crown the Captain didn’t want to give up goes rolling across the deck. That provides enough of a refection for the Siren to arrive and take the Captain’s son (he got the spot because of the sickness that is making him cough). In all the chaos, Rory falls overboard. The Doctor releases the Siren by letting the reflection of the crown shine, and she goes after Rory. The Doctor figured that was the only way to possibly save Rory from drowning. The Doctor wants to follow the Siren, so he has everyone prick their fingers. Sure enough, the Siren appears.

The group has now traveled to wherever the Siren wanted to take them. The Doctor hypothesizes that they are now in a parallel universe, with a space ship occupying the same space as the pirate ship was in our universe. He goes on this lecture about how gateways can sometimes form between parallel universes, and I was a little peeved that there wasn’t a mention of Rose here. Considering the Doctor loved her and locked her away in a parallel universe and all. Seems like it would be relevant. Anyway, they find the space ship’s sickbay, and everyone runs to their loved ones, who are all on life support. Amy runs to Rory, the Captain runs to his son, and the Doctor runs to the TARDIS. It’s hilarious. He hugs the TARDIS and everything. It turns out that the “black spot” was actually the space ship taking a tissue sample.

Rory regains consciousness, and the Siren appears to put him back to sleep. The Captain tries to shoot at the Siren, but that just makes her red and hissy again. The Doctor sneezes, which provides a distraction for the Siren. She starts shooting out fire as a sterilization measure. That makes the Doctor realize that the Siren is actually an automated doctor for the space ship. Amy wants to help Rory, but the Siren won’t let her anywhere near him. The Doctor tells Amy to show the Siren her wedding ring, and when she does, the Siren presents Amy with a consent form. Now the gang is on their own to try to save Rory. If he is taken off life support, he’s going to retroactively drown. Rory decides that the best course of action is to teach Amy CPR, then be taken off life support with the hope Amy can revive him. The Captain and his son choose a different solution. The Captain and the crew are going to stay on the space ship so the Captain can stay with his son. Amy does the CPR, but it doesn’t seem to go well at first (Rory is seriously to this show what Kenny is to “South Park”). Because it’s television, though, Rory does eventually come back after an appropriate amount of suspense. Making up for that melodrama is the fact that we get to see a quick scene of the new crew of space pirates before the episode ends.

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