Sunday, May 8, 2011

Review of Series 6, Episode 3: “The Curse of the Black Spot”

My mom always told me, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Unfortunately, I have committed to blogging about all of the episodes of Doctor Who this season, which means I have to say something about last night’s episode, “The Curse of the Black Spot.”

As I mentioned last week, I didn’t have a good feeling about this story going into it based just on the trailer (and the fact that is seemed like a blatant Pirates of the Caribbean knock-off). I tried to put my preconceived notions aside, though, so I could enjoy the pirate-y thrills and derring-do. I failed – although I think it was less my fault than the episode’s. This episode was just… not good. It actually seemed more like a parody of Doctor Who than an actual episode; it was riddled with the show’s clichés – an alien masquerading as something supernatural, a decidedly low-budget feel, another oh-no-Rory's-dead scene, and a nonsensical plot that didn’t come together in the end. The script was quite bad, actually, riddled with unfunny, attempting-to-be-clever lines for the Doctor and an inadequate character arc for the pirate captain guest star. The acting was no great shakes, either. Even the regulars (Matt Smith included) seemed bored and vaguely embarrassed. Karen Gillan made the least-convincing pirate in history. (Yes, even worse than Keira Knightley.) Honestly, this episode felt like the series was just killing time. They did shoehorn in a reference to the ongoing plot with a brief appearance by Eye Patch Woman, which seemed like a token way of trying to tie this episode to the rest of the series. It didn’t work. And the scene at the end with Amy’s pregnancy scan was almost a copy/paste from last week. So why even bother including it?

As for the plot, it had more holes than a sinking ship. For one thing, why were there a total of only five crewmembers? Even at the end when the full crew gathered on the bridge of their new spaceship? And how did they all manage to walk onto the bridge at the end (including the sick kid)? I thought the “siren” had to keep them in suspended animation or some such nonsense. And is letting a crew of dangerous, bloodthirsty pirates take control of a state-of-the-art spaceship a wise decision on the Doctor’s part? Shouldn’t these guys be in jail for all their raping, murdering, etc.? Now they’re flying around a nuclear reactor with all of space to harass! Speaking of the small crew, why did one of them (the one that the annoying little kid cut with a sword to force him to stay hidden with Amy and Rory) just sort of disappear halfway through the episode, never to be mentioned again? And why would the medical hologram have an “evil, red demon setting,” anyway? And why couldn’t it speak? How does singing act as an anesthetic? Why bother making the dead aliens non-humanoid if you’re then just going to have to explain why the medical hologram looks human? And how did the alien crew die if they had this ingenious medical hologram on board with them? Shouldn’t she have healed their injuries? So many things that didn’t make sense…. And worst of all, I can’t really bring myself to care about the answers.

So, taken on it’s own merits, this episode was bad, bad, bad. It certainly ranks down there with “Fear Her,” “The Lazarus Experiment,” and “Planet of the Ood” as some of the worst of New Who. Watched right after the brilliant season-opening two-parter, though, it seems even worse. After the intriguing start to the season, I wanted more about the ongoing storyline. Or at least an enjoyable one-off. Unfortunately, this episode was neither of those things. Hopefully, Neil Gaiman can right this ship next week. Yes, I just made a sailing analogy while discussing a pirate-themed story. Not very clever, I know – which means it should fit in perfectly with this episode.

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