S6(32)E03 – The Curse of the Black Spot – Broadcast Discussion

7th May 2011 • Blog Post by Seb Patrick •

So, it’s an episode immediately following – but not picking up on – that cliffhanger, and immediately preceding one written by Neil Gaiman. Sort of on a hiding to nothing, really, isn’t it? Anyway, let’s put all thoughts of series arcs to one side, and this could still be enjoyable – pirates! Hugh Bonneville! Lily “Flatface” Cole! And if there’s no reference to Jack Sparrow anywhere in the episode, I’ll be very surprised.

As ever (except for last week when we FORGOT), post your chatter below and we’ll have a review proper at some point later in the week.

Seb Patrick once met Paul McGann, who immediately pretended to be Mark McGann. He writes for Den of Geek, BBC America, Film4 and the official Red Dwarf website, among others. He owns over thirty toy Daleks and wishes the Dapol factory tour was still open.

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22 Responses

  1. ChrisM

    They put Pond bellow with the swords? Sigh. Okay she’s outmatched but…

    Oh never mind. I’ll go with it. It’s very atmospheric, and the small cut=black spot thing is interesting.

  2. ChrisM

    Ooh, ello! Flying blue* lady!

    (Her face isn’t that flat.)

    *Okay according to the Doctor she’s actually green. Maybe I’m a bit colour blind.

  3. ChrisM

    Sorry for the repetitive posting. Spoilers ahead.

    (Okay in explanation, I typed much of this stuff as I saw it.)

    “She uses water as a portal.” Intriguing, but a bit of a jump in logic.

    Heh! The barrel bit actually made me jump a bit!

    “We all have to go sometime… There are worse ways than having your face knocked off by a dodgy mermaid.” Brilliant!

    ‘Jolly Roger.’ Dear me. Couldn’t they have come up with a different name?
    A feisty kid. Throw him overboard. ;)

    Reflection. Nice little twist.

    One eyed lady! Hee! Anyhow. Initial uncertainty aside, I’m quite enjoying it now.

    Rolling Crown bit. I bet those she takes aren’t actually destroyed. Teleporter of some kind? (I find myself thinking of that Eccleston episode with Big Brother. Except I wonder if there’s actually a twist and she thinks she’s helping them… somehow. I.e. help the wounded.)

    I love the mirrors as portals thing anyway.

    Looks like I might have been on the right track!

    Okay, the Rory drowning bit lost me. Maybe I missed a bit earlier when he was taken.

    Sigh. Clichéd last minute save.

    Ood!

    Okay, now it’s finished: It’s not as good as last weeks. A few holes here and there but it was still enjoyable enough. (And I’m proud I guessed the syren’s function.) I added a spoiler warning at the start, of this post just in case any read this who haven’t watched it yet.

  4. God, it was dull.

  5. Thor

    Better than I thought it was going to be, but still not brilliant.

    Eye Patch Lady’s return was the most memorable part of the episode – perhaps she was working for the Silence, looking after a kidnapped Amy, and Amy’s mind is flashing back to her. After all, it seems like it was a pretty traumatic experience, and if she was surrounded by Silence then Eye Patch Lady is the only person to remember. That’s my Crazy Theory Of The Day.

  6. I wasn’t too keen on the early part of the episode: the pirates are about to make them walk the plank, but after Amy fights them and the siren attacks, the captain instantly trusts them? Fortunately it picked up when the Doctor took the captain into the TARDIS and the sci-fi links were brought in, even if the idea of the alien medical system attempting to heal people was reminiscent of The Doctor Dances.

    I liked the bit where the captain noticed all the bits of the TARDIS control panel that resembled antique brass equipment. Didn’t quite catch why the TARDIS got transported out of there, though (one of those bits where the music and sound effects drowned out the dialogue) – did it malfunction and was transported away so the siren could “heal” it? It also wasn’t quite clear why drowing is the sort of illness that the medical program can cure sufficiently for you to sit up and talk while you’re lying on the stasis bed, but then comes straight back when you’re moved off it…

    As for the mystery of the Cyborg Eyepatch Hatch Woman: this episode has established that she’s not solely associated with the door to the nursery room. Also, in the previous episode she appeared and mentioned dreaming when we assumed Amy was awake – this week she appeared when we definitely saw Amy asleep…

    Overall, even though it couldn’t help feeling like Monster of the Week filler sandwiched between Epic Moffat Series Arc and The Neil Gaiman Episode, by the end it was genuinely pretty good fun; definitely better than last year’s episode 3, even if it didn’t have any individual moments as standout as WOULD YOU CARE FOR SOME TEA.

    And the teaser suggests that next week’s would look promising even if I didn’t know who was writing it!

  7. Reboot

    Am I the only one that thinks the Doctor’s “dimensions touching” speech is going to be absolutely critical to the resolution of Amy’s pregnancy-in-superposition and Eyepatch Lady?

    > It also wasn’t quite clear why drowing is the sort of illness that the medical program can cure sufficiently for you to sit up and talk while you’re lying on the stasis bed, but then comes straight back when you’re moved off it…

    Bypassing his respiratory system, but that’s still compromised and thus when the system is meant to kick back in it can’t? Like someone switching off a heart/lung machine in an operation without ensuring the patients’ organs are working sufficiently to take over?

    [Can you CPR someone who’s dry-drowning though, which is what that would more-or-less require Rory to be in the process of doing?]

  8. Hendiadys

    After an incredible opening two-parter, that was an utterly fucking awful episode. Too busy and completely lacking at the same time.

  9. I’d put it alongside last year’s vampire episode – enjoyable fluff for a Saturday evening but not a great episode by any means.

    The reflection thing, when you think about it, didn’t work (how is breaking a mirror going to stop reflections given that it was established that a surface as small as the side of a crown or even a medallion could be a threat?); they should probably have stuck to the comes-from-the-water angle instead. I liked the captain, an interesting and complex character, and I feel he was wasted in a single 45-minute episode; and, despite the ending leaving the possibility open, I doubt we’ll see him again. The whole “non-hostile monster that appeared hostile” thing is clichéd now, too, and the overall monster storyline was a little too close to ‘The Empty Child’.

    On the plus side, I liked the whole thing with the long-dead aliens, and the sets looked pretty good (as did Karen Gillen in a pirate costume).

  10. Pedantic Butright

    Wow. I watched it about three hours ago and have already forgotten everything about it.

  11. Hendiadys

    The episode really is getting a disarming amount of praise for something so shit.

    1) Everything was rushed, right from the start; we didn’t settle on any one thing before we were rushing off elsewhere. You might criticise the opening two-parter for the same thing, but the difference was that this was bad storytelling rather than exceedingly clever.
    2) Appalling geography; I never knew where the characters were in relation to anything else. All those dreary, blurred grey and brown backgrounds had Matrix Revolutions syndrome. Compare with the Peter Davison episode Enlightenment, also on a boat, where the sense of location was much more clearly drawn out, so the whole thing didn’t feel as bitty.
    3) The sub-plot with the child and his dad was revolting; it wasn’t set up well enough for a start, but they kept returning to it as though it had resonance of any kind.
    4) I don’t understand why smashing mirrors up into fragments doesn’t create hundreds of tiny mirrors. See again Enlightenment with the jewel being smashed into fragments and the threat being increased as a result. Better would have been to smear the mirrors with treacle, or oil, or something.
    5) Don’t trick me with the TARDIS going wrong, evacuating it and it disappearing. It’s up there with faked regenerations and constant Rory-deaths for me. Save it; it should be a massive deal when you have no TARDIS.
    6) Why didn’t the Doctor, Amy and the Captain end up on hospital beds when they cut themselves?
    7) This episode was the perfect opportunity to NOT have Rory arbitrarily die-but-not-really. I was with the Amy’s Choice death, and while I felt his death at the end of the Silurian two-parter wouldn’t last, I was interested in how it might resolve because I was interested in the cracks. The apparent mention that Rory the Roman might have died in the blitz kind of passed me by, and I was perfectly happy with the pre-credit sequence for Day of the Moon. This one, though, was shit. I didn’t think for one second Rory would stay dead, so the whole sequence with Amy crying just felt long and drawn out.
    8) “Don’t forget that the Doctor died two episodes ago, kids! And that they mustn’t tell him! And do you remember when the TARDIS console was doing that Schrodinger’s Kitten thing?” Actually having the characters arbitrarily remember/say things, or repeat what they did last week (the pregnancy scanner) is actually WORSE, if they keep it up, than the crack being constantly shown last series as if we didn’t get it.

    They presumably wanted an episode to set up the idea of a mirror world situation, which we’ll be returning to later in the series just as we’re now revisiting the fake TARDIS from the end of The Lodger. It’s just a shame that the episode was such a stinker.

  12. Hendiadys

    That sun wearing sunglasses there was supposed to be an 8 followed by a right bracket. If I want smileys I’ll sodding well draw them with my pens, internet, you fucking presumptuous bastard.

  13. Seb Patrick

    I’ve turned smileys off – not only are they annoying, they have no place on blogs, and should stick to message boards where they belong.

  14. Hendiadys

    Thanks for that, Seb.

  15. Hendiadys

    I’ll also add:

    9) I have to say I probably lost a lot of the plot because I was getting angry with the Murray Gold score for the first time in a long while. No matter what’s happening, it’s the same female voice going “aah-aah-aaaah” and in exactly the same style each time. David Tennant’s regeneration and a floating nurse siren shouldn’t have the same music, please.

  16. Re: Hendiady’s points

    >1) Everything was rushed, right from the start; we didn’t settle on any one thing before we were rushing off elsewhere. You might criticise the opening two-parter for the same thing, but the difference was that this was bad storytelling rather than exceedingly clever.

    I agree, but this is a longstanding problem with a lot of episodes of Who from 2005 onwards. Some stories just don’t fit into 45 minutes and, other than gives the series a couple of extra episodes to accomodate them, I can’t see much changing that.

    >2) Appalling geography; I never knew where the characters were in relation to anything else. All those dreary, blurred grey and brown backgrounds had Matrix Revolutions syndrome. Compare with the Peter Davison episode Enlightenment, also on a boat, where the sense of location was much more clearly drawn out, so the whole thing didn’t feel as bitty.

    Did this really matter? They were stuck somewhere in the ocean at night, whereabouts wasn’t all that relevant to the plot.

    >3) The sub-plot with the child and his dad was revolting; it wasn’t set up well enough for a start, but they kept returning to it as though it had resonance of any kind.

    I feel more that it was an interesting story that was rushed-through to accommodate the 45-minute episode limit. The captain was clearly a complex character and there had to be, should have been, more to his story than “I like treasure”.

    >4) I don’t understand why smashing mirrors up into fragments doesn’t create hundreds of tiny mirrors. See again Enlightenment with the jewel being smashed into fragments and the threat being increased as a result. Better would have been to smear the mirrors with treacle, or oil, or something.

    Agree wholeheartedly. When the Doctor was smashing windows and mirrors I was thinking “why doesn’t he paint over them instead?” The whole “reflection” idea was completely broken (if you’ll forgive the pun) – someone on another board pointed-out that the siren could have used peoples’ eyes as a portal.

    >5) Don’t trick me with the TARDIS going wrong, evacuating it and it disappearing. It’s up there with faked regenerations and constant Rory-deaths for me. Save it; it should be a massive deal when you have no TARDIS.

    Cheap, yes. But without it there’d have been the huge elephant in the plot-room of why the hell they don’t all just pile-into the TARDIS and go somewhere safe. I’d rather plot issues were cheaply resolved than not resolved at all.

    >6) Why didn’t the Doctor, Amy and the Captain end up on hospital beds when they cut themselves?

    Because they’d just arrived whereas everyone else had been there a while. Rory was on the point of death when he was rescued so, presumably, the siren had just finished wiring him up to the machine and was coming to do the same with the new arrivals.

    >7) This episode was the perfect opportunity to NOT have Rory arbitrarily die-but-not-really. I was with the Amy’s Choice death, and while I felt his death at the end of the Silurian two-parter wouldn’t last, I was interested in how it might resolve because I was interested in the cracks. The apparent mention that Rory the Roman might have died in the blitz kind of passed me by, and I was perfectly happy with the pre-credit sequence for Day of the Moon. This one, though, was shit. I didn’t think for one second Rory would stay dead, so the whole sequence with Amy crying just felt long and drawn out.

    Again, agree wholeheartedly. It was easily the worst part of the episode for me, not least because it was so overwrought when we’d already been there before, several times.

    >8) “Don’t forget that the Doctor died two episodes ago, kids! And that they mustn’t tell him! And do you remember when the TARDIS console was doing that Schrodinger’s Kitten thing?” Actually having the characters arbitrarily remember/say things, or repeat what they did last week (the pregnancy scanner) is actually WORSE, if they keep it up, than the crack being constantly shown last series as if we didn’t get it.

    Probably an attempt to pull casual viewers into the series story-arc. Nowt wrong with that.

  17. > Did this really matter? They were stuck somewhere in the ocean at night, whereabouts wasn’t all that relevant to the plot.

    I think Hendiadys meant it was awkward to tell the characters’ location on the ship. The location of the ship in relation to land didn’t matter.

  18. >I think Hendiadys meant it was awkward to tell the characters’ location on the ship.

    It was a late 17th-century pirate ship, though, and so can’t have been that big. I’d understand if it was something like the Titanic but I don’t think where exactly they were on the ship at any one time was really all that important in this instance. “The deck”, or “below deck” or “the captain’s quarters” sufficed.

  19. Hendiadys

    Cheap, yes. But without it there’d have been the huge elephant in the plot-room of why the hell they don’t all just pile-into the TARDIS and go somewhere safe. I’d rather plot issues were cheaply resolved than not resolved at all.

    I’m sure that was the problem facing the storytellers; I’m just saying that I found their solution dreadful. I didn’t buy the TARDIS breaking down in the way it did, I didn’t buy the Doctor evacuating it, and I was frustrated by the fact that the Doctor can lose his TARDIS without so much as a shrug of the shoulders.

    And here’s a promo for next week’s show, where something happens that’s supposed to be a big deal; can you guess what it is?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tm1NFCUMAoI

    I think Hendiadys meant it was awkward to tell the characters’ location on the ship.

    This is what I meant, yes. How would we feel if, next week, we saw six new rooms for the TARDIS but didn’t appreciate them as anything more than autonomous spaces? In The Curse of the Black Spot, there was a indistinction created with all these different vague backgrounds, that just further compounded the sense that the story’s elements were being rushed through. It needed a couple of rewrites, basically, to make the logic of the world settle properly. Chucking out the superfluous sub-plot between the child and the father (“here’s your son back after you allowed him to get killed once, you slow-witted arse”), and the needless scene with Amy sobbing over Rory’s “death”, would have given the extra space necessary to let the episode breathe; no two-parter needed.

    Because they’d just arrived whereas everyone else had been there a while. Rory was on the point of death when he was rescued so, presumably, the siren had just finished wiring him up to the machine and was coming to do the same with the new arrivals.

    Okay, I’ll accept that; it wasn’t my biggest problem with the episode by any means.

    Probably an attempt to pull casual viewers into the series story-arc. Nowt wrong with that.

    I get that. I won’t argue with you; if your first impulse wasn’t that it was a shame, then we didn’t have the same experience with the episode. I thought that, in itself, it was a heavy-handed scene. I didn’t like when the Doctor remembered a bunch of people mentioning the Silence in the Day of the Moon, and I didn’t like Amy’s flashback to the Doctor’s death here, especially so soon after The Impossible Astronaut. I just think that Moffat is capable of far more subtle and effective (yet just as accessible) ways of doing this kind of recapping.

  20. Mammalian Verisimilitude

    I think your problem with the ending may be a result of this originally being episode 9 (6b’s ep 2) and shuffled forward after filming was done with only minor changes (ep 3 became 4, ep 4 became 9 and ep 9 became 3 because they felt, having seen early edits, that some stuff was too similar in what had been eps 1-4).

    As such, a scene intended to remind viewers of stuff from months ago ended up reprising last week…

  21. Hendiadys

    As such, a scene intended to remind viewers of stuff from months ago ended up reprising last week…

    This is a really good point. This had crossed my mind, actually, but I didn’t know exactly which episodes had been swapped around. Thanks for the info.

    Somebody on another forum (biggytitbo at cookdandbombd) has had the following interesting series of thoughts:

    There’s definetly more to that CPR sequence than meets the eye. Did you notice when they go to bed at the end the Doctor acts as if Rory isnt there, Sixth Sense style?

    I’m wondering if the Fall of the Silence has caused some of the events of series 5 to happen differently and for some reasons its fluctuating between Rory not existing and Rory existing, hence the fact Amy is both pregnant and not pregnant at the same time. So its not a quantum pregnancy its a quantum rory.

    Perhaps rather than fluctuating betwene existing or not existing, hes fluctuating between being the plastic rory and the real rory. Obviously if he’s plastic his nothing more than a glorified dildo so Amy can’t be pregnant. If he’s the plastic one, then the cap CPR doesnt matter, he’s just come back to life on his own.

    So we’ll see.

  22. Reboot

    It seems a bit strong to suggest the Doctor’s not seeing Rory at the end – he says “Good night Amelia” because (a) she’s the one who said good night to him, and (b) he’s already worrying about her. And then, he tells her to go to bed because she’s turned and taken a couple of steps toward him, while Rory hasn’t moved and is clearly still intending to head to bed.

    Maybe it could be read that way, but it seems to violate the rule that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” without further incidents to suggest it.

    As for Rory flicking back between human & Auton – he’s loudly breathing after the CPR, and surely Amy would be switching from pregnant to not-pregnant with the same frequency rather than constantly.

    I still think the “two ships parked in the same space” part of the plot, and specifically the Doctor’s “There are lots of different universes nestling alongside each other. Now and again they collide and you can step from one to the other” speech, is intended to set up the resolution to Amy’s pregnancy-in-superposition and Eyepatch-Woman’s appearances. Amy’s “collided” with an alternate-Amy who IS pregnant, and Eyepatch-Woman’s the midwife…

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