Doctor Who Series 6, Episode Three: Curse of the Black Spot

Originally written for swashbuckling review site TV Pixie. Arrrrrr!

Everyone loves pirates, don’t they? With the possible exception of freight liners whose route takes them past the coast of Somalia, large record companies and anyone who’s been to a Halloween party since those darned Disney films came out.

In fact, pirates are so en vogue right now that David Cameron’s currently attending Parliament dressed in a PVC ‘saucy pirate maiden’ costume in an attempt to boost his approval ratings. He might want to rethink the parrot though: someone’s trained it to say ‘Yes to AV’.

Given this popularity and in the wake of two explosive, dark and frankly baffling episodes, it comes as no surprise that the Doctor Who brigade have decided to jump on the kid-friendly pirate bandwagon. Hell, maybe it’ll even lead to some tie-in toy merchandising. Matt Smith already looks like a slightly melted Lego figure, I fully expect to see him in their Caribbean Battle Action Set soon.

Or for the teenage viewers, perhaps a partnership with Clearasil would be more appropriate. I can see the scabby faced little landlubbers snapping up Curse of the Black Spot Detoxifying Facial Scrub (With Free Cutlass).

However, despite the clear marketing (and excitement) potential of a pirate-themed Doctor Who episode, it never really got off the ground. The concept of a becalmed ship and a menace gradually picking off the crew was an engaging one, but once you realised that ‘menace’ was Lily Cole the terror abated quite a bit. It’s hard to be afraid of an alien force who looks like an unwell Sugababe crossed with a hammerhead shark.

Still, there were some solid performances. Hugh ‘Him off of Downton Abbey’ Bonneville made a fairly impressive captain, and looked substantially less like Harry Enfield than usual due to his swashbuckling beard. However, attempts to make him appear likable and sympathetic led to the least realistic depiction of a pirate captain since fey, dreadlocked pixie Jack Sparrow pranced onto our screens back in 2003.

For example, when Captain Avery discovers his poorly son stowing away in a barrel he doesn’t suggest eating him as a way to stretch their rations like any decent pirate would- instead he just locks him in another room. Pah, what a jessie. Avery’s also fairly quick to drop his treasure overseas once the Doctor figures out that the ‘Siren’ is travelling through mirrored surfaces. What a fool: Blackbeard would have forced the Doc to swallow it for safekeeping.

It’s not only Bonneville’s Captain Avery who’s a bit wet, the rest of the pirates are about as menacing as an Anne Geddes baby in a kitten costume too. When Amy emerges from the belly of the ship dressed in a perfectly fitting, bias cut lady-pirate outfit (have the pirates got a branch of New Look in the hold?), she proceeds to beat one of the crew at hand-to-hand combat without even breaking a sweat.

Where did they learn to fight; the Lib Dem Academy of Rolling Over And Taking It?

After being sliced by Amy’s sword (someone whose only previous combat experience has been wounding her husband with slightly barbed comments) Amy’s opponent is dematerialised by the siren. Rory, too, succumbs to a slight cut on his hand and has to be physically restrained from going at it hammer and tongs with Lily Cole, much to Amy’s irritation. But it’s not blood that’s the key: they soon discover that any illness (even a cough) results in a visit from the Siren, with victims reduced to a mere trace of black smoke. At the time of writing, the NHS are currently considering hiring her to cut down waiting lists.

All in all, the episode was nice to look at but lacking in real content – like receiving a well wrapped gift that turns out to be Jeremy Clarkson’s autobiography…or a single shoe. The reveal that the ‘terrifying alien being’ is actually a real life version of Norton Antivirus is a nice twist, but did they really have to kill Rory and bring him back to life again? I mean, come on: even Jesus had the good grace to only do it once.

Next week’s episode looks a lot more promising. Intriguingly titled ‘The Doctor’s Wife’, it’s been written by none other than cult wordsmith Neil Gaiman, author of Neverwhere, American Gods and the Sandman series of graphic novels. There’s not much in the way of preview information out there, but one thing’s for certain: Amy will be mean to Rory, he’ll probably die and she’ll have to wear some sort of themed outfit for the duration of the episode.


About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at

4 Responses to Doctor Who Series 6, Episode Three: Curse of the Black Spot

  1. Loocher says:

    Ugh. I did not need the image of Cameron in PVC in my head. Thanks for that…

    • ladyribenaberet says:

      Sorry! To make matters worse, it turned out he had to tuck his winkle between his legs to make the effect even more convincing…

      • Loocher says:

        You are evil. I’ll try to cheer myself up by thinking that it’d be even more convincing if someone just chopped it off altogether. And by thinking of Amy looking all cute and unconvincing in her pirate outfit, of course. You’d better not have ruined that for me but I fear it…

  2. Pingback: Letmewatchthis TV

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