Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Curse of the Black Spot. Review.

Dr Who, the Curse of the Black Spot, Lily Cole, promo pic
Avast behind, webmates, Barnacle Steve here with another reaverous review fresh from the fathomy depths of Davy Jones' Blogger.

Actually, despite that completely convincing pirate impression, The Curse of the Black Spot was always going to have to work hard to win me over, as I've never been that into pirate romps, especially ones where the pirates never leave their ship, never romp and never do any actual pirating.

Not that the Doctor, Amy and Rory need worry about that, as they arrive on a pirate ship only to discover a Siren's killing any crew member who has an injury or illness.

Dr Who, the Curse of the Black Spot, Amy Pond, Rory and the Doctor
Of course, plunged into such a set-up, it's only a matter of minutes before the hapless Rory gets injured, and our heroes have to try and find a way to save him while simultaneously redeeming the ship's captain with the aid of a conveniently placed child. I get a feeling I was supposed to feel heart-warmed by this tale of a man rediscovering his values but the truth is the feelings I had most while watching it were boredom, disengagement and annoyance.

The dialogue especially irritated me. Too much of it could've and should've been cut out. It's an episode where the Doctor just never seems to shut up, forcing Matt Smith to give easily his worst performance since he took over the role, degenerating into endless mannerisms, quirks, jumping around and shouting. Sadly, he wasn't alone. Amy's also in full-on irritating mode.

Dr Who, the Curse of the Black Spot, Amy Pond and her cutlass
There're flaws too in Jeremy Webb's direction. It feels off all the way through, either being too frenetic, too long-winded or too static, depending on the scene. The problem's most obvious during Amy's swashbuckling sequence which feels clumsily staged and over-long, as does the Doctor's walking the plank segment. For all its manic energy, the sequence with the Doctor and the pirate captain Avery in the TARDIS feels like it lasts a life-time.

In fairness to Webb, it can't have been easy. The fact that almost the entire tale takes place on one not very big ship means there's a lack of visual change from scene to scene that quickly robs the episode of its visual interest.

Sadly, once the episode leaves the pirate ship and enters an alien spacecraft, things actually become less, and not more, interesting; the resolution far too reminiscent of other things. The revelation of a spaceship linked to an earthbound setting, its  crew dead, while part of its technology battles to fulfil its programming's too reminiscent of The Girl in the Fireplace, the holographic doctor too reminiscent of Star Trek: Voyager, and Lily Cole's attempts at inanely singing people back to health dredges up dread memories of Katherine Jenkins' warbling at that bloody CGI shark.

But, amongst it all, the episode's greatest over-familiarity, the killer, has to be that yet again we're confronted with Rory dying. This makes it three episodes in a row now where Rory's appeared to have kicked the bucket, and - combined with his multiple deaths in last year's series - it's starting to get ludicrous to the point of incompetence.

I think the less said about the scene of the totally untrained Captain Avery smoothly piloting a spaceship, as his crew saunter in, the better. I also have to say a major weakness is Hugh Bonneville's casting as Avery. He's an engaging and appealing presence but he's not meant to be. There's nothing in his performance that properly captures the ruthless greedy killer the script says he is. His redemption has no clout because, regardless of his actions, he never has the feel of a man in need of redemption.

I'm also not sure we needed the reminder of the Doctor's impending death or of Amy's on/off pregnancy, something the Doctor seems to have little interest in actually getting to the heart of despite him clearly mithering about it. The truth is that, like too much that happens in this episode, it feels like padding and you do wonder if the script ran seriously short and had to have extra bits added to fill it out.

So, overall, it's an episode I'd have to make walk the plank, rather than reward with extra rations. Still, I'm not an untraveled man - I've been on the Isle of Man ferry - and, as I know from my own adventures on the high seas, every voyage unearths the odd wooden doubloon and, with an unfeasibly posh Suranne Jones, next week's outing at least looks more likely to yield the buried treasure we all came here for.


Kid said...

Yeah, there was no treasure in this episode - buried or otherwise. The Doctor seemed nothing more than an inept fool - and is it just me, or does the dialogue become more and more 'comic-booky' with every new episode?

Steve said...

I loved the dialogue in the last two episodes but it was pretty unimpressive this week. I do worry that Moffat doesn't seem to share RTD's love of rewriting other writers' scripts when they're below par and just lets things ride.

Anonymous said...

worst dr. who ever...

Steve said...

I wouldnt go that far. It never sank to the depths of the last ten minutes of Love and Monsters but it was clearly sub-par.

cerebus660 said...

I obviously don't know how much Doctor Who Mister Anonymous has watched, but "the worst ever"? That's being a bit harsh when the story has competition from such stinkers as The Twin Dilemma, Dragonfire, The Dominators, Time And The Rani ( "classic series" ) or Fear Her ( modern series )amongst others.
Believe it or not I do love Doctor Who :-)

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