Episode Title: "The Curse of the Black Spot"
Writer: Stephen Thompson
Director: Jeremy Webb
Previously on "Doctor Who":
Rory (Arthur Darvill) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) were reunited with River Song (Alex Kingston) and the Doctor (Matt Smith) just long enough to see the Doctor murdered by a mysterious Astronaut. Teaming up with the Doctor's past self (while keeping him in the dark on his pending death), the crew of the TARDIS traveled back to the '60s and encountered former FBI Agent Canton Everett Delaware III (Mark Sheppard) and President Richard Nixon (Stuart Milligan). With their help, the Doctor and his friends soon learned that an alien race calling itself the Silence had secretly been manipulating mankind for centuries.
During the course of the adventure, Amy learned that the girl trapped in the Astronaut suit may be her daughter before she was captured by the Silence. The Doctor, Rory and the rest came to her rescue and sent out a hidden message with Neil Armstrong's moon landing that forced the Silence to flee the Earth. Back on the TARDIS, the Doctor was surprised that Amy was simultaneously pregnant and not pregnant. And six months later, the young girl reappeared in New York City, where she regenerated just as a TIme Lord would.
In the 17th century, Captain Henry Avery (Hugh Bonneville) and the rest of his pirate crew come under attack from a green hued Siren (Lily Cole), who marks the injured men with a black spot before apparently destroying them. After the latest casualty, Captain Avery and the few survivors find the Doctor, Amy and Rory below decks. Avery mistakes them for stowaways and nearly makes the Doctor walk the plank. Amy briefly gets locked away, but she emerges dressed in pirate gear and a sword, which strangely frightens the crew. In her wild swings, Amy cuts one of the pirates' hands, causing a black spot to appear on his palm.
In the confusion, Rory is cut as well and a black spot appears on his hand too. The Siren then appears and draws in the most recently injured crewman almost hypnotically before turning her attention to Rory. Amy drags Rory away as the survivors retreat to the ship's hold, where they believe they are safe. But when one of the pirates is bitten by a leach, the Siren appears and claims another victim. The Doctor reasons that the Siren can only appear through water, so they retreat again to the powder storage room, where they find another stowaway, Toby (Oscar Lloyd), the Captain's young son.
It soon becomes clear that Toby believes that his father is still in the British Navy and that he is deathly ill from fever and marked with the black spot as well. The Siren tries to enter through a barrel of water, but the Doctor literally puts a lid on her. He then teams up with the Captain to get back to the TARDIS, which the Captain recognizes as a ship despite his initial amazement. But the TARDIS malfunctions and begins to dematerialize, forcing the duo to abandon it and watch as it strands them on the doomed pirate ship.
One of the Captain's crew lets slip to Toby that his father is a pirate and attempts to steal some of their treasure for himself. But when the Siren claims him as well, the Doctor realizes that the Siren can travel through any reflective surface. After destroying almost every mirror on board and dumping the treasure, but the Captain keeps one last piece which accidentally unleashes the Siren yet again… dooming his son in the process. Rory also falls off the ship and nearly drowns, forcing the Doctor and Amy to summon the Siren to save him for herself.
Working out that the Siren can transport them to their missing friends, the Doctor, the Captain and Amy injure themselves and let her claim them as well. They find that an alien spacecraft is stuck in the same space on another dimensional plane and they find the TARDIS waiting for them. They also find all of the missing crew and Rory hooked up to life support which will kill them if they are unhooked. Finally, the Doctor realizes that the Siren is an automated medical program, that doesn't know how to heal humans. Through Rory's instructions, Amy is able to resuscitate him after being freed.
But nothing can be done for Toby, since his fever would kill him soon if he left the ship. So, the Captain and his revived crew decide to stay on the alien ship and sail it back out to the stars. On the TARDIS, all seems well, but the Doctor is unnerved by the continuous fluctuations of Amy's pregnancy; which seems to alternate between a positive and negative result.
The problem with "Doctor Who" is that every time Steven Moffat pulls out another amazing episode, the next installment by almost any other writer invariably looks bad by comparison. "The Curse of the Black Spot" is a perfectly serviceable installment of the series, but it comes down so far from the heights of the season premiere that it's almost instantly forgettable.
To be clear, it's not a bad episode. And it even had some powerful moments, like the apparent death of Toby due to the Captain being unable to give up his treasure. That would have been a harsh, yet suitable fate for the Captain. But once the Siren got Rory, it was obvious that everyone was going to be found alive. I really like Rory as a character, but there's never any sense of real jeopardy with him anymore. Once he's been killed, erased from time and resurrected as Auton, a little curse just doesn't have the same weight.
By the way, how is that some of the "Doctor Who" fans don't seem to understand that Rory is flesh and blood again? I still see people referring to him as an Auton when it was clear from last year's season finale that he was back in his own body when the Doctor erased himself from history.
I'm not that familiar with the historical Captain Henry Avery, but Hugh Bonneville was very enjoyable in the role. I especially loved the way he recognized the TARDIS as a ship from its instruments. Have you ever noticed that the people from the past tend to have the more interesting responses to the TARDIS? Canton's reaction in the season premiere was also pretty memorable. As for Captain Avery, I can't say that giving a bunch of pirates the keys to an intergalactic starship was a good idea in practice, but it was irresistible to see Avery rise to the challenge of piloting a new ship.
The season long storylines of the Doctor's impending death and Amy's mysterious pregnancy were both touched upon here, but both references felt tacked on. Amy also had another bizarre encounter with the woman from last week's episode, which seemed more like a dream sequence than anything else. I'm still invested in that story, but the third and fourth episodes last year (the Weeping Angels two parter) did a better job of integrating the season arc with the stand alone story. I think I would have been more invested in "The Curse of The Black Spot" if it had also captured that balance.
Regardless, "Doctor Who" is still the best reason to watch TV on a Saturday night. And next week, we've got the long awaited Neil Gaiman penned episode, "The Doctor's Wife;" which sounds intriguing just from the title alone.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.