What They Say:
The TARDIS is marooned onboard a 17th-century pirate ship whose crew is being attacked by a mysterious and beautiful sea creature, as the time-traveling drama continues.
Becalmed and beset by cabin fever, the pirates have numerous superstitious explanations for the appearance of a mysterious Siren. The Doctor has other ideas but as every plan of escape is thwarted, he must win the trust of the implacable Captain Avery and uncover the truth behind the pirates’ supernatural fears – and he must work quickly because some of his friends have already fallen under the Siren’s spell…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
On a cold night as the fog has settled a group of pirates return to their ship which has been stranded in the doldrums and is unable to move. As the men return they bring the message of doom for one of their members-he slipped in an accident and was wounded and they believe he will die so they send for the captain. The man is examined by the captain and a small cut can be seen on his finger which causes the captain to pronounce his fate. As the man tries to deny it and argue with the captain his hand is turned over and on his palm a black spot has appeared which the men have come to know and fear as their numbers have been whittled away lately when it appears. Just then an unearthly singing is heard and the injured man rushes out of the captain’s quarters to try to get away but when the remaining crew checks later he has vanished with no trace of blood or struggle. As the remaining crew stand on edge a pounding can be heard from the hold hatch which they throw open to discover the Doctor and his companions Amy and Rory.
Obviously the strange appearance of a trio of stowaways and a large blue box that just appear in the middle of nowhere as the ship is under supernatural assault is received poorly. The Doctor attempts to explain how the TARDIS had picked up a rescue signal but the term is lost on the 17th century pirates and opening a dialogue appears fruitless. Being pirates they have a solution to their new problem of having stowaways when looking at their current stores and general dislike of stowaways to begin with-they have a plank. With some quick thinking and a touch of theatricality Amy acquires a uniform and weapon and goes to save her husband and her friend after she had been shoved below deck since the pirates decided they could keep her. Amy seems to be having an outrageous amount of luck fighting these men of the sword who fear getting as much as a paper cut for some reason though both one of the pirates and Rory get cuts during the comedic standoff that has developed.
As they all stand there the singing starts again and suddenly both Rory and the pirate who was cut go loopy and try to head toward the ethereal glowing green woman who appears before them. The assembly can’t stop the pirate who was injured for reaching her and he vanishes in a cloud of dust when she touches him. When Amy tries to step between Rory and the being it suddenly turns red and angry and throws some energy at her and blows her back. The crew, Doctor and his friends manage to get below deck to try to get away from the creature but the Doctor discovers that the flooded hold isn’t any safer. He comes up with various ideas on how the creature travels but each on proves to be inaccurate with each new encounter as a brand new complication for the captain presents itself. The Doctor decides to get everyone off the ship and he and the captain try to get to the TARDIS-just to have it vanish on them stranding them all on the ship. Now the Doctor has to try to figure out what happened to his ship, save his friends, recover his errant TARDIS and figure out what it is the creature coming after those who are injured intends to do with them-and how does it all relate to the signal that drew them there in the first place?
Curse of the Black Spot allows for a change in the tone from that of the first two episodes of the season as it brings in both pirates and a ghost story to the mix. There is one scene that ties in to an event in the previous episode to maintain the continuity of the story timeline but apart from that this story could have appeared any of a number of places in the Doctor Who continuum with a little rewriting for the Doctor and his Companion(s). It is a good old fashioned ghost/monster tale designed to seed suspense while asking how much of the problem is real and how much may be perception while also delivering a fairly unguarded moral message.
Curse of the Black Spot is a story that in and of itself is fairly strong and stands on its own but it has the misfortune of following after a better suspense story in the previous two weeks. It really doesn’t help that the black spot mythology was covered in the Pirates of the Caribbean films either-not that that is the episodes fault but then that it how entertainment works sometimes. It is an alright story but it just feels flat after the last tale, perhaps if something a bit more lighthearted or of a different tone had been in placed in this spot in the season it could have changed up the tempo and added a bit more of a feeling of impact at the stories suspenseful themes when aired later. As it is where it is it just fails to live up to what it impact it might have had if a bit more care had been taken in its placement in the episode run order. It winds up feeling like a weak follow up though from the season opener.