Saturday, 14 May 2011


Doctor Who - The Curse Of The Black Spot (Series Six, Episode Three). The Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) are on the 17th-century pirate ship of Captain Avery (Hugh Bonneville), as the crew is being attacked by a siren.

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You gotta really like the modern iteration of Doctor Who these days, with its high concept story arc, the pregnancy subplot and its nods to US sci-fi cable for insomniacs. While we're looking forward to the musical episode with the Doctor and his companions vs Joan Collins as Sue Sylvester's Brit cousin, here comes the presumably inevitable pirate story. Because "pirates are cool", just ask Amy and Johnny Depp.

Written by Steve Thompson (Sherlock) and directed by Jeremy Webb, The Curse of The Black Spot runs out of steam past the first ten minutes toying with some clichés of the genre and the arrival of Lily Cole as the shining lady. Because shining folks are cool and so is Miss Cole, ask Kenny... er, Rory, but it's hard to succeed to American Dad's Roger as a threat. She'll not take you down, she'll just take you to a Space: 1999-type sick bay. And she's not as funny as Robert Picardo.

Too bad for the sick bay because production designer Michael Pickwoad does a fine job with the inside of the pirate ship, the ship itself being a real 1920 Danish ship called The Phoenix and based in Charlestown, Cornwall. We'd love to see those beautiful Doc Martin landscapes but the production didn't need them. We'd also adore to see more of the talented Lee Ross (Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes) but his Boatswain character does a vanishing act, only to reappear at the end with the rest of Captain Avery's crew. Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) is perfect as Long John Silver but eh, it's Hugh Bonneville, right?

Like the two-part opener of this sixth series, this episode recycles elements from previous series. Overall The Curse of The Black Spot cannot live up to its status of appetizer for tonight's episode, eagerly awaited because written by Neil Gaiman.

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