Sunday, 8 May 2011

'The Curse of the Black Spot' Review


Series 6 - Episode 3: 'The Curse of the Black Spot'
Written by Steve Thompson - Directed by Jeremy Webb

After a double-whammy of Moffat madness that tossed critical information around like a rag doll, viewers have been given a breather and presented with a good old fashioned adventure. It's a regular occurrence for The Doctor and his companion/s to head back to early times at the beginning of a series (episodes such as 'The Shakespeare Code' [2007] and 'The Fires of Pompeii' [2008] spring to mind) and in episode three of this current series, The Doctor, Amy and Rory are whisked off to the high seas that are ruled by blood-curdling Pirates who fight intruders and swag the loot.

Plot Outline:
The TARDIS is marooned on-board a 17th Century Pirate ship and The Doctor is soon being forced to walk the plank at gunpoint. Beset by terror and cabin fever, the pirates have numerous superstitious explanations for the appearance of a mysterious Siren who has the ability to destroy man with a single touch.

 'The Curse of the Black Spot' is the weight off the shoulders - it's an episode that can be re-watched and re-enjoyed multiple times and doesn't really require much prior knowledge of the series it's placed within. Sure, there are little quirks that pop up such as the strange lady with a metal eye-patch who appeared briefly in the orphanage in 'Day of the Moon', or the snappy flashback from 'The Impossible Astronaut', but realistically, episode three is a nuts-and-bolts Saturday night thrill-ride that was extremely entertaining and used it's running time to it's full potential.

 The action and adventure burst to life within a matter of minutes and then continued to stand strong and not back down. From Amy's high-flying Jack Sparrow-inspired fight sequence to the thumping and crashing of the misbehaving TARDIS and all the Pirate and 'Siren' madness in between, this episode failed to stop bringing the screen to life. 

 It's been a while since an episode has only had one primary location, I believe 'Midnight' (2008) was probably the last one and that was the complete opposite to The Doctor's current swashbuckler. Tennant's episode focused on atmosphere and claustrophobia whilst writer Thompson's 45 minutes used it's confined and isolated space to enhance action and indeed danger.

 Production designer Michael Pickwoad created a staggering set - the ship looked wonderful and really portrayed an image of rusticity and age. Rather than the more sleek looking ships in Gore Verbinski's Disney epics, Pickwoad makes his Black Pearl look experienced and haggard. It's a great compliment to the shifty Pirates and helps set the tone and spirit of the episode. Also Webb's direction was well-executed and performed which only added to the high levels of adrenaline and endorphins.

 The episode's new characters were an excellent addition, particularly the brilliant Hugh Bonneville who played Captain Avery with great skill, intrigue and efficiency. Supermodel Lily Cole whose no stranger to acting was also a fabulous casting choice as 'The Siren'. Considering she had no dialogue, her performance was engaging and her characterisation was presented well.

 'The Siren' was certainly an interesting villain, if you can actually call her that - her ability to evaporate people who have been 'unfortunately' stamped with the Black Spot after even the slightest of injury is a power than seems virtually impossible for the shipmates to avoid. It's a unique and original idea and I think many will remember and recall her when this series draws to a close.  

 Our three musketeers all give strong performances with Darvill snatching the limelight for the most part. Although Gillan clearly owns the opening 10 minutes with Amy's sword-swinging antics, it's Rory who gets a large central focus and storyline and Darvill revels in his new-found glory. The classic 'OH NO!' moment sneaks it's way in at the end leading the viewer to believe of Rory's sudden demise but Mr. Pond cheats death once again. Smith is wonderful as ever and his frequent banter with Avery is the perfect comedic substitute to this action-packed episode. 

 'The Curse of the Black Spot' is the little episode in a monstrously big series and it holds it's own. It was hugely entertaining, exciting and most importantly, original. While Moffat's away, the TARDIS trio play.

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