This week’s episode of Doctor Who had a tough act to follow, considering that over the last two episodes we saw the introduction of The Silence, the death of the Doctor (an actual death this time) and That Ending to “Day Of The Moon”.
“The Curse Of The Black Spot” is about a group of pirates who fall victim to the titular curse. Naturally, the Doctor and friends get stuck aboard the ship, although in a refreshing change he does at least try to employ the TARDIS very early in the story to get them all away. Curiously enough, the captain of the pirates (Henry Avery, played here by Hugh Bonneville) was a real person who vanished from historical records in 1696, which this episode naturally explains away (and also gives it a definitive year in which it takes place).
The episode feels slightly predictable even though the events are not. For example, when the Doctor reaches the TARDIS and tries to save the day at the 16 minute mark, it’s patently obvious he’s not going to succeed. The ‘twist’ ending has a slightly Star Trek feel to it and is predictable if you’ve watched enough television. And Rory dies so often (it feels like that, anyway), that it’s becoming a running joke and nobody expects him to stay dead. If he keeps this up, he’ll rival Captain Jack Harkness for on-screen deaths in Doctor Who.
The main problem with this episode is that it was only ever going to be filler between the awesome opening two-parter and the episode written by Neil Gaiman, “The Doctor’s Wife”. According to Doctor Who Magazine, this episode was scheduled to air ninth in the season but was changed to third. And I can see why – this episode could most likely have been put anywhere where there was a free space in the season and it would’ve made no difference. Apart from a few choice elements such as Schrödinger’s baby making a return appearance (or not making, it hasn’t decided yet), it’s a very self contained story and it suffers for it a little bit.
There were a few nice touches (it’s nice to see the companions actually head off to bed in the TARDIS for once – everyone has to sleep sometime and companions of the Doctor are no exception) but overall it’s not vital that you watch this one. Be sure to tune in next week for Neil Gaiman’s episode though, which will either be a great episode or a massive cop-out. This is a fairly middle of the road episode but given what it had to contend against, it’s to be expected. It’s not bad, just forgettable.