Captain Henry Avery and his pirate ship crew have fallen upon hard times, haunted by a deadly curse: any man among them who sheds so much as a single drop of blood sees a black spot appear on his hand, and the next time the seafaring Siren appears on the ship, that man will be destroyed by her. Worse yet, a large blue box is found in the hold, containing three stowaways who, despite their insistence that they’re here to help, must be trying to take Avery’s loot after waiting for the Siren to pick off the rest of his crew. Another stowaway is revealed: Avery’s young son, convinced that his father is a fine, upstanding Naval officer and unprepared for the truth. When Rory’s hand is cut and the black spot appears on his hand, the Doctor and Amy are fighting not just to keep the Siren from devouring Avery’s crew, but one of their own as well.
written by Steve Thompson
directed by Jeremy Webb
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Hugh Bonneville (Captain Henry Avery), Oscar Lloyd (Toby Avery), Lee Ross (The Boatswain), Michael Begley (Mulligan), Tony Lucken (De Florres), Chris Jarman (Dancer), Carl McCrystal (McGrath), Lily Cole (The Siren)
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: A nice diversion from the conspiracy-heavy season opener, The Curse Of The Black Spot is a rollicking good tale of piracy, something that Doctor Who has attempted few times on TV (and only once in audio form – as a musical, no less). But this isn’t off-the-wall surreal like Enlightenment, or drawn-out like The Smugglers (William Hartnell’s penultimate TV adventure) seemed to be. Buckles are swashed (by Amy, no less) in very short order), the Doctor gets to walk the plank, and there’s a doozy of a creature for whom there’s a perfectly rational explanation, once the Doctor shows up to dispel the superstition.
Once things go off the rails, the story becomes a stress test for Amy and Rory, as well as for Avery and his son. The fact that I found myself more concerned about the state of the latter relationship is perhaps indicative that the “Amy married an idiot” element of the current season needs to be dialed back a bit. Rory’s been put through a wringer the likes of which characters like Mickey Smith never got to see, and came out on the other side with his basic decency and loyalty to Amy intact. Treating him – or writing him – like an idiot at this point does the show no favors. On the flipside, there’s real weight in watching Avery’s son put two and two together and realize that his father’s chosen trade is not the honorable one he’d been told about, and the plot twist that makes the audience believe that no reconciliation between father and son will be happening is a kick in the gut. The kid could’ve been an intensely annoying character, but some very good casting and a child actor capable of delivering the characterization necessary steer clear of those waters.
The science fiction explanation behind all of the siren songs and apparent vaporizations is an interesting one, including the darkly humorous take on medical paperwork and bureaucracy (i.e. Amy having to prove that she’s Rory’s wife). The Siren – and whoever constructed her – join the pantheon of Doctor Who aliens about whom we wish we knew more, and yet knowing more might steal some of the mystique away. A fun, well-judged episode all around.