Pirate Lite

A becalmed mix of pirates and The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances; Curse of the Black Spot gives the impression that it’s run out of wind somewhere towards the end. On the surface it looks great, is performed brilliantly, and from the first “Yo, ho, ho” great lines come thick and fast. But an awareness of time passing seems to creep in, a doldrums of pacing which even another close call with death for Rory can’t alleviate. Of more interest was the Doctor’s hanging back during the resuscitation scene, recalling Eccleston’s tenure when the Doctor often acted as an instrument to bring the best out in others, rather than directly intervening himself.

In years gone by, if a guest actor with the presence and charisma of Hugh Bonneville had appeared on the programme, fans would be immediately touting him as ‘next Doctor’ material. Perceptions of what is required for the programme’s lead have changed, but it is true that Bonneville is probably the best thing about this episode. Barely needing to raise his voice to dominate his scenes – the scenery chews itself for him.

The phantasmagorical Lily Cole is another high point of the episode. Her other-worldly looks – huge eyes and tiny mouth – resemble a character from a Tim Burton animated film, and are enhance by a master class performance of eye acting – which is exactly what models do, I suppose. And she was very scary when turning from green to red – a look which I’m sure is unlikely to ever make it into Cole’s modelling portfolio. I wonder if Rory gave himself away when he describes her as ‘the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen’ – how long will it be now before Amy finds the Pirelli calendar hidden under their bed?

Steven Moffat has stated that the intention was to make this story as ‘piratey’ as possible, cramming in everything from walking the plank, to a mutiny, to a youthful stowaway. In doing so the programme seems to have fallen into the trap which the first Pirates of the Caribbean film so deftly avoided – instead of taking well-worn clichés and moulding them into something fresh, we seem to have ended up with something… well-worn.

There is still much fun to be had in seeing Karen Gillan ‘get her Kiera out’ and Avery surmise some basic functions of the TARDIS consol by using his own experience as Captain of a ship – but his final scene probably sums up this worthy episodes deficiencies. Seated at a spacecraft flight deck and setting course for Sirius, instead of a rousing whoosh and roar we get a feeble camera tilt which gives the impression that Captain Henry Avery is actually piloting a mobility scooter.


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