Episode 6.3 – “Curse of the Black Spot“
Spoilers for Series Five as well as “The Impossible Astronaut” (6.1), “Day of the Moon” (6.2) and “Curse of the Black Spot” (6.3).
The Doctor, Amy and Rory have decided to go on adventures after three months of fighting The Silents. Their first stop is a pirate ship manned by Captain Avery (guest star Hugh Bonneville). Avery and his fellow pirates are being picked off one by one by a siren (guest star Lily Cole) who can smell even the smallest drop of blood. (The Doctor hilariously refers to the siren as “a shark. In a dress, and singing, and green. A green, singing shark in an evening gown”.)
Obviously suspicious of the TARDIS on his pirate ship, Avery immediately tells The Doctor to walk the blank. Cue Amy Pond as a sword-wielding, swash-buckling pirate in pink tights. Only Mrs. Pond could ever pull this off — and of course she does — scratching a pirate with her sword and laughing at him for his exaggerated reaction. “It’s only a scratch,” she says. But, as the audience knows, it’s much worse than than that. The siren is there at the first drop of blood and the pirate, acting as if he’s enamored by the siren, walks toward her. With a single touch, the pirate becomes dust. It’s then that Amy knows the scratch wasn’t just a scratch.
Episodes immediately following the premiere episode of Doctor Who were conventionally some of the least spectacular episodes of each series. They are often self-contained stories that are lighter in theme — like “The Beast Below” (5.2) — that usually go back in time rather than forward — like “Victory of the Daleks” (5.3). Series Six’s “Curse of the Black Spot” follows in this same vein, boasting a punch-drunk Rory and smarmy pirates. Thankfully for the Doctor Who audience,”Curse of the Black Spot” blows the previously mentioned episodes out of the water. This can be largely attributed to the fact that the TARDIS Team is already established and there are no growing pains to deal with regarding Doctor/Companion chemistry or explanation of time-space-travel.
But, just for the sake of it, let’s compile a list how many times Moffat’s TARDIS Team has died, because there have been many. The Doctor has regenerated multiple times but died in “The Impossible Astronaut” after being shot during his regeneration process. He’s also killed himself three times in “Amy’s Choice” and “Curse of the Black Spot“, along with Amy. Amy’s death was the cliffhanger at the end of “The Pandorica Opens” (5.12), but she was saved by waiting 2,000 years in the Pandorica; She was ‘shot’ in “Day of the Moon“. River died in “Forest of the Dead” (4.10) after sacrificing herself in the stead of The Doctor, but that hasn’t happened yet in River’s timeline. And Rory, poor Mr. Pond, has now died four times within the span of eleven episodes — first murdered by alien-seniors in “Amy’s Choice“, killed again in the second dream world in the same episode, then murdered by alien-reptiles in “Cold Blood” (5.9) and drowned by an alien-siren/nurse in “Curse of the Black Spot“, only to be revived by his wife later in the episode. Like Amy, he was also ‘shot’ in “Day of the Moon“. And, of course, he was erased from time at the end of “Cold Blood“. With all these Pond-deaths, I’m coining the phrase “Rory died again. It must be Saturday.”
Each of these deaths — with the exception of River in “Forest of the Dead” and quite possibly The Doctor in “The Impossible Astronaut” — have been temporary. But how many times can Moffat use this narrative device before it becomes too much? If Amy or Rory die permanently at the end of Series Six, don’t you think it’ll be a little underwhelming? We’ve seen Amy bawl her eyes out over the death of Mr. Pond three times now, wouldn’t a fourth time be a little like crying wolf? Let’s just permanently injure companions instead! Wouldn’t Rory look dashing in a eye-patch à la Xander in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? I’m kidding. Truly, I am. But I really can’t watch another companion die any time soon, or my heart will probably break.
Matched with the repetition of companion deaths in the Moffat-era is the use of “suicide” to resolve story-lines. In “Amy’s Choice“, I was somewhat uncomfortable with Amy’s decision to kill herself (and her baby) because Rory had died. Yes, they were supposed to make a decision between worlds and die in one, but I’m uncomfortable introducing suicide into a children’s programme even at its most watered-down. In “Vincent and the Doctor” (5.10), the writers approached Vincent’s depression and eventual suicide directly, allowing the companions to discuss these delicate topics in a way that was beneficial to their audience. Most importantly, Vincent’s suicide is also not used as a plot device. In “Amy’s Choice“, the “suicides” of Amy and The Doctor allow for the TARDIS Team to defeat the Dream Lord, resolving the story-line. This is replicated in “Curse of the Black Spot“, where The Doctor informs Amy and Captain Avery that they have to sacrifice themselves to the siren. This is the only way that they can return to the people they love. As with anything in Doctor Who, I’m probably reading into everything a little too much, but I was disappointed at the return of suicide as a narrative device in Series Six.
Despite Amy and the Doctor committing suicide after the death of Rory — again — I adored “Curse of the Black Spot” as a self-contained, more lighthearted episode of Doctor Who. I know what you’re saying: This wasn’t really a “lighthearted” episode. But it’s the most lighthearted you’re probably going to get in the first half of Series Six. Moffat is determined to make this series one of the scariest in Doctor Who history, and I highly doubt there will be a “The Lodger” (5.11) or “The Unicorn and the Wasp” (4.7) in this series. Expect “Blink” (3.10) levels of scary, people.
Now who’s ready for “The Doctor’s Wife” (6.4) by the legendary Neil Gaiman? Ten bucks says Rory dies again!