Reviewed By: Drew Vogel
Review Date: 7/2/17 8:05 pm
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This one's a little bit weird. In my opinion, it doesn't really work, but most people seem to think it works great, or else they just don't mind. That's fair enough. I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from listening to this story, and I'm not trying to talk anyone out of liking it. But I don't really like it.
First things first, we really have to separate the story into two distinct parts: the framing device and the pirate story. The framing device involves the Doctor and Evelyn visiting one of Evelyn's students and telling her a story. The pirate story is both the story they're telling her, and an adventure that they've just had in the TARDIS. I really like the pirate story, but I really don't like the framing device.
If we're just talking about the pirate story, I like this one a lot. It's a rousing adventure tale with an old-fashioned sensibility, and it's charming. It's little more than a retread of familiar pirate-fiction tropes, but it's got heart and warmth and verve. It's delightful!
But the framing device is another story, in more ways than one. It's ponderous, self-important and contrived. It's also a complete tonal mismatch with the pirate adventure part of the story. The script addresses this by gradually making the pirate story as grim and tragic as Sally's sad tale, but that's actually not an improvement.
Throughout most of the story, these two layers of narrative are pulling against each other, each one undermining the other. And yet, they come together remarkably in Part 3. You need the framing device to justify the use of songs, but the whole point of having songs is to wring more fun out of the pirates. But then Sally suddenly decides to interrupt a song about pirates with a maudlin song about death and guilt. This completely destroys any pretense the story had at maintaining a coherent structure. I mean, how are we supposed to understand what's actually happening here? Are the Doctor and Sally really singing to each other right there in the living room? I don't think so. In the end, the hopeless, desperate tone of Sally's story infects the pirate narrative as well, injecting an unwelcome dose of grim realism into what had been a jolly, swashbuckling adventure.
Basically, I like the story that this story was pretending to be a lot more than the story it actually is.