Reviewed By: traves8853
Review Date: 3/28/16 10:10 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.
I have always wondered why some stories aren't that good and others are, well, just better. 'The Curse of the Black Spot' by Stephen Thompson is one that I can just switch off and just enjoy, but I am under no illusions that it is anything other than average, at best. Thompson also wrote 'Journey to the Centre of the Tardis' - which I quite enjoy - and 'Time Heist' - which I think is really rather good indeed! AIthough, am not convinced he is a particularly great writer.
One thing that I think holds it back is the singing, yet speechless, siren. I just think that it's hard to make villains that lack a proper ability to communicate as menacing as they could be. Robert Holmes gets around this in 'Spearhead From Space' by giving the Autons a frontman, which we first suspect to be the mastermind but it is later revealed that Channing is just another Nestene puppet. I don't think this works quite as well in 'Image of Fendahl', for example. Additionally, the siren's threat is nullified with the reveal that her true intentions are altruistic, although, they are taken to such an extent that they could be considered destructive. They overcome the siren by Amy signing a consent form. I am sorry but that is nearly as dull as Chibnall getting everybody around a negotiating table in 'Cold Blood'. Without the power of speech, the siren isn't even a real character just a plot device, as are Rory and Amy in this one.
Rory and Amy do very little other than Amy stopping the Doctor walking the plank, a moment that had no real threat as it was obviously never going to happen, and the whole sword fight felt very off key in comparison to the rest of the episode. Plus, Rory needs saving throughout the entire episode which is a waste of the actor and character.
The Captain is another shallow character. When we first see him we see that he is surrounded by treasure; this underlines his key motivation as greed. Also, he offers no help to his crew member who is locked out of the cabin to fend for himself. Not the sign of an evil man just somebody who cares about self-preservation and lacks the ability to fend off the perceived attacker. Later on, when they encounter the other deserting pirate and The Doctor wants to pursue because he has taken the supplies the Captain retorts: "Never mind the damn supplies. What about my treasure?" When the Captain says that they are making the Doctor walk the plank because they don't have the supplies there is also an air of pragmatism about this, although, the action still doesn't seem just. Like the siren, the Captain doesn't say much, not anything terribly important anyway, and merely asks questions and explains the situation to the new arrivals, most of the time. This is taken to such lengths when his son and Rory are taken by the siren we require the Doctor to gives an expositional profile of the character rather than the character showing any real self-awareness. This particular passage of speech feels rather expositional. We also have one of his shipmates telling the boy that his father has gunned down 1000 innocent men. Assuming that statement to be true, this also breaks the show don't tell rule of storytelling. However, it doesn't quite ring true with the Captains earlier actions which seem to be born out of pragmatism. On the other hand, the same pirate also states that "...the Captain has gone soft..." Again the character seems nothing more than a convenient plot device designed to enable the story. Also, I think the actor cast in the role is very good but too likeable and doesn't convince as a pirate, for me anyway.
The Captain's son, however, cuts the same pirate and to his knowledge has effectively ended the picaroon's life, why? To defend his families honour? The child's actions seem more ruthless than anything his father does on screen. Yet being beyond the bounds of the law these people are clearly living in an honour based society so may be in context this isn't so odd.
The reveal of behind the scenes technology driving the situation rather than anything supernatural should be no great surprise. There is also an 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' feel to it but it feels a bit wasted. Why can the siren not create its own portals rather than relying on reflections? A tiny bubble universe feels a bit wasted rather than a whole new world to explore. 'Amy's Choice' handled reveals about different realities much better. And once again nobody dies in this story which retroactively undermines any previous threat. Not only that the twists of both Captain and siren not being all that bad, a bubble universe and everybody found not to have died prevents this from having much rewatch value as once you know the answers the surprise is gone. News is only new once and you only get one chance to make a first impression.
So, the Captain and the siren and are unconvincing characters and like most of the others do little more than service the plot. The dialogue isn't great and there isn't much new about any this that I can see. The whole thing is really a rather tepid affair. To finish off, though, it's worth noting that a number of studies investigated how juries reach their decision so here are a couple of thoughts for you. The first scenario that I will present is that a drunk driver takes a dangerous curve in the road at high speed and smashes into a tree. Now in an identical scenario where the same car and driver smash into a tree but there is a little girl in front of the tree who is killed instantly a jury would give a harsher sentence to the driver who didn't kill the little girl but committed equally as dangerous actions. To put it another way, if a chief wanted to kill a customer who he knew to have a peanut allergy by putting but in his food but in one universe the customer died of a heart attack while eating the salad and in the other the customer died from the peanuts then in the universe where the customer died of a heart attack the chef would get a lesser sentence because he was deemed not have been responsible for the customer's death. Hang on! They both intended and tried to kill someone! Their actions are identical but the sentences are not. And that I think is part of the problem with the characterisation of the viewpoint character of the Captain. He lets people die but we excuse his motivations. OK, he doesn’t have to be totally black or white but his motivations and apparent redemption aren't persuasive. The excuses aren't convincing and don’t match up with his later portrayal.