Boob Tube Breakdown – Doctor Who: Beware of the paper cut

Doctor Who: Series 6

“The Curse of the Black Spot”

Aired: May 7, 2011

Writer: Steve Thompson

Director: Jeremy Webb

“If something’s going to kill you, it’s nice that it drops you a note to remind you.”

– The Doctor

After two back-to-back intense episodes filled with lots of set up for the coming season, this week we were treated to a fun, harmless little throwaway episode that seems to exist mainly because the writers realized how much fun it would be to stick The Doctor on a pirate ship.

While it may not go down as one of the greatest Who episodes ever, they certainly delivered on the pirate front. There was everything you would hope for in a pirate story – stolen treasure, a ghost ship, mutiny, plank walking, a young stowaway and, of course, swashbuckling Amy Pond taking on the entire crew with nothing but a cutlass and a heaping dose of moxie.

What helped sell the episode was Karen Gillan’s commitment to the role. In addition to being absolutely adorable, Gillan completely throws herself into these scenes, no matter what is asked of her. In the first episode of this season, she really went all out in her agony after The Doctor was shot (and that agony is on display again this week when she thinks she’s failed to resuscitate Rory). She seemed to really enjoy playing a pirate, which made watching Amy Pond take on the entire crew single-handedly so much fun. (The way the scene was constructed was also really smart – since the crew was scared to death of getting even a tiny cut, it helped sell the idea that Amy could actually take them all on at once.)

It was also a really strong episode for Arthur Darvill as Rory. Darvill has always in some ways reminded me of Alan Tudyk (Wash from Serenity) and this week as he was intoxicated by the Siren’s spell, I thought he was on par with Tudyk’s great, drugged up performance in Death at a Funeral. Requesting Amy dress like a pirate more often, wishing he had a beard and then getting in trouble for fawning a bit too much over the Siren were all incredibly funny moments. And I couldn’t stop laughing at his delivery of “Cuddle me, shipmate.”

Darvill was then able to shift gears at the end for the emotional moment where he must convince Amy to pull the plug in order to save his life. It was touching when he told her it had to be her because she would never give up. A bit melodramatic, but somehow both actors made it work. (Even though Gillan’s CPR technique was so sloppy that I found myself thinking Rory might have made a huge miscalculation there.)

Matt Smith was really great, as well, but frankly that goes without saying. Also, I love that he got to wear yet another fun hat this week …

(I’d say pirate hats rank somewhere between stetsons and fezzes on the coolness scale.)

The guest stars in this episode were really solid as well.

Lily Cole was perfect casting as the Siren – she has such a unique look and such a grace to her movements that she sold the part quite well. And, I’m not sure what they did to her to pull off the effect, but when she turned red and hulked out, it was truly disturbing.

And Hugh Bonneville was really great as Captain Avery. He was able to effortlessly straddle the line between hero and villain so that you stayed sympathetic to him even after you saw that crown roll out of his jacket. By the end, I found myself hoping that the next Doctor Who spinoff would be the intergalactic adventures of Henry Avery, Space Pirate.

So overall, a really fun episode with all of the piratey goodness you would hope for. It’s not an episode you’ll really remember a few weeks from now, but it was a bit of harmless fun nonetheless. Plus, while on the surface it came across as just a mere palate cleanser after two really dense episodes, I definitely think there was some important foreshadowing going on in this one, which I will delve into in this week’s …

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff

When the episode started, I found myself worrying that I wasn’t really going to have anything to talk about in this section this week. Boy was I wrong.

First of all, we got the return of the creepy, one-eyed woman from last week. She once again appears to Amy through a slot in a door, this time telling Amy “Doing fine, stay calm” before disappearing once again.

Last week, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this mystery lady, but I actually think she’s, in an odd way, tied to what’s going on in this episode. And I think it all has to do with the Multiple Branching Universe Theory (or, for comic books fans, what’s known as the multiverse).

This week, The Doctor explains that two universes are coexisting on the same plane, causing a temporal rift. The Siren is able to go from one universe to the next through any mirrored surface, which act as gateways.

Multiple dimensions are something we’ve seen on Doctor Who before, so the concept should be somewhat familiar to all of you. David Tennant’s run with Rose Tyler ended up doing quite a bit with parallel dimensions, including ultimately giving Rose her own half-human Doctor clone to live happily ever after with in another universe. But in case you are a little hazy on how the multiverse concept works, I actually think the explanation Owlman gives in the DC Animated film Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (which I discuss further here) is the simplest and most straightforward one I’ve ever come across:

“Welcome to Earth Prime. Before there was thought, there was this place. One earth, with a single history. But with the coming of man came the illusion of free will. And with that illusion came chaos. With every choice we make, we literally create a world. History branches in two – creating one earth where we made the choice and a second where we didn’t. That’s the secret of the universe, you know? Billions of people making billions of choices, creating infinite earths. Some so similar to each other you could spend a lifetime searching for any distinction. Others so radically different, they defy comprehension.”

In this Doctor Who episode, we got two radically different parallel universes. The world that the Siren and the aliens inside the spaceship came from seems quite different from our own. But I believe that as the season unfolds, we are going to find out that there is another universe intersecting with ours – one that is actually quite similar.

At this point, that’s what makes the most sense in my mind. And it would shed some light on a few of the biggest questions lingering right now, such as:

Where does the one-eyed woman come from? If she is from another dimension, perhaps similar to the way the Siren could access our world through mirrors, she can access it through doorways. And she seems to be using them to keep tabs on Amy.

Is Amy pregnant? The TARDIS can’t seem to decide – it keeps fluctuating between yes and no. Perhaps somehow she is simultaneously pregnant and not pregnant – pregnant in one dimension and not pregnant in another. Amy could somehow be stuck between these two worlds – perhaps she is imprisoned, impregnated and being monitored in the other dimension and is somehow able to access that Amy Pond’s consciousness in this world. (Heavy stuff to think about, I know.)

How are Moffat and company getting out of the whole “Doctor being killed” storyline? Perhaps The Doctor we saw gunned down is really The Doctor from this parallel dimension somehow trapped in our world and he needs to be gunned down in order to close up the temporal rift. If that’s the case, then perhaps the person inside the space suit is none other than The Doctor himself.

(Although the idea that River guns him down and that’s the crime she is imprisoned for – which Becca suggested in the comments section last week – is a rather intriguing way to go as well.)

I may be way off on this idea, but I have a feeling that’s where we might be headed. So, at the very least, keep all of this in the back of your mind as you continue to watch this season unfold.

And another thing …

  • Not too much more to add about this week’s episode, but one random bit that bothered me was the scene where The Doctor and Captain Avery fled the TARDIS. I understand that it was acting strange and they weren’t sure where it was going to end up, but if you are The Doctor, isn’t it better to just go wherever it takes you instead of risking being stranded on that pirate ship forever without your time machine?
  • Other than that, let me just say that I am incredibly excited for next week’s episode, which was written by Neil Gaiman. He has written one of my favorite books of all time (American Gods) and one of my favorite Batman comics ever (“Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?”), so I’m really curious to see what he does with the keys to the TARDIS.

Gratuitous Amy Pond photo of the week

[Insert your own “booty” joke here.]

Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com.

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Comments (1)
  1. Joelle May 11, 2011

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