Okay. Stop. Stop talking, stop criticising. Stop trying to compare the quality of this episode to that of the last two, in terms of drama, scale and storytelling. It won't do you any good. You're just going to convince yourself that this was rubbish and it really, really wasn't. In fact, The Curse Of The Black Spot is one of the episodes I've enjoyed most since 2005. Not because it's a big dramatic EPIC like The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang or The Impossible Astronaut/Day Of The Moon, but because it was a nice and welcome breather - a bit of a break FROM all that EPICness.
Let me look at it for what it was: a typical Episode Three, stand-alone and 'meant to be a bit of fun'. It certainly lived up to that description for me. I love Pirates anyway and I love Doctor Who, so I was always going to carve out a place in my nerd-heart for this one.
It had a great "monster" in the beautiful Lily Cole as The Siren - both frightening and mesmerising in equal measure. Somehow, this age-old sea-legend was made to feel fresh and interesting. The mysteriousness of Cole's performance made her feel more like a character and less like a "monster of the week". And giving this legend a sci fi twist worked well, I think (although I did guess "the twist" before it happened). It worked on many levels, for me. It was funny, it was good-looking (costumes and locations/sets were mind-blowing) and it packed enough 'emotional punch' to make you care without losing the "Doctor Who Does Swashbuckling" that I so wanted from this episode.
I think it would have worked well as a two part story, but there has been a hot/cold reaction to the story so maybe it's better for most fans that it was stand-alone. But, "those fans", you need to remember that that is what it was! Just a middle of the road, stand alone, good old adventurous romp for the Doctor and his companions. Everyone is so wound up over next week's episode because it's written by Neil Gaiman, indeed so am I, but I fear that next week will be "just a nice romp" too - albeit a great one!
Performance-wise, ...Black Spot was Spot On. There wasn't a single unbelievable performance (something even the series openers suffered from - the actress playing Joy was truly awful, in my opinion). Hugh Bonneville underplayed his Pirate Captain to perfection. There were no Aaaargh's or M'Matey's in sight. Karen Gillan's acting was on top form (I've always thought her good, but even the haters can't criticise her this series) and Arthur Darvill outshone even Matt Smith in terms of humour this week, cementing himself in my mind as my favourite New Who companion, without question. But that's not to say that Matt wasn't on top form too! You could see just how much fun he - and indeed the others - were having throughout.
The Curse Of The Black Spot was never, ever going to please everyone. I know people who hate anything at all to do with pirates and I also know people who have said they would stop watching if Doctor Who ever "did pirates" again. I have a feeling that they'll be watching next week, the hypocrites.
I don't know what there was here to not enjoy! You don't have to love every episode, you don't have to be blown away and left in awe at every little story! This was a Nice Day Out for "Team TARDIS" (except for Rory dying, again). There was enough here to keep even the most critical fan happy, surely? Amy Pond as a pirate? Gawky Rory slobbering all over a sexy, green Lily Cole? Loads of awesome pirates and enough "pirate musts" to ensure a massively knowing smile on my chops, at least!
I gave it 6/10 on Gallifrey Base's rate and review thread after the first viewing. I have watched it twice since, enjoying more each time. If I were to re-score it now? I'd probably give it an 8/10. It suffered from a jumbled pacing, but it had so much to keep me happy. I can't speak for anyone else, but this is nowhere near as bad, in my eyes, as everyone seems to be making out. I'd even go as far as to say it's the sort of episode I could watch over and over again. Just a nice, enjoyable classic-feeling Doctor Who story for a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Bloody good fun, a definite favourite of mine.