Doctor Who Season 32, Episode 3: The Black Spot

Pretty garden-variety Doctor Who this week. It’s mostly a stand-alone storyline, with only minimal references to the recurring plot – which is just fine, of course. Unfortunately there’s not much creative ambition on display, though. It’s a historical Earthbound setting, with a boilerplate monster-of-the-week. I don’t know whether it’s budgetary reasons or what, but this new incarnation of “Who” seems to do these stories based in Earth’s past many times more frequently than the original run did. Dammit, the TARDIS can go anywhere and anywhen (though not always where the Doctor wants) – why is it Earth every friggin’ time?

One suspects that this was an episode written with the main purpose of getting the Doctor and Amy into a pirate setting – that seems to be quite the popular milieu at the moment. It’s cool seeing our Amelia swing in on the rigging and wielding a sword, I won’t deny. And there’s a fine performance by outstanding British actor (yawn) Hugh Bonneville as the pirate cap’n. But it never really catches fire – the sci-fi element is introduced in the twist regarding the siren who’s menacing the crew of the ship, and it’s not a bad one, but the whole exercise feels uninspired. This is Doctor Who sleepwalking, to some extent.

We don’t get too much red meat in terms of the recurring plot this week. Amy sees another vision or two, and the Doctor appears strangely off-form – his deductions and his plans aren’t up to his usual standard. Is this a quirk of writing, or a subtle hint that something weird is happening with the character?

The good news: not only does next week’s “The Doctor’s Wife” take us into space for some actual science-fiction, but it’s written by the legendary Neil Gaiman. I’ll be disappointed if this one isn’t a classic.

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