Sunday, March 29, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: The Curse of the Black Spot

Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved.  I don't mean liked.  I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time.  It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode.  I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things.  I mean give a bona-fide negative review.  Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express).  Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required.  I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut.  What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying.  I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 3 of The Nerdist as Whore: The Curse of the Black Spot.  My 'translations' are in red.

After the grandiose and often confusing two-part opening to the new series of Doctor Who,
I didn't understand it.  It didn't make sense.  However, I don't like to think while watching all the pretty colors, and I'm paid to promote this stuff, so no worries.
I was absolutely looking forward to “The Curse of the Black Spot,” not simply because it looked like a bit of fun, but because I’m always excited to see The Doctor & Co. go places we haven’t seen before (at least not for a super long time). For all the fun and promise of the prequel and trailer, and having a decent premise, the episode itself felt strangely underwhelming.

I was very disappointed with this dribble.  I was lied to in the trailer.  They took a good idea and totally blew it. I hated it.  I think it was junk.  I'm just allowed to say it. 

The pirate ship setting was a good one, though clearly a ploy to capitalize on the worldwide love of pirates,
Even an idiot like me knew they were ripping off the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which I love and which totally make sense to me, even At World's End. 
 and the setup was very strong; a small group of people in the middle of nowhere being picked off one by one by a monster. It harkens back to one of my favorite stories from the classic era, “Horror of Fang Rock,” wherein a small lighthouse island is besieged by a shape-shifting alien.

Showing my Classic Who cred with name-dropping an old Doctor Who story.

The concept of the Siren, or sailors succumbing to the Siren’s song, has perpetuated in myths throughout history, so including it was a no-brainer.

Showing I'm educated by pointing out that Curse of the Black Spot is drawing from common themes and legends...or showing Doctor Who's lack of originality.

I’d also like to point out how pleased I was we didn’t see a Kraken. I’ve had it up to here with Krakens.

Yeah, even I, easily pleased, hated the remake of Clash of the Titans. 

The performances were good. Matt Smith’s got this weird twitchy thing now that he didn’t have in the earlier parts of series 5 but he’s sort of, I guess, sprightly; he titters about.

Matt Smith was terrible.  Flapping his arms like an unhinged bird, Smith looked like an idiot.  He's made the Eleventh Doctor into an idiot.  He's just all jumping around with no rhyme or reason.  At first it was cute, funny, maybe even clever.  Now it's gotten too distracting, too annoying, and too stupid to believe. 

It’s interesting.

It's terrible.

Anyway, he was good.

He was bad.

Arthur Darvill got to do a bit of comic stuff, which he does very nicely, though I’m getting a little annoyed with Rory becoming the Kenny of Doctor Who.

I'm VERY annoyed with Rory becoming the Kenny of Doctor Who.  He's starting to look like a joke.

Is it possible that we could not pretend that he dies anymore? All tension is lost when you’ve seen it four times already.

Rory Pond (nee Williams) has been 'killed off' four times already?  How quickly one loses count.  I counted only three myself.  We no longer believe it when we see Rory die, so it's a plot point of diminishing returns that's run its course, but which Moffat and Company will run into the ground and then some.

Karen Gillan got to do her patented “I’m-a-hot-tough-girl-ooh-aren’t-you-all-impressed” thing, which I also enjoyed.

Karen Gillan is hot, so I don't care if Amy Pond isn't developing as a character.

She’s definitely grown as an actress since the last series, and I thought she was good then.

She wasn't that good in the beginning, but she's hot, so she's grown on me.

She does a lot more with subtle facial expressions now. Toward the end of the episode, when the Doctor gets something gross on his hands (you know what it is) and he has a hissy about it, he wipes it on Amy’s pirate coat and she gives a very funny, underplayed look that conveyed both her disgust at what he’s done and her total expectation of him doing something like that.

Her acting is now just to make faces and look pissed off, but did I mention Karen Gillan is hot?

The supporting cast was, unfortunately, a little thin.

The acting was pretty awful all round.

With the exception of Hugh Bonneville as the pirate captain, who was quite good, the other members of the cast were largely forgettable;

The only big name they got for this was Lord Grantham.  I don't know who anyone else is and I'm sure this will be the highlight of their careers, which makes me kind of sad.

granted, they didn’t have much in the way of characters to play, but were really just Spot-fodder.

The script was pretty lousy, so even if they got the Royal Shakespeare Company there was nothing they could do with it.

Oscar Lloyd, who played young Toby (there’s always a Toby, isn’t there?),

We got clichés in this episode.

and Lily Cole, who played the Siren, were okay.

They'll get Cons out of this, so they've got that.

The only other character who could have been halfway interesting was the ship’s first mate, who strangely disappears halfway through the episode. One minute he’s there with a spot on his hand, the next he’s gone and we never saw what happened to him.

The script forgot all about characters and was jumbled and confused.  Still, I don't know who the guy is, so that's OK.   

That, friends, is called “poor editing.”

That, friends, is called "poor writing".  That, friends, is called "poor producing".  Boy did this suck. 

The direction, by new director to the series Jeremy Webb, was passable.

The direction was lousy.

It’s definitely hard to follow up five episodes in a row of Toby Haynes, so I give credit to Webb for doing as good a job as he did.

Curse of the Black Spot wasn't as pretty and colorful as what came before, but not even Martin Scorsese could have saved this. 

The ship set itself was very nice and the costumes, designed by legendary costume designer Barbara Kidd, who designed for the Pertwee, Baker, and Davison eras, were exceptional.

When I'm reduced to complimenting the art direction and the costumes, you know I'm stretching to find something, anything, to praise in this chaotic pile of (garbage).  Having Barbara Kidd reminds me how good the Classic Era was.  That makes me sad in so many ways.

I wonder how long the meeting was when they decided to put Amy in a pirate outfit as quickly as possible. Maybe 30 seconds?

They just wanted a great cosplay opportunity, and for boys of all ages to have another Karen Gillan sex fantasy scenario.

The script, by Stephen Thompson, uses all of the typical pirate movie tropes, including the plank, stowaways, mutinies, treasure, storms, people going overboard, beards…

It was all so cliché and predictable to where it was sad to see how unoriginal Curse of the Black Spot was. 

were there any eye patches? Oh yeah…

We HAD to have Moffat's season-long arc pop in there somewhere because if nothing else, Steven Moffat HAS to tie almost every story into his own, even if it wasn't needed in this or any other particular story. 

Regardless, Thompson throws all the piratey stuff at us and then throws the Doctor in the middle of that.

It's "The Doctor Meets a Pirate Movie Parody".

I think it’s important for the pseudo-historical episodes that the audience be familiar with the surroundings so that the Doctor’s not trying to explain the supernatural as well as the circumstantial.

NuWhovians are pretty stupid intellectually, so they need something they'll understand.  You can't have them set a story in medieval France, pre-Columbian Mexico, or pre-Roman Britain because they won't get the references, so they need something more simple. 

However, we get to the point where we can predict all of the characters’ actions.

We know what's going to happen because this story is so pathetically predictable.

It does take away some of the tension when you go, “Oh, this guy’s going to mutiny now. Yep, there he goes, mutinying away.” The thing I sometimes object to with Doctor Who is that everything always has to be explained by aliens or alien spacecraft.

There's too much science-fiction on Doctor Who, and not enough fantasy.  However, the fact that I said that I object to something on Doctor Who is already science-fiction.  Even the historic stories have to have a science-fiction basis, except for things like The Aztecs or The Reign of Terror, but those are in black-and-white, so no one really watches those anymore.

I understand it’s a sci-fi show,

I don't understand why they have to put sci-fi in Doctor Who.  I thought it was fantasy.

and I have no problem with the threats always being alien-based,

I have a problem with the threats always being alien-based.

but it seems too often lately they have to go aboard a new spaceship.

Why can't they go somewhere like the past or another planet?  Oh, right: NuWhovians would find that too confusing.

So the Silurians were the indigenous people on Earth,

Showing my Classic Who cred, even if Silurians would object massively (or to use Anderson's terminology, 'hardly', to being called 'people').

the Silence have been around for millions of years, and all manner of random aliens in sophisticated vehicles are at various places on the planet at any given moment? We can’t possibly be that interesting, or near anything that important. How self-centered are we that we think if aliens existed, and probably they do somewhere, that they’d look at us and go, “yep, that’s where I’m-a goin’!”

NuWho has too many Earth-centered stories, which is already bad enough, but they're always "Earth being invaded" stories.  Doctor Who has gotten hopelessly predictable but I'm still going to ride this crazy train. 

At any rate, it’s much easier to believe a lone alien or small group of them crash or get stranded, but huge ships can’t be all over the place all the time; they’d start fighting each other, or at least bumping into each other.

Boy, Curse of the Black Spot was so bad it had me think logically, which is the last thing Doctor Who should do.

That’s an episode I’d like to see: one where there’s the actual alien threat, but throughout, we see them getting in the way of all the other alien mini-threats that are happening all the time. So not only does the Doctor have to stop the big menace, but he has to placate and subdue a bunch of other, just-visiting aliens who act like hotel guests getting bad service. Someone get the Moff Man on the horn and pitch that idea to him. I can have it written in like a week.

Please Steven Moffat, LOVE ME!  LOVE ME!  My fanfic is as good as yours!

Back to the matter at hand, “The Curse of the Black Spot” felt very much like a diversion, probably purposely so.

It was forgettable, brain-dead, and a filler for bigger and better things.  In short, a total waste of time and even I can't quite dress it up as much as I'm paid to.

The original plan, from what I understand, was to have Mark Gatiss’ episode third, but likely his is heavier and they needed a lighter one, so Gatiss’ was moved to episode nine, which will air in the fall, and they had to commission and shoot Thompson’s episode toward the end of the shooting schedule and stick it in.

Mark Gatiss is a genius, and his episode is probably going to be my favorite Doctor Who story until the next one.  We can't have a continuing series of masterpiece episodes, so they had to move my paymaster's unimpeachable story to heighten my excitement and put this pile of (crap) in.  It was stuck in really fast and it shows all over, but there's no way I'M going to tell you how bad it is. 

As such, it kind of felt like a distraction.

It was too dumb even for me.

It certainly was not a bad episode,

It certainly was a bad episode.

in fact I even enjoyed watching it on second viewing,

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!

The costumes were pretty, and I like pretty costumes.  That, and Karen Gillan is hot.  In many ways it's the perfect NuWho story: brainless, frenetic, and one that requires no thinking. 

but it was kind of just a bit of fluff to hold us over until next week when we get to see Neil Gaiman’s episode, something I’ve been looking forward to for two years now.

I am blessed to be surrounded by geniuses: Moffat, Gatiss, Gaiman.  What did I do to get so lucky?  These guys are better than those overrated writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Shakespeare, or Edgar Allan Poe.

And now, the trailer and two clips for episode 4, “The Doctor’s Wife.”


Can’t wait for next week!

NEXT TIME: Aragon vs. Anderson: The Doctor's Wife

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