SYNOPSIS: "The Doctor must solve the mystery of the disappearance of a pirate crew at the hands of a beautiful Siren." (bbc.co.uk)
Following the deep, dark two part opening episode (reviews here and here) to this series of 'Doctor Who', 'The Curse Of The Black Spot' feels like it's treading water. Almost literally, as the Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan), and Rory (Arthur Darvill) find themselves on a becalmed pirate ship being attacked by a Siren (Lily Cole).
The pirate ship is led by Hugh Bonneville, perhaps most famous for his recent 'Downton Abbey' stint, whose crew are being attacked by the Siren. The Siren senses injury or illness, marking its victims with a black spot on the palm of their hand before zapping them away - with the return of Dr Manhattan/'Watchmen' effects from 'The Impossible Astronaut'.
Lily Cole is portrayed as a Siren with a neon glow, which I suppose was meant to appear hypnotic but mostly made me think of The Simpsons episode when Mr Burns was mistaken for an alien. Having said that, I think the digital effects team did a decent job with their limited budget anyway - certainly, the special effects have improved greatly over the recent series.
Cole might have been perceived as the weak link in this episode prior to viewing but she didn't really have much to do. Indeed, the weakest link for me was the anticlimactic "death of a major character" scene - which they've now fashioned in two of the three opening episodes of this series. Aside from that, 'The Curse Of The Black Spot' plodded along nicely.
I was hoping for less of a one-off romp and more of a series continuation but there were a couple of moments which reminded us of the wider plotlines involving Amy's pregnancy and the Doctor's death. I'm a little concerned that these episodes might all end up being a figment of Amy's imagination though. Which would be really rubbish.
Watching the episode, I was also reminded that 'Doctor Who' is family entertainment - "alien bogies", cried the Doctor at one point. Despite my disappointment at 'The Curse Of The Black Spot' effectively being series filler, I guess it was important to have an episode like this to appeal to the younger viewers after the preceding darkness.
This week might have been standard fare but the preview for next week's episode looks suitably epic in comparison. And with Neil Gaiman on writing duties, I'm almost expecting great things from the intriguingly-titled, 'The Doctor's Wife'. Geronimo?
Watch 'The Curse Of The Black Spot' on BBC iPlayer until 18:59, Saturday 11 June '11.