Dear Steven Moffat: The Curse of the Black Spot

Dear Steven,

Watching tonight’s Doctor Who made me think that you’re not so different from my Uncle Squashcourt. I don’t know what did it, perhaps it was his cruel moniker and lifetime of parlaying with ridicule, an affliction that emboldened a man and informed an attitude, but he was a risk taker; a man who’d bet the house on a whim and be damned.

This outlook brought him down on several occasions. He lost his wife in a poker game and his foot on one spin of the roulette wheel, yet he persisted. His ironic death at the wheel of a boat he won in craps, the bastard scuffing an octopus and careering into a reef, just underlined what we already knew; he was consequence blind – my mother went further, calling him ‘a tosser in stupid trousers’.

In choosing Steve Thompson’s imaginarium as an incubator for tonight’s instalment, you showed a similar devil may care disregard for safety. After all, wasn’t Thompson the dude who penned the unsuccessful second episode of Sherlock, sometimes referred to as ‘the pause for breath and get on with other things while you wait for the exciting series conclusion’ episode? I suppose part of you thought that episode 3 is traditionally filler anyway, you know, a coffee between courses instalment, and in this case there was reason to believe it’d be as much; Mr Gaiman’s contribution is next week and we’d just enjoyed a monster two-part opening, making us porn stars for a fortnight, yet this episode was a pleasant surprise.

As the scene was set, an old ship on a sea of fog, I told myself this was going to be the TV equivalent of a sea shanty, an atmospheric but ultimately whimsical experience that nourished the senses but didn’t tell any story of substance. Well, I was right really but as it went on it did start to grip, like a whelk to my heart if you like.

I found myself gradually drawn into Thompson’s world of pirates and sexy sea monsters and was pleasantly surprised by the surfeit of ideas on offer, not to mention the twist that married science fiction to folk lore; that’s the shit Steven, that’s the sort of fugue that satisfies both sections of the audience – the fantasists and the geeks.

I don’t know what you thought Steven, because you never tell me do you – you don’t answer my calls, you don’t respond to the knocks on your bedroom window in the early hours of the morning and you seldom indulge me when I have myself posted to your office. Still, I thought this portion of Gallifreyan gallivanting, rather than bringing on the TV equivalent of rickets, stretched the viewer with some excellent moments. Amongst them, was the appearance of Lily Cole as the sexy siren.

This character finally gave Murray Gold the chance to join the cast as her singing voice and what a bonus that the script called for a tune that aped the composer’s style. I mean, what if Thompson had wrote – ‘The siren opens her mouth and a sound like an intermittent car honk over a rumba beat bleats out’? Maybe he did and Gold crossed it out, I suppose we’ll never know.

In any event there were nice moments aplenty, well, a few; I enjoyed Steven Seagal’s classic movie, Marked for Death, being name checked. Is there a possibility of working in other titles in future episodes? Surely in a time travel show you can find a use for Half Past Dead? The Doctor embracing the TARDIS as his loved one was a nice touch, and with the revelation about Cole’s true nature, it was quite an experience to watch a programme that rehabilitated Typhoid, after all who wouldn’t want to be stuck with Lily for an eternity?

As I assume it was done under your auspices, I think we should talk about Rory. I don’t like to, but he’s starting to give me the fear. Now last week I wrote to you to say that I was tired of being teased with his death, it’s not good for my mood. Every week I’m briefly elated, only to be brought down like a couple of testicles. Rory, it seems, is both the universe’s luckiest and unluckiest man. Week after week he is killed and yet, he survives, and not only that, he gets Amy to sit over him, smooching his face. It’s like you’ve sent a missive to your writers with the instruction, ‘insert Whitfield woe-churn scene’. Will this feckless bore ever die? In the first instance he thinks Lily Cole, though magnificent, is better looking than his wife. This tells us he’s insane. Secondly, every word from his gormless mouth is like a verbal belly flop. Can’t we just vaporise him and call it a day? Couldn’t they get a space-divorce? C’mon, Steven, I’ve earned it, surely?

So, a couple of teases for the series overall; there was the now obligatory “arc scene” in which the grand narrative is revived so we don’t forget it. I wondered if the Doctor’s mention of multi-universes existing in the same space, with the scene in which Amy’s temporarily looking at the door of an asylum cell, plus her half- pregnancy, was a hint that she’s currently existing in two places. Could one of them be Gravesend or aren’t you that cruel? Steven, what the fuck is going on?

Anyway, I’m excited about next week, as are most people and I can’t even read, so I have no idea whether Neil Gaiman is any good or not. Until next week m’hearty! No, I have no idea what that means.

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

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