Prequel: A beardy Hugh Bonneville squeezes out a captain’s log, stating that his ship is stranded at sea and that they’re being menaced by a dark, mysterious force. He signs off by telling us he fears he and his entire crew are doomed to die here. It doesn’t make the episode look like much fun, in stark contrast to the Next Time trailer that promised us yo-ho-ho pirate antics like swashbuckling and walking the plank.
Turns out that all that fun stuff happens within the first five minutes, and then it gets very dark very quickly. Things escalate at an alarming pace, as the Siren picks off her victims one after another, and it doesn’t leave any time for us to care about any of the people that are being killed off. The fact that literally everything is dangerous – the slightest cut, bruise, burn or illness – makes things paradoxically less exciting. Why should I care about any of these characters when they could stub their toe and it’d be all over? When the TARDIS goes missing too, the odds seem impossible, and we’re still only twenty minutes in.
The Siren, of course, has the face of Lily Cole, which is a bit strange; one of those guest stars who’s so famous (for things other than acting) that it’s hard to see past the real person. She doesn’t really have much to do, other than prancing around elusively on a wire, and very occasionally making a scary face. The best thing about her as a monster was the way she has the same effect on her victims as half an eccie.
Therefore the main guest star was the aforementioned Huge Bonneville, and his beard. I’d forgotten that Avery was real pirate, until I read it on Wikipedia just now, and the references to him in The Smugglers must have completely passed me by. Turns out he’s a bit of a twat, causing his own son to be taken by the Siren because he couldn’t bear to let go of his stolen gold. This in turn leads to…
THE RORY WILLIAMS DEATH COUNTER: 3. Well, you think it’s a death at first, but it turns out that actually everything’s fine anyway, everyone’s just been transported to another dimension or some shit. And despite Avery doing his best to fuck things up by needlessly shooting at the Siren, it turns out that she was a goody all along. It’s a clever reveal, but it does make for an anti-climactic resolution.
The only remaining snag is that Rory is on the brink of drowning, and I’m wondering whether that moment where you think Amy has failed to resuscitate him counts as death #4. It was definitely around this time that Rory being seemingly dead every other week started to become a thing, and I think it’s this episode that first drew people’s attention to it.
But that all gets sorted, and we end with Huge Bonneville, his full crew and a tiny child literally becoming Space Pirates. It’s all very daft, this episode, and I’m not sure what to make of it. I mean, it’s all sort of fine, but it’s evidently nothing special or particularly memorable – all that I remembered of it in the last six years was Lily Cole titting about not doing much, and I imagine that will be the case when I’ve forgotten about this rewatch too.
Oh yes, and Madame Eye Patch showed up again, and Amy flashed back to the Doctor getting shot, and then the Doctor did another pregnancy test on her. You know how the scan always oscillates between the two outcomes? Does that mean that she’s simultaneously pregnant and not pregnant, like it’s some sort of Schrödinger’s foetus, or does the test just take *ages* to deliver the result? It’s entirely possible that they answered that six years ago and I’ve forgotten…