After seeing a lot of the headers and hints of commentary about "Curse of the Black Spot," I was fully expecting to consider the entire thing lame, perhaps even "Victory of the Daleks" lame (although I was pretty certain we weren't going to have a replay of "Spaaaace Whaaaale!!!/Beast Below" lame.)
I'm really pleased to say - whilst being fully aware that this may say more about me than about the episode - that I found it sweet, and worth my time. Maybe just barely, and maybe the sweetness was almost too much, and, yes, the nutritional value was next to nil, but worth my time. And the show team is, of course, awaiting my judgment with steno pads in hand. Ahem.
Oh. Wait. Is it ... oh, no, no ... the Meta Monster! It's come for me again!!!
Curse of the Black Spot wasn't written by Moffat, but it reflects one facet of what I think of as the Moffat philosphy, one I find fascinating - and surprisingly endearing even as it's incredibly problematic from a structural and philosophical point of view.
No one really dies in the episode. I began suspecting that would be the case as soon as the first pirate disappeared in a smokey swirl of what could only be transport beam detritus. And I quickly decided that our mysterious lady wasn't picking off the weak and lame because they were easy lunch meat. They all lived. A lonely healer found people to heal after its own people died. A son was reunited with his long-lost father, a father was cured of his gold-lust, and reunited with his men, and a becalmed and abandoned ship found a new crew (whether in our dimension or its own is a minor plot point that's easily ignored.)
I liked it. I shook my head at it, and, as a writer, shuddered at the lack of drama. But as a woman of 55, who has become tired unto death of sickness, and war, blood and evil - and, yes, death - I fell prey to its lure.
I know some folks have derided, or mourned, the no-kill-if-at-all-possible theme that's gradually surfaced in the 11th Doctor's run.
Some have suggested that it devalues the glory of "Just this once, everybody lives" back in S1 of the revived series.
Others point out that when no one dies in a story, perhaps it means there is nothing worth dying, or living, for in that story, that there is no conflict, no dramatic tension, no real story, for that matter, and definitely a written product of inferior worth.
And others argue that when no one dies in a story - or more to the point, when no loss is incurred, when nothing is found to be worth pain, loss or ultimate sacrifice - then that story, and its writer, are rejecting an ultimate reality of our universe. Death is, they point out quite rightly. To refuse to recognize that our lives are lived only inasmuch as they are lived with the understanding of death is to reject reality in a manner far beyond the superficial reality-rejection of fantasy or skiffy (or even fairy tales.)
All of those are valid points.
S5 and, it appears thus far, S6, are operating under what Moffat seems to have decided are the rules of fairy - not necessarily faerie - tales, rather than the rules of grand opera under which RTD's stories and season tended to operate. Or at least he's operating it under what he has decided are fairy tale rules, and certainly the only ones to which he's chosen to pay attention. By which I mean that I think Moffat is clearly trying to redesign his Whoniverse into a somewhat gentler place than it has been forever (and I think we can all agree that the Whoniverse has generally been incredibly bloodthirsty since 1963.)
Moffat doesn't mind frightening people, and he's remarkably good at that. Nor does he always refrain from killing - pity the poor White House Bathroom lady, victim of the Silen
But think about it. His most frightening villains, the Weeping Angels, initially didn't kill you, they simply misplaced you in Time. And when they descended into actual killing, they themselves were punished with erasure, not death. The Silen
Last year, Prisoner Zero didn't kill anyone, it just copied their appearances; the Spaaaace Whaaaale may have eaten the adults it got fed, but it saved the children; the Krafayis was probably misunderstood, killing only by accident and virtue of its blindness.
Back in S4, Moffat refused to let anyone taken by the Vashta Nerada die. He saved them all - improbably, crazily - in a computer. We can debate the worth of that type of life, or living, but it was life of a sort, and it seems to epitomize Moffat's desire to save people. Finally, go all the way back to his original S1 stories, where the villain turns out to be a lonely child, and its apparently-lost victims are not only returned to life, but returned better than they were, or at least with more legs.
Moffat hates death. He seems to hate it with a passion. I don't think he fears death. But he hates it, and he wants to protect people from it, especially children. It's an illogical desire, to be sure, because we none of us can be saved from death. It's also perhaps an immature desire, reflective of someone who has yet to understand or accept, the ultimate reality of our lives.
There's no mistaking the philosophical shortcomings here. And there's no getting around the pitfalls of trying to write drama with that underlying concept as rather sandy bedrock for one's stories.
There are a lot of places I disagree with Moffat. There are things that make me crazy about the man, his own writing,and what his influence as show runner and strong personality might be doing to Doctor Who.
Over reliance on and re-use of his own ideas (Time loops! Paradoxes! Very Clever Finishes!)? Yeah, it's bad, it's really bad. Sloppy story telling? *rolls eyes* Attitudes towards women? Don't get me started - really, Do. Not. Get. Me. Started.
But ... but ....
I'm a mother. I know that I would - illogically, immaturely, foolishly and quite fruitlessly - try to protect my child from hurt and death. I have tried to do that since he was born. Moffat's a father; perhaps that's what is part of what powers his writing, and what hamstrings it as well.
I readily admit that my acceptance of the "nobody dies' philosophy, at least for some, although not all, of the stories I consume, also lies in what I said before. I'm getting old, I'm ill, and I am tired of seeing my age and my illness, and the world's sicknesses, everywhere. I can no longer easily accept it in what I choose to entertain myself with.
That can be a trap. It can lead to consuming nothing more intellectually or spiritually nutritious than, oh, I don't know ..."Touched by an Angel" reruns, I suppose. It can lead to the willing consumption of dramatic pabulum because one is willing to put up with poor quality sham story telling so that one can avoid the pain of loss, of betrayal, of death.
But I'll take that risk occasionally or (as I get older and more tired) more than occasionally. And I can accept it as one of the Moffat quirks I can understand and sympathize with, rather than rage against.
I'm not worried that it's going to kill Doctor Who. Moffat is bright enough, talented enough, and experienced enough in his chosen career to recognize that he can't save everyone all the time without putting mediocrity on the screen. And even if he were that insane, his time with DW will eventually come to an end and someone else, with his or her different worldview and writing philosophy, will take his place. So, yeah, no fears for my beloved show.
If he wants to try to save everyone, he'll fail, but I love him, just a little bit, for trying.
(And sometime, I might actually talk about the actual episode. Maybe)