"Yo ho ho! .....or does nobody actually say that?"
After the twists, turns and mysteries of the last two weeks, the show kicks back with what reviewers of Doctor Who are contractually obliged to call a "romp". The Doctor and the Ponds answer a distress signal and find themselves on a becalmed pirate ship, being menaced by a "stroppy homicidal mermaid", dealing with an unfriendly crew and generally swashing their buckles. Or buckling their swashes... I'm not too good on these nautical terms.
Amy gets to show off her surprisingly impressive sword-fighting skills, much salty dialogue of the "scurvy dog" and "this is mutiny!" ilk is thrown about, and just about every pirate cliche is run up the yardarm. Sadly, it seems much more fun for the cast than the viewer.
The sense of claustrophobia and dread the story calls for is mostly absent and the "funny" lines aren't that funny. Lily Cole is striking as the Siren, but has very little to do and no dialogue, while the reality of her assumed menace turns out to be yet another "automated spaceship programme that doesn't know when to stop" ( see The Empty Child, The Girl In The Fireplace and The Lodger ) which is a Nu-Who trope that's definitely outstayed its welcome. Oh, and Rory nearly dies. Again.
But the story isn't all that bad. There are some lovely scenes between Matt Smith and Hugh Bonneville, as pirate captain Avery, Karen Gillan looks cute in her tricorn hat, and Arthur Darvill again shows off his comic abilities as well as providing some real pathos in the later scenes.
This story is obviously intended to provide a breather between the intense first story and Neil Gaiman's much-awaited episode next week. As such it could only pale in comparison, but Who's
( relative ) failures are more entertaining than many shows' successes, so I'll rate this episode:
3 out of 5 Bow Ties. Or pirate hats.