The Curse of the Black Spot (TV story)

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The Curse of the Black Spot was the third episode of series 6 of Doctor Who.

It featured the long-forgotten character Henry Avery, mentioned in the First Doctor story The Smugglers, and gave an explanation as to what happened to him and his crew. The "Eye Patch Lady" also appeared again, in the second of what would become a series of brief, foreboding check-ups on Amy Pond as she travelled with the Doctor.


The TARDIS is marooned onboard a 17th century pirate ship whose crew is being attacked by a mysterious and beautiful sea creature. Becalmed and beset by cabin fever, the pirates have numerous superstitious explanations for the Siren's appearance. The Eleventh Doctor has other ideas, but as his theories are disproved and every plan of escape is thwarted, he must work to win the trust of the implacable Captain Henry Avery and uncover the truth behind the pirates' supernatural fears — and he must work quickly, for some of his friends have already fallen under the Siren's spell.


On a becalmed ship called the Fancy, a man with a minor cut is brought to the captain, Henry Avery. Avery declares that he's a "dead man" after discovering a black spot on the man's palm. The man grabs a gun and flees outside as a woman can be heard singing on the deck. A few minutes later, he can be heard screaming as the song cuts to a stop. The crew departs the cabin to investigate, with Avery remarking that the disappearance is the same as all the others. As a banging is heard below deck, a wooden grille is pushed open to reveal the Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory.

Amy challenges the pirates.

The trio is brought to Avery's cabin, where the Doctor reveals that they picked up the ship's distress calls; the crew, however, insists that they made no such calls. When the Doctor compares the time travellers to sailors, they are held at gunpoint by Avery and accused of being stowaways. The captain, knowing there is too little water to sustain all of them until the wind picks up, orders the Doctor and Rory to walk the plank while commanding Amy to the scullery. She is shoved below deck, where she discovers trunks of pirate garb and weaponry. As the Doctor is prepared to jump into the water, Amy reappears, brandishing a sword, frightening the crew, who do not wish to be injured. One crew member advances on her to get the sword away from her, but she puts up a fight, accidentally cutting his hand. He explains that she has killed him, prompting her to call him a "baby" for overreacting. A second fight ensues and Amy drops the sword, accidentally cutting Rory as well. Black spots appear on both of the men's palms, prompting Rory to ask the Doctor what's happening.

The woman's voice is heard yet again, charming Rory and the wounded pirate and turning them into babbling fools. A ghostly woman bubbles up from the becalmed water and slowly advances on the crew, extending her hand to Rory and the pirate. The pirate steps forward and is instantly vaporised upon touching her. Rory also approaches her, but Amy steps between them, threatening the woman — who turns an angry red, hisses, and throws Amy across the deck. The crew hurries below deck, followed by the time travellers. Avery refers to the woman as a Siren and says she has been taking every injured crew member, whether the wound is large or small. They all believe that the ship is cursed, which the Doctor responds to with some derision.

Avery does not believe that the TARDIS is truly the Doctor's "ship", and levels his pistol at him, demanding that he make it "sail". The Doctor, however, feels that they're merely fighting over who's in charge. Another crewmember realises that a leech has bitten him on the leg, and they all scramble to remove themselves from the still water as the black spot appears on the man's hand. All of a sudden, the Siren appears and takes the man, allowing the Doctor to deduce that she is using water as a portal; therefore, they must make for the driest room on the ship — the armoury. Arriving there, they discover Toby, a young boy who is revealed to be Avery's son. The boy stowed away on his father's ship, wanting to meet the man his mother described as an "honourable Navy captain" before she died the previous year. However, he is very ill, and soon reveals a black spot on the palm of his hand. Because he possesses no injuries, the Doctor realises that the Siren is coming for the sick as well as the wounded.

The TARDIS gets "towed".

Avery and the Doctor go to the TARDIS, where Avery quickly adapts to the machine's extraterrestrial equipment by comparing them to the functions of his own ship. Meanwhile, the boatswain and Mulligan — the only remaining crew members — reveal their plan to leave the ship with Avery's treasure, thus informing Toby that his father is a pirate. Still loyal, Toby grabs a sword and cuts the boatswain's hand, stranding him in the armoury with the others. Mulligan, however, leaves anyway. Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor realises that the TARDIS cannot leave because it can't sense the plane it's supposed to be flying on. Abruptly, it begins to dematerialise, and with no clue as to its destination, the Doctor and Avery are forced to flee.

On their way back to the armoury, the Doctor and Avery run into Mulligan, who has stolen all of Avery's treasure and is preparing to leave the ship. The two give chase, but Mulligan manages to lock himself in a small cabin room, where he burns his hand upon lighting a match. The Doctor and Avery listen as he is taken by the Siren. Entering the room, the Doctor and Avery realise that there is no water present, thus, the Siren doesn't only use water as a portal, but all reflective surfaces. Remembering that Avery gave Toby his medallion, they rush back to the armoury, where the Doctor blows air on the medallion to fog the surface. With no TARDIS, they realise they have no other option but to sit and wait for the seas to kick up again.

The Eye Patch Lady looks at Amy through the hatch.

As everyone sleeps, Amy sees the woman with the eyepatch staring at her through a hatch in the side of the ship, however, the hatch disappears. She goes to Avery's cabin, where the Doctor stands staring out the window and is prepared to tell him of the woman when he interrupts her, questioning whether or not she feels as though she is being watched. Suddenly, a storm breaks, and everyone heads to the deck to lift the sail. In the chaos, a crown falls out of Avery's jacket, even though the Doctor had previously ordered Avery to rid the ship of all the treasure so that they might limit the Siren's means of reaching them. The Siren appears, taking Toby, but the Doctor is able to throw the crown overboard before she can go after Rory. Nevertheless, Rory is knocked overboard and begins to drown. Though Amy prepares to jump in after him, the Doctor explains that Rory will die unless they let the Siren take him. He pulls the lid off a bucket of still water and orders the woman to go save him. The Doctor realises that their only means of reuniting with their loved ones is to prick their fingers and let the Siren take them as well. They do so, and the Siren reappears. They all touch her hand, instantly blacking out.

They wake on the floor of an invisible alien spaceship, which the Doctor quickly deduces is taking up the same space as the Fancy, lending credence to his previous belief that they were all being watched; every window on the spaceship is a portal that leads to the Fancy. Amy realises that the distress signal they answered was coming from the spaceship, not the Fancy. As they explore, they discover the skeletons of the alien ship's original crew members (who wear uniforms bearing the lettering "D.I.H.S."), with the Doctor ascertaining that they all died years ago from an airborne disease from Earth.

The Siren prepares to "sterilise" germs.

Eventually, they discover the sickbay, where Avery's crew — plus Rory, Toby, and the TARDIS — are being kept, hooked up to life support machines. When Amy tries to unhook Rory, the Siren appears and puts him back to sleep. The Doctor realises that the Siren is not a demon, but a virtual doctor who has been caring for the injured crew. However, she has no means of treating them and can only put them on life support to save them. Amy again tries to help Rory, but the Siren won't let her near him; it is not until Amy proclaims that he is her husband that the Siren extends her hand, with a glowing yellow ring forming around it. The Doctor orders Amy to take her hand, thus signing the contract and accepting all responsibility for Rory's further well-being. She does so, but they quickly realise that Rory cannot be taken off life support. In doing so, he will drown, as he would have done earlier when he fell overboard.

Rory is sure that Amy can save him and instructs her on how to perform CPR. Meanwhile, the Doctor reveals to Avery that Toby has typhoid fever, and if he were to be removed from the ship, he would only have a few months left to live. Remembering that the alien spaceship needs a captain, Avery volunteers for the position so that he may continue to look after his son. Bidding Avery goodbye, the Doctor and Amy bring a choking Rory back to the TARDIS, where Amy begins to perform CPR. Though it appears futile at first, Rory eventually recovers and lovingly embraces his wife.

Captain Avery and his crew in their newly acquired ship.

The alien spaceship soars off into space, with Avery in the captain's seat and Toby and his crew at his side headed for the Dog Star.

In the TARDIS, Amy and Rory say goodnight to the Doctor, who responds by referring to Amy as "Amelia". Amy notes that he only does this when he's worried about her. The Doctor retorts that he always worries about her, leading Amy to remember his impending death and admit that the feeling is mutual. As they depart the console room, Rory reminds her that she cannot tell the Doctor about what happens at Lake Silencio in the future. The Doctor scans Amy for pregnancy again, with the readings still flickering between positive and negative.



General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

Jay Harley was credited under their deadname as assistant director.


Fashion and clothing[[edit]]




  • The Doctor tries to use the sonic screwdriver to open wooden doors and barrels multiple times.
  • Avery compares the TARDIS' atom accelerator to the wheel on his vessel, the Fancy.


  • Steve Thompson was inspired by a popular Cornish legend about "the Mermaid of Zennor", which apparently dated from the fifteenth century. The story concerned a mermaid with a beautiful singing voice who tempted a human man to come live with her in the sea. It is associated with an ancient chair bearing a carving of a mermaid, which can still be found at St Senara's Church in Zennor.
  • The episode was made in light of the success of Pirates of the Caribbean. Funnily enough, the fourth film, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, came out the same year.
  • The Black Spot being a pirate's death sentence comes from Treasure Island.

Story notes[[edit]]

  • This episode was supposed to air in the autumn half of the series, but was reordered, along with TV: The Doctor's Wife being fourth instead of third and Mark Gatiss' episode being ninth instead of fourth. This was because Steven Moffat felt Gatiss' episode was too dark.[1]
  • This episode's original title was Siren and was the ninth episode of series six. In the first draft, the story was set on dry land (Cornwall) in case the show couldn't get a boat. (REF: The Brilliant Book 2012)[2]
  • Writer Steve Thompson was unaware of Avery's mention in The Smugglers. He'd simply looked through his son's book about pirates and picked Avery because of his mysterious disappearance. (REF: The Brilliant Book 2012)
  • The DVD commentary for the later episode A Good Man Goes to War indicates that the decision to reorder the episodes was made before production ended on Black Spot, as according to the commentary the brief sequence featuring Avery and Toby that appears in the mid-season finale was shot during production of this episode.
  • A prequel for this story was released online.[3]
  • Lily Cole is credited as "The Siren" on-screen, and as "Sea Siren" in Radio Times.
  • This episode is notable both in that none of the guest cast die and there is no villain of the piece. Excluding minisodes, Comic Relief specials, etc., the only other episode of the revived series to have both these feats is Hide and Twice Upon a Time which, like The Curse of the Black Spot, had a supposed villain, turn out to be a harmless misunderstanding.
  • As with this story, Earth-born diseases were the bane of the aliens in The War of the Worlds.
  • The unique incidental music for this episode, "Deadly Siren" is reused thrice after this episode; the adventurous swashbuckling-themed section of the track plays when Captain Avery and his son make a brief cameo in A Good Man Goes to War, and the part of the track where the Siren vocally sings is played during WC: The Making of the Gunslinger as well as in TV: The Night of the Doctor.
  • The exterior of the pirate ship was filmed at a dock in Cornwall, while the lower decks were built from a set at the studio. The principal challenge to film at the dock was to ensure the audience would not see it. The crew set up smoke machines to simulate fog. To create the storm the crew used wind and rain machines, the latter of which went through 15,000 litres of water.
  • The episode was also made to allow the Doctor and his companions to "kick back and have some fun."
  • Anticipating they would get soaked, the cast present on the deck wore dry suits underneath their clothes.
  • A significant continuity error was introduced in editing, when the removal of scenes involving the Boatswain. He was manacled to the ship's bulkhead after being wounded, where he spitefully revealed the truth about Captain Avery's pirate ways to Toby. The Boatswain later used a sword to break the rusty chains which bound him but, in doing so, he created a reflective surface through which he was snared by the Siren. However, this material was removed in editing, which meant that the character abruptly vanished from the narrative, only to reappear as a patient on the spaceship at the end of the story.
  • The sickbay set was built in a studio. Because the beds were attached to strings, they were prone to swaying.
  • Lee Ross had previously starred in Steven Moffat's series Press Gang.
  • The cast members who were asked to lie on the beds were instructed to stay still and not breathe heavily to limit movement.
  • Karen Gillan was allowed to perform several of her own stunts in the episode. She was excited to learn that her character would fight pirates with swords, and was taught how to handle one with basic moves. She was also allowed to swing across the ship. However, a stunt double was required to film the sequence where Amy is thrown across the deck by the Siren.
  • One late deletion from the script was the idea that the Siren would appear to Toby Avery as a young girl. This would have given the Doctor a clue as to the entity's true nature.
  • The scenes in which Lily Cole appeared on the ship were done by using a harness as if she was flying. Because she wore green dress and makeup, the normal greenscreen was replaced by bluescreens in the studio. Cole felt it was fun to fly on the harness, but found it painful after a few hours.
  • Before filming began on the storm sequences, Arthur Darvill heard that he would perform the stunt where he is thrown into the sea, and was willing to perform it. The stunt would later be performed by a double.
  • In 2019, it was rumoured that Karen Gillan would replace Johnny Depp in a reboot of Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Steve Thompson was working with Steven Moffat on Sherlock and expressed interest in writing for the series.
  • Matt Smith and Karen Gillan felt that working with Hugh Bonneville was "great fun."
  • For the Siren, the producers were looking for an actress who is "beautiful," "striking," and yet somewhat "spooky." Lily Cole came early into the casting suggestions, and accepted the role when she was approached.
  • The producers wished to develop an episode set on "the high seas." It was also made to allow the Doctor and his companions to "kick back and have some fun."
  • As the episode was pirate-themed, the producers wanted to fit in as many elements as possible from pirate fiction, including treasure, mutinies, a stowaway boy, walking the plank, storms, swords, and a pirate with a "good heart" who "isn't really evil."
  • Steve Thompson initially took a budget-conscious approach, with the action set around the Cornish coast. In this version, Captain Avery was searching for his missing wife, who had been kidnapped by the Siren. The Doctor eventually helped track the creature to a mine, where it was killed. When it was realised that there were sufficient funds available to set much of the story at sea, the Cornish setting was dropped in favour of the Fancy. Thompson now introduced a militia which boarded the ship, only for its corrupt lieutenant to force the crew to help him seek buried treasure on a nearby island. These characters were omitted when it was found that they over-complicated the storyline. It was only at this stage that the Siren became a medical interface, while early drafts also positioned Amy as her target, rather than Rory.
  • The episode comprised Block Five of season six, officially labelled “Block Four-B”.
  • Madame Kovarian's cameo was the first scene shot for the episode.
  • To avoid giving the impression that the was a pastiche, care was taken to ensure that Hugh Bonneville would not resemble Captain Jack Sparrow.
  • Lily Cole's performance was filmed against a bluescreen across two days.
  • The real Henry Avery's fate was unknown. This appealed to Steve Thompson, as it gave him carte blanche to tell the rest of his story.
  • The Eleventh Doctor was originally going to wear a pirate outfit.


  • 7.85 million (35.5% market share; UK final)[4]

Filming locations[[edit]]

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • At the beginning of this story Amy has manicured her fingernails in a mauve colour. When she, the Doctor and Avery are about to be taken by the Siren, her nail varnish appears chipped. And then when the three arrive on the alien ship, her nails are completely manicured again.
  • When the Doctor takes the hat from the disappeared pirate and puts it on, the camera cuts away, but when the camera cuts back, he's putting it on again. A similar occurrence happens when the Doctor takes the hat off.
  • When Amy is swinging on the rope, the clips of her protective stunt harness, secured to its braids, are visible.
  • When Toby is lying in the sickbay, his eyes are seen moving although he is supposed to be in stasis.
  • Right after Captain Avery surprises the Doctor by figuring out the TARDIS controls, it's obvious the screen freezes, right before the next scene starts.


Home video releases[[edit]]

Series 6, part 1 DVD cover

DVD & Blu-ray releases[[edit]]

  • The Curse of the Black Spot was released in Series 6 Part One on DVD and Blu-Ray in region 1/A on 19 July 2011, in region 2/B on 11 July 2011 and in region 4/B on 4 August 2011. It is a collection of the first seven episodes.
  • The episode was later released in the Complete Sixth Series boxset on both DVD and Blu-ray, in region 1/A on 22 November 2011, in region 2/B on 21 November 2011 and in region 4/B on 1 December 2011.

Digital releases[[edit]]

  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer.

External links[[edit]]