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TV Review: Doctor Who – “Voyage Of The Damned”

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The second I see the words “Written by Russell T. Davies” I tend to lower my expectations. That being said, and I'm forcing myself to say this, he's actually made a decent Doctor Who story in “Voyage Of The Damned.” With that out of the way, let's proceed with the review.

At the end of the rather bad “Re-Return Of The Master Trilogy” we got last season, we once again watch another attractive woman (Freema Agyeman) leave the Doctor's life. You would think after all that drama that the Doc would simply say, “Let's shag!” Sure, it would make Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) bitter to know that it wasn't her should she meet with the Doctor again, but it would make the series seem a bit more modern and a little more grown up.

I thought it was interesting that there was really no set-up for the TARDIS crash into the Titanic. It would have been nice to insert the scene from "Time Crash" at the end where The 5th Doc (Peter Davison) got a nice send-off from The 10th Doc (David Tennant). You know the part where he tells the 10th Doc to put his shields up?

But that's just a small detail – it's Doctor Who after all.

"Voyage Of The Damned" largely centers on a space cruise ship called — wait for it — The Titanic. It's not the actual ship, just in name, although a disaster does happen in the form of Kylie Minogue. She's attractive and all, but as one commenter pointed out somewhere on the web, she's far shorter than David Tennant. I almost thought she was a teenager.

Monique's Astrid Peth, a waitress on the ship, doesn't really matter to the story. Although Catherine Tate's Donna Noble was a part of "The Christmas Bride" plot, I should have had the sense to put the mute button on as I watched it. Monique's Peth doesn't require muting – just a few re-watches of some early Doctor Who.

She's very much the traditional companion. She clings to The Doctor, obeys everything The Doctor says, and only bothers to be helpful but a few times in crisis. Being as she's an on-off in a Christmas special, I'll give Russy some slack since 72 minutes isn't enough time to really make a good companion in the first place.

The plot? Oh I forgot that. Well, the Titanic gets hijacked and crippled by a race known as The Hosts. Take the baddies from “The Claws Of Axos” and the Ood from “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit” and you get your usual one-sentence aliens. This time the word overused is “Information” rather than “We must feed!”

Alien bad guys don't talk much in space. Must be the air.

The Titanic being crippled means the ship would crash and wipe out Earth on impact. Luckily The Doctor knows how to fly a space ship since he has one of his own. I think it would have been a bit on the Davison side if he simply crashed into Buckingham Palace as he was doing it. It would have been funny, though.

Ever notice The Doc is passive toward the people who die as a result of following him? I know he can't get emotional over that sorta stuff since he watched his own people die, but you would just once like to see him not wait until the fifth or sixth victim is claimed to react. He's starting to become the Jack Bauer of science fiction – everyone protecting and following him with only The Doc and the companions being the only survivors.

I would expect him, in his 13th life, to be an alcoholic or go back to wearing clown colors after all the death he's witnessed.

Philip Hinchliffe, who was a producer of Doctor Who in the classic years, probably didn't watch "Voyage Of The Damned" the night it aired. If he did, he probably would have sent Russy a copy of the "Hand Of Fear” DVD just to watch that story. As he noted in the documentary, the story ended a bit too early. To the credit of the script, it was designed as the exit episode of a companion (Liz Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith) and therefore it had to have something of a goodbye scene.

One thing about Classic Who you can say is that at least the swelling orchestra music was not as put on as it is in the new series. Astrid's goodbye, for a character that didn't really register on the screen, was a huge exit. Stop borrowing from “Doomsday”, Russy!

“Damned” switches the companion exit in the middle of the story and instead at the stopping point, we get a nice exchange with poorly researched Earth expert Mr. Copper (Clive Swift) about having a lot of money on his credit card and the ability to start a new life. I was a little pissed that once again The Doctor went anti-male companion and gave the most tired excuse used over and over in hero fiction.

“I travel alone.”

Right? You've learned that lesson how many times and still fall for the next piece of tail that comes your way (excluding the Sly and Sophie years). Originally a male companion was suggested as the next one to board The TARDIS, but Russell liked Donna Noble better. Why not have a year of Captain Jack? I'm sure Torchwood can have Martha Jones (who is reportedly going to be in a few episodes) lead the pack.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of positive vibes and good cheer. The specials unfortunately would not be the best reflection of this ideal and should be carefully pre-screened before displaying for the whole family, but if your family is slightly demented, you may like the specials.

My personal opinion of the whole special will surprise you – I liked it. Aside from the silly observations and criticisms I have about this episode, it's one of the better to come of late and one of the best of the Christmas specials. I'm forcing my hands to type this: Russell T. Davies did a good job this time around.

Now let's hope Donna doesn't break television screens with her voice in Series 4.

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About Matthew Milam

  • Rick

    The Hosts weren’t a race, they were robots who were supposed to cater to the passengers. It’s not said specifically, but I believe Max had altered their programming in order to kill everyone on board.

    I enjoyed the special very much, not the best episode of the new series, but great fun for a Christmas special.

  • sugababe

    y r u talking like a geek

  • Blue Moon

    Kylie Monique and Mr Cooper? Yes, so your review is worth its salt, isn’t it? You can’t even get the actors’ or characters’ names right!

  • tomservo

    The second half of your review actually sounds like a well-formed, knowledgeable and constructive piece of writing. It’s just a shame the first half sounds like the inane ramblings of a 16 year old schoolboy.

    Quote: “You would think after all that drama that the Doc would simply say, “Let’s shag!”…it would make the series seem a bit more modern and a little more grown up.”

    Friendly suggestion – research the reasons why Doctor Who was created and then re-write that sentence. :-)

    PS – to Sugababe – one day, when you get a lot older (say about 10 years old) you will discover you like things. This is called “having an interest”. When you have an interest, you learn a lot about it and talk to other people about it. This is called “sharing your interest”. Go on – try it. It’s fun! You may even find you like it better than masturbating in your bedroom while thinking about your one and only friend!

  • dandlpete

    Was anyone else amused by the portrayal of the news stand owner by Bernard Cribbins, who, in 1966, traveled with the Doctor in the Peter Cushing movie Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.?

  • Rick

    Re: dandlpete
    Yes, Cribbins did a great job, he’s quite a character. I understand that he brought many of those props with him to put in the booth (mistletoe, ornaments etc)

    Also, I’m not positive, but I think it was while shooting the Christmas episode that Tom Baker(Doctor #4 visited the set. IIR, it was mentioned during the commentary for the episode.

    There was also a special 7 minute ‘Children in need’ episode called ‘Time Crash’ that takes place immediately before the Titanic and Tardis collide. I was going to post a youtube link, but the video is gone now. What happened was the Tardis’s of Doctors 5 and 10 merged which let Davidson and Tennant have a little ‘reunion’ before they got the problem fixed. It was all great fun. It is included on the Christmas special DVD.