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Doctor Who: Voyage of the Damned

Astrid: 'That's a spaceship?'
Doctor: 'Oy! Don't knock it!'

Well, this year's Christmas Special was definitely more festive than 'The Runaway Bride'. (Not difficult, I know.) It looked stunning, the costumes were beautiful, and there was festive nonsense galore—but something about it just didn't click for me.

Part of it was cosmetic. The exterior of the ship wasn't the most convincing visual effect I've ever seen, and the passengers were either too weird or too stereotypical to connect with. There was also no real sense of danger (despite Murray Gold's overly dramatic music trying to convince us otherwise). Yes, things were smashing, and yes, things were blowing up, but it never felt like anything more than actors throwing themselves around a set.

I do like Kylie—I'm just not convinced that she's a great actress. The last time I saw her act was way back in Aussie soap, Neighbours, and she doesn't seem to have improved. I'm not sure that dress and hair style did much for her appeal, either—those were not flattering clothes. (Not that Bannakaffalatta, the cyborg conker, would agree.) I also didn't feel any chemistry between Astrid and the Doctor. There really wasn't enough time for them to develop any sort of relationship—or maybe it's just three seasons of everyone falling in instalove with the Doctor is starting to wear a bit thin.

Astrid's death really didn't resonate in any meaningful way. In fact, virtually everyone's death left me cold. I'm not an unemotional man, I'm almost always blubbing at some television show or other, but despite people dying left, right and centre—Morvin, Bannakaffalatta, Foon, Astrid—I was left perplexingly dry-eyed. I did like Mr Copper, but I'm glad that the Doctor didn't take him along. Much as I enjoyed his character, I'm not sure there was anywhere to go with him. The Doctor leaving him safe on earth, and a millionaire to boot, felt like a fitting end to his story.

This episode's main problem was its lack of originality. It was basically The Poseidon Adventure in space. On top of that, we had touches of Titanic (with the ship itself), Goldfinger (with the Oddjob style halo throwing), and angels for aliens just six months after 'Blink'. And speaking of the Host, surely the best way to stop them would have been to initiate security protocol one and to not ask questions. Plus, I didn't really understand why they would take orders from the Doctor. Didn't Max instruct the Host to kill him? How did they recognise the Doctor as the next highest figure of authority? According to whom or what?

This wasn't the worst episode ever, it just felt a tad derivative, the CGI was occasionally poor, and the acting felt flat. Still, it's Christmas and I'm pissed up on sherry—so what is there to be unhappy about? Another mince pie? Don't mind if I do.

Other Thoughts:

—Astrid is an anagram of TARDIS.

—Gallifrey is in the constellation of Kasterborous.

—After the Doctor said 'take me to your leader', he commented 'I've always wanted to say that'. Err... you already did. Back in 'Aliens of London'. It was the ninth Doctor, but it was still you.

—More nonsense about the Doctor's age. In 'Time and the Rani', the Doctor claimed to be 953. In 'The Claws of Axos' he claimed to be several thousand years old. Tonight he claimed to be 903. Maybe senility's setting in.

—Is there an unwritten rule of fantasy that all alien names must be absolute nonsense? Foon? Bannakaffalatta? Morvin? Sheesh! (Not a character name.)

—Astrid isn't the only person to have been offered a place aboard the TARDIS, only to die. The same happened to Lynda in 'The Parting of the Ways' and Reinette in 'The Girl in the Fireplace'.

—Why would a space ship have a fog horn?

Billie says...

I'm something of a Titanic buff (or I used to be), so the beginning of this episode actually delighted me. I liked the way the ship looked. I liked the idea of the Titanic in space. And then, unfortunately, it turned into The Poseidon Adventure. Not that I didn't like The Poseidon Adventure. I just liked it when it was The Poseidon Adventure.

All those characters dying should have moved me. One shot characters absolutely can get to the audience (like the ones in "Blink," for instance). But they have to be better drawn and better acted than stereotypes that were parodies of other characters that were also stereotypes. At least my mild affection for Mr. Copper made it until the end of the episode.

The best part of it, for me, was the idea of London braced for another Christmas alien attack. I could have used more of that. And Buckingham Palace.

Did the Doctor actually say he got the last room at the inn?


Mr. Copper: "Now, human beings worship the great god Santa, a creature with fearsome claws, and his wife Mary. And every Christmas Eve, the people of UK go to war with the country of Turkey. They then eat the Turkey people for Christmas dinner, like savages."

Mr. Copper: "Don't stray too far. It could be dangerous. Any day now, they start boxing."

Doctor: “Okay! First things first. One, we're going to climb through this ship. B... No. Two, we're going to reach the bridge. Three, or C, we're going to save the Titanic. And coming in a very low four, or D, or that little IV in brackets they use in footnotes... Why? Right then, follow me.”

Slade: "Hang on a minute. Who put you in charge? And who in the hell are you anyway?"
The Doctor: "I'm the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord. I'm from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I'm 903 years old, and I'm the man who's gonna save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?"

Astrid: "You might be a Time King from Gannaby, but you still need to eat.”

Astrid: "You look good for 903."
Doctor: "You should see me in the morning."
Astrid: "Okay."

Doctor: "What's your first name?"
Midshipman: "Alonso."
The Doctor: "You are kidding me!"
Midshipman: "Uh... why?"
The Doctor: "There's something else I've always wanted to say: Allons-y Alonso!"
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.


  1. When I first watched this episode, I loved it but it's one of those ones that I like less than on original.

    It's too long for a start, the Doctor/Astrid stuff is a little too tacked on and Max Capricorn is lame as a villain.

    Kylie was alright and for the most part, Astrid wasn't a demanding role for her acting wise. I do like her, I should point out.

    Oh and this debuted Wilf and gave us Russell Tovey in a fitting outfit. So not all bad.

  2. Okay, good points: Mr Copper was wonderful, we got to meet Wilf for the first time (all hail Cribbins!), the dedication to the indispensable Verity Lambert, Kylie (despite her limitations as an actress and the fact she was just coming back from her battle with cancer) was adorable as ever, David Tennant looked good in his tux, errr….that’s it really. And that was me stretching it.

    Paul and Billie already covered all the bad point. Not much else to say, possibly my least favourite Christmas special after The Next Doctor.

  3. I had a couple of laugh out loud moments with this. But I also had some fundamental character problems.

    Foon and Morvin. Blue collar jobs, fat and therefore bad with money. She spent 5,000 credits to win a free trip. It was unintentional (and lazy) writing that paint blue collar folks as dumb and fiscally irresponsible. That maybe was supposed to be contrasted by the man making a mint on selling all of his shares, who was lean and rich (but not a nice man) but it just didn't work for me.

    The Doctor felt this kinship with Astrid and the fact that she was a "ghost image" in space for eternity, always feeling like she was falling, felt very creepy to me.

    But I loved the off bit writing. Allons-y Allonso! (hee!)

  4. I really wanted Astrid to become a companion and her loss was the one I felt most here. Even having the wondrous Geoffrey Palmer and Clive Swift, both were in classic Who (and more of course), didn't save this one for me though. The Xmas stuff tends to be too silly and all feel like throw away specials (which they pretty much are), so it's difficult to get that invested in these.

    Of course it did also have Bernard Cribbins as the soon to be beloved Wilfred Mott and who was in the Peter Cushing Doctor Who movie: Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., but this one is nothing amazing even if it was an entertaining watch.


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