For December, and since this year's Special isn't until New Year's Day, a reminder of our Doctor Who expert Tony Cross' thoughts on ten New Who Christmas Special episodes from the past. Here is the Tenth Doctor adventure Voyage of the Damned...
It's a Christmas special, so prepare for an over-dose of twee. Or at least that's what seems to become the pattern. However maybe I'm being a bit harsh. Or not.
The problem is with Voyage of the Damned is that it is forgettable. Even as I write this bit of this story keep drifting away from me like icebergs, which is ironic considering all the Titanic references.
If truth be told the only thing I really remembered about this from the first time was Kylie Minogue in her maid’s outfit. Sadly, I think that might end up being the only thing I remember this time round.
Basically Voyage of the Damned is the Poseidon Adventure meets Robots of Death in space.*
Viewed as a kind of homage to the festive disaster movie and it is OK. Truth be told OK is pretty much the best description I can think of for this story. It's not awful. The acting is mostly up to snuff, even if most of the cast are clichés or designed purely to make a point, although I George Costigan's Max Capricorn skirts the edge of ham, but I suspect he was asked to make him like that, so the blame lies elsewhere I think. And could Rickston Slade (Gray O'Brien) be any more of a capitalist cliché?
However Slade is there to make a point. That the Doctor doesn't get to choose who lives and who dies. Mostly in this story the nice people die, although Midshipman Frame (the lovely Russell Tovey) and Mr Copper (Clive Swift) also make it. It is Mr Copper who makes the point about how if the Doctor could choose who lived and who died it would make him a monster. However more importantly you'd think the Doctor would have stopped promising people that they'd come out of everything alive by now. It's a recipe for unhappy memories.
Let's face it the Doctor must be suffering from a terrible case of survivor guilt and you start to wonder whether perhaps underneath the series adventurous veneer there a much darker and more terrible programme about the survivor of genocide and war with a death isn’t wish who is desperately trying to distract himself from the horrible memories. Unfortunately, with each adventure, despite his constant victories against terrible odds, the list of the dead grows longer, and the Doctor's guilt goes deeper.
Fortunately no one in their right mind would make a series as bleak as that so we get the fun and frolics instead, which is as it should be.
And in typing that paragraph almost everything about that story is lost: Geoffrey Palmer gets to be his lugubrious self in New Doctor Who having appeared in the Classic series, Clive Swift is good as Mr. Copper also adding himself to the list of actors who've done the Classic and New Doctor Who. There's an awful Allons-y-Alonso joke. Bannakaffalata (Jimmy Vee) is rather sweet and is used to make some rather superficial but politically correct comments about prejudice. The special effects look great.
The robots appear to have been ripped right off Robots of Death, but that's OK. There's a rather sweet over-weight couple Morvin & Foon van Hoff (Clive Rowe and Debbie Chazan) who are clearly too in love and happy to survive the story to the end. There's a nice little bit of stuff involving Kylie's...sorry Astrid's shortness when she gets to kiss The Doctor. The Doctor kisses a ghost in a rather disturbing bit at the end revolving around trying to save Kyl...Astrid.
And that's about all.
It's not bad. It's not great. It's not particularly memorable. It's a bit cheesy.
It's a Doctor Who Christmas special.
*For full enjoyment please read that sentence out in the style of the person introducing Pigs in Space: A demonstration
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.