So The Doctor is alone again, having been dumped by Martha and then briefly meeting one of his past selves.
But he’s got no time to waste, because the TARDIS appears to have crashed into the Titanic, thus setting up the next adventure in the run-through, Voyage of the Damned.
Doctor Who – Voyage of the Damned Review: What’s This One About?
It’s The Robots of Death Meets The Poseidon Adventure, starring such well-known figures as Geoffrey Palmer, Kylie Minogue and Bernard Cribbins.
Thoughts – Cheesy Fun
I liked the Robots of Death.
I also like the Poseidon Adventure (the original one with Ernest Borgnine ; I haven’t seen the remake).
So naturally I’m going to like the premise of this one.
Sure, it’s not the most original concept in the world, seeing as it’s based on one of the best known disaster movies in history, but that’s ok. It doesn’t mean it can’t be good and it doesn’t mean that it’s not a relatively fresh setting in the world of Doctor Who.
And yes, it’s all a bit cheesy, with the Doctor seeming to fall for another woman (Martha would be pissed if she saw that), being waved to by the Queen on Christmas morning shortly after saving the day and being taken up to the bridge like he’s being taken to heaven by the Angels, but I like all that.
I think it would have worked in any episode, but I do believe – and I know others may disagree – that cheesiness has a place on Christmas Day, so it works especially well here.
One of the major strengths of Voyage of the Damned is the depth and variety of characters.
Whether it’s Kylie Minogue as the wide-eyed waitress who wants to see the universe, Bernard Cribbins as the fearless Londoner who won’t abandon his post (and remember, this is before he was supposed to be Donna’s grandfather), Geoffrey Palmer as the tired and terminally ill Captain who has agreed to crash the ship, Clive Swift as the old port “Expert” that you always get on cruise ships, or Gray O’Brien as the bastard business who lives through it all in spite of plenty of good people dying, each and every one of the characters brings something to the table.
It’s probably the best overall ensemble cast seen in a Doctor Who for a long, long time.
They all know what they are doing and how to get the best out of their characters, and so it adds to the story.
You might have thought “But wait, Kylie Minogue is just a singer“, but then you remember that she actually shot to fame in the first place as an actress. And to be fair to her, despite the fact she only appeared in a very small handful of acting roles between 1989 and 2007, I thought she was pretty good.
They all were, really.
Well…maybe not the guy who played Max Capricorn, but then I suppose his character was written that way.
A Variety of Good Moments
To give Voyage of the Damned credit above being cheesy, there are some fairly sad and heartwarming moments too.
Whether it’s the sadness of the death of Bannakaffalatta and the bit where The Doctor sends Astrid off to be among the stars, or the gentle but quite lovely scene where Mr Copper realises he’s rich and able to live out his days in the money, Voyage of the Damned does have its moments.
There are also plenty of moments to make you chuckle as well, like Slade’s disparaging remarks about the von Hoffs. “What happened? Did they find a doughnut” makes me laugh every time. Similarly, the way Mr Copper “authoritatively” talks a load of absolute crap about 21st century Earth and the custom of Christmas is brilliant. As I said earlier, that’s exactly the sort of thing you do get on cruise ships.
But I think my favourite moment in the whole episode is the almost throwaway line about how – in regards to Slade living while most of the rest of them died – The Doctor can’t choose who lives or dies. As Mr Copper says “Of all the people to survive, he’s not the one you would have chosen, is he? But if you could choose, Doctor, if you decide who lives and who dies, that would make you a monster.”
A valid point.
- I like little additions to the story that add depth. For example, it doesn’t really make much of a difference to the overall flow to have their society be one that rejects Cyborg kind; everything that happened could have happened without us needing to know it. But it was added, and so it makes not only the story, but the world within the story, seem more fleshed out and real.
- I’m not sure I understand the Captain’s logic. Ok, so he asked for his crew to be made up of old men who’d have their time because he anticipated them all being killed. And while that’s morally objectionable, you can see the logic in it. However, that doesn’t even begin to take into consideration the ages of the people who are on board the Titanic for a holiday. Has he got no problem killing them?
- The cliffhanger to the previous story where the Titanic crashes through the walls of the TARDIS is picked up on really badly here. I think cliffhanger resolution is something that RTD really struggles with. I know it ultimately makes no difference and was done to set Voyage of the Damned up, but why have it crash if he immediately fixes it and nobody mentions it again?
- Also – and this should probably have been in my Last of the Time Lords review – how much cooler would that end of season cliffhanger have been if it had ended with Peter Davison turning up?
- It makes good sense that Londoners would have thought “Sod this, I’m getting out of here for Christmas” considering what happened over the last two years. It’s another nice addition to the story.
- As is the “snow” at the end not being snow again.
- And the Doctor commenting on how his tuxedo is unlucky.
- As the villains of the piece, I quite liked The Host. Obviously they are very similar to the Robots of Death but that’s not a bad thing. Moreover, they look pretty good too.
- But then the whole story looks great. Lovely costumes and well designed sets.
- I’m not too keen on Russell Tovey; I think he’s a bit of an over-actor.
- Another line I got a kick out of “You can’t even sink the Titanic”
- On the other hand, I didn’t like the line “I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I’m nine hundred and three years old and I’m the man who’s going to save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?”. I don’t think he’d say that in that particular situation, do you?
- If I was to criticise any other aspect of the writing, it’d be the way the van Hoffs were just suddenly killed off, presumably because they had no further value to the story
- RTD loves his romance, doesn’t he?
- I remember reading an interview with Clive Swift in an edition of Doctor Who Magazine where he came across as one of the most cranky and miserable buggers you’d ever meet. And now when I see him in this, that’s all I can think about.
- He’d have made a cool companion though.
- Speaking of DWM, in an article they did about all the stories shown at Christmas throughout the show’s history, they only give it two Christmas Puddings out of five, calling it “gloomy”. I disagree. I think it’s the most Christmassy one they’ve done yet.
- But what do they know? They gave an episode of the Horns of Nimon 5/5 for Christmassyness. Fools.
- DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #114
Doctor Who – Voyage of the Damned Review: Final Thoughts
On the whole, I enjoy this story a great deal.
Out of the three Christmas stories I’ve reviewed since the show returned, this is the best one.
A good plot, solid characters and a Christmassy look; it all adds up to make Voyage of the Damned a creditable effort.
I might even have it higher than #114