25 Days of Christmas: Doctor Who “Voyage of the Damned” a visually arresting, occasionally funny thrill ride

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Throughout the month of December, TV Editor Kate Kulzick and Film Editor Ricky D will review classic Christmas adaptions, posting a total of 13 each, one a day, until the 25th of December.

The catch: They will swap roles as Rick will take on reviews of classic television Christmas specials and Kate will take on Christmas movies. Today is day 21.

Doctor Who “Voyage of the Damned” (2007)

Directed by James Strong

Written by Russell T. Davies

What’s it about?

First broadcast on December 2007, “Voyage Of The Dammned” runs 72 minutes long and is the third Christmas special since the show’s revival in 2005. The Doctor finds his TARDIS colliding with a luxury space cruiser (based on the RMS Titanic) during a Christmas party. The ship’s captain, Hardaker (Geoffrey Palmer), sabotages the cruise liner by purposely lowering the ship’s shield resulting in severe damage after colliding with several asteroids. It’s up to the Doctor (David Tennant) with the help of a waitress named Astrid Peth (Kylie Minogue), to fight off robot-like creatures in the form of golden angels and save the day.

Review:

(please note: This is the very first Doctor Who episode I have ever watched, so I can only comment on it as a stand alone)

A festive of ideas, bursting with wild imagination, ambitious set pieces, strange characters, curious visual effects, and one charming Doctor who had this critic glued to the screen midway through, when he turned around to deliver this rousing monologue:

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 is gonna save your lives and all 6 billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?

This time around the mammoth cruise ship struck fire and not ice and the passengers are a sordid bunch including robotic golden angels armed with killer boomerang-like-halos, and a dwarf named Bannakaffalatta – a cyborg Zocci who strangely resembles Darth Maul. We learn that due to an accident, Bannakaffalatta had undergone conversion into a cyborg, for which he felt shame because apparently where he comes from, cyborgs are discriminated against. “Voyage” features a batch of religious imagery (including a messianic portrayal of the Doctor himself being carried away into space by two of the angels), and the blank and trite performance by the beautiful pop sensation Kylie Minogue, (whose role was specifically written for her).

For a Christmas special, we get a number of casualties along the way including Bannakaffalatta’s self-sacrifice and Astrid’s fall into the fires of hell. One could accurately describe this episode as The Poseidon Adventure in space, a nightmarishly schematic rhapsody of virtuous discomfort. “Voyage” doesn’t end on a happy note. Sabotage and corporate greed destroy our ragtag bunch of passengers, and those who are lucky enough to survive do come out with lasting scars. Not much Christmas cheer here, but the script is sprinkled with clever comedic moments from time to time, including a surprising gag-involving the royal family.

Astrid’s final appearance comes in form of “an echo with the ghost of consciousness”; her stardust-hologram-like image fades after a final kiss. Perhaps a tad bit corny but the sequence is enough to bring a tear to the eyes of die-hard Whovians. “Voyage” is ridiculous, but also oddly fun in the sheer overkill of pulp and fantasy imagery. Technically it impresses, loaded with eye-catching-hi-tech chase scenes and more importantly, characters and a plot (even if incoherent) to support them.“

Is this thrilling no holds barred sci-fi/disaster mash-up brilliant or idiotic? Perhaps a bit of both, but Voyage” satisfies because of it’s strong emotional core and unnerving dark themes couched in stunning visuals. This visually arresting, occasionally funny ride is neatly wrapped in a comfortable, Yuletide package.

– Ricky D

How Christmassy is it?

Despite the high death toll, and the titanic setting, “Voyage” strangely delivers a Christmas vibe, if in scenes few and far between. I would say 50/50.

You May Like It If…

Obviously if you like Doctor Who, disaster films and science fiction.

Final Thoughts:

This marked the first episode of Doctor Who I’ve watched from start to finish. I quite liked it and hope to see more in the near future. I won’t be writing about Charlie Brown this year but I’ve embedded a segment of A Charlie Brown Christmas below.

[vsw id=”GPG3zSgm_Qo” source=”youtube” width=”500″ height=”425″ autoplay=”no”]

2 Comments
  1. Ricky says

    hmmmm – well since it was my first viewing of a Doctor Who episode, I didn’t know what I should expect from the Doctor or the other characters. Also I hear it was a continuation of the previous season finale. I think I simply was taken back with all teh strange characters and honestly impressed with the overall production values and epic scale of what is a TV series. Do all the current episode feature such great set design and effects? Also I love that dwarf … he was awesome !

  2. Kate Kulzick says

    I’m not a big fan of this one (the Doctor’s late episode decision that he’s now decided no one else is allowed to die- those first several were okay, but no more, is particularly grating), but I am glad you had fun with it!

    I’d say the best Who Christmas special is the one from last year, featuring Michael Gambon in a take on A Christmas Carol (the Doctor, naturally, plays all the ghosts), though Tennant’s first does get points for providing an excellent introduction to the Tenth Doctor.

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