Saturday, July 04, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 3x14: "Voyage Of The Damned"

Written by Russell T Davies
Directed by James Strong

Max Capricorn: “I never lose.”
The Doctor: “You can’t even sink the Titanic.”

Okay, hands up who thought we were going to see the real Titanic in this episode? I’ll admit I certainly did and aren’t I glad that I was incredibly wrong on that guess. After all, the Titanic sank in April 1912 and this episode has to be based around Christmas seeing as it’s the third Christmas special the series has given us.

The Doctor quickly realises the ship of dreams is a spaceship and after meeting some rather nifty looking Angels with golden looks, there’s more than meets the eye with a vessel that has both human and robotic staff and passengers, especially as the guide Mr Copper tells his passengers of the more primitive earth down below.

The first extraordinary thing on board is a waitress by the name of Astrid Peth. Every since the start of July, Kylie Minogue’s confirmation of playing the stand in companion has been literally talked about. Within the first two minutes of her onscreen appearance where she gets abuse from a snide Rickston Slade for knocking over a tray of glasses she excels and I’ll happily say that she keeps getting better from here on in.

The Doctor instinctively takes a shine to the girl from the moment he sees her. When he heads back to the party in his tuxedo, it’s only Astrid he notices. He also goes out of his way to help her with the broken glass and the two get pretty flirty in no short amount of time. In some ways Astrid has some Rose like qualities without actually coming across as a Rose type clone.

She’s a bit bored of waitressing and given the fact that her employees are jerks and clientele such as Rickston are worse than that, who could blame her? Anyone who has worked in similar knows there’s nothing worse than having to deal with intolerable morons who think it’s their God given right to be as obnoxious as they can be for little reason. Astrid also wants to explore the stars and other planets, which already makes her a hit with The Doctor.

In fact when herself, The Doctor, husband and wife duo Morvin and Foon Van Hoff and a small red skinned creature Bannakaffalatta all take a little trip to earth, Astrid’s reaction is pure gold. Her utter joy of the mundanity of an empty London and her blow by blow description of it feels is sheer genius. The Doctor makes a quip to her not being very fussy, to which you have to agree. Still it’s an inspired moment in an episode full of joyful moments.

Of course the trip to earth does get cancelled when everyone is teleported back to the ship when the power surrounding things begins to falter. Well if you’re gonna call a ship after the Titanic, you’re only just tempting fate and it’s not exactly a shocker that this vessel would have disaster written all over it so to speak.

Things started going wrong when the ship’s Captain Hardaker started lowering the ship’s defence and shot poor Midshipman Frame in retaliation. Hardaker’s motives are briefly touched upon. We learn that he’s dying and he’s being offered a fair amount of money to help sabotage the Titanic so lowering the defence and allowing three meteorites to collide with the ship saw him fulfil his duties then.

To be fair the guy really need not have bothered seeing as the damage from those meteorites really did him in but seeing as this special is supposed to have a disaster movie element to it, what could be more appropriate for a spaceship to be hit with than with a meteorite or three?

As if the meteorites themselves wasn’t a big enough imposition then the previously heavenly hosts with the information to boot have now turned into homicidal maniacs. Figuring that Robot Santas have had their, Russell sensibly ditches them for the sinister angels who can use their own haloes to slice you to death and this lot waste very little time in slaughtering as many people as they can within the seconds they group to take over the ship.

There’s an incredibly surreal moment when The Doctor and Astrid look outside the ship and see the array of dead bodies floating in space. Only on this show are you going to get multiple deaths on Christmas Day but it’s still a sight to see. Astrid even quips about the TARDIS (which is making its way back to earth) as being a bit small. Oh it’s a pity the girl won’t actually see how wrong she is on that scope.

All that survives on the ship is Midshipman Frame, who eventually has to lock himself inside to protect himself from the Hosts and The Doctor, Astrid, Rickston, Bannakaffalatta, Mr Copper (the earth expert) and the Von Hoffs but deep down you know half of this lot aren’t going to survive. Still they make for a usual and different band of survivors and the dynamics between them all really makes the episode.

Astrid’s great by all accounts but given that she’s supposed to be more likeable than Donna was last year, her scenes and reactions are sort of obvious. Rickston on the other hand is a total dick. The guy spends most of his time abusing everyone left, right and centre and offered little to no actual help. The Doctor’s on fine form and doesn’t tolerate his crap, especially when the rich guy goes a bit far in his cruelty towards the Van Hoffs.

Now the Van Hoffs are two people I liked a lot. Intended as a comedy act of sorts, they’re just two ordinary people who won their tickets on the Titanic and are perfectly content tucking away at the trifle. They also appreciate The Doctor for making the champagne at the rich folk’s table and they did put their robotic skills to use before it was revealed that the Hosts were homicidal.

However we had to have casualties and when crossing the bridge while being pursued by Hosts, Morvin was the first to die and Foon ended up sacrificing her life by taking one of the Hosts down with her. Sometimes I often forget how dark this show can be at times and seeing a character kill herself minutes after her husband dies is a lot darker than anything than can be shoved into latex when you think about it.

Bannakaffalatta was also an interesting little customer. Originally I thought he might have had something to do with the sinister goings on the ship but it turns out that his only secret was being a cyborg. There’s a funny little scene where Astrid refuses a marriage proposal from him in exchange for a drink and his death by annihilating some Hosts is pretty poignant. Still he does leave the remaining survivors a weapon in the form of EMP Transmitter.

The very weapon that can dispatch the Hosts gave Astrid a lot of power but in all fairness, as cool as the Hosts look, it’s perhaps not much of a shock that they are only henchmen for a bigger baddie. In the previous two Christmas specials we’ve had the Sycorax and the Empress of Racnoss, so who could our big bad be here there?

Well if there’s anything about this Christmas special that is a disappointment then it’s the bad guy we’re given. Yeah, it’s the ship creator Max Capricorn who’s virtually a head and a robotic body and his motives are suitably lame to boot. He’s caused all of this carnage because he got booted out of his company by his own people and he wanted to frame them for murder and retire on an island with tonnes of cash.

This isn’t a new concept for Russell but it almost undermines a lot of the great work behind this episode and it’s not a good sign when the henchmen look better and are physically more threatening than the boss they serve. It does however give The Doctor some good moments to make some tasteless jokes about Max Capricorn’s physique and the psychotic machine does delight in telling The Doctor that he never loses in anything.

That would almost be right if Astrid hadn’t persuaded Midshipman Frame to power up the teleport devices. Astrid’s seen all the good The Doctor has been trying to do while this disaster has been unfolding and she feels the least she can do is help him out with Max Capricorn. She’s a noble girl but sadly for her, taking down Max, means killing herself when she drives both herself and him into an inferno.

For a character that I knew we were only going to have for one episode, it’s amazing how much of an impact Astrid made. I actually forgot it was Kylie and totally bought into the character. The rapport between her and The Doctor was pitch perfect and I totally loved it when he accepted her services to come on board the TARDIS. Her death was really quite the harrowing moment of the entire episode.

It really did affect The Doctor who tried to bring her back when he realised she had the teleportation device on but even Mr Copper had to persuade him to let her go. Let’s just say that Astrid gets to see the stars after all even if she isn’t a new companion of The Doctor’s. Too bad because I really didn’t think I was going to care about Astrid as much as this episode got me too.

Still with the array of murders, something good had to happen so The Doctor steering the Titanic from danger (and just about missing hitting Buckingham Palace – oh the cheese factor) was the show’s attempt of giving something joyful on an otherwise dark episode.

I take that back – there was Mr Copper. Okay so his knowledge on earth is shaky at best but The Doctor helped him avoid a jail sentence and the man got to resume his life on earth with the financial security, so it’s nice that one other person on the Titanic I liked that we got a happy Christmas of sorts. Plus it snowed again and The Doctor wistfully admitted to not knowing where he was going to next.

Also in “Voyage Of The Damned”

Okay not to be too snippy but I’m not totally sold on the new version of the theme tune. It’s a bit too booming for my liking.

Astrid: “Thank you, sir, I can manage.”
The Doctor: “Never said you couldn’t.”

This episode was 71 minutes long, which makes it the longest episode of the new series so far. Worth every minute of it as well.

Foon: “Did you do that?”
The Doctor: “Maybe.”
Foon: “We like you.”

Astrid (re Earth): “But it’s beautiful.”
The Doctor: “Really, do you think so? It’s just a street.”

This show’s penchant for maid’s outfits continued with Astrid wearing one for the entire episode. Perhaps Donna will sport one in Season Four.

Astrid: “The Steward’s just died.”
Rickston: “Then he’s a dead idiot.”

Mr Copper (to everyone): “Rather ironic, this is in the tradition of Christmas.”

Mr Copper was a former salesman and on the ship, a studier of Earthnomics. His spin on Christmas traditions was hilarious.

The Doctor: “Did you get that message?”
Rickston: “What message?”
The Doctor: “Shut up.”

Bannakaffalatta: “Married to you?”
Astrid: “You can buy me a drink first.”

Jimmy Vee who played Bannakaffalatta also appeared in “The End Of The World”, “Aliens Of London” and “Attack Of The Graske” while Geoffrey Palmer (Captain Hardaker) appeared in “Doctor Who And The Silurians” and “The Mutants”. Clive Swift (Mr Copper) popped up “Revelation Of The Daleks” so multiple appearances for all three then.

Astrid: “You look good for a man of 903.”
The Doctor: “You should see me in the morning.”

The Doctor (re Foon): “I can’t leave her.”
Rickston: “She’ll get us all killed if you don’t.”

This year all of London evacuated to avoid an alien encounter. The Queen thanking The Doctor was silliness of the highest order. Then again after having The Master as Prime Minister, perhaps she sees The Doctor as a lesser of two evils.

Bannakaffalatta: “I did good?”
Astrid: “You saved our lives.”
Bannakaffalatta: “Bannakaffalatta happy.”

Astrid: “Sounds like you do this thing all the time.”
The Doctor: “It’s not my choice, I’m a traveller.”

Bernard Cribbins played the mysterious vendor Wilf. Judging by the preview for Season Four, we’re gonna be seeing more of the guy in 2008.

The Doctor: “Max you could give me so much good material, like ‘how to get ahead in business’.”

Max: “My own board voted me out. They stabbed me in the back.”
The Doctor: “If you had a back.”

I loved that they did a tribute to Verity Lambert at the end of the episode. Oh and the end credits are different too.

The Doctor: “What’s your first name?”
Midshipman Frame: “Alonso.”
The Doctor: “You’re kidding.”

Mr Copper (to The Doctor, re Astrid): “She’s just atoms, Doctor. A ghost with echoes of a conscience.”

I loved the Season 4 preview, even though it’s a run down of The Doctor and Donna’s antics for the first six episodes and Torchwood Season 2 preview with Martha with the gang is brilliant. Is it January yet?

Mr Copper: “I’ve got money.”
The Doctor: “Yes you have.”

Standout music: “The Stowaway” by Yamit Mamo. Nice choice of music I must say.

Yeah, “Voyage Of The Damned” rocked. I had a feeling I would prefer it to last year’s Christmas special but I think it might be my favourite one yet. Brilliant ideas, cool monsters, a wonderful temporary companion in Astrid and the hint of exciting things to come which makes me a very happy Doctor Who fan.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

No comments: