‘VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
“Information: You Are All Going To Die!” – Heavenly Hosts For Christmas
This is a very special ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas for me!
Believe it or not, this was the first ‘Doctor Who’ episode I ever saw on TV. I had seen previous ‘Doctor Who’ episodes from the new series on DVD, but I hadn’t seen a proper episode on the TV screen for its initial transmission. This was a fantastic episode to start watching the TV series!
I was delighted, since it was David Tennant who was my favourite Doctor! ‘Voyage of the Damned’ is possibly one of the best Christmas specials ever made in the show’s history, shown in 2017. For this TV adventure, the Doctor lands on the Titanic after it had crashed in his TARDIS.
But it’s not the real Titanic on Earth, 1912. This is the starship Titanic in space. The Doctor finds himself on a cruise containing humanoid passengers from the planet Sto. They’re journeying on the Titanic to celebrate Christmas. But something goes wrong as this pleasure cruise progresses.
The Titanic gets hit not by an iceberg but by a meteor shower, getting space-wrecked and adrift. Only the Doctor and a handful of people survive. With help from his new friend, Astrid Peth, the Doctor must save his group as well as stopping the Titanic crash into the Earth on Christmas Day.
I was expecting this Christmas episode by show-runner Russell T. Davies to be an historical adventure set aboard the Titantic in 1912 when it crashed into an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the sea. Imagine my surprise when I found out it was the actually the starship Titanic.
This didn’t disappoint me though, as in my naivety I accepted anything ridiculous and it was ‘Doctor Who’. The Doctor already experienced the real Titanic when he was the Ninth Doctor as referenced in the episode, ‘Rose’. The starship is like the real Titanic from its exterior to interior.
The starship Titanic also has the atmosphere of 1912 outwardly and inwardly, with people in period costumes suited to the era and the set design is very impressive. I felt really Christmassy when I watched this episode, as you could enjoy a cruise set in space before disaster happened.
David Tennant is brilliant as the Doctor in this episode. The Doctor’s on his own now, having said goodbye to Martha Jones in the previous series. He arrives on the starship Titanic and has a mooch joining in the festivities of Christmas. The Doctor wears his tuxedo with the bow-tie and all.
The Doctor makes friends with Astrid Peth, who he consciously or self-consciously sees as a potential new companion. He also makes friends with other passengers and takes charge when he leads them and Astrid to safety, once the Titanic gets hit by a meteor shower in outer space.
David’s energy is so enduring and he never lets down on a performance. He can do funny and serious stuff at the same time in an action-packed episode as this. I love the Doctor’s defiance to Rickston Slade and also when he confronts the true villain in the final showdown of the episode.
This Christmas episode is extra-special as the biggest guest star is Kylie Minogue as Astrid Peth. Now I’ve never heard of Kylie Minogue before and didn’t know much about her as a singer. I had learnt from my parents that she once had cancer and she starred in ‘Neighbours’ for some time.
Seeing Kylie in the episode was a first for me and I found her really impressive. Kylie plays a waitress aboard the Titanic starship. I like the costume Kyle wears as Astrid, as it feels very 1910s and 20s for a waitress girl and it suits her mood and character really well for the episode.
Astrid has always wanted to travel; see the stars and dream of a new sky. She gets to serve on the Titanic as a waitress, but it’s not the same as travelling. Astrid comes across as really likeable and sparky. You can see why the Doctor would want her to be his new companion in the TV tale.
The guest cast for this ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas episode is very impressive. There are some familiar faces that I saw in this episode and they played some memorable characters in a well-written story as this. Especially for Christmas, the guest cast makes this tale feel so extra-special.
Geoffrey Palmer guest stars as Captain Hardaker. I’ve seen Geoffrey in the ‘Fawlty Towers’ episode, ‘The Kipper and the Corpse’. He has also appeared in two ‘Doctor Who’ stories before this, including ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’ and ‘The Mutants’. Seeing Geoffrey here was a joy.
I was amazed to see how much Geoffrey Palmer has aged since I saw him in ‘Fawlty Towers’. In this Christmas episode, Geoffrey plays the captain of the Titanic. But Captain Hardaker becomes responsible for the ship’s collision with the meteor shower and he also gets killed in the process.
Clive Swift guest stars as Mr. Copper in this episode. I know Clive well for playing Richard Bucket in ‘Keeping Up Appearances’. He also appeared in another ‘Doctor Who’ story with Colin Baker called ‘Revelation of the Daleks’. Seeing Clive in this ‘Doctor Who’ TV tale was equally delightful.
Mr. Copper takes charge of the tour visits to Earth via teleport beam and claims to be an expert on Earth’s history. But he gets his history wrong, especially when talking about the people going to war with Turkey and eating the Turkey people for Christmas which I found pretty funny here.
There are also the Van Hoffs, including Debbie Chazen as Foon and Clive Rowe as Morvin. Debbie Chazen also appeared in a TV production of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ with James D’Arcy. These two are really funny, though they’re rather left-out of the party when on board the Titantic ship.
The Doctor makes friends with the Van Hoffs and they brave the dangers of the space-wrecked Titanic. Both are good at robotics when they repair a Heavenly Host robot. They get mocked by people like Rickston Slade. Morvin unfortunately has an accident and Foon makes a big sacrifice.
There’s a little red spiky alien called Bannakaffalatta, played by Jimmy Vee. “Okay, Bannakaffalatta.” I like the Doctor’s line about Bannakaffalatta being ‘a talking conker’. This little red spiky alien is one of the passengers aboard the Titanic before he’s swept into the adventure.
I found Bannakaffalatta funny as the Doctor finds him annoying at times. Actually I agree with the Doctor. Can I call him Banna just to save time in this review? (“No!” shouts the alien, “Bannakaffalatta!”). Bannakaffalatta is also a cyborg when Astrid discovers his part-metal body.
There’s one member of the Doctor’s group aboard Titanic who’s not very nice. That person is Gray O’Brien of ‘Coronation Street’ fame as Rickston Slade. Rickston is a gambler and a businessman on board the Titanic. He’s so unfriendly and thinks of himself in the Doctor’s group.
People like the Doctor and Mr. Copper tell Rickston to ‘shut up’ when he complains and disregards Morvin and Foon. Despite being mean at times, Rickston helps the Doctor and others when being told what to do. The Doctor tells Rickston to ‘look after himself’ which was so funny.
There’s also Russell Tovey as Midshipman Alonso Frame aboard the Titanic. Alonso stays aboard the bridge with Captain Hardaker, according to ship regulations. He’s shocked when seeing the captain causing the collision of the Titanic into the meteor storm when he attempts to stop him.
The Doctor gets in touch with Alonso and the two exchange information about the ship’s condition and how to escape danger. Alonso informs the Doctor that the Heavenly Host are killing people, right in the nick of time before the Doctor and his friends get chased by one Host.
There’s also Bernard Cribbins who makes his first appearance as Wilfred Mott in ‘Doctor Who’. I’d seen Bernard before in the ‘Fawlty Towers’ episode called ‘The Hotel Inspectors’. He has also starred in the ‘Doctor Who’ film called ‘Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 AD’ with Peter Cushing in it.
Bernard makes a brief appearance as Wilfred in this, as he’s sitting in his newspaper stand when he meets the Doctor and Astrid. He tells them why the streets of London are deserted. Bernard was a joy to see in this episode. I’m pleased that he came back more than once in ‘Doctor Who’.
The guest cast also includes George Costigan as Max Capricorn; Jessica Martin (who was in ‘The Greatest Show In The Galaxy’ with Sylvester McCoy’) as the voice of the Queen and Andrew Havill (who guest starred in ‘The Witch From The Well’ with Paul McGann) as the Chief Steward.
The monsters are the Heavenly Hosts. These are robots shaped in the form of angels with gold faces and wearing white robes. They provide the information aboard the starship Titanic, especially when the Doctor questions one of them. Some of the robots malfunction sometimes.
It’s only until disaster strikes that the Heavenly Hosts start killing the survivors on board the Titanic. I found it frightening when the robots speak in their elegant robotic voices chasing the Doctor and friends saying, “Kill, kill, kill, kill.” The Heavenly Hosts also have wings as they can fly.
They also use their halos as boomerang weapons to kill people. The Doctor manages to win their attention by stating Protocol 1, but only gets three questions to ask them which he didn’t know and wasn’t warned about. The Heavenly Host serve a certain leader on Level 31. But who’s that?
There’s a scene that I really like in this episode. It’s the scene where the Doctor, Astrid and a group of passengers led by Mr. Cooper visit a street in London on Earth at night. This scene was actually filmed in Cardiff where I live and the street is Cardiff Queen Street itself in the TV story.
To see the familiar street at night in a ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas episode was truly spectacular. It brought it home for me when I watched the series, as I knew a place so well from that episode next to St John’s Church and I’ve walked through that street so many times visiting Cardiff itself.
The street is completely empty and that must have been a challenge for the ‘Doctor Who’ film crew. I liked it when Astrid says the street is beautiful, as she’s never been on another planet before. Colin Baker visited the ‘Doctor Who’ set that night too and also met David Tennant then.
The episode ends tragically for Astrid, as she dies in this story. The Doctor confronts the main villain on Level 31. In order to save the Doctor’s life, Astrid drives a red truck into the villain. Now I wasn’t expecting Kylie Minogue’s character as Astrid to die in the actual Christmas special.
I knew Astrid would only appear in one ‘Doctor Who’ episode for Christmas, but didn’t know what the circumstances would be for her only appearance. The scene where Astrid plunges to her death was very sad and upsetting to watch. The Doctor is very upset with Astrid’s death too.
But there’s a moment when the Doctor manages to bring Astrid back from the dead. But she only comes back as particles in space, moments before she’s falling to her death. The Doctor thinks he can save Astrid’s life and David delivers this fiery, energetic performance as he’s trying.
However it turns out the Doctor can’t save Astrid. He yells angrily when he refuses to accept he can’t save her. It upsets the Doctor before he gives a tearful farewell to Astrid’s non-physical form and sends her into space. It’s well-played between David Tennant and Kylie Minogue here.
This episode is dedicated to the memory of Verity Lambert – former producer of ‘Doctor Who’.
The DVD special features on this episode are as follows. On the ‘Voyage of the Damned’ DVD, there’s the cut-down ‘Doctor Who Confidential’ episode looking into the making of ‘Voyage of the Damned’. This includes interviews with writer/executive producer Russell T. Davies, director James Strong, David Tennant, Kylie Minogue, etc.
On Disc 1 of ‘The Complete Series 4’, as well as ‘Time Crash’, there’s David Tennant’s Video Diary in Blackpool; some ‘Voyage of the Damned’ deleted scenes and BBC Trailers of the episode. There’s also a commentary with Russell Tovey, composer Murray Gold and first assistant director Peter Bennett. On Disc 6, the cut-down ‘Doctor Who Confidential’ episode looking into the making of ‘Voyage of the Damned’ can also be found on there.
‘Voyage of the Damned’ is an excellent ‘Doctor Who’ episode from the David Tennant era and is one of the best Christmas Specials I’ve ever seen. It features a superb guest cast led by Kylie Minogue and features Clive Swift, Geoffrey Palmer and Bernard Cribbins who were a joy to see.
I enjoyed watching ‘Voyage of the Damned’ on Christmas Day 2007. It was my first viewing experience of ‘Doctor Who’ on transmitted TV. I enjoyed David Tennant’s Doctor and was looking forward to seeing him in the upcoming Series 4 with Donna Noble in the following year…
‘Voyage of the Damned’ rating – 9/10
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