The bow of the Titanic slices through the skin of the TARDIS, much to the Doctor’s alarm, though he is able to pull the timeship out of the collision so it can repair itself. Landing within the Titanic, the Doctor is stunned to find alien life forms and helpful robotic angels mingling with the passengers…until he looks out a window and discovers that he’s aboard a spacefaring cruise ship bearing the same name. He befriends a cocktail waitress named Astrid, who admits that she only signed up for the opportunity to travel through space, but before the Doctor has finished sizing her up as a new companion aboard the TARDIS, things start to go disastrously wrong. The Titanic’s captain, in observation of Christmas being celebrated below on Earth, dismisses his bridge crew, disables the shields, and steers his ship into the path of oncoming meteors. Several direct hits ensue, causing many deaths and leaving the Titanic reeling out of its orbit. But instead of just burning up when it comes through the Earth’s atmosphere, the ship’s powerful engines will overload, destroying all life on the planet. The angelic robot servants on the ship begin to slaughter the few survivors aboard. The Doctor doesn’t have much time to save the day, barely managing to keep Astrid and several passengers alive. But who has set the Titanic on a deliberate course for disaster in the first place?
written by Russell T. Davies
directed by James Strong
music by Murray Gold
Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Kylie Minogue (Astrid Peth), Geoffrey Palmer (Captain Hardaker), Russell Tovey (Midshipman Frame), George Costigan (Max Capricorn), Gray O’Brien (Rickston Slade), Andrew Havill (Chief Steward), Bruce Lawrence (Engineer), Debbie Chazen (Foon Van Hoff), Clive Rowe (Marvin Van Hoff), Clive Swift (Mr. Copper), Jimmy Vee (Bannakaffalatta), Bernard Cribbins (Wilfred Mott), Nicholas Witchell (himself), Paul Kasey (The Host), Stefan Davis (Kitchen Hand), Jason Mohammad (Newsreader), Colin McFarlane (Alien voice), Ewan Bailey (Alien voice), Jessica Martin (voice of the Queen)
Notes: Guest star Bernard Cribbins may well be the new series guest star with the longest association to the golden days of Doctor Who – he appeared as hapless police constable Tom Campbell in the 1966 film adaptation Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., starring alongside Peter Cushing as Doctor Who; he would reprise this role in Partners In Crime. At least on the surface, Voyage Of The Damned would appear to share at least its setting with the computer game Starship Titanic, created by the late Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy creator Douglas Adams and novelized by former Monty Python writer/performer Terry Jones. The Heavenly Hosts bear an uncanny resemblance to the equally helpful (and, ultimately, equally deadly) Vocs and Super Vocs from the Tom Baker story Robots Of Death. Voyage also sees the introduction of another variation on Murray Gold‘s arrangement of the Doctor Who theme tune, this time featuring electric guitars mixed in with the version, introduced in 2006, which combines samples of the original 1963 Delia Derbyshire arrangement with an orchestral overdub. A dedication appeared at the end of the episode to Verity Lambert, the first producer of Doctor Who, who died on November 22, 2007 – one day before the 43rd anniversary of the series she was so instrumental in launching.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: I had intended, at some stage, to pepper this review with phrases hearkening back to Kylie Minogue’s songs, but considering that (A) the BBC had already worn a hold through the obvious “Stepping Back In Time”, and (B) Kylie Minogue turned out to be a better fit for the show that I possibly could’ve expected, I’ll spare you that cliche.
One thing I have to mention off the top – with the possible exceptions of Blink and Gridlock, Voyage Of The Damned is my favorite Doctor Who adventure in at least a year. With a complete and utter lack of moon-eyed remembrances of Rose Tyler, I’m hoping that this is proof that the lessons of the third season have been learned, at least by Russell T. Davies (who wrote this installment). What’s more, Astrid is written as possibly the strongest potential companion character that the new series has seen – even moreso than Rose or Martha – and Kylie Minogue rises to the occasion admirably.
Considering that her roots are in acting and her staggeringly successful pop music career came later, perhaps it’s unfair to have expected anything less from Ms. Minogue, but I was pleasantly surprised by her appearance here. Without falling back on the trappings of her Earthly stage persona, she inhabits the character with skill and grace, and as much as I’m looking forward to Catherine Tate’s return as Donna in season four, I was truly sorry that Astrid didn’t get to join the Doctor aboard the TARDIS. After last year’s Christmas special gave us a likely companion who turned the Doctor down, this year’s gives us someone who eagerly says “yes” to traveling through time – and then doesn’t survive to take even so much as her first journey. I’m not sure why the Doctor has been laying a big smooch on every TV sidekick since Grace Holloway, but if there’s one story where it’s justified, this would be it.
Voyage To The Damned is a damned fine slice of Doctor Who, and hopefully indicative of new directions for the Time Lord in 2008.