Voyage of the Damned

Posted in Episode by - May 10, 2016
Voyage of the Damned

Aired 25 December 2007

After another series full of ups and downs that got stronger as it went along before collapsing under its own weight in the finale, Doctor Who returns for its third annual Christmas special with ‘Voyage of the Damned.’ Following the quick interlude with the Fifth Doctor, the story picks up directly from the TARDIS apparently crashing with the Titanic after the Doctor parts ways with Martha. Of course, being Doctor Who, the ship ends up being a luxury space liner filled with tourists, robotic serving angels, and a charming waitress played by international phenomenon Kylie Minogue.

‘Voyage of the Damned’ is something quite different from the holiday installments before it, bursting with ambition but something of a mixed bag overall. There’s no question that Russell T Davies threw everything he could think of into the story with an astounding amount of special effects, a suitable robotic enemy in the Host, and some very clever ideas throughout, all buoyed by a budget to match any blockbuster movie. The casting of such a big name as Kylie Minogue caused fears that this story would be a showcase for her, but the script wisely uses restraint and includes her simply as a piece of an ensemble. She proves quite adept at holding her own and providing a solid presence in the manic situation, and she fits in quite nicely with the rest of the supporting cast, anchored by Geoffrey Palmer and Clive Swift, though Russell Tovey’s Midshipman Frame also deserves note.

The Host robots prove to be an effective- if routine- enemy of the piece, evoking the spirit of Christmas with their golden angel appearance but proving lethal with their incredible strength and deadly halos. However, as the true villain of the piece is slowly revealed, the story starts to lose some of its momentum. Doctor Who is often at its strongest when it has a strong, clear-cut villainous presence at its core. Unfortunately, corporate greed and sabotage simply aren’t as exciting as planetary destruction and the like, and so the greedy and ostentatious Max Capricorn simply falls a little flat. And while Russell T Davies does his usual good job in discussing social issues, made easier by the disparate groups of passengers, some of the more comedic bits don’t resonate as soundly as in previous episodes. Still the historical research bit leading into Astrid’s first visit to Earth is very well done.

So while ‘Voyage of the Damned’ perhaps isn’t as strong as its individual components, it still manages to offer an entertaining action piece, keeping the tension high as the robots turn against the crew aboard the damaged ship and incorporating Kylie Minogue perfectly while giving her character a heroic and surprising fate. David Tennant offers a typically strong performance as the Doctor, showcasing a wide range of emotions and an incredibly quick mind, and though some may not take to the overblown speech about who he is or the religious imagery as the robots raise him up, it’s hard to deny that ‘Voyage of the Damned’ still manages to deliver a solid holiday offering that is sure to amuse viewers of all ages.

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