Channel: BBC One
Recurring Cast: David Tennant, Kylie Minogue, Clive Swift, Gray O’Brien, Russell Tovey, Debbie Chazen, Clive Rowe, Geoffrey Palmer and Bernard Cribbins
Voyage of the Damned remembered the most important thing about a Doctor Who Christmas Special: above all, it must be fun. Therefore, this time around, we are treated to an episode where the Doctor is thrown into his very own Titanic disaster movie.
It is absolutely nothing like we would expect. As the episode slowly opens, we are given the usual slow detective drama, where the Doctor knows there is a threat going on, but he needs to get to the bottom of it. The players are introduced, we are shown the creepy Host (statue angels that act as tour guides and sinister henchmen), and we even get none other than Kylie Minogue on companion duties. However, what we aren’t expecting, is for proceedings to evolve into a confined thriller crossed with a monster movie. Anyone that saw the film Poseidon back in 2006 might be reminded of the action seen here. As the characters make their way through the death trap that is an exploding Titanic, being killed off one by one, in various horrifying ways, we are glued to our seats, wondering where the next shock is coming from. Being a Doctor Who, it feels like a watered-down version of this disaster/monster movie genre piece. We know the formula by now and it isn’t until the end of the hour long episode, do the twists really come into play? Everything else is set-pieces and having fun. While this is what we want, it does make this episode the most forgettable out of the three Christmas specials we have seen so far.
The real hook of this episode isn’t really the Titanic angle, but the fact that the writers managed to secure international pop star, Kylie Minogue, as the heroine. She does a better job than expected of her, as well. She plays it the old-fashioned way with big, awe-struck eyes as she is shown the terrifying world that surrounds the Doctor. She is likeable and after Freema Aguymen’s weaker acting, she is a worthy addition to the canon. My one gripe is that she doesn’t really break any new ground here, which makes sense, as she wasn’t meant to become a recurring character. However, it does suggest that Doctor Who’s companions are slowly evolving into the next Bond girls. As long as they are pretty, mildly helpful and happy to play second fiddle to the Doctor, then they will have a staple in the Doctor Who universe. Also, it is hard to compliment anyone’s acting, when they are hidden under the shadow of David Tennant. He is phenomenal, as ever. The act isn’t even starting to get old yet, his dramatic personification of a Time Lord always hard-hitting. The melodrama, the dark stare: the world really does rest on David Tennant’s shoulders throughout his entire stint as the Doctor.
Story-wise, the Voyage of the Damned does suffer. It is very crash-bang-wallop – a little too focused on being a Christmas episode extravaganza. It is all explosions and CGI shots, clinging to the fun factor and skimping on the drama with the exception of a few beats in the end. There is a twist that makes sticking it out to the end worthwhile and the fans that clamour to the emotion will be sent spinning at a late act shock. A nice effort from Russell T. Davies, but I think everyone is much more focused on when the actual fourth season will come out. This is a pleasant distraction but not much more.
Final Verdict: Christmas fun with a nice twist on the Titanic story. Forgettable yet explosive enough for the fans.