In the third Doctor Who Christmas special, the final events of the end of series three are put into context as the Doctor boards the Titanic to discover a disastrous plot to destroy planet earth. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
Well, that was bleak, wasn’t it? Before I dive into “Voyage of the Damned,” I wanted to briefly talk about the Children in Need special, “Time Crash.” I am so wonderfully glad that not a single one of you spoiled the surprise of the mini-episode to me because it made it so much more enjoyable.
THE FIFTH DOCTOR! AND THE TENTH DOCTOR! THE SPRIG OF CELERY! I think it may have meant more to me if I had seen more of the Fifth Doctor, but STILL. What worked best was the meta-commentary written for David Tennant. “You were my Doctor,” he said to Peter Davison. And we knew that it meant that this was role was special to him, that Tennant was getting the immense privilege to play a character he’d grown up watching. And that, my friends, is goddamn beautiful.
All right, onwards with “Voyage of the Damned”! Of course, my first question for this Christmas special was HOW ON EARTH COULD THE TITANIC CRASH INTO THE TARDIS THAT SEEMS LIKE A BIG THING TO HAPPEN. I wondered if this episode would suggest that the Titanic crashed because it hit the TARDIS, not an iceberg, but then…shit started getting really weird.
Why are there robots on the Titanic? WHY ARE THERE ROBOTS ON THE TITANIC?
And Russell T Davies answers, “Hahaha, FUCK YOU THIS IS A SPACESHIP I AM THE BEST EVER” and then we high five each other in space and break the time-space continuum and finally, finally, he will write a scene into one of these episodes in which the earth opens up and eats the villain.
A boy can dream. Don’t you ever take that away from me.
There are a couple wonderful little narratives that all contribute to the main plot; we learn that the Titanic is an interstellar cruiser that is orbiting earth to observe a “primitive” culture. In this case, it’s Christmas. The subtext here is that a bunch of snooty, rich assholes are treating the earth like it’s a zoo, and this is all run by the gold-toothed Max Capricorn. I imagine a lot of this man’s work is to make a mockery or a joke out of “exotic” people in order to make money. But we’ll get to Max later.
I’m not sure we’ve seen an episode yet that is framed around the disaster trope and I think, ultimately, that this particularly story does a lot of things really, really well. Using the ship as the set creates an air of hopeless claustrophobia, especially the scenes where the survivors have to climb through debris and rubble. That first asteroid hit actually spins the ship around and normally, shaky camera scenes always seem so contrived and fake, but the moment was filmed so realistically.
The twist that Davies provides here is that it’s not just about a ship that’s going to “sink” into the earth, but the robot Hosts are also chasing them. So it’s literally an alien disaster movie all shoved into one. I dig that.
There’s also a slight twist on the idea that in stressful, life-or-death situations, people turn into righteous fools. We’ve seen it time and time again in these type of movies: as air begins to run out or the infection spread, everyone turns against each other. It’s hard to do something original in this vein and it’s even harder to make it realistic. I’m not saying that this particular episode of Doctor Who eclipsed all written scripts and pulled off a masterpiece, but they did one thing just a bit different than I expected: Rickston Slade.
I lost count of how many times I wished for the whole ship to blow up just to kill Rickston Slade. Calling him despicable is an understatement. That fat-hating waste of space is the worst of the worst, someone willingly dismissive of everyone who doesn’t look like him or act like him or have as much money as him. He is THE MAN. He is literally The Man. And I know there had to be a ton of you who felt the same way: THIS DUDE IS GOING TO GET FUCKED UP. He has to! He’s awful and miserable and a fuckface shitbag.
And Russell T Davies says, “Hey, wouldn’t it be super fucked up if a ton of people die, three of them while sacrificing themselves, and this smarmy shit actually makes money off of this tragedy??” And then God reached down and gave him the highest of high fives and then Russell T Davies was inspired by this turn and thought, “Hey, why don’t I add just one line spoken by Mr. Copper about how we, as an audience, want the worst fates to befall on those we dislike the most?” And that’s when God and Jesus both high fived Russell T Davies and all was well in the world.
Let’s talk about how bleak and depressing this is, especially for a Christmas special. No one spoiled Kylie Minogue’s appearance (THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THAT!) and hell, there was even a moment that I truly believed that she might be the Doctor’s newest companion for series 4. (I WAS WRONG OMG I AM EXCITED FOR WHO IT IS GOING TO BE THOUGH OMG OMG OMG.) The Christmas specials so far generally involve a really small body count and this episode was pretty much the complete opposite. First of all, I think that, at the end of everything, FOUR PEOPLE SURVIVE. And that’s if you count the Doctor. If not, then it’s just Alonso, Rickston, and Mr. Copper. OUT OF HUNDREDS, POSSIBLY THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE. what. On top of that, Morvin accidentally falls into the engines and then his wife, Foon, follows suit clutching one of the Hosts that is trying to kill the survivors. what!!! But they were so awesome and hilarious the world is so unfair
I think the final confrontation between Max Capricorn and the Doctor is not nearly as powerful as the rest of the episode. It seemed obvious to me that Astrid was going to get involved in some way and get herself killed. Max Capricorn himself reminded me so much of Dr. Evil that I was distracted. That was basically Dr. Evil, right? (Holy god, I feel so old. Those movies are like a billion years old. why) I liked that the entire thing was motivated by selfish greed. There’s a parallel between Max, who dies for his transgression, and Rickston, who benefits from his actions. It’s an ugly truth, but sometimes the most awful people are spared and never have to face their actions. I mean, we generally call that “privilege” around these parts, but Rickston is just flat-out the worst thing ever.
Earth, please open up soon. Eat all the villains, please.
- I thought Kylie Minogue did a good job! It wasn’t the greatest performance ever in the history of acting, but I liked her character a lot. Apparently people hated it? They probably didn’t like…fun and happiness. Right?
- Oh my god, the fake Queen was HILARIOUS. She was in her bath robe! So cute!
- I like that this episode essentially pokes fun at itself. London isn’t abandoned because of some otherworldly conspiracy. The residents are just sick of alien invasions every year. Oh god, SO AWESOME.
- Bannakaffalatta is a BAMF. I loved the commentary about the rights of cyborgs and the ongoing marriage joke between him and Astrid.
- Ok, there were a lot of really cheesy things in this episode. The Doctor being flown upwards by the Hosts. Astrid being turned into atoms that looked the special effects from classic Who.
- Mr. Copper’s character probably had the most depth out of anyone, what with his fake teaching credentials and how he transforms over the course of the episode. It made me very happy how he ended up.
- “I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the Constellation of Kasterbourous. I’m 903 years old and I’m the man who is gonna save your lives and all 6 billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?” ILU DOCTOR
- “Take me to your leader. I’ve always wanted to say that!”
- “This Christmas thing? What’s it about?” “Long story. I should know. I was there. I got the last room.” OMG HE MENTIONED JESUS. Didn’t I ask if he did this like…at the very beginning?
- “But if you could choose, Doctor, if you could decide who lives and who decides…that would make you a monster.”
- “Allons-y, Alonso!”
- All in all, I liked this special. It was fun. Tomorrow, “The Caves of Androzani” will go up! EXCITE!