Voyage of the Damned

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    Craig @craig

    Kylie! In a Christmas special! A spacecraft set on an apocalyptic collision course with Earth, a host of killer robot angels and an evil severed-headed mastermind — it’s just another Christmas for the Doctor…

    Dedicated to Verity Lambert, the first producer of Doctor Who, who died a month prior to broadcast. I’m glad she got to see the series reborn and be a huge success yet again.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    Dedicated to Verity Lambert, the first producer of Doctor Who, who died a month prior to broadcast. I’m glad she got to see the series reborn and be a huge success yet again.

    Well said, and I agree. Back in 2006 SFX (doing something more constructive than coming up with spurious annoying lists) arranged a meeting between Russel and Verity. Their first meeting. The interview is quite good, and is now online:

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    Just before I kick in, I think its fair to say that RTD and SM probably remember Christmas in the 70s/80s as I do. When SM wrote his Christmissier-than-Christmas episode A Christmas Carol, he threw a shark in. Jaws was always a Christmas movie once the TV rights were sold. For about 10 successive years.

    The other staple (apart from Bond, natch) was a good old disaster movie, and I think RTD must just have just thought “Let’s revive that tradition. Is Ernest Borgnine still available!? No – oh well.”

    So there are clichés from just about every disaster movie – your Towering Infernos, your Airports, and your Poseidon Adventures. With a huge, healthy dollop of a tribute to the Tom Baker Robots of Death. In Space. With Kylie. It’s everything upto and including the kitchen sink.

    Does it work? I think my feelings are largely yes. I’ve actually found myself laughing at this in all the right places.

    After two Christmas specials stuck on Earth, it’s actually lovely to get off-world, even if we’re just in orbit. The set design looks fantastic. Opulance abounds, and that extends to the filming. It has a lushness that suits the story.

    OK – the Doctors miserable. His Christmas song is “It’ll be lonely this Christmas” by Mud. Even in that state though he has enough innate charm to start meeting and charming people. The dinner scene is still chucklesome as the Doctor gets to make the bullies look stupid, including all-round arse Rickston Slade.

    The more you learn about the society these people come from, the less palatable it sounds as we meet our cast. Nice down-to-Sto couple Morvin and Foon Van Hoff are there by luck and are the underclass. As is waitress Astrid Peth, working her way to the stars. Earth “expert” Mr Copper seems to have some weird views, but a nice enough bloke. And then we have red midget BannaKaffalatta.

    It’s tradition in disaster these people will have the skills to get the group out. Most of them will have SOMETHING TO HIDE, as its Rule #3 of Disaster Movie scripting. I immediately suspected the Robots as well. The stylised faces and voices immediately made me think of the Tom Baker stories and the Voc series of Robots. This can’t be a good sign.

    It was too much to ask to be completely in Space, so we pop down to Earth for a look around. That’s made up for, because LOOK, it’s only Bernard bloody Cribbins. I’m sure a nation of inebriated adults of a certain age went completely misted eyed when this was first shown, almost drowning in soggy nostalgia. I certainly did. The joke about London evacuating was OK but does highlight a growing problem with the “everyone knows about aliens” thing. You can paint yourself into a corner.

    Back on the ship and the casting is just as good – Geoffrey Palmer as the Captain (with a secret!) and Russell Tovey as Midshipman Frame. And the captain seems intent of going down with the ship on purpose! Meteor was another disaster movie of the 70s, but not a particularly good one.

    OK we have our band of survivors. Rule #2 of Disaster movies will be that the people in immediate authority in the group of survivors will actually be pretty inept, so it’s goodbye to the officer as he ejects himself. Tick Rule #2.

    Rule #1 of Disaster movie plotting says the survivors will include a charismatic leader, usually a priest or a cop who actually has a vague plan. Usually he’s driven by a need to atone for something. Huzzah – we have a Doctor!!

    Oh dear – who saw a robot rebellion coming in the middle of this carnage? Well – most of us oldies certainly. As we know robots act on programming, surely there must be a fiendish Taren Capel like character in our midst?!

    And we’re off. Rule #4 of Disaster movie plotting means that our survivors will be wittled down, and usually it’s the nice characters who suffer. Because they are ones stupid enough to have empathy and help other people.

    So we say goodbye to the nice couple (who at least have an end to their money problems) in the pretty thrilling encounter with the robots. And red midget gets to save the day even though his society hates him because he’s a cyborg. Midshipman Frame is still in the mix, and gets to seal himself in from robot attach severing a hand. My god – that scene is lifted straight from Robots of Death. No shame at all. 😀

    It’s actually a thrilling ride around here, lots of to-ing and fro-ing. It is a pretty good pastiche of the genre. It seems really quick before the Doctor is teleporting himself down to the missing deck, to seek out his Taren Capell. And here’s Max, looking a bit poorly frankly. That’s no way to be the head of a major corporation. No way to get ahead. I’ll stop now. It’s actually quite a nice performance from George Costigan underneath all that.

    And it’s Kylie to the rescue! Oh noes!!

    The Doctor has to pull himself together then. He’s got a planet to save after all. And we’re entering dangerous territory. The red mist descends on me as the Doctor assumes the Jesus Christ pose, is lifted up by the Angelic hosts and born aloft to the heavens.

    WHY! Come on Russell – this is Christmas! Do we really need to bring religious allusions into it?! This is a bit too soon after Last of the Time Lords. I want to vomit.

    Frankly – after this, the site of a huge Titanic flying towards Buckingham Palace is welcome relief.

    And in the end, our survivor from the initial batch are a niceish guy who lied, and gets a confortable retirement. Oh, and a complete utter shitbag. The Doctor can’t decide who lives and dies, etc. A heartwarming Christmas message.

    Largely – this is a fine bit of nonsense, but the Doctor as God thing – someone really ought to have had the confidence to have a bit of a chat to Russell about it at this point. I think he has a problem.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave


    Thanks for posting that interview with Verity Lambert and RTD. I had not seen it before. I think she was spot on in her assessments of Eccleston and Tennant (as she was in other interviews on the BG post-Hartnell Doctors).

    Fascinating idea about Peter Cook. I assume she was thinking of his ability to be simultaneously funny and frightening; which sounds a bit like Peter Capaldi, actually…

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    Glad you enjoyed it. It was @craig reminding me this was dedicated to Verity that made me remember it. I may put another quote on the Season 8 thread (because it’s a bit more suited for that).

    janetteB @janetteb

    @phaseshift‘s excellent breakdown helped me understand why this is the one Christmas special which I never rewatch. Appart from featuring Kylie, who is as much a national embarrassment as Nicole, Mel and Tony, (well no that isn’t fair. The last two are in a class all their own) it is inspired by a genre of film which I really dislike.

    Oh and thanks for the video link. Nice to hear Verity talk about the resurrection of her “baby” even though she denies that term, especially after watching An Adventure in Space and Time. I did not know that RTD was also born in 1963, As I always say, what a good vintage. I hope he has time now to set back and simply enjoy watching the show, for if it was Verity’s baby it was RTD that rescued it.




    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    As I’ve said before I don’t really like the Christmas specials, and this one is probably the worst.

    janetteB @janetteb

    I love the Christmas specials but when it comes to Voyage of the Damned I am in complete agreement with you @thekrynoidman



    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    inspired by a genre of film which I really dislike.

    I used to be really bemused as to why these films were so popular, because you saw one, you effectively saw them all. Just different scenarios and different hazards. Growing up, Christmas wasn’t complete without one though (as far as TV land was concerned). As a teenager, I developed the theory that it was down to family Christmas. After a day of hell, you wanted to flake out on the sofa, get drunk and see people who were having a more miserable time than you were having. 😀

    It’s an invaluable public service, I suppose. These days we have the Soaps who do it. I still quite like the joke in the Impossible Planet about Eastenders, who usually deliver a double bill of misery every Christmas Day.

    Ida: Well, we’ve come this far, there’s no turning back.
    The Doctor: Oh, come on! Did you have to? “No turning back”, that’s almost as bad as “Nothing could possibly go wrong”, or “This is gonna be the best Christmas Walford’s ever had!”


    I find the first 40 minutes of this quite engaging, and rewatched thinking “why don’t I watch this more often?”. And then I remembered.

    When I look back on the Russell Christmas specials, they seem on balance to have stand-out “spectacular” scenes that the plot just serves to get you to, and the gradual payback on that idea diminished over time. I don’t think (from memory) this is the worst though. We’ve still got Giant stompy robots and the Master race to come.

    ScaryB @scaryb

    I managed to miss this (and the Runaway Bride) first time round (no iplayer catch-up way back then and Dr Who fans are waaay in the minority in my family ie there’s just me!)

    I liked a lot of it, a lot. But definitely with @phaseshift on the heavenly ascension bit – tho they do manage to switch it to a Superman 1 hand extended flying pose to crash thro the floor.  I was surprised by the no of actual deaths in it, and sorry, Kylie turning into the phoenix asteroids to circle the universe forever doesn’t really cut it in compensation. I liked Morvin and Foon 😥  It’s interesting who is saved (a bit against genre?) and I liked the scene where Astrid says that it would be awful to be the person who decides who lives or dies. This time the Doctor doesn’t get to choose.

    Nice callout to Robots of Death. And it’s got Bernard Cribbins 😀

    To be fair to RTD they were still working out what the Xmas Special could/should be. But overall I much prefer Moffat’s take on it, esp Christmas Carol ( 🙂 @phaseshift‘s Jaws comment) and the Snowmen. Less of the big scary things stamping around, and “smaller ” stories on the whole, fairy tales rather than disaster movies.  (But yes, Christmas in the 70s wasn’t complete without a rerun of  Jaws, Towering Inferno, Bond… and the Great Escape; kids today have no idea just how lucky they are!!)

    ScaryB @scaryb

    And yes, enjoyed the RTD/Verity Lambert interview very much. The comments about older v younger Doctors are funny; never say never with this show.  And really glad Gatiss made such a success of Adventure in Space and Time. 

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    … and the Great Escape

    In retrospect, that has to have been a missed opportunity for eleven. Remember the throw away scene in Impossible Astronaut with the tunnel to the camp commandants office?

    Having the Doctor (with the obvious football skills of Matt Smith) spending time in a concentration camp and leading a series of escape attempts culminating in a successful Christmas break out could have channelled every single PoW camp (and you’re right. There were so many).

    The football skills from the Lodger could have given us our Escape to Victory moment. Who would have needed Pele? 😀

    I’ll echo your sentiments about Morvin and Foon. They were very nice performances from both.

    In the genre, there are always the most sympathetic characters who die. Where this really breaks the tradition is that usually someone unpleasant lives, but speaks movingly at the end about learning a vital life lesson, before going on to become a great philanthropist. In this, the genuine arse revels in his remaining an absolute arse.

    Arbutus @arbutus

    Interesting comments by @phaseshift and @janetteb. I have fond memories of watching The Poseidon Adventure on TV years ago, it used to come up with great regularity and for some reason, I could never resist watching these doomed people fighting their way through the nightmare setting that the ship had become. So I guess that that is part of the reason I did enjoy this episode.

    I have always enjoyed the Christmas episodes, although there were a few that I felt were pretty weak. The problem of course is the need to shoehorn a Christmas theme into an episode, which places artificial restrictions on the writing. I thought this one worked well because the Christmas theme appeared in the setting, but didn’t really drive the plot at all. I enjoyed all the supporting characters, and found the opening scenes of the Doctor jumping in and enjoying the cruise to be a lot of fun.

    They really only lost me with Resurrection Doctor. And I thought it was too bad that Astrid had to die, although I’m not sure I would have wanted her as a companion. I would have liked it if she could have started a new life somehow, exploring the universe in some other way. But I also liked the “not getting to choose who lives” idea, that sometimes it’s the undeserving who survive. (I was saddened but not shocked by Foon’s death, as her character was clearly a call out to the Shelly Winters character in The Poseidon Adventure, who also died.) I did like the ending, with newly-wealthy Mr. Copper left on earth, delighted that he would be able to buy himself a house!

    Emeralds @theemeralddoctor

    I got given a tour of the sets of Doctor who around Wales, one of them is the street in which David Tennant and Kylie Monuge with Bernerd Cribbins the part in which they teleport down to earth. at that very same time they were filming there was a flood of University students around the corner, if they were to turn right, they would see kylie monouge. luckily they didn’t

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