Hull on Earth


Self-proclaimed Earthonomist Mister Copper is heard to say mid-point through this year’s festive special that ‘Christmas is a celebration of violence’. Having viewed RTD’s latest efforts I’m in no position to argue the negative.

(spoilers follow)

By now we ought to know what to expect of the Christmas Specials – lavish sets, CGI spectacles on a grand scale, a generous shower of camp amid the carnage and with it the routine annual appearance of the ‘No Second Chances’ Tenth Doctor – all of which adds up to a tradition the aforementioned Earthonomist would approve of. Voyage is no different, and in fact builds on the tradition with references to past seasonal slaughter (London is apparently empty because its inhabitants have joined the dots and spent their Christmas in the country instead); this time of course RTD almost gets away with it because he’s pastiching that grand UK Christmas tradition, the disaster movie. 

The plot goes like this: intergalactic cruise ship with the most ill-informed name imaginable, suicidal captain, conspiracy to destroy all life on earth (can’t have a Chistmas story without that), and the Doctor and companion du jour are there as International Rescue – except that in Voyage of the Damned it doesn’t quite work out that way. There are deaths, most in the vein of that disaster movie cliche the ‘honourable self sacrifice’, but to include among them the most heavily promoted guest star – well, that’s an interesting angle to take. If nothing else it conveniently puts to rest any promise of a sixth past companion returning in 2008, but I may as well come out and say it: even within the context of a disaster movie with all the predictable casualties, this story is grim, and not a little cynical. The good don’t always survive, and the wicked don’t all get their comeuppance. In a Christmas special (especially one nestled happily next to an Eastenders  episode with all the misery you’d expect from that), what is RTD playing at?

It’s very strange.

 But it’s watchable; and if you’re prepared to overlook the mean streak at its heart (yes Jamas and Dave – and the appalling physics), it’s an adequate disaster pastiche and decent Christmas fare, even if the Doctor is for much of the denouement left powerless (shades of Ecclestone again?). Bernard Cribbens deserved a better cameo and Geoffrey Palmer (not that one, the actor) seemed a sketch of a character, but Clive Swift’s Mr Copper was good fun, and his survival at the end among a disturbingly all-male roster (er, TSV‘s Buckingham Palace subscriber excepted) was a real highlight. For all the hand wringing earlier this year on the interweb (this blog included), Ms Minogue was fine, if not outstanding, and it was good to see Jimmy Vee have a more substantial role this year.

I doubt many will remember Voyage of the Damned for too long; there are certainly a couple of bits I’d not care to recall, but as Christmas fare goes, and New Who goes it was equally enjoyable and reliably watchable. But next year Russell – can we have something a little more life-affirming?


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