The Voyage of the Damned, or The Christmas Inferno, or Kylie in a Forklift
Here are some of my thoughts on the 2007 Christmas special Voyage of Damned.
It’s The Poseiden Adventure meets Enlightenment meets Robots of Death meets Douglas Adams’ Starship Titanic.
It was completely, totally and utterly bonkers, but in a good way. It is unlikely that you will see anything quite like it ever again. You may never want to see anything quite like it ever again but I quite liked it. I mean where else will you see Kylie Minogue dressed in a waitress outfit driving a forklift truck? Only in something as bonkers as this, or perhaps in an alternative history where Kylie’s career is on the skids, and she is forced to appear in adverts for B&Q or Homebase.
The new theme. I am not sure what to think of the new version of theme. It’s the same theme, but it just sounds like Murray Gold has let Buckethead into his studio and let him jam along with the theme. I didn’t mind it after I had watched it again and, boy, it sounds good loud! It’s the heavy metal version of the theme! Still it could have been worse Murray Gold could have written some lyrics to the theme and had Kylie sing them. Imagine the furore if that had happened!
The end credits were a bit quick, but with these new fangled videos and dvd’s they have today with a pause function they can easily be read after the event. It could have been worse they could have squeezed them into a little box in the corner of the screen thus not even giving you the chance to pause them to read them. I wouldn’t imagine that they would be any quicker when they are released on DVD either.
There was some brilliant work from the Mill on display here most notably the external shot of the Titanic drifting through space and the vastness of the Titanic’s engines. That really did give a sense of the scale of ship.
I thought that Kylie did a good job in her rather limited role of Astrid. She was sweet and looks damn good for a woman nearing 40. She was almost perfect companion material for the old series: humanoid but not human, no friends or family, actually wanted to travel with the Doctor, even though she just wanted to jump his bones, which is not traditional companion behaviour but is par for the course in this new version of the show and it was quite sad that her character died. Well she sort of died anyway. She might as well have died but perhaps they felt that it would be slightly too grim to actually kill her off properly. I am not sure.
I always thought that no matter who Kylie played she was never going to be any more than a single story companion (although I thought the same of Donna and look who is returning in series four so what do I know!)I have no doubt though that there will be an Astrid 5” figure very soon. It will be the only one to be a scale model of the actress herself!
Banakaffalata was another interesting character and another great part for the mighty Jimmy Vee. Just like the Moxx of Balhoon he might have been a baddie but turned out to be nothing of the sort and he also died. I have no doubt that there will be a figure of him out very soon as well.
The last ten minutes did seem a little bit tacked on and the sudden change from the grimness of the previous 45 minutes or so to the high camp comedy of the last ten minutes did seem to jar a little bit it was almost as if they didn’t fancy ending it on such a grim note at Christmas (as with Astrid), but look at the average Christmas episodes of Eastenders. For me they could have cut from the bit before the Doctor flew with the angels to the last scenes on board of the Titanic before the Doctor and Mr Copper went back to Earth and it would have made it a little bit tighter as I am sure the silliness of the last ten minutes was not necessary.
The final scene between the Doctor and Mr Copper was a nice little scene. I liked the joke about the snow not being real snow. As we all know it never snows on Christmas day and hasn’t for some years now. At least Mr Copper will be able to find a room for the night, as even though its Christmas the whole population of England has buggered off except for the Queen and Bernard Cribbins
On the subject of Bernard Cribbins wasn’t he good in his little role of Wilfrid Mott, the newspaper seller. I never noticed till it was pointed out to me that he had a U.N.I.T. insignia badge on his bobble hat perhaps he is the Brigadier fallen on hard times and under some sort of witness protection programme? We know that he is coming back in the new series, and the fact that U.N.I.T. are set to return so perhaps that is not as insignificant as it might appear to be at first.
Geoffrey Palmer was another one who had a nice cameo in the special although his character wasn’t particularly sympathetic was he? Even though he wasn’t able to bring himself to kill young Midshipman Frame, he wasn’t exactly bothered about either the rest of the ships crew, passengers and the population of the Earth.
The direction by James Strong was very good and it certainly looked very cinematic, which all of the episodes he had directed, so far, have done.
The Heavenly Hosts were a quite good invention for this episode far better than the robot santas that we have had in the previous two Christmas specials. I am, though, a little disappointed that they were not in face Axons. They were however a lot like the Voc Robots in Robots of Death (even down to one of them having their hand trapped in a door) but without the personality that they managed to muster.
Clive Swift was also very good in his role as Mr Copper and I just loved his little speeches about the Christmas customs on the planet Earth. Great stuff.
Wasn’t Rickston Slade the single most unpleasant character ever to be seen in the new series? Killing him off wouldn’t have been at all dramatic as most people would have been happy if he were one of the first ones to die!
I think that the main problem with the story is the fact that you don’t really care if any of the characters in the story live or die. Apart from Rickston who is the only character you actually want to die the others don’t really register as anything other than ciphers who we don’t really know enough about to care.
If Astrid had been played by anyone other than Kylie I don’t think that her demise would have been that noteworthy either because her character is rather one-note but perfect for an original series companion as I noted earlier.
The characters of Morvin and Foon who are reasonable comic relief characters in the story who, only have the fact that Rickston is being mean to them because they are both big people, as a reason that you want them to survive rather than him.
I enjoyed Voyage of the Damned. It wasn’t perfect, but then what is?; it wouldn’t win any awards for originality, but then neither did the entire Hinchliffe era. It won’t stand up to close scrutiny, granted, but I found it enjoyable which, at the end of the day, is the one thing that is really important.
In fact I would say that it was the most enjoyable of the three Christmas specials to date.