Christmas time brings us another Christmas Special set at Christmas…in chronological order…
The Doctor is a time traveling alien who can go anywhere in space and time, yet somehow for the last 3 years he has ended up at Christmas in sequential order. I know it’s a holiday special and would be fitting to have it themed as such, but the chances are astronomical that this would really happen for the Doctor. But then it is a TV show in which anything can happen. Suspension of disbelief is key for science fiction shows.
That said, it was very nice to have a bit of a change in placement for this year’s story. Sure, this story was still set on Earth, well orbiting Earth, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but this time the characters were not running about in the streets with Robot Santas and Deadly Christmas Trees. Not that those things were bad, it’s just that you can do that only so many times.
This year we got aliens, and they were in just as much danger as our beloved Earth. The vacationers from the planet Stow were the first race of aliens to feature in the new series of Doctor Who that had no human affiliation whatsoever to be saved by the Doctor. Sure, they were partying on an Earth-themed cruise, and they even looked human, but this story had no human involvement otherwise (ignoring the Queen and the newsstand man, as they weren’t part of the trip nor were they main characters).
So there you have it: we had a ship full of aliens, mostly from the planet Stow, who look like humans, being attacked by Max Capricorn (ting!) – a member of their own race – who was controlling humanoid looking robots that were meant to be service and information robots onboard the ship. Where have we seen that before? Oh yes, The Robots of Death, from way back in Season 14. I guess if you are going to steal an idea you should steal from the best.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining; I quite enjoyed Voyage of the Damned. In fact, it was the best of the three specials so far despite The Runaway Bride boasting the best TARDIS chase scene ever! I just couldn’t help but notice the similarities.
I mentioned that the best scene was in The Runaway Bride but The Christmas Invasion holds the title for the best villain–the Sycorax. Although this year’s Host Angels were quite scary, they are not the main villains of the story. Max Capricorn, the businessman behind the attack on the Titanic, was far less threatening than anything I’ve ever seen in Doctor Who. He could easily have escaped from a bad Saturday morning cartoon. Capricorn served his purpose in the story but that’s about all he did. The glimmering tooth joke couldn’t have worked without him! (Ting!)
The Sycorax were more threatening and fiercer than the Empress of Racnoss or Max Capricorn but when it comes to Christmas robots of death, the Hosts take the cake.
But what about the other side of the coin? The good guys? Foon and Morvin Van Hoff? Mr. Cooper? Rickston Slade? Midshipman Frame? Bannakaffalatta? Astrid Peth?
So many new characters my head is spinning around… oh my… I’m seasick… moving on.
Let’s look at them as quickly as we can one by one (or two in the first case):
Foon and Morvin Van Hoff:
The underdogs, the ones who are always picked on and who are never given a fair chance because of something as shallow as looks. Sadly, it seems that even aliens have bullies. Nonetheless, they proved to be just what they were, strong and heroic to the last.
A bit quirky, misinformed, and all-around likeable guy. In the end he was given the true gift of Christmas – happiness and goodwill toward Man.
Not a hero, but on their side no matter how you cut it. We’ll call him "Scrooge who didn’t learn his lesson."
Here we have what we hope every man or woman who enters the service will be: a good, honest soul who is dedicated to protecting those who are in need of help no matter what the cost. Add to that the fantastic cap-off joke to the Doctor’s hunt for a companion with the name Alonzo and you have a recipe for success.
Wish I could be as kind to him as I was to Midshipman Frame, but sadly he became rather annoying by repeating his name every 5 seconds, talking in the third person and with that chipmunk voice of his. His death was the only one (aside from Max Capricorn) that actually made me feel nothing. Sorry Russell, you get high points for this story, but not for this character.
Everything a companion should be. Someone who wants to see the universe just as much as the Doctor, someone whose eyes get as wide as a child’s who is opening the perfect gift on Christmas morning, and someone who is capable of jumping in to save the day in a crisis.
I have to admit that I thought the whole TARDIS/Astrid anagram was really part of this story and not just fan theory, but then nothing happened. Could Russell T. Davies have actually fooled us? Did he know that the fans would pick up on his love for anagrams and let our imaginations fly? Or is her story not over? The way she ended up in this special does sort of lend itself to future story lines…we shall see what the future brings.
Kylie Minogue deserves praise for her performance here. I’d never seen her in anything before and had no expectations for her acting abilities, but now I can say without a doubt that it is a sad loss that she will not be the continuing companion for series four.
David Tennant is also deserving of the usual praise that flies his way. He is not so much the time traveler who can’t find love, he is more so the man who has lost more friends than anyone else can claim. A man who has felt more loss then we may ever know. David shows us a man who is faced with so much devastation in his life and yet who still finds a way to get back into enjoying it rather than hiding from it. 2009 will be tough, getting to see him save the day only four times, but it is nice to know that we get to spend at least one more Christmas with him.
Over all Voyage of the Damned can claim the title of "Best Christmas Special Ever." Not once did it feel as though it had taken a wrong turn and never did my attention stray. Well done to all involved and let this be a sign of good things to come.