I was really hoping for good things from “Voyage of the Damned”, the third successive “Doctor Who” Christmas Special. It couldn’t be any worse than last year’s “The Runaway Bride”, if only for the sole reason that Catherine Tate isn’t in the new episode! I tried to convince myself that, despite it being written by Russell T. Davies, the compensation would come from no less than four quality guest actors. Three of them, Geoffrey Palmer, George Costigan and Bernard Cribbins, I felt were sadly underused while, although good, Clive Swift was better as Mister Jobel in “Revelation of the Daleks”. This wasn’t the actor’s fault but the writer’s. Eric Saward, although heavily lambasted at the time, wrote much better “Doctor Who” stories than does the current head writer. And, producer Phil Collinson set himself up for a fall in a recent online interview with SFX magazine. The interviewer suggested the plot outline of “Voyage of the Damned” was not dissimilar to that of “Delta and the Bannermen” to which Phil replied that his latest production was better. It wasn’t. Interestingly, both stories are the same length but the twenty-year-old “Delta and the Bannermen” is both faster and funnier, more entertaining and even more exciting! The Heavenly Hosts featured in the current story, for example, were highly derivative; Angel masks replacing Santa ones from the two previous Christmas Specials!! They aped the mannerisms of the Ood and it felt, at times, as though we were either back on board the space liner Hyperion III, from the “Terror of the Vervoids” segment of “The Trial of a Time Lord”, or the massive sandminer vehicle which features in “The Robots of Death”. And, seafaring ships in space is, of course, an idea pinched from “Enlightenment”!
I find both Russell T. Davies and Phil Collinson to be more than a little immature and it comes across through the writing and production but, if you need further proof, rewatch the “Doctor Who Confidential” episode that accompanies “Time Crash”. In that same programme you’ll find Steven Moffat and Graeme Harper acquit themselves with far more credibility. Russell recently claimed that the production team can’t afford to make a poor episode, with over eight million viewers watching their every move, and yet the last two years have produced the worst four episodes (“Love & Monsters”, “Fear Her”, “The Runaway Bride”, “Last of the Time Lords”) in the entire history of the series. Even David Tennant seemed shocked by Russell’s recent offensive and insensitive remark that Hitler would’ve made a good Doctor! Huh?!! Davies isn’t even particularly good at bullshitting it seems!!! As was the case with the guest actors, I didn’t think there was enough of guest-companion Kylie Minogue, as Astrid Peth, in the story either. Kylie’s waitress never got to see inside the TARDIS. She was sacrificially-abandoned, along with other characters before her, well before the end; which only served to highlight the inadequacies of the script’s structure. Ironic that there’s an Aussie actress in the show, now the programme is based in Cardiff, when “Delta and the Bannermen” had a real Welsh guest-companion in Ray played by Sara Griffiths (pictured on the back of a Vincent motorcycle with seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy)! The moments of self-sacrifice in “Voyage of the Damned”, together with Mister Copper’s closing contemplations, were good, however, in what, otherwise, left me with that sinking feeling!!