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Voyage of the Damned (TV story)

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Voyage of the Damned
The Titanic
Script release: online here
Doctor: Tenth Doctor
Companion(s): Astrid
Featuring: Copper, Alonso
Main enemy: Max Capricorn, Heavenly Host
Main setting: The Titanic, 2008
Key crew
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: James Strong
Producer: Phil Collinson
Release details
Story number: 188
Season/series: 4
Premiere broadcast: 25 December 2007
Premiere network: BBC One
Format: 1x72 minute special
Production code: 4.X
Confidential: Kylie Special
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Voyage of the Damned was the third Christmas episode of BBC Wales Doctor Who. Kylie Minogue starred as one-off companion Astrid Peth. Peth's death at the conclusion of the episode was the first time a companion of the Doctor had died in the revived series. It marked the first appearance of Wilfred Mott, future companion to the Tenth Doctor and grandfather to Donna Noble.

For a few months, Voyage of the Damned was the highest-charting episode in Doctor Who history. The second-most-watched programme of its week and indeed of the entire of 2007, Damned took the crown from part two of The Ark in Space. However, it would be displaced about seven months later by Journey's End, which was the first episode of Doctor Who ever to win its week of original transmission.

Synopsis

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 Tenth Doctor...

Plot

The bow of a ship crashes through the wall of the Doctor's TARDIS. The Tenth Doctor is momentarily stunned, particularly after seeing the name of the ship: Titanic.

Pressing some buttons, he repairs the TARDIS walls, pushing the ship out. The TARDIS then properly materialises aboard the ship. The Doctor soon discovers that the Titanic is a large luxury spaceship cruiser from the planet Sto, modelled after the Earth ocean liner of the same name, orbiting Earth. He finds out the date: Christmas Eve. He decides to stow away to enjoy the party, using the alias "Passenger 57" with his psychic paper, only confessing his unauthorised status to lively waitress Astrid Peth, who reveals her own desire to travel the stars.

Astrid has found her new job disappointing, namely as she is not allowed off the ship to visit destination planets. The Doctor cheers her up by sneaking her onto an excursion to London via teleport, along with Morvin and Foon Van Hoff and the Zocci Bannakaffalatta. Before they go, the ship's historian and guide Mr Copper gives the excursion party a completely inaccurate explanation of human society, especially Christmas, in spite of his supposed degree in Earthonomics.

They arrive in London, only to find the street totally deserted; unfortunately, following alien attacks on London on the two previous Christmases, most people have fled the city for the duration of the holiday. The whole city of London is therefore for the most part deserted, apart from the Queen, BBC broadcaster Nicholas Witchell, and a newsstand owner named Wilfred Mott.

The main room

The Titanic diner.

In the middle of a conversation with Wilfred, the party is returned to the ship due to a power failure. Wilf stands there, shocked at what he's just seen. The Doctor investigates the failure's cause, and discovers that meteors are approaching, but the shields are offline. The Doctor warns Captain Hardaker, but is forced away from the computer by a steward, as he is unauthorised to use the system. The Doctor breaks free and tries to warn everyone, but is forcibly taken away from the singer's microphone and removed from the party followed by Astrid, the Van Hoffs, Bannakaffalatta and Mr Copper.

The Doctor gasps to a guest to look out the window. One of the passengers, Rickston Slade, sees a tiny meteor smash through the window and follows the Doctor and the others attempting to warn the chief steward. But they won't listen. Midshipman Frame tries to get the shields back online, but is shot by the Captain, who reveals that, already dying, he was offered a lot of money sent to his family to have the ship destroyed. Three meteors slam into the side of the starship Titanic, and wreck it.

The Captain is killed in the resulting collision, as are the bulk of the crew and passengers. The Titanic's hull is holed in several places, and the TARDIS is left drifting in space, before automatically homing in for a landing on Earth. With the teleport system offline and the engines losing power, the Titanic heads for an extinction-level collision with the Earth. The Doctor makes contact with the injured Midshipman Frame, and leads a small group of survivors in a climb through the shattered vessel to reach him. During the journey, the Doctor questions Mr Copper's poor knowledge of Earth despite his supposed degree in Earthonomics, and Mr Copper admits that his credentials are fraudulent, a crime for which he will be imprisoned for at least ten years when the facts come out during the ensuing investigation. Slade is also complicating matters by only being concerned with his own well being, and insulting the Hoffs at every opportunity.

Complicating matters further are the Hosts, android servitors that had earlier started malfunctioning. Their sole function now is to kill the survivors scattered throughout the ship. The Doctor's party is harassed by Host, and his sonic screwdriver is useless against them. Bannakaffalatta reveals to Astrid he is actually a cyborg, something thought shameful on Sto. Bravely, he saves the party from a Host attack by transmitting an electromagnetic pulse from his cybernetic implants, killing himself. The Van Hoffs also die during this attack: Morvin falls from the ledge into the nuclear engines, while Foon commits suicide while pulling a surviving Host down with her. The Doctor makes a grim promise that "no more" will die. The survivors take Bannakaffalatta's EMP unit with them as their only effective weapon against the Host.

The Doctor sends the survivors, including Astrid, on ahead with the EMP unit and the sonic screwdriver. He tries to reach Deck 31, from where the Host seem to be controlled. He convinces the Host to take him, a stowaway, to their leader. This turns out to be the cruise line's owner, Max Capricorn, hiding in an indestructible "impact chamber" on Deck 31. Capricorn is also a cyborg, in a small wheeled vehicle. Forced out by the company's board of directors due to their prejudice against cyborgs, he is seeking revenge. The collision of the Titanic into a heavily populated world will not only break the company, but see the board charged with manslaughter, giving Capricorn his ultimate revenge, allowing him to retire in luxury to Penhaxico II at the cost of the Earth. Outnumbered by Host and faced with death, the Doctor is saved by Astrid, who has used a short-range teleport to arrive there. She rams Capricorn with a fork-lift truck. In the struggle, both are forced off a precipice, and fall into the fiery engine of the ship. Both Max and Astrid die.

With the Host no longer under Capricorn's control, the Doctor grimly makes his way to the bridge with their help just as the ship plunges into Earth's atmosphere. Working with Frame, he uses the heat from the re-entry to try to start the ship's auxiliary engines, but discovers that they are headed straight for one of the few places in London currently inhabited: Buckingham Palace. Calling through with Security Code 771, he gets the Queen out of the building, which the Titanic narrowly misses as the ship pulls up, now back under control. The Queen, in her dressing gown and curls, thanks the Doctor as he pilots the ship back into the sky.

With the danger over, the Doctor suddenly realises that there might yet be hope for Astrid after all. A safety feature of the ship's teleport system is that, in case of accident, it automatically holds in stasis the molecules of the affected passenger. As she was wearing a teleport bracelet at the time of her death, her pattern might still be stored in its buffers. Despite desperate efforts, only a shadow of Astrid can be generated due to extensive damage to the teleport system, despite the Doctor's claims, "I can fix it, I can do anything!" After a kiss to follow an old tradition, the Doctor watches her dissipate into motes of light that float free into space. This way, she can at least fulfil her dream of exploring the universe, forever.

In the aftermath, the only survivors are the Doctor, Mr Copper, Alonso Frame and Rickston Slade, who is overjoyed at what happened, as he invested in all of Max Capricorn's rival companies, leaving him rich. Mr Copper notes that out of everyone, he isn't the one he would have chosen to survive... however, having the power to choose who lives would make them monsters. The Doctor decides to save Mr Copper from prison, and uses the teleport to return to Earth.

Finding the TARDIS, the Doctor declines Copper's request to travel with him. When Mr Copper asks exactly what he's meant to do, the Doctor takes the ship's expenses card, prepared to put some money on it — but then realises he doesn't have to. Mr Copper, not understanding Earth currency, has already loaded it with £1,000,000 to cover the cost of "trinkets". The Doctor explains to Mr Copper that a million pounds is the equivalent of 50 million credits, and Mr Copper is overjoyed that he can afford a house and a garden. The Doctor tells Mr Copper to stay out of trouble, and have a nice life as Mr Copper dances away without any idea of where he's heading... but before he goes, he promises that he'll always remember Astrid. With a final look up to the stars where Astrid now floats away, the Doctor wishes Mr Copper a Merry Christmas, before leaving.

Cast

Crew

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics

Movement

Casting

General post-production staff

Special and visual effects

Sound







Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.


References

Story notes

  • The working title for this story was Starship Titanic. As Davies writes in The Writer's Tale, it was changed when it was pointed out that Douglas Adams had created a video game and novel of that title, with an extremely similar concept, years earlier.
  • Also according to The Writer's Tale, American actor Dennis Hopper was approached about playing Mr Copper and, later, Max Capricorn, but plans fell through.
  • Astrid Peth was originally named simply "Peth."
  • Composer Murray Gold and arranger Ben Foster both had cameos as members of the Titanic's band, along with singer Yamit Mamo, who performs the original song, "The Stowaway." Mamo also performs "Winter Wonderland". An instrumental version of "Jingle Bells" is heard when the Doctor first arrives.
  • The theme tune was revamped for Voyage of the Damned and was a few seconds longer than the previous versions. "I think I just decided to spruce it up - new drums, new rhythm section, new bass line, new little bit of piano," says Murray Gold.
  • The episode was dedicated to Verity Lambert, the first producer of Doctor Who, who had died about a month prior to broadcast.
  • Angels seem to be a recurring theme throughout the new series. The Doctor has been referred to as a Lonely Angel, faced the Weeping Angels and made use of the Master's mesmeric communication network, Archangel.
  • The scene where the Doctor is lifted into the air by angels was heavily criticised by Catholic audiences. Millvina Dean, the last survivor of the Titanic, also criticised the episode, claiming it was disrespectful to make entertainment of the disaster.
  • This was Kylie Minogue's first major acting appearance since her diagnosis and recovery from breast cancer two years earlier. Minogue was actually a film and TV actor before she became a singer, and had made occasional film appearances since launching her musical career.
  • David Tennant's mother died near the start of production of the episode, requiring the crew to shoot around him during his consequent absence.
  • A specific special effects shot is repeated several times in the episode: someone falling while looking up towards the camera. This occurs at least four times in the episode: when the steward is sucked into space (although he's technically not falling), and when Foon, Morvin, and Astrid and Max fall to their deaths.
  • In his first draft of the episode, Davies had Buckingham Palace destroyed by the Titanic; the Doctor stops the ship from crashing but not before it smashes through the palace. In this version, instead of wishing the Doctor a Happy Christmas, the Queen is heard to curse the Doctor. This same early draft also featured a hoped-for cameo by Prince Charles. Davies spared the Palace as he felt it was too negative an ending for a holiday episode.
  • It was originally planned for the Judoon to return at the end to arrest the villain. (TV: Smith and Jones)
  • At 71 minutes long, Voyage of the Damned holds the record for the third longest 'single episode' of Doctor Who since the series revival and the fifth longest single episode of all (the fourth longest episode ever is The End of Time Part Two, which was 75 minutes long; the third longest is The Day of the Doctor at 76 minutes; the second longest episode ever is the 1996 movie, which was 85 minutes long; and the longest was the special The Five Doctors, which was 90 minutes long).
  • Voyage of the Damned has the distinction of being the first episode of the revived Doctor Who not to be shown by the series' original Canadian broadcast network, the CBC. The network skipped the episode when it began showing Series 4 in the fall of 2008 (thus, technically leaving the Series 3 cliffhanger ending unresolved for Canadian viewers). Perhaps coincidentally, beginning with Voyage of the Damned, the CBC no longer received an on-screen credit for its participation in funding the series, although it continued to do so for the remainder of Series 4. Although the CBC retained the rights to air the special until April 2010, it never did so, though a French-language broadcaster in Canada did show it at some point. In April 2010 the series' new home broadcaster, Space, took over the rights to air Voyage of the Damned, and did so for the first time on 24 July 2010, which was promoted as the English-language Canadian premiere of the episode.[1] The CBC subsidiary network, CBC Bold, which as of mid-2010 continued to air reruns, announced it would host the "CBC premiere" of the special on 28th July, but at the last minute the broadcast was cancelled in favour of highlights from a comedy festival, meaning Voyage of the Damned continues to be unbroadcast by the CBC close to three years after it aired in the UK.[2]
  • A shortened version of this story was broadcast, at least on BBC America. This version skipped quite a bit of material, including the trip to deserted London, the attempt to revive Astrid, and the closing conversation with Mr. Cooper. This version was broadcast at least in 2009, and fitted into a 60-minute timeslot, including commercials. In 2013, BBC played the full episode in its entirety and placing it in a 90 minute timeslot.
  • Bernard Cribbins' character in this episode was originally called 'Stan' and was intended to be a one-off appearance. However, when Howard Attfield was forced to leave the show while filming Season 4 due to the advancement of his cancer (of which he later died), it was decided that the newspaper vendor would be brought back as Donna's grandfather (CON: A Noble Return). Russell T Davies, feeling that the name Stan wasn't suitable for a recurring character, changed Bernard Cribbins' credit at the end of this episode to reflect the change.
  • When the Doctor is shouting out random numbers (to try to stop the Heavenly Host), he says 666 (the Devil's number) and 42 (the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books by former Doctor Who writer Douglas Adams). Douglas Adams wrote a story titled Starship Titanic with a very similar plot line, which was also a videogame. 42 is also a name of a previous episode.
  • The use of a starship incarnation of the Titanic has been featured in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the television series Futurama, and the video game and novel Starship Titanic, also authored by Douglas Adams.
  • The teleport system on the Titanic is very reminiscent of the one used on the Liberator in the 1970s series Blake's 7 in that it uses similarly styled bracelets.
  • It is explained in the final scenes of TV: Time Crash that the Titanic collided with the TARDIS because the Doctor left its shields down. Time Crash occurs immediately before the collision, which means the very first shot of the Doctor walking around the TARDIS (before the crash) occurs within moments of the Fifth Doctor's departure. However we do not hear the earlier Doctor's admonition to the Tenth Doctor to "Put your shields up".
  • This episode marks the last of the continuous arc (the end of one episode immediately leading into another) that starts in the Torchwood episode Captain Jack Harkness and switches over to Doctor Who in Utopia and covers the span of just over a year in the Doctor's life.
  • Reference is made to the two previous Christmas specials, TV: The Christmas Invasion and The Runaway Bride, with brief clips from both.
  • There is an inconsistency in the Sto Credit's value during the episode. Foon rang the competition line for the cruise tickets 5000 times at a credit each, resulting in a 5,000 credit phonebill. Foon is embarassed saying she could have bought the tickets for that much, however Morvin is amused by the absurdity of it saying they wouldnt be able to pay it off even in a decade. However at the end of the episode the Doctor says the £1m credit card balance is equivalent to 50m credits even quoting an exact exchange value, this exchange rate would put the phonebill and cruise tickets at only £100 meaning either a script error or wages on Sto are extremely low.

Ratings

  • Overnight - 12.2 million viewers. (At times the ratings peaked at 13.8 million.)
  • Final ratings - 13.31 million, making this the most-watched Doctor Who story since its 2005 return, and one of the highest in franchise history.
    • This was also the second highest rated British television broadcast of the entire of 2007, beaten only by the episode of EastEnders that immediately preceded it.

Myths and rumours

  • A lot was made of the fact that Astrid is an anagram of TARDIS. This, however, turned out to be a red herring and not at all significant to the story.
  • When publicity photos for this episode were first released, some fans noted the resemblance of the Hosts to the Humanoid Axons, giving rise to the rumours (soon disproven) that the episode featured the Axons.
  • As the producers intended, the cliffhanger leading into this story raised the question as to whether the TARDIS had collided with the real Titanic, which gave rise to fan speculation in the interim as to how this episode would reconcile with previous references to the Doctor's involvement with the ill-fated vessel. (TV: Rose, et al)
  • The British tabloid press published reports that Minogue's character was going to be a Cyberwoman; this was disproven once publicity photos of her in Astrid's serving girl outfit were released. According to The Writer's Tale, the tabloid reports of Kylie-as-Cyberman not only went out before she'd actually been cast in the special, but Davies hadn't even completed writing it yet.
  • The meaning of the lyrics in the original song "The Stowaway" (heard only briefly on screen, but released in full on the Series 3 soundtrack album prior to broadcast) have given rise to some speculation. The general consensus is that they are from Astrid's point of view (reflecting in part their first meeting where the Doctor identifies himself to her as a stowaway, supported by the fact they're sung in a female voice), but comments by the production team have been interpreted to suggest they might be from the captain's point of view (implying a same-sex interest, but not coinciding with anything that occurs in the episode - the Doctor and the captain never even meet each other). In either case, it was widely speculated that Rose Tyler is the lost love referenced in the lyrics, with the line, "lying with his love that's where he'll be" in particular foreshadowing her later return in Series 4, and the events at the conclusion of TV: The Stolen Earth.
  • The Sun newspaper released a report claiming Albert Einstein would be in this episode, played by Woody Allen.
  • Minogue was reportedly mistaken for a waitress outside a hotel due to her costume.
  • The nature of Astrid's fate led to rumours that she might reappear in Series 4, particularly in the finale. This did not happen other than a brief flashback appearance in Journey's End. It was rumoured that she might have appeared in one of the 2009 specials, but this did not occur.


Filming locations

Studio

  • Upper Boat Studios, Treforrest
  • BBC Broadcasting House, Llandaff

Location

  • Exchange Building, Swansea
  • The Coal Exchange, Cardiff Bay
  • Johnsey Estates, Pontypool
  • St John's Street, Cardiff
  • WDA Compound, Cardiff Docks
  • City Hall, Cardiff

Production errors

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • During Nicholas Witchell's report about the Queen staying in Buckingham Palace a woman walks past in the background over his left shoulder, despite London only being populated by Witchell, the Queen and the newspaper seller.
  • When the Red 6-7 group go down to Earth, it was night time in London. Later, when we see the TARDIS locking onto Earth, you can see that United Kingdom is still in day light and about to turn to night time.

Continuity

Home video releases

Bbcdvd-voyageofthedamned

Voyage of the Damned DVD Cover

  • This story was released on the Series 4 DVD box set.
  • It was released on Region 2 (UK) DVD on 10th March 2008. Unlike most single-disc Region 2 DVD releases from the revived series, this was not a "vanilla" edition (program only, no extras), but included the mini-episode Time Crash, as well as an edition of the cutdown version of Doctor Who Confidential.

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