a real world point of view
|Voyage of the Damned|
|Script release:||online here|
|Featuring:||Mr Copper, Alonso|
|Main enemy:||Max Capricorn, Heavenly Host|
|Main setting:||The Titanic, 2008|
|Writer:||Russell T Davies|
|Premiere broadcast:||25 December 2007|
|Premiere network:||BBC One|
|Doctor Who television stories|
|Time Crash||Partners in Crime|
|Last of the Time Lords||Time Crash|
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, 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.
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 Doctor...
The bow of a ship crashes through the wall of the Doctor's TARDIS, after the Doctor accidentally left the shields down when he recently rebuilt it. The Time Lord is momentarily stunned, especially after seeing the ship is the Titanic. Pressing some buttons, he repairs the TARDIS walls, pushing the ship out. The TARDIS materialises aboard the ship. The Doctor soon learns the Titanic is a large luxury spaceship cruiser from the planet Sto, orbiting Earth. He finds out the date: Christmas Eve. He decides to stow away to enjoy the party, 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; 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 (who won their tickets in a competition, causing them to be looked down upon by the majority of the other passengers) and a small red-skinned alien, Bannakaffalatta. Following alien attacks on London on the two previous Christmases, however, London is deserted apart from the Queen, Nicholas Witchell, and a newspaper seller. The rest of the population has decided to spend Christmas in the countryside. Ship's historian and guide Mr. Copper gives the excursion party a bizarrely inaccurate explanation of human society, especially Christmas, despite the fact that he claims to be an expert on the planet. His description of Earth is:
"I shall be taking you to Old London Town, in the country of Yoo Kay, ruled over by good King Wenceslas. Now human beings worship the great god 'Santa', a creature with fearsome claws and his wife Mary. Every year, the people of Yoo Kay go to war with the country of Turkey. They then eat the turkey people for Christmas Dinner, like savages!"
The party returns to the ship because of a power failure in the teleport system, right in front of the newspaper vendor who can't believe what he just saw. The Doctor tries to find out what caused it. He discovers the shields are offline and meteors are approaching. The Doctor warns the Captain, 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 (who try to help) and Mr Copper (who is trying to find out what happened to the teleport system). 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 will not listen. Midshipman Frame tries to get the shields back online, but is shot by the Captain who reveals he is already dying and was offered a lot of money to destroy the ship. Three meteors slam into the side of the starship Titanic.
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 fraudulant, 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 as well as insulting the Hoffs at every opportunity.
Complicating matters are the Hosts, android servitors that started malfunctioning earlier. Now their sole function 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 (who kisses him to follow an old tradition), 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 at the cost of the Earth. Outnumbered by Host and faced with death, the Doctor is saved by Astrid, who has made a short range teleport to his position. 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, killing both.
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 a security code, 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, is heard thanking the Doctor as he pilots the ship back into the sky.
With the danger over, the Doctor suddenly realises that there might 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, Frame and 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. Coppers asks exactly what he's meant to do, the Doctor takes the ship's expenses card preparing to put some money on it however Mr. Copper, not understanding how the currency on Earth works, 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 a lot of money, 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 exists, the Doctor wishes Mr. Copper a Merry Christmas before leaving.
- The Doctor - David Tennant
- Astrid Peth - Kylie Minogue
- Captain Hardaker - Geoffrey Palmer
- Midshipman Alonso Frame - Russell Tovey
- Max Capricorn - George Costigan
- Rickston Slade - Gray O'Brien
- Chief Steward - Andrew Havill
- Engineer - Bruce Lawrence
- Foon Van Hoff - Debbie Chazen
- Morvin Van Hoff - Clive Rowe
- Mr Copper - Clive Swift
- Bannakaffalatta - Jimmy Vee
- Wilfred Mott - Bernard Cribbins
- Himself - Nicholas Witchell
- The Host - Paul Kasey
- Kitchen Hand - Stefan Davis
- Newsreader - Jason Mohammad
- Voice of the Aliens - Colin McFarlane, Ewan Bailey
- Voice of the Queen - Jessica Martin
|Executive Producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner|
|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.|
- The Doctor refers to Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. This is the first time that Kasterborous has been mentioned in the new series.
- Bannakaffalatta is a cyborg, as is Max Capricorn. The episode's backstory establishes that cyborgs have been historically discriminated against on Sto, living in cyborg caravans and only recently being allowed to marry.
- 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 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.
- The Doctor says, "Take me to your leader" to the Host, a classic alien remark from early science fiction. He then states that he has always wanted to say that.
- 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 Doctor states he was present at the start of Christmas, though it's not made clear whether he is referring to the actual establishment of the festival, or, in the traditional sense, that he was present at the Nativity. However, since he states that he got the last room, it can be assumed that he was referring to the Nativity and that he was the reason for there being no room in the inn.
- The Doctor introduces himself as "Passenger 57", a reference to the film of the same name.
- Good King Wenceslas is played.
Story notes Edit
- 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 is dedicated to the late Verity Lambert, the first producer of Doctor Who and a legend in the TV industry. Verity died on 22 November 2007, one day before Doctor Who's forty-fourth anniversary. Davies immediately requested a tribute card be inserted into the episode (per The Writer's Tale). The TARDIS sound effect is heard softly in the background as the tribute is shown.
- 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, forcing 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 second longest 'single episode' of Doctor Who since the series revival and the fourth longest single episode of all (the third longest episode ever is The End of Time Part Two, which was 75 minutes long, 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. 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.
- 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 the grandfather of new companion Donna Noble. 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.
- As is routine for Christmas specials, a "COMING SOON" trailer for the next series is shown at the end of the episode. This "COMING SOON" trailer features clips from the first half of Series 4: Partners in Crime, The Fires of Pompeii, Planet of the Ood, The Sontaran Stratagem, The Poison Sky, The Doctor's Daughter and The Unicorn and the Wasp.
- 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.
Myths and rumours Edit
- 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 Edit
- Upper Boat Studios, Treforrest
- BBC Broadcasting House, Llandaff
- 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 Edit
- 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.
- 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.
- Mr Copper's comments on Rickston Slade being a somewhat unwanted survivor mimic those of Stevenson, speaking about Kellman. (TV: Revenge of the Cybermen)
- The Doctor meets someone named Alonso, allowing him to use the phrase "Allons-y Alonso", which he stated in TV: Army of Ghosts he'd like to try.
- The Doctor mentions that his tuxedo is unlucky, referring to the fact he wore the same outfit in TV: The Lazarus Experiment and Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel, both of which resulted in life-and-death struggles.
- Alonso Frame appears again in The End of Time in a bar with Captain Jack.
- The Doctor is known to Queen Elizabeth (she is heard referring to him as Doctor), and utters a code word to evacuate the Palace and the Queen. This is quite a contrast from his relationship with her ancestor Victoria in TV: Tooth and Claw, but quite consistent with previous references that the Doctor and QE2 have a friendly relationship. (TV: Silver Nemesis) The Doctor later parks the TARDIS in her garden and tells UNIT that the Queen doesn't mind, further reinforcing this. (TV: Planet of the Dead)
- There are more than a few references to TV: The Robots of Death: the robots chanting, "Kill, Kill, Kill" in monotone and the hand of the robot being stuck in the bridge's door and being subsequently cut off. The Hosts also play a similar subservient role to the robots in the earlier story.
- Earth was first referred to as Sol 3 in TV: The Deadly Assassin (and last referred to as in TV: Last of the Time Lords).
- The Doctor agrees to let Astrid travel with him, but she dies before she gets the chance to. This also happened to Reinette in The Girl in the Fireplace and Lynda Moss in The Parting of the Ways.
- Earth was next referred as a Level 5 planet in TV: Partners in Crime, and later in TV: Revenge of the Slitheen and TV: The Eleventh Hour.
- The television on which the Doctor, Astrid and Wilf view the news is clearly branded with a Magpie logo, a reference to Magpie's television company in TV: The Idiot's Lantern.
- In the episode TV: Turn Left, the Titanic crashes into Buckingham Palace, which destroys London and floods Southern England with nuclear radiation, not the entire world as the Doctor fears.
- Max Capricorn's parting words to the Doctor, "This interview is terminated", is the exact phrase used by the Collector to end a conversation with Gatherer Hade in TV: The Sun Makers. The Collector is also an employee of a corporation concerned only with profit, and bears some resemblance to Max.
- The Doctor mentions himself being homeless and staying on Earth, referencing his exile from Gallifrey in his third incarnation.
- Mr. Copper implies that he wants to travel with the Doctor, but the Doctor declines, stating he travels alone. This same rationale is given when he refuses Christina de Souza's request to join him in Planet of the Dead.
- The Doctor tells the Host to "take me to your leader", remarking, "I've always wanted to say that". He previously used the phrase in The Horns of Nimon, The Keeper of Traken, Four to Doomsday, The Happiness Patrol and Aliens of London and used a similarly worded phrase in saying, "Take me to your Vida" (PROSE: The Feast of the Drowned) then later "takes us to your leader" as said by the Eleventh Doctor. (TV: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship)
- An online comic strip, Escape to Penhaxico, takes place two months after the events of this story and reveals details involving Capricorn's "exit strategy" after destroying the Titanic.
- After Rickston displays callous behavior as he walks away from the Titanic's voyage, Mr. Copper points out to the Doctor that, although Rickston would not have been the one person he would have chosen to survive, if the Doctor could decide who lived and who died, it would make him a monster. This foreshadows the Doctor's self-superior attempts to alter the course of history on Bowie Base One in TV: The Waters of Mars.
Home video releases Edit
- 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.
- Official BBC Website - Episode Guide: Voyage of the Damned
- Original script, posted online by Russell T Davies in conjunction with the release of his book REF: Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale.
- Detailed synopsis of Voyage of the Damned at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- Voyage of the Damned at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- Voyage of the Damned at The Locations Guide