Voyage of the Damned

Region 1
box set

Region 2
box set
Region 2
1-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 193, starring David Tennant)
  • written by Russell T. Davies
  • directed by James Strong
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode, 72 minutes
Story: The TARDIS's next collision is with a spacecraft from the planet Sto prophetically calling itself "Titanic" and offering luxury trips to present-day Earth at Christmas. Disaster soon strikes the ship and the Doctor and stewardess Astrid Peth (Kylie Minogue) soon find themselves working to lead a group of surviving passengers to safety, and fighting to prevent the entire ship from destroying the Earth as it crashes. Why have the robot servants aboard ship suddenly turned on all the passengers and crew? And what dark secrets lay hidden in the bowels of the ship?

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Audio commentary by composer Murray Gold, actor Russell Tovey (Midshipman Frame), and first assistant director Peter Bennett.
  • Doctor Who Confidential making-of featurette (16 min.) with David Tennant (The Doctor), Kylie Minogue (Astrid Peth),
    writer Russell T. Davies, director James Strong, costume designer Louise Page, and location manager Gareth Skelding.
  • Prequel Scene: "Time Crash" with Peter Davison (8 min.)
  • Deleted Scenes (2 min.) - introduced by Russell T. Davies
  • David Tennant's Video Diaries - Trip to turn on Blackpool Lights (15 min.)
  • Trailers & Promos (3 min.)

The PREVIOUS DVD box set also includes:

  • Freema Agyeman's Studio Tour of the Doctor Who / Torchwood / Sarah Jane Adventures sets & offices (18 min.),
    going behind the scenes for "Voyage of the Damned" with producer Phil Collinson, construction chargehand Allen Jones,
    props fabrication manager Barry Jones, art department coordinator Matt North, and assistant editor Tim Hodges.

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

The final disappointment with the previous season's last story had been the negative anticipation it had left us with as to what the following Christmas Special would be about. The thought that it would be as Earthly, predictable, and depressing as the old Titanic disaster did not bode well for the future, and I imagined it would be a chore to sit through.

Boy was I wrong!

"Voyage of the Damned" turned out to be a decent solid adventure populated by an alien culture worth exploring, without the predictability of the historical Earthly Titanic story taking all the suspense out of things. Unlike in the previous two holiday specials: "The Christmas Invasion" (story no. 171), and "The Runaway Bride" (story no. 182), the Yuletide robotics make sense this time, on par with (and evoking memories of) "The Robots of Death" (story no. 90), and the story has just enough Christmas in it to be appropriate for its broadcast slot without impeding the story. No extra wedding or regeneration trauma dynamics intrude to mess things up. Good show.

Though last season's ending tempts one to believe that we had already missed any chance of seeing a proper TARDIS materialization to start this story off right, this is quickly rectified, which immediately boded well for the rest of the story.

Without knowing anything at all about Kylie Minogue (unlike many others who seemed keen to label her appearance here before seeing it or turn somersaults in awe of the fact that she deigned to appear on the show), I approached her and her character with a completely open mind and was actually quite pleased with this companion choice for once....

A lot of natural comparisons can be drawn between this story and "The End of the World" (story no. 162), with "Voyage of the Damned" demonstrating that Russell T. Davies has improved upon nearly every element that he tried to include in his previous tale. The one thing that "The End of the World" is still superior in is the sci-fi premise that forms the basis for the story's setting.

In this tale, character moments abound, and they are done with far more feeling and succeed much better. Perhaps unnecessarily, some alienness is lost to achieve this though. Although largely populated by creatures from a planet called "Sto" in the Casivanian Belt (already an excuse to peak much more interest in learning about their unique culture), the people of Sto and most of their technology turn out to be almost exactly like those of Earthlings - they simply have a bit more advancement in space travel capabilities. They still use cell phones too much, don't bother with better or different economic models than we do, imitate our manner of dress and decor.... on and on. Thankfully, there are other aliens on board as well, helping to add variety. Bannakaffalatta is a good example of a character who can throw the twists and surprises of alien culture at the protagonists and the viewers constantly. Nice one. In the end, the presentation of alienness here is more believable and satisfying than in "The End of the World", even if there is still too much human imitation going on.

Clive Swift plays one of my favourite characters from this story: Mr. Copper, the passenger's tour guide to going ashore on Earth. Very enjoyable acting, and a nicely written part. Geoffrey Palmer is also an enjoyable and familiar face, having previously appeared in the Jon Pertwee stories "The Silurians" (story no. 52) and "The Mutants" (story no. 63). His performance is excellent as usual, bringing yet another enjoyable characterization to life sympathetically, under perhaps the greatest challenge yet.

And then there's Bernard Cribbins, veteran of many highly successful "Carry On..." films, whom Doctor Who fans may know best as playing Constable Tom Campbell - a successful big screen replacement for Ian Chesterton's heroic protagonist character in the second Peter Cushing film "Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D." (theatrical version of Doctor Who story no. 10). Cribbins appears to have just a cameo role here, where his character's name (Wilfred Mott) has practically no chance to make any impression on the audience, but he is enjoyable as ever....

Hosts of Death

Where previous Christmas specials had murderous robots thrown in gratuitously, having no true motivation for their actions and making little sense, the Heavenly Host androids in this tale are fleshed out quite well. Firstly, they have a proper intended purpose on the ship, to serve the guests, provide information, and fit in with the theme of the current cruise. Much mileage is gained from the many scenes in which their service seems to be slightly, suspiciously off, just as was the case back in the Tom Baker story "Robots of Death" (story no. 90). Sadly, these robots also have their predecessors' fixation for strangulation, but on the plus side, they also seem to have a new affinity for making frisbee throws with their halos, leading to some action sequences very reminiscent of the movie "Tron". A bit derivative, and "Tron" still rules over this, but a good improvement on strangulation nonetheless.

This is officially the first story to feature 2008's brand new version of the Doctor Who theme song, arranged once more by Murray Gold, although if your first access to the show is through Canada's CBC like me, you may have heard it first on "Partners in Crime" where its introductory impact is slightly more polished. Gold's music for this story seems tasteful and okay at first... but he's actually just getting warmed up for later. As with the previous two Christmas specials, a new vocal song is conjured up and released prior to broadcast on the previous year's music CD. Still a gratuitous move, it is at least less intrusive than before.

But the closer we get to the end, the better and more emotional Murray's music becomes, until you come away with hauntingly beautiful pieces echoing in your head after the fact. Yes, you'll want to listen to this score again!

The story itself has several distinct phases.... but of course I'll save discussions of story structure for the In-depth Analysis version of this review. Come back and read that after you've seen the show.

Music by Murray Gold
"Doctor Who" (Season 30 Title version),
and "Voyage of the Damned Suite" (10:21 duration)
are available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who:
Original Music from "Series 4" (2008)

More info & buying options

"The Stowaway" is available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who:
Original Music from "Series 3"

More info & buying options

There is one particular huge set-piece action scene, which reveals its cliché content immediately. As with the teaser for this story crammed into last year's finale, one easily anticipates predictable routine action with predictable results. Yet despite the cliché nature of this setting, writer Russell T. Davies gets superb mileage out of it, delivering many of the character interactions that make each character's presence in the story worthwhile, and using the place in surprisingly unique ways to give you action that you didn't expect on top of the action that you did. Nicely done. Yes, it is still a crutch, but a worthwhile one. Disguising it a bit and making it less obvious may be a way to take things up another notch in future though.

The story catapults into a rich and busy concluding phase, including a confrontation with the power behind it all. This final phase provides the richest emotional tapestry of the story, and satisfies with many successful, heroic action beats right up to the end of the final scene. And there's no cheesy line at the very end to bugger things up like last year.

"Voyage of the Damned" turns out to be one of the surprise successes of the Season 30 box set, a very enjoyable adventure, well-suited to kick off another great year of David Tennant stories. And so it's two enthusiastic thumbs up from me!

This story has become available on DVD.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

DVD NTSC Region 1
14-episode boxed set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
14-episode boxed set
for the U.K.
DVD PAL Region 2
plain 1-episode volume
U.K. format only

Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes only feature the plain episodes.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "Partners in Crime"

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