Have a Pretty Grim Christmas, Actually

(Spoilers of the Damned follow.)So yeah. That was something of a misstep.

I'm talking about Voyage of the Damned, this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special, of course. On the one hand, there's the tone. The story was just way too grim for a Christmas story. I can appreciate the subversion of expectations, but I felt a little sick at heart that this was the one the entire family was sitting together for. Voyage of the Damned is basically a disaster movie with killer Christmas angels and someone falling into a fire pit in slow motion every ten minutes. Part of that subversion is that the nasty survivor gets to live, while many sympathetic ones do not. Indeed, the two ultimate survivors come out of it filthy rich: The true meaning of Christmas.

Another problem I had was that VotD just... sat there. It felt inconsequential in a way no other episode of New Who has ever done. The reason, I think, is that we've been blessed with character arcs through the last 3 series, and this one was really divorced from that. Even before we knew Donna would return, The Runaway Bride still dealt with Rose's departure in a meaningful way. Every episode, even the relatively stand-alone ones, still featured nice character bits that built on the Companion and her relationship to the Doctor.
Voyage's nominal Companion is Kylie Minogue's Astrid (that's an anagram of TARDIS, right?), but there's a whole band of survivors. Sadly, Astrid isn't the most interesting one there. She's just... there, y'know? As soon as she said she was interested in moving into the TARDIS, you knew her minutes were numbered too. Though, yeah, it's interesting that she gets killed off and that the Doctor's Hail Mary pass at the end actually fails (it barely made sense for her to come back as it was, so succeeding would have really grated). And that's where the special has something interesting to say (finally). The Doctor's frustrated and hysterical "I can do anything!!!" while he clearly cannot is a hard-learned lesson for this version of the Doctor. Where his previous incarnation was, in a sense, a victim, this one enjoys near invincibility. In fact, I'd say I liked the last minutes, but there's a heck of a lot of running through corridors and over precipices before we get there.

Other thoughts about Voyage of the Damned
-Really not used to the new theme music, and for now I'm going to say I liked it better before. Just a little too... rockin'? Of course, the superfast end credits are much worse. Gave me a headache, those things.
-The less said about the moustache-twirling villain the better. I didn't think Max Capricorn's plan made any sense, nor was he interesting as a character. It reminded me of those classic episodes where the guest actors are mugging at the camera for the kiddies because they think that's who's watching.
-There's a strong resemblance between the robotic Host in this thing and the art deco robots from Robots of Death, which is made explicit where one robot's hand gets stuck in a sliding door and is ripped off, just like in the classic episode.
(Sorry, couldn't find a proper screencap of that moment.) Anyway, at first I thought the story would be set at that time, in the "Imperial Era", especially with everyone's knowledge of Earth being so spotty (which, frankly, was done better in the End of the World and most Futurama episodes - the Santa with claws especially). But no, it's Christmas 2008, which was really strange, especially given all the human types hanging about on the Titanic.
-Scene I could have done without: So many choices because there's a significant amount of padding. I guess favorite to go is the Queen running after the spaceship shouting thanks to the Doctor...
-Favorite Line: Responding to a mistake about Great France and Great Germany - "Just France and Germany, only Britain is Great." I think it's lovely when the Doctor gets patriotic.
-That was a nice bit at the end about the snow probably not being real (ballast from the ship), but that someday, it'd be nice if it were. Cuz those Christmas specials are all filmed at the height of summer.

Extra Doctor Who Links of the Damned
Obviously, I'm not the only one who had something to say about it, check out these fine blog entries:
-Blackmarket Pies has a couple of points to make with Boosterin' the TARDIS and Messiah Complex.
-Steve at Gad, Sir! Comics! tells us "I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas With a TARDIS", and discusses a few Christmasy Doctor Who comics.
-And at Blog THIS, Pal!, it's a mostly spoiler-free review of Voyage of the Damned entitled, The Doctor's Titanic Adventure.

The Series 4 preview looked like a lot of fun, and I think Donna'll work out juuuuust fine. But up next is Torchwood Series 2, and that looks pretty awesome. Time Agents returning for Jack? Is that what that is? Coooool.


Steve Flanagan said...

That was a nice bit at the end about the snow probably not being real (ballast from the ship), but that someday, it'd be nice if it were. Cuz those Christmas specials are all filmed at the height of summer.

Also, snow is rare in England before January nowadays. There hasn't been a White Christmas - defined by the bookies as a single flake of snow falling on 25 December - in London since 1999, though there was snow further north at Christmas in 2004.

Siskoid said...

Same here in Moncton, New Brunswick actually. The last few Christmases have been snowless.

Except this year. It really hit. And then it was raining on Christmas proper.

Anyone who won't believe in climate change is full of crap as I've gone through winters where 4-6 feet could fall in a single day.

De said...

I just finished watching this five minutes ago.

Loved the new theme music. Reminded me a lot of the 1980's theme.

The episode was really uneven though. There were a number of nice moments but you had to endure the disaster movie cliches to get to them.

Bannakaffalatta rules!

BlackmarketPies said...

More and more, I feel sorry that I didn't have the stomach to watch VOTD straight on through 'til the end. That "I can do anything!" line would have made it all okay in the end: the Doctor would have had to have confronted the idea that everything's not going to turn out all right just because he's here to save the day, but that he's got to use more of the wits that he exhibited in the "Blink" episode. Did the doctor even have a plan when he got to meet good ol' Max "Von Evilstein" Capricorn?

billjac said...

Maybe it was just me, but some way through VotD I realized it felt like it was plotted by Bob Haney. Things just kept happening for no particular reason with cartoon characters wandering through not noticing the wild tonal shifts with every other scene. And after it wrapped up you were left scratching your head wondering what the heck all that was about.

Or maybe it is just me.


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