by Catriona Mills

Live-Blogging Doctor Who: The Voyage of the Damned

Posted 29 June 2008 in by Catriona

Well, I’m not live-blogging it yet; I’m sitting on the back verandah, having a quick cigarette while ABC News runs through endless updates on tennis (seriously: most boring sport ever? Assuming golf doesn’t qualify as a sport?).

But I intend to live-blog all the episodes in this fourth season, barring catastrophe.

Live-blogging is now my favourite pastime; it puts inordinate stresses on the writing process, which I find refreshing.

But I’m not doing it with a bottle of vodka at my side any more.

Right, now I’m back in the living room—of course, I wonder whether there’s much point live-blogging if I can’t be sure that people will be reading at the same time. But, really, if I wrote the blog under those circumstances, I’d never get anything written.

They’re really pushing the Kylie Minogue angle—but I can’t really blame them.

Ooh, my spell checker doesn’t recognise either “Kylie” or “Minogue”—but it did take her a while to break into the U. S. market.

What? The Peter Serofinovich (near enough) Show? I’ve never heard of that. But I love him—thanks to Star Wars (embarrassingly) and Black Books and Shaun of the Dead, so I’ll probably watch that.

Low-level violence? I don’t remember that. But here we go—the Titanic improbably crashes through the TARDIS.

I wish they’d played the Children in Need special first, though—that was delightful.

NICK: New Zealand!
ME: What?
NICK: New Zealand Shipping Co. Ltd.

Right you are, then.

Ooh, the creepy robots; I like them. They remind me of the gorgeous deco robots in “Robots of Death”—they were stunning.

Ah, the revelation that it’s the space Titanic—and then the theme music. It’s new theme music, I think—hang on.

No, Nick says it was re-recorded after this. But then he tells me it is in fact a new mix for this, so I think he’s lying to me to make me look silly.

Geoffrey Palmer! Hey, Geoffrey! I love you! Don’t be evil!

Oh, you silly midshipman—leave the bridge, regardless of regulations. He’s sent everyone off for a reason, and you’ll regret this.

Oh, Palmer’s definitely evil. (Of course, I’ve seen this before—but that’s not the point. I can still tell he’s evil.)

Have we ever seen the Doctor in a tuxedo before?

Nick hates soft-rock carols—and I’m absolutely with him. I love real Christmas carols, but these things . . . no.

I’d never noticed before that the Doctor is imitating the robot’s head movements as it breaks down. Apparently it’s worse when the robots break down in first class—that’s a bit disturbing, given the conditions of the real Titanic’s sinking.

Ooh, Kylie! Hello, Kylie! Gee, she’s tiny.

She’s kind of adorable, though—especially when she grins. “Astrid” is an anagram for “TARDIS”, but I don’t know if that’s intentional. Kylie’s not lost her accent, though, at least not on the vowels. I do like hearing a genuine Australian accent on telly; it doesn’t happen enough, and it seems to be an extraordinarily difficult accent to counterfeit, for some reason.

Ah, the working-class passengers who are being mocked by the people in first class. But the Doctor gets revenge—petty, but amusing.

Uh oh, back to Geoffrey Palmer.

NICK: And in Davies’s scripts, there’s always someone saying “Doctor” as in medical doctor. Interesting. I don’t know what to make of it.

Make of that what you will—I’d be interested to hear opinions.

Ooh, Clive Swift. Apparently, there’s an excruciating interview with him in Doctor Who Magazine—according to Nick, from whom I got this information, Clive Swift made the whole thing very difficult for the interviewer. That’s a shame, because I’ve always found him amusing.

DOCTOR: The pyramids are beautiful. And New Zealand.
NICK: Yay!

Hey! It’s (spoiler!) Donna’s grandfather! I love you, you adorable old man.

Ah, the Queen’s staying in London. A lesson learned from her mother: “The King won’t leave the people, and I won’t leave the King.”

(Should those nouns be capitalised? I can’t tell at this stage, and I can’t be bothered looking it up. But I’m talking about specific monarchs, so I’ll leave them as is.)

Uh oh, Geoffrey Palmer again. This can’t be good. And do those meteors have engines? How are they turning on that sharp angle, otherwise?

Ha! The Doctor’s put his glasses on. That’s usually the sign for me to get whacked by an excitable friend when we watch these in groups, but Nick’s not susceptible to David Tennant’s charms. That I know of.

Oh, you poor midshipman. Geoffrey shows his true colours. He was a villain in the last Doctor Who story he was in, wasn’t he? Or at least a stooge? I’ll ask Nick in a moment.

Uh oh! Tiny asteroid.

NICK: Ha! It’s a gigantic Ferrero Rocher!

Oh, Geoffrey! I know you’re dying, but this is evil. You know that, don’t you? Although I’ll admit that that lugubrious face works well with this kind of character. I love you, Geoffrey! I’m sorry you’re dead. Or almost. No, actually dead now.

The screaming and the death gives me a good opportunity to ask Nick my question: apparently, Geoffrey wasn’t evil or a stooge in the last story, just a misguided beaurocrat. Also, Geoffrey—I’m sorry I’m calling you by your first name when we haven’t been formally introduced—I blame the exigencies of live-blogging. Oddly, “Geoffrey” is easier to type then “Mr Palmer.”

Man, this episode has a high body count—we’re up the steward being sucked out of the ship, if I haven’t been making the narrative absolutely clear, which I suspect I haven’t. But I don’t think I’ve seen this bloody an episode since “Horror of Fang Rock”—and that had a fairly small cast of characters from which to work. But this reminds me of classic episodes such as “Warriors of the Deep” and “Robots of Death,” naturally.

Slight pause while I figure out why the page just went really strange and then realise that I hit the “html” button accidentally. But that’s fine—we’re all here again.

The Heavenly Host have gone evil, by the way. Ah, evil robots. Have any Doctor Who episodes involving robots ever been bad?

The Doctor’s claiming to be 903 years old—is he lying about his age, again?

No! Don’t bring that robot back to life! You’re really going to regret that.

NICK: Hang on, Rich Chappy knew the Host said “You’re all going to die.” So he should know mending it is a bad idea. Bit of a plot hole, there. Mind, it’s the first time I’ve noticed it, in four times of watching.

Ah, “allons-y”—or something along those lines. (I think I can confidently say ‘Excuse my French’—it really is non-existent.) The Doctor’s habit of saying that is going to pay off in a really disturbing fashion in a devastating episode later in the season. (Spoiler!) Kind of.

The anti-cyborg attitude behind this episode is one of the more interesting aspects of the world-building: it’s a shame there isn’t more room to develop it further.

Ah, the disappearing life signs—that reminds me of something. Is it another Doctor Who episode? I can’t remember now.

Killer robots! Why oh why do people trust robots? It’s never a good idea. At least not in Doctor Who.

NICK: You’re supposed to be a helper robot! Why aren’t you helping?

Never mind, he’s been squished under a giant block.

NICK: In death, they’re extraordinarily unrealistic.

Nick thinks the last instance of the disappearing life signs was “Earthshock,” when the Cybermen’s android was slaughtering troopers. He could be right—I’ve blocked a lot of “Earthshock” out of my head, because it was a bit silly.

This whole episode is so The Poseidon Adventure—although now we appear to be crossing the bridge of Kazak Dhum (don’t check my spelling).

Nick was very unimpressed that the Afro-Caribbean man was the first to die. He’s just said so again—about the fifteenth time he’s said that. But he feels it is pandering too much to the conventions of the disaster movie.

(I agree, but I still laughed and laughed when Samuel L. Jackson was eaten by that giant shark in Deep Blue Sea—a movie so cliched that my father, who’s seen about fifteen movies since the late 1960s, was able to spot the plot developments before they happened, including the bit where the shark turned an oven on with its nose.)

Nick’s right—this scene is is beautifully lit. See, killer robots who can also fly is just cheating. What are you supposed to do about that? And it’s all very well to hit their haloes away with lead pipes, but what if you’re like me? I’m far more likely to whack myself on the back of the head and just make the whole thing easier for them.

Oops, second man down—little, spiky, red dude. I have no chance on Earth of spelling his name correctly, so we’ll just leave it at that.

Ah, about to be third man down.

But first, a Douglas Adams joke. I wish Douglas Adams were still writing for the programme. Of course, I wish Douglas Adams were still alive, and writing anything.

Now that’s the third man down. That’s a shame; I rather warmed to her.

Now the Doctor’s angry—this Doctor spends most of his time angry, it seems. Who was the last genuinely angry Doctor? The sixth regeneration was pretty cranky most of the time, but it wasn’t this kind of white-hot anger. Ah, but Sylvester McCoy was capable of this—remember “The Happiness Patrol”? That is the one I’m thinking of, right?

Ah, the point where the Doctor kisses the latest girl. Call me old fashioned, but I do think there’s too much kissing in this new incarnation. I preferred the original series in that respect. (And other respects, although I do love this new version.)

I think there’s a logical flaw in the “survivors must equal passengers or staff” argument that the Doctor sets up. Surely, survivors simply equal anyone who survives the crash, by definition. But, he might be talking about an assumption that the Host have been specifically programmed with a list of people who have survived and need to be hunted down. But surely that’s nonsensical—wouldn’t they just kill anyone human, regardless of their standing?

Oh, never mind.

In the interim, the Doctor is working up to a confrontation with the big boss, and Astrid is following him.

I’m not sure I want to be a disembodied head on some kind of hydraulic cart—that really doesn’t seem as though it would be a satisfactory life. Still, at least they seeded the necessary backstory for this with little, red, spiky man—I would like to know more about why Stow (is that right? We’ll leave it as is) despises cyborgs.

The head/cart thing is really creepy, though. And I do like a good revenge plan. I don’t care how fond the “ladies” are “of metal”—what can they do when you’re just a head on a cart?

Actually, seriously, don’t answer that. I have a feeling I could work out the answer with a bit of quick Googling—but I don’t think I want to.

Let’s just forget that bit ever happened, shall we?

Oh, dear, Astrid is making her move. Nick’s not sure why the robots don’t just kill the Doctor, anyway, but let’s be glad they don’t.

Whoops, slow motion—never a good sign.

Oh, that’s a shame. She would have driven me mad as a companion—but what about this nice young midshipman? We haven’t had a proper male companion in ages?—but I rather liked her.

Ah, a hero-shot of the Doctor, framed against fire. And about to play with all those Messianic overtones that this new series has been overtly seeding into the show. (I spelt that “dhow,” which would have been an entirely different point.)

This hero-shot reminds me of the scene at the end of “The Runaway Bride”—I assume it’s deliberate—where he’s killing the Rachnos (seriously, it’s close enough, spelling-wise) babies.

(By the way, the Titanic is falling on Buckingham Palace, and we’re about to have queen-related hi-jinks.)

With the scene in “The Runaway Bride,” I felt that this Doctor was cruising for a bruising, so to speak. He was so implacable, and in a way that was entirely foreign to an old-school fan of the series.

(Ah, queen-related hi-jinks. Is there any surer form of humour?)

Anyway, back to the main point—I could deal with implacable Doctor—but I felt he needed to get his comeuppance at some point. He needed to be brought to a sense of how extreme his behaviour was. And I’m not sure that’s ever happened to him, yet. I sort of hope it does.

Poor Astrid. I’m not sure I want to spend my life floating around the galaxy as atoms. And “the ghost of consciousness”? Does that mean she’s still sentient? What if the atoms are scattered at some point?

Man, she’s tiny.

There’s a fine line between falling and flying—at least as long as the ground is a reasonable distance away.

Nick thinks there are shades of this in the Steven Moffat two-parter—still to come in our Doctor Who season 4 live-blogging extravaganza—but we’ll come to that when we come to those episodes.

Why does the jerk always survive in these episodes? Why?

I wonder if it would have been possible for me to make fewer references to the actual narrative? I’ll see how I do next week.

This really does have an enormously high body count. How many people were on that ship? And only four survived? Well, technically two, since Mr Copper went AWOL and the Doctor was a stowaway.

Oh, the Doctor is so English. I wonder if I could make something out of that about nationalism and consciousness of the foreign on the part of immigrants—but I can’t really be bothered.

(Spoiler coming up. Seriously, a spoiler. A minor spoiler, but still a spoiler. Is that enough warning? Have you skipped down to the next paragraph? Good. This Mr Copper character is going to pay off in an interesting if minor way later in the season. Keep an eye out.)

And there goes that TARDIS.

Oh, Verity Lambert. Vale, Verity Lambert.

And that’s “The Voyage of the Damned.” Next week: creepy little aliens and Catherine Tate. I wasn’t sure about her, but I’ve warmed to her.

And a preview for the first half of the season. Some good episodes coming up. Any season that includes Agatha Christie is a good season.

Share your thoughts [7]


Tim wrote at Jun 30, 02:03 am

Re tux: Wasn’t Tennant wearing one in The Lazarus Experiment and Rise of the Cybermen? Pertwee usually wore a tuxedo shirt and pants, but with a smoking jacket, not a dinner jacket.

Midshipman Frame’s survival still seems silly to me. ‘The captain shot me, but only a little bit!’

Re ‘survivors must equal passengers or staff’, I agree it’s flimsy; the robots are killing to leave no witnesses. First time round, I was expecting him to pull the ‘I’m not really a Stoan’ trick (‘Scan me — two hearts, see?’), but that’s a bit old now too.

I’m getting quite tired of the Doctor-as-God stuff, really. He’s not actually good at keeping his promises, is he? And I don’t like the endings in which a nice character dies but is kind of resurrected in a supposedly-but-to-me-not-really consolatory fashion.


Catriona wrote at Jun 30, 02:44 am

The Astrid resurrection scene did bother me, a bit. (Oddly . . . but no; I’ll deal with that in a later episode.) It seems a dangerous and unsatisfactory life.

But it’s ten thousand times better than the resurrection of Shirley Henderson in “Love and Monsters”; I was really enjoying the episode until that point. Frankly, I think what the Doctor did to her was horrific—cruel to her (what kind of life is that, a face sticking out of a paving stone?) and to Elton (who’ll be stuck with her for life, even if their relationship is unsatisfactory, since to leave her in that state would be monstrous.) And with the inequality of power in their relationship, it could turn into something really awful.

I didn’t count Pertwee’s costume, but I should have. And I’d completely forgotten about “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Rise of the Cybermen” he was a waiter, wasn’t he? So, in fact, he wears a tuxedo far more often than ordinary men are called to do.

(Confession: I didn’t want Midshipman Frame to die. He was a sweetie. So silly or not, I’m glad the Captain only shot him a little bit.)


Matthew Smith wrote at Jun 30, 04:35 am

thenk you doctor, thenk you


Tim wrote at Jul 1, 09:36 am

The ending of ‘Love and Monsters’ was just terrible.


Catriona wrote at Jul 1, 10:05 am

Yes, but it was terrible in a way that amazed me. You’d think that Russell T. Davies would have thought twice about that ending. It wasn’t just that that was in no way, shape, or form a happy ending—it was horrific! And yet is doesn’t seem as though “horrific” was the intention.

I don’t know—that episode continues to puzzle me, and it’s a shame; I was enjoying it up to that point, but I’d rather that Ursula had stayed dead.


Tim wrote at Jul 1, 01:50 pm

I think RTD thought it was funny and bittersweet.


Catriona wrote at Jul 1, 09:51 pm

It really wasn’t, though; if I’d been able to see it as bittersweet, maybe I would have laughed. But the whole thing was just too awful.

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