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Doctor Who: Christmas Specials Revisited – Voyage of the Damned

Reviewed by Anna Jorgensen.

Each day leading up to Christmas and ‘The Husbands of River Song’, we will be looking back at the Doctor’s previous festive adventures with a different TGT writer reviewing each episode. Today, we have a crashing starship that’s heading towards Earth…

Note: The review for The Next Doctor went up yesterday due to availability. The reviews should continue in order from here on out.

With “Last of the Time Lords” seeing the departure of Martha Jones, “Voyage of the Damned” had many fans hoping for a new companion, and perhaps a lighter story to contrast with the series 3 finale. These two expectations are, for the most part, not to be met.

 The episode starts off well enough, with the Doctor landing on the interstellar cruise ship Titanic and finding himself amidst a Christmas celebration of sorts, populated by residents of the planet Sto. But the story quickly takes a dark turn as three meteors strike the hull of the ship, killing the vast majority of the passengers. From here, the episode doesn’t seem very Christmassy at all, other than the fact that it just so happens to be Christmas on the planet below. Instead, it seems rather sad and depressing for an episode aired on a day of peace and happiness.

The few people aboard the ship who seemed lucky enough to have survived the meteor strike find themselves at the mercy of this episode’s villains, the Host. These angels, who had originally appeared to be harmless robotic info stations, turn out to be the cause of death for the majority of those remaining on the ship. Using “security protocol one”, the Doctor finds the Host are also a good source for information, using the protocol that forces the Host to answer three questions before killing the person who invoked it. I find this to be a very interesting concept, as opposed to having to fight the enemy, you simply have to be clever enough to use three questions to save your life. There were quite a few possibilities to be explored with this, but it was well used in the instances in which it came up.

For the most part, this episode is rather dark for a Christmas special, but I found that the writers manage to divert the attention to any and all good that comes from this episode. Of all the characters we encounter in this episode, most of them end up dead, but the few who live all seem to get fairly happy endings. Many people may have hoped that at least the Doctor would be able to save his would-be companion, Astrid Peth. But alas, not even she manages to survive the entire episode, ending up as stardust, floating off to see the universe.

By the end, we are left with a small feeling of warmth as we watch one of the few survivors of the episode realize he has money, and that he can start a new life on planet Earth. Ending the episode on such a note seems to do a good job of distracting from the disaster that occurred, managing to leave viewers feeling that Christmas spirit that really only made brief appearances throughout the episode. Overall, “Voyage of the Damned” had a good balance of adventure and Christmas trimmings, leaving viewers excited for the series to come.

Tomorrow, Louis listens to A Christmas Carol…