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Gareth McLean

The Doctor Who disaster movie is a great success

Despite its single, Kylie-shaped flaw, Voyage of the Damned is absolutely smashing.

December 20, 2007 4:30 PM | Printable version

Voyage of the Damned
Don't switch off just because of Kylie .... David Tennant and Kylie Minogue in Voyage of the Damned

On an Imax screen the size of Birmingham at London's Science Museum and in front of audience that included, curiously, Peter Hain MP and celebrity chef Tom Aikens along with Doctor Who alumni Camille Coduri, Noel Clarke, Shaun Dingwall, Michelle Collins and Anne Reid - though not Kylie Minogue, Catherine Tate, Freema Agyeman or Billie Piper - The Voyage of the Damned made quite the impact. Though it will be seen on smaller screens come 6.50pm on Christmas Day, jaws will likely still drop, seat edges will still be perched upon and hands may well be hid behind. The latest - and at 71 minutes, the longest - in what has become an institution after only three years is the epitome of Russell T Davies's re-imagining of the timelord's adventures. It's also the best of the three Christmas specials.

If you've seen the trailer, you'll know that the Titanic that crashed into the Tardis at the end of the third series wasn't that Titanic but a space-going cruise ship, circling the earth so its passengers can witness the planet's tradition of Christmas. Waiting upon said passengers is Astrid Peth, aka Kylie. Astrid, you'll have noticed, is an anagram of Tardis and Peth is Welsh for 'thing'. This may or may not be relevant.

As plain sailing would be dull, it isn't long before rum doings on the bridge and strange energy doodahs on the lower decks conspire, along with some meteors, to wreak havoc on the ship. With the earth at risk should the ship crash and the motley passengers struggling to reach safety, The Voyage of the Damned is a 1970s disaster movie in space. In homage to The Poseidon Adventure and its ilk, the Doctor leads his ragtag band of survivors through the wrecked ship, along corridors full of twisted metal and along a really narrow gangways over churning nuclear engines. I won't tell you who plays Shelley Winters. But the disaster movie template works well by dint of the Christmas special's stand-alone status. Other than the Doctor, no one need survive at all.

For the most part, The Voyage of the Damned is absolutely smashing. David Tennant's Doctor is commanding and hardly ever OTT, while the supporting cast are, mostly, dandy. The script nips along nicely, the jeopardy feels real, the CGI is grand and the humour, though in shorter supply than in previous years, glimmers still - and is only occasionally cheesy. After previous years' sinister Santas, the Hosts, the footsoldiers of the Big Bad, once again hail from near the Uncanny Valley and though the Big Bad itself doesn't have the malignant majesty of the Empress of Rachnos, such is the investment you've built up in the story by its unveiling, it feels churlish to complain about that. (Those who know the story of Voyage of the Damned (1976) will know that the ship in it was never meant to dock safely and the passengers were doomed from the outset. This too may or may not be relevant.)

In fact, The Voyage of the Damned's biggest flaw is its unique selling point - the presence of Kylie Minogue. She's just not that good. Truth be told, she's blank and insipid. There's no chemistry between Astrid and the Doctor, she delivers her lines with a real lack of conviction and thus we never really believe in Astrid as a character. Where Catherine Tate's Donna in last year's special was overbearing, Kylie Minogue's Astrid is hardly there at all. It does make you wonder why casting Kylie was regarded as a coup. She's a pop star - of course she's going to say yes to being beamed into millions of homes in the run-up to Christmas. She's got a duff album to sell. In truth, Kylie should be grateful to Doctor Who. I know I am.

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Kylie's acting is possibly the only thing worse than her singing. Her pop career has been (deservedly) successful because of the way she adopts changing personas without projecting a personality of her own, but she seems completely unable to do that on screen.

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Great article. Flying high above the recent disgraces of the guardian. Sorry but i didnt know where to post this. The Guardian Online... spelling and syntax mistakes peppering throughout, polly toynbee and her insupportable diatribes (and her me!me!me!), six month old news regurgitated to pull in the punters (robert murat translated mccann interviews!!! WE KNEW THAT!)
COME ON the guardian, i used to fork out 3 euros a week to read you, thank lordy your internet site is free...

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Thanks for that, I've got something to look forward to now. Am I alone in wondering if Kylie was got in not just because, admittedly, she is a star & kudo to Russell for pulling it off, but also as a sly wink to the plentiful gay fans.

I for one think David Tennant is gorgeous, but I find all this camp, Kylie loving, disco queen stereotyping very, very tedious. Its 2007 for goodness sake - do we _still_ feel the need to camp it up like hysterical girls?

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Sounds good; despite the Kylie.
BTW, anyone know when it's going to be shown in Oz or can direct me to somewhere I can watch it online?? Or it'll be the retro route of asking someone to video it and post the tape out.

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Didn't Douglas Adams already do the Spaceship Titanic? With less running and shouting and gurning? And hype?

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i'm not surprised, Kylie is a modern miracle, she seems to be the devoid of personality, and yet people are fascinated by her. I saw that Madonna-Lite yawn fest doc 'White Diamond', and i thought, why is this so dull? Maybe she's just being really cagey, she's obviously not giving very much away because she doesn't want to, then i thought, maybe she's worried people will discover the truth and find out she's a boring little tit...im going with the latter.

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I haven't read the article above or any of the comments because discussing a show few people have actually seen is little more than bragging that you are part of the media establishment now and have privilaged access.

Hope you enjoyed it but surely this article could have been left to next week?

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It could indeed be bragging that I'm part of the media establishment.

Or, less churlishly, it could be regarded as akin to a film review instead.

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Reviews are 'bragging' by 'the media establishment'???!!! I've heard it all now. Well done Mate you have have honed the ridiculous comment to a Becket like absurdist peak.
I doff my Santa hat in tribute.

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''Reviews are 'bragging' by 'the media establishment'???!!! I've heard it all now. Well done Mate you have have honed the ridiculous comment to a Becket like absurdist peak.
I doff my Santa hat in tribute.''

Maybe it's the fact that Gareth has alread written an article on the show entitled 'I've seen the new Doctor Who Christmas special...' that gave me that impression.

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megs - try bittorrent on 12/26 and you'll probably see it there (and also make sure you have a bt client program as well).

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Met Kylie several times at various non PR events, and what you see is what you get.Narcissistic & unbelievable unengaging bland inarticulate nothingness.Up close and personal she is so "ordinary" to point of dull.Nothing to contribute to any conversation, except gushy small talk.All the rubbish spoken by people seeking self PR who say there is SO much more to her are talking nonsense.

Dr Who well : I am not a fan of the show at all. I do like David Tennant but not in this.He deserves better, more meaningful intelligent roles. And hey, poor chap, he has got stuck with Kylie, who cannot act, but has cynically voted herself everywhere this year on back of being sick and now "infamous".

Think I will give it a miss.Along with Jools this NYE too as he has also "had" to have her on.!! Her singing voice, and material grate my ears.

Sorry to sound off but she is so everywhere, it has made me really depressed ,and cynically biased against the woman. and media

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