Timestamp #194: Time Crash & Voyage of the Damned

Doctor Who: Time Crash
Doctor Who: Voyage of the Damned
(Children in Need and Christmas Specials, 2007)

When you look deep into the pockets of the universe, you never know what you find.

Time Crash

Immediately after Martha left the TARDIS and the Doctor once again took flight, the blue box goes haywire. The Doctor stabilizes the time capsule, but he finds himself face-to-face with the Fifth Doctor. The Fifth Doctor is confused but the Tenth Doctor is amused, getting nostalgic about the frowny face, the hat, the coat, the crickety-cricket outfit, the brainy specs, and even the decorative vegetable on his lapel.

The Fifth Doctor is beside himself, but his frustration is interrupted by a warning that two TARDISes have merged and have the potential to blow a hole in the space-time continuum the size of Belgium. The Fifth Doctor thinks that the Tenth Doctor is a fan, possibly from LINDA. The Tenth offers the Fifth a sonic screwdriver but remembers that he went hands-free at this point in his lives.

At the moment of Belgium, the Doctors initiate a supernova and a black hole at the same time and separate their capsules. The Tenth works to send his predecessor home, curious if Nyssa and Tegan were with him, or whether he has encountered the Cybermen, the Mara, or the Master yet. The Tenth Doctor admits that he just faced the Master, prompting the Fifth to ask about “that rubbish beard.” The Tenth replies that the beard is gone, replaced by a wife.

Oh, Steven Moffat and his jokes about homosexuality.

As the Fifth Doctor returns his time, the Tenth takes a moment to say goodbye. After all, the Fifth Doctor was his Doctor.

The moment is broken when a ship crashes through the TARDIS walls.

Her name is Titanic.

Voyage of the Damned

The Doctor uses the TARDIS console to regenerate the capsule’s walls and materialize aboard the cruise liner. He finds a Christmas party in full swing, complete with aliens and seemingly robotic angels, as the starliner Titanic settles into orbit with the planet Earth spinning around below.

The ship’s captain offers his stalwart crew a tot of rum to celebrate the holiday. The bridge crew leaves except for a midshipman who quotes regulation to the captain, and he’s allowed to stay behind.

The Titanic is a Max Capricorn cruiseliner, which the tuxedo-clad Doctor discovers as he views a promotional ad before rejoining the party. He finds that the robotic angels, the Host, are the shipboard information system. The ship was named after the most famous vessel of the planet Earth and is en route from Sto to observe the human holiday. The angel short circuits and is taken below to the engineering section with all of the other malfunctioning robots.

Among all the lovers in the room, the Doctor meets Astrid Peth, a member of the ship’s staff who accidentally drops a drink tray. She wants to travel like the Doctor, and realizing that it’s never too late, he reveals himself as a stowaway. She’s impressed – almost like love at first sight – and offers a drink instead of reporting him. The Doctor joins a table with Morvin and Foon Van Hoff, a couple in sparkly Western-style dress who are being mocked by the black-tie guests. The Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver to pop a champagne bottle and douse the bullies before joining the Van Hoffs for a trip to the planet below. En route, he spins Astrid around and brings her along. After a poorly researched historical brief, the party is joined by a small spiky red-skinned alien before they all transmat down to a deserted city.

The Doctor is perplexed: London should be bustling with people, but there’s not a soul in sight.

He asks Wilfred Mott, a newsstand operator, where everyone is on a night like this. He points to the last two Christmas invasions as examples that drove people to flee the city just in case. Better the devil you know, right? The Doctor and Astrid are beamed back up, mid-sentence, due to irregular power fluctuations on the ship. The Doctor is intrigued.

Meanwhile, the captain has magnetized the hull to draw in nearby passing meteors. The midshipman is perplexed. The Doctor discovers that the shields are down and tries to warn the bridge, but he’s ignored and apprehended. He tries to warn the passengers but is taken away. The captain also shoots the midshipman to prevent him from stopping events. He has been extorted in some way.

The passengers start to come around but everyone is too late to stop the collision. The ship is struck on the starboard side and mayhem erupts. As the Host come back to life in engineering, the Doctor notes that the chaos has stopped for the time being. He also remarks that Titanic is a bad name for a ship and that his tuxedo is awfully unlucky.

One of the crew inadvertently causes a hull breach but the Doctor re-enables the oxygen shield. He also watches as the TARDIS drifts by. Luckily, it locks on to the nearest planet and flies into the blue. Unfortunately, they can’t reach it.

Another bit of bad luck? The Host are now programmed to kill.

The Doctor makes contact with the bridge and Midshipman Frame. They discover that the storm drive engines are spooling down. If ship loses locomotion and plummets into the planet, it will cause a nuclear explosion and a planetwide extinction event. The ship is a timebomb.

The Doctor – “I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I’m nine hundred and three years old and I’m the man who’s going to save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?” – believes that it’s never too late and asks the survivors to confide in him. He takes charge and rallies them to both escape and save the planet. Astrid really believes in him.

As they move through the ship, Mr. Copper, the historian, keeps getting information about the planet below all wrong. They discover a disabled Host and the Van Hoffs (who are robotics experts) start trying to fix it. Meanwhile, Bannakaffalatta (the small red alien who is really a cyborg) scouts ahead through the wreckage as Astrid and the impossible Rickston Slade try to move enough wreckage to get everyone through. Astrid and Bannakaffalatta develop a special relationship as they go.

Midshipman Frame discovers that the Host are corrupted after they kill survivors in the galley. He warns the Doctor just as the Van Hoffs fix their disabled robot. The group of survivors rush to safety, learning on the way that the Host are being controlled from Deck 31. The Host assault the bridge, forcing Frame to deadlock the hatches and seal himself in without escape.

The survivors take a meal break while they have a chance. The Doctor and Astrid continue building their relationship while Copper reveals that he lied to get his job. The Host banging on a nearby bulkhead force the survivors to press forward, but that leads them to the space above the nuclear engines. The space between bulkheads is spanned by a narrow bridge, and as Morvin declares that he and Foon will go last, the deck gives way and he plummets to his doom. Astrid comforts Foon as Slade crawls across the bridge.

Bannakaffalatta goes next, followed by Astrid and Copper. Foon refuses to cross and the Doctor promises to come back for her. The Host stops banging on the bulkheads, but only because they take flight and start using their halos as deadly discuses. Bannakaffalatta reveals his nature to the survivors with an electromagnetic pulse, disabling the Host but giving his life in the process.

Copper salvages the electromagnetic transmitter as a remaining Host rises. The Doctor stumbles onto a security override that allows him three questions, so he learns that the Host have been instructed by their leader to kill the survivors. The Host raises its halo to strike but Foon wraps it in a rope and jumps over the side, sacrificing herself for the group.

Vowing that no more shall die tonight, the Doctor sets everyone to work. Astrid makes her case to join him on the TARDIS and he agrees that it would be wonderful to have her step back in time with him. He sends the survivors with the EMP unit and his sonic screwdriver, and with a kiss from Astrid, he rushes down to Deck 31.

Astrid, Copper, and Slade successfully defeat a group of the Host while the Doctor reveals himself as a stowaway and negotiates his arrest. The survivors make it back to the ballroom and while Copper and Slade work on the distress signal, Astrid convinces Frame to give her enough power to transmat to Deck 31 and help the Doctor.

The Doctor arrives on Deck 31 and meets the ultimate authority behind the night’s events: Max Capricorn. Or rather, the disembodied head on a rolling robotic life-support system, running the company by hologram in a culture that distrusts cyborgs. Capricorn is angry that the ship hasn’t crashed yet, and the Doctor takes the time to unravel the plan. Capricorn’s company has failed and he has been pushed out by the board, so if the Titanic destroys the Earth, he gets revenge as the board gets jailed for murder. Capricorn will survive in a special chamber and live out his life far away.

Capricorn reveals that he can remotely shut down the engines, forcing the Titanic to crash. As Capricorn orders the Doctor’s execution, Astrid rushes in with a forklift and drives Capricorn’s robotic body over the side into the engine below. The Doctor, begging inside for just a little more time, watches as she falls to her death.

The resolute Time Lord declares himself as the next highest authority on the ship and orders the Host take him straight to the bridge. They burst through the deck and the Doctor takes the helm from Midshipman Alonso Frame, steering the ship straight into the atmosphere. He calls up Buckingham Palace, ordering the Queen and her corgis to evacuate just in case his calculations are off. On the street below, Wilfred screams at the sky.

The Titanic barely misses the palace (but gets a Christmas greeting from the Queen) and sails into the sky, using the heat of re-entry to restart the auxiliary engines. The Doctor did it again.

He has an epiphany and tries to use the teleport bracelets to restore Astrid using their safety protocol. He’s only partially successful due to the damage in the system, bringing her back as only a fragment of her former self. The Doctor apologizes and kisses her in a bittersweet goodbye before opening a porthole and sending her atoms to fly among the stars forever.

Frame, Copper, and Slade, the only survivors of the starliner Titanic say their farewells to the Doctor. Copper offhandedly remarks that, if someone could decide who lives and who dies, it would make them a monster. The Doctor hands him a bracelet and they teleport to the surface. The Doctor refuses Copper’s request to travel with him, but he does explain that the credit card that Copper carries for Earth incidentals makes him a millionaire.

Copper dances away with the promise he will make the Doctor proud… and that he will always remember Astrid.

The episode closes on a dedication to Verity Lambert, OBE. She was the first producer of Doctor Who, and she died a month before this story was originally aired.

Both of these episodes were pure fun. Starting with Time Crash, we get the first multi-Doctor story of the revival era as well as the first time a classic-era Doctor’s actor was in the opening credits. It was directed by Graeme Harper, whose first credited directorial work in Doctor Who was Peter Davison’s last story.

It’s a better two-Doctor story than The Two Doctors, but that’s not hard to do.

It also marks the return of Steven Moffat to Doctor Who, a name we will see one more time in the Tennant era. The Curse of Fatal Death, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, and this small story are leading to bigger adventures for him in the coming years.

Moving to Voyage of the Damned, we get a rollicking adventure with a celebrity guest star as a one-shot companion. Kylie Minogue is magnetic in this story and it’s a shame that we didn’t get the chance to see her as a regular. She did a magnificent job in driving the contrast between the lonely Time Lord and one who travels with companions. She also indirectly proved the points that the Doctor is not a god and that he is not infallible.

The Host look very similar to the Axons and the Capricorn cyborg is reminiscent of Davros. We also get a couple of cameos with singer Yamit Mamo (including original song “The Stowaway“) and BBC journalist Nicholas Witchell. If you look closely at the Titanic‘s band, you’ll also note Murray Gold and Ben Foster.

The big drawback to this episode was the overuse of the Hans Gruber moment. The slow-motion shot of someone falling while looking up towards the camera happened four times – the steward, Foon, Morvin, and Astrid’s respective deaths – and that count is bordering on comical.

Regardless, this pair of stories was an entertaining adventure and a fantastic lead-in to Series Four.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

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