A First-Timer Watches Doctor Who: “Voyage Of The Damned”

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Too bad the Doctor wasn’t there when the real Titanic sank. Leo might have lived! As I’m sure all you Who fans recall, season three ended with the Doctor crashing the TARDIS into the Titanic. It’s not the real Titanic, however—it’s a kitschy Earth-themed cruise for residents of the planet Sto. After shelling out for an expensive ticket, passengers get the chance to fly over Earth, even making brief touchdowns via teleport. The starliner is owned by a glass-eyed tycoon named Max Capricorn, who sends out cheerful missives via screens located all over the ship. Off course, no one who seems that friendly could actually be that friendly, and it’s soon revealed that Capricorn has a plan to destroy not only his own vessel, but everything on Earth.

“Voyage of the Damned” is a fun adventure that energetically sets the series on a new course after the dramas of last season. I liked the self-contained action arc, and how quickly we get invested in the Doctor’s ragtag crew of surviving passengers. After exploring the Doctor’s vulnerabilities last season, the show seems to be presenting him in a more heroic light this time around. His rousing “I am the Doctor, and I’m the man who’s going to save your lives” speech was an effective amp-up—but after so much self-loathing last season, it’s surprising to see him assume a Hollywood saves-of-the-day role is such a self-conscious way. (Although I recognize that Russell T. Davies is playing with action-movie tropes.) Of course, the Doctor saving the day is what this show is all about, but I’d be disappointed if this season didn’t continue some of the psychological explorations it began the previous year.

Obviously we need to talk about Kylie Minogue as Astrid. It’s cool that she was the one who approached the show, and having such a recognizable star on deck made for an easy transition from Martha. I thought Astrid had a lot of spunk, although it would have been cool if Minogue brought some pop-star energy to the role. (Or if Davies had written that kind of vibe into the script.) Still, while Astrid seemed to fall into the 100%-non-threatening camp, she had her comeuppance in the end when she rammed Max Capricorn over the edge of a precipice into a burning crater.

I guess I’m just a little hung up on the fact that the Doctor always goes for wistful blondes over the hard-assed med student types like Martha. (This is his fourth significant blonde, maybe? Rose, the girl in the fireplace, Joan, and now Astrid.) Also, it needs to be pointed out that this is the second time he’s had an emotional goodbye with a blonde that involved one of them appearing via hologram or some kind of fuzzy projection. Like I said before, this could represent the Doctor’s inability to form emotional connections—a physical manifestation of the reality that he’s only ever “partially there” in this romantic connections with women.

In any case, it will be interesting to see how this season addresses both the Doctor’s flaws and his attributes. On to the next one!

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