Voyage of the Damned
Voyage of the Damned was the third Christmas episode of BBC Wales Doctor Who. Kylie Minogue starred as one-off companion Astrid Peth. Peth’s death at the conclusion of the episode was the first time a companion of the Doctor had died in the revived series. It marked the first appearance of Wilfred Mott, future companion to the Tenth Doctor and grandfather to Donna Noble.
For a few months, Voyage of the Damned was the highest-charting episode in Doctor Who history. The second-most-watched program of its week and indeed of the entire of 2007, Damned took the crown from part two of The Ark in Space. However, it would be displaced about seven months later by Journey’s End, which was the first episode of Doctor Who ever to win its week of original transmission.
The bow of a ship crashes through the wall of the Doctor’s TARDIS. The Tenth Doctor is momentarily stunned, particularly after seeing the name of the ship: Titanic.
Pressing some buttons, he repairs the TARDIS walls, pushing the ship out. The TARDIS then properly materializes aboard the ship. The Doctor soon discovers that the Titanic is a large luxury spaceship cruiser from the planet Sto, modeled after the Earth ocean liner of the same name, orbiting Earth. He finds out the date: Christmas Eve. He decides to stow away to enjoy the party, using the alias “Passenger 57” with his psychic paper, only confessing his unauthorized status to lively waitress Astrid Peth, who reveals her own desire to travel the stars.
Astrid has found her new job disappointing, namely as she is not allowed off the ship to visit destination planets. The Doctor cheers her up by sneaking her onto an excursion to London via teleport, along with Morvin and Foon Van Hoff and the Zocci Bannakaffalatta. Before they go, the ship’s historian and guide Mr Copper gives the excursion party a completely inaccurate explanation of human society, especially Christmas, in spite of his supposed degree in Earthonomics.
They arrive in London, only to find the street totally deserted; unfortunately, following alien attacks on London on the two previous Christmases, most people have fled the city for the duration of the holiday. The whole city of London is therefore for the most part deserted, apart from the Queen, BBC broadcaster Nicholas Witchell, and a newsstand owner named Wilfred Mott.
In the middle of a conversation with Wilfred, the party is returned to the ship due to a power failure. Wilf stands there, shocked at what he’s just seen. The Doctor investigates the failure’s cause, and discovers that meteors are approaching, but the shields are offline. The Doctor warns Captain Hardaker, but is forced away from the computer by a steward, as he is not authorized to use the system. The Doctor breaks free and tries to warn everyone, but is forcibly taken away from the singer’s microphone and removed from the party followed by Astrid, the Van Hoffs, Bannakaffalatta and Mr Copper.
The Doctor gasps to a guest to look out the window. One of the passengers, Rickston Slade, sees a tiny meteor smash through the window and follows the Doctor and the others attempting to warn the chief steward. But they won’t listen. Midshipman Frame tries to get the shields back online, but is shot by the Captain, who reveals that, already dying, he was offered a lot of money sent to his family to have the ship destroyed. Three meteors slam into the side of the starship Titanic, and wreck it.
The Captain is killed in the resulting collision, as are the bulk of the crew and passengers. The Titanic‘s hull is holed in several places, and the TARDIS is left drifting in space, before automatically homing in for a landing on Earth. With the teleport system offline and the engines losing power, the Titanic heads for an extinction-level collision with the Earth. The Doctor makes contact with the injured Midshipman Frame, and leads a small group of survivors in a climb through the shattered vessel to reach him. During the journey, the Doctor questions Mr Copper’s poor knowledge of Earth despite his supposed degree in Earthonomics, and Mr Copper admits that his credentials are fraudulent, a crime for which he will be imprisoned for at least ten years when the facts come out during the ensuing investigation. Slade is also complicating matters by only being concerned with his own well being, and insulting the Hoffs at every opportunity.
Complicating matters further are the Hosts, android servitors that had earlier started malfunctioning. Their sole function now is to kill the survivors scattered throughout the ship. The Doctor’s party is harassed by Host, and his sonic screwdriver is useless against them. Bannakaffalatta reveals to Astrid he is actually a cyborg, something thought shameful on Sto. Bravely, he saves the party from a Host attack by transmitting an electromagnetic pulse from his cybernetic implants, killing himself. The Van Hoffs also die during this attack: Morvin falls from the ledge into the nuclear engines, while Foon commits suicide while pulling a surviving Host down with her. The Doctor makes a grim promise that “no more” will die. The survivors take Bannakaffalatta’s EMP unit with them as their only effective weapon against the Host.
The Doctor sends the survivors, including Astrid, on ahead with the EMP unit and the sonic screwdriver. He tries to reach Deck 31, from where the Host seem to be controlled. He convinces the Host to take him, a stowaway, to their leader. This turns out to be the cruise line’s owner, Max Capricorn, hiding in an indestructible “impact chamber” on Deck 31. Capricorn is also a cyborg, in a small wheeled vehicle. Forced out by the company’s board of directors due to their prejudice against cyborgs, he is seeking revenge. The collision of the Titanic into a heavily populated world will not only break the company, but see the board charged with manslaughter, giving Capricorn his ultimate revenge, allowing him to retire in luxury to Penhaxico II at the cost of the Earth. Outnumbered by Host and faced with death, the Doctor is saved by Astrid, who has used a short-range teleport to arrive there. She rams Capricorn with a fork-lift truck. In the struggle, both are forced off a precipice, and fall into the fiery engine of the ship. Both Max and Astrid die.
With the Host no longer under Capricorn’s control, the Doctor grimly makes his way to the bridge with their help just as the ship plunges into Earth’s atmosphere. Working with Frame, he uses the heat from the re-entry to try to start the ship’s auxiliary engines, but discovers that they are headed straight for one of the few places in London currently inhabited: Buckingham Palace. Calling through with Security Code 771, he gets the Queen out of the building, which the Titanic narrowly misses as the ship pulls up, now back under control. The Queen, in her dressing gown and curls, thanks the Doctor as he pilots the ship back into the sky.
With the danger over, the Doctor suddenly realizes that there might yet be hope for Astrid after all. A safety feature of the ship’s teleport system is that, in case of accident, it automatically holds in stasis the molecules of the affected passenger. As she was wearing a teleport bracelet at the time of her death, her pattern might still be stored in its buffers. Despite desperate efforts, only a shadow of Astrid can be generated due to extensive damage to the teleport system, despite the Doctor’s claims, “I can fix it, I can do anything!” After a kiss to follow an old tradition, the Doctor watches her dissipate into motes of light that float free into space. This way, she can at least fulfill her dream of exploring the universe, forever.
In the aftermath, the only survivors are the Doctor, Mr Copper, Alonso Frame and Rickston Slade, who is overjoyed at what happened, as he invested in all of Max Capricorn’s rival companies, leaving him rich. Mr Copper notes that out of everyone, he isn’t the one he would have chosen to survive… however, having the power to choose who lives would make them monsters. The Doctor decides to save Mr Copper from prison, and uses the teleport to return to Earth.
Finding the TARDIS, the Doctor declines Copper’s request to travel with him. When Mr Copper asks exactly what he’s meant to do, the Doctor takes the ship’s expenses card, prepared to put some money on it — but then realizes he doesn’t have to. Mr Copper, not understanding Earth currency, has already loaded it with £1,000,000 to cover the cost of “trinkets”. The Doctor explains to Mr Copper that a million pounds is the equivalent of 50 million credits, and Mr Copper is overjoyed that he can afford a house and a garden. The Doctor tells Mr Copper to stay out of trouble, and have a nice life as Mr Copper dances away without any idea of where he’s heading… but before he goes, he promises that he’ll always remember Astrid. With a final look up to the stars where Astrid now floats away, the Doctor wishes Mr Copper a Merry Christmas, before leaving.
The Tenth Doctor