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January 06, 2008

Frankly, I Don't Give a Damned

Voyage of the Damned

Voyage4It's like old times.  I'm full of cold, dosed-up on Day Nurse and close to hallucinating. And so here is my Voyage of the Damned review.

It takes a strong will and an angry mind to apply criticism to Voyage of the Damned.  The show itself was so lightweight, fluffy and sloppily written that the overwhelming instinct is to shrug and say “Why bother?”. And since Neil vented his spleen so entertainingly and accurately a few days ago, there's even less of an impetus to waste electrons on a similarly-minded review. Worst of all there are the majority of massed denizens of the Doctor Who Forum standing on the sidelines waiting to wag their collective finger while saying "Well eight billion people watched it, and it had an AI of 2 x 1010 so by all means have your crazy opinion but don't for a moment think it actually counts for anything".

I felt more of an emotional attachment with Mario in 'Super Mario Galaxy' then I did with either Astrid or Alonso the Chimp Boy.

So I'll keep it brief. I liked the first 30 minutes or so, and I loved Clive Swift. Judging by their on-screen chemistry I imagine that David Tennant was distraught to learn that Mr Copper won't be continuing as a new companion. As a disaster movie fan, I loved all The Poseidon Adventure stuff, but I didn't really see it in terms of an Eric Saward “dark” massacre as disaster movies are just another Christmas staple. Deaths in such films are just not the same as deaths in anything else, and as most of this story looked like a Playstation3 game then I doubt that the kids watching were particularly disturbed either. Certainly I felt more of an emotional attachment with Mario in 'Super Mario Galaxy' then I did with either Astrid or Alonso the Chimp Boy.

Phil Collinson is clearly a man at the end of his tether as he was the only person on the planet who didn't realise that Max Capricorn was going to be the villain.

The last forty minutes have already been demolished by better men than I, but something so unsound only needs a tap with a hammer to bring it crashing down.  What is really odd is how much of this was also revealed by the BBC audio commentary on the programme. It may not seem like it sometimes, but I actually have a boundless admiration for Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner and Phil Collinson and their achievement in bringing back Doctor Who.  But my word they sound tired.  Davies commented on how pained he felt when he read Blink and realised it featured angels, and who wouldn't sympathise with his eventual rationalization about the hosts “They've got nothing in common with weeping angels”.  Of course they haven't.  Apart from being angels.  Phil Collinson is clearly a man at the end of his tether as he was the only person on the planet who didn't realise that Max Capricorn was going to be the villain. Even Davies sounded stunned by that. Later on both Gardner and Collinson murmured supportively as Davies explained his technique for rescuing his original ending “He's got to be a cyborg and she's got to attack him in a fork-lift truck”.  Somebody get them a holiday!

Camp frothy nonsense.

So it's all about context in the end.  A creative decision has been made: “Christmas specials must be about spectacle” and in stretching to achieve that some of the holes show through. The script looked rushed and didn't make sense a lot of the time, and some of the effects (especially Astrid and Max toppling into the engines) looked poor. Apparently the BBC wanted an extra ten minutes, whereas the whole thing would have been better over fifty minutes at most.  But in many ways (despite Davies's weird messiah stuff – I'm not even going there as doubtless we'll be wading through it in series 4) Voyage of the Damned was still an achievement. When it worked it was engaging, funny and spectacular which made its many lowpoints all that much lower. I'd still rather have the nation watching Doctor Who on Christmas night than Holby “It's a Wonderful Life” City, but I suspect, a la Ricky Gervais, a lot of the nation is saying “Did you see Doctor Who on Christmas Day? Just what we wanted – a bit of camp frothy nonsense.” And as between Christmas 2008 and Christmas/New Year 2009/10 we'll only be getting specials, I do hope that they aren't all in the vein of Voyage of the Damned as that'll mean for a whole year Doctor Who really will be nothing but camp frothy nonsense.

Now where's that Day Nurse? None left.  OK – pass the Vosene, that'll do.

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