I finally managed to catch the Doctor Who 2007 Christmas Special, "Voyage of the Damned", yesterday on the internet. I had heard some terrible things about the story, and to be honest, was hoping that it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be, given some of the comments made.
RTD has the habit of borrowing all manner of different sources for inclusion as elements of Doctor Who, but this was...weird. To start with, the Special is a total rip-off of 1972's The Poseidon Adventure with a Christmas theme and a science fiction twist or three. While there was no Reverend (but you can guess who the religious figure is supposed to be among the group!) among the party of characters seeking a way to safety on the bridge, all the character types from the original are here. right down to the Belle and Manny Rosen characters (originally played by Shelley Winters and Jack Albertson, but here replaced by a husband and wife pair of aliens who won a lottery. Several of the other characters are also quite interesting, notably the novice seaman who ends up alone and seriously wounded on the bridge, the Earthologist who has the gist of it but doesn't understand or know real Earth history or anything else for the most part, and Kylie Minogue as Astrid Pith, the female companion for the purpose of this DW Special. Add to this the Host, the robotic servants of the story on the ship that look like angels down to the white robes, wings, and halos (which made for interesting weapons); they certainly add the Christmas element to the episode, even if RTD seems intent with the Christmas Specials of making them scary and all in their Christmas content. And it's not even funny in the Futurerama sense of how Santa Claus is portrayed.
And then there's Kylie Minogue. I have to say that I wasn't expecting anything great from her here, but Astrid Pith surprised me. There was depth to the character, there was a rapport between her and David Tennant's Doctor, but her fate came as no surprise to me. I suspect that if I had seen this Special before the last season of Doctor Who, where we didn't know who the companion was going to be for the season, I might have thought that Astrid stood a chance of being the season companion (although I guess that Kylie probably wouldn't have played the companion for the season, given the costs of hiring such an actress and all). Astrid Pith came off as a familiar type of companion, harking back in some ways to the grand old days of Doctor Who, plucky, resourceful, curious, intrigued by the Doctor, and willing to sacrifice herself. As it was her fate seemed...well, foreshadowed, but such was not to be unexpected given The Poseidon Adventure origins of the story. Still, she was really good, better than I expected.
When it really comes down to it, however, while the Special was enjoyable to watch, it was somewhat overplayed by most of the actors concerned. The attempt on the part of all the actors to add some pathos and drama to what was going to be a tragic loss of a lot of the characters on the trip through the bowels of the ship was pretty good, but I couldn't help think that the story could have been another 20 minutes longer just to add a bit more characterization to some of the folks who were bound to die. As for the villain of the story, well, that element was "ho hum" as far as I was concerned; the reasons for the whole business were...typical for villains of this type, but the viewers had no investment in the villain character, and thus the payoff is a bit of a let-down. And we won't talk about Tennant's Doctor playing cricket (or was it baseball?) with the halos when the Host were trying to kill the characters...although perhaps that was a nod to the Peter Davison Doctor?
Having finally seen "Voyage of the Damned", I can say that it was not as bad as I expected it to be, but it wasn't *good* Doctor Who either. Some of the stuff Davros says to the Doctor in "Journey's End" now makes a lot more sense, and there are all sorts of interesting ideas and thoughts that stem from this Christmas Special. Can't wait to see "The Next Doctor".