Right at the end, “Voyage of the Damned” gets a whole lot more mawkish and sentimental than I like. It’s a fine disaster movie for a good while there, with a few top-flight names in small parts like Geoffrey Palmer and Bernard Cribbins. Clive Swift’s here for the duration. He effortlessly stole every scene he was in some 22 years previously, in “Revelation of the Daleks”, and he honestly does it here as well. Unfortunately, one day on the set, Swift managed to make Who fandom infamy by granting an interview to Doctor Who Magazine and, in the worst mood of any entertainer this side of Lou Reed, tolerated the experience with a mix of boredom and condescension. It’s probably around online somewhere; you should look it up to see what happens when actors wake up on the wrong side of the bed.
I think it’s interesting that this story shows the Doctor just flat out losing a lot more than he’s used to. He promises six survivors that he’ll get them out of this mess and loses four of them. And one is really surprising from a narrative perspective, although not a production one. Pop star Kylie Minogue is here as a waitress from the planet Sto called Astrid Peth. I like Kylie. I’m not a huge fan, but I like some of her stuff. I completely adore “On a Night Like This,” which is also a whole lot more mawkish and sentimental than I (usually) like, but I occasionally make allowances for silly love songs. So while it’s a sure bet that Astrid is a one-off guest star rather than a continuing companion, because Kylie has a big career and couldn’t have afforded nine months to make thirteen episodes in 2007-08, it really wasn’t until everybody started dying that I wondered whether she’d be killed as well.
I think the real surprise is that the Doctor asks her to come with him, and she accepts, and then she chooses to end her life by killing the villain and saving the day. That doesn’t happen often, although the Doctor did agree that Lynda-With-a-Y could come with him in “The Parting of the Ways” and she didn’t make it out alive either. The atoms-turning-to-starlight bit is sad, but the falling into the engines bit and the angry hero staring remorselessly while things explode silently behind him bit looks like a very, very bad Hollywood action film. Fortunately, just two minutes later, the Queen gets evacuated from Buckingham Palace in her robe while an assistant carries one of her little dogs in his arms. That’s better.
We’ll start series four of Doctor Who later this month. Stay tuned!