Well…that has to be about the darkest Christmas episode I have ever seen…
The previous episode ended with what looked like the Titanic bursting through the wall of the TARDIS. That would be bad, but there may be some good news in that this Titanic is a space-based ocean liner. And despite the passengers and crew largely looking human, it isn’t the future, They’re doing a flyby of the Earth for Christmas, and the whole ship is looking rather festive. Those angel robots that offer information are…
Wait, robots are never helpful on Doctor Who around Christmas.
Plus, who named this ship and why?
Short answer: the owner, Max Capricorn. He’s not onboard as far as anyone knows. But he has a gleaming gold tooth and everything. Apparently, he named this cruise ship after the most famous Earth cruise ship of all time.
Judging by what the local guide, an older man named Mr. Slade, knows about Earth and its people, it is an entirely easy thing to understand why these people don’t know anything about the real Titanic.
Now, the Doctor being the Doctor, he quickly befriends the outcasts, like a middle class couple that won a contest and are both a bit on the heavy side plus potential new companion Astrid, a waitress who wanted to see the stars. Astrid, it should be noted, won’t be a more permanent companion even if she fits the bill since she’s played by pop star Kylie Minogue. But hey, this is Doctor Who, and the only thing that makes a Doctor Who Christmas special is there are some references to Christmas at the beginning and the end and the general setting. This isn’t really a cheerful story where the Doctor teaches someone the true meaning of the holidays…arguably because none of these people really know much about the holidays to begin with.
But since this is the Titanic, it’s doomed. Someone dropped the shields in time for a meteor strike, dooming the ship and, if the Doctor doesn’t fix anything, the Earth below. Most of the passengers and crew were killed in the initial meteor strike, and the TARDIS floated out a window so the Doctor doesn’t have it. All he has is himself and a handful of people he promises he will get out of this alive.
Only two of them, plus a young Midshipman named Alonso Frame, actually make it. And yes, Astrid is one of the unlucky ones, though like most of the dead, she goes out heroically helping the Doctor and the others.
And the whole thing was an insurance scam because Max Capricorn, basically a head on a trolley, was broke and wanted to get his hands on a massive insurance settlement with an accident that conveniently framed his board of directors for mass murder.
Given how most of the likable characters with the Doctor end up dead, this really is the most depressing Christmas episode ever, even if he does inspire most of the dead to save the others as they go down. The only survivors when the Doctor is done is Frame, Slade, and a pompous stockbroker type who, in any other story, would have been the last to die.
Slade comments to the Doctor, as much as they might want that asshole dead, the ability to choose who lives and dies makes someone a monster.
Or the episode’s writer.
There are some lighter moments here. When the angel robots start killing people, the Doctor does find a loophole to keep them from killing him. Given how he tends to shout “Alons-y!” the Doctor is amused by Frame’s first name. He manages to pull the ship up just before it hits Buckingham Palace, getting a personal thank-you shouted out by the Queen (he called ahead and warned her). Oh, and in a nice statement of continuity, the entire city of London was more or less abandoned except for the Queen and an old man at a newspaper kiosk named Wilfred Mott because aliens always attack around Christmas.
But this, unlike the Tenth Doctor’s first Christmas episode, doesn’t have a cheerful end for anyone except Slade as the Doctor gets the TARDIS back and heads off, as he puts it, alone.
See? Bummer of a Christmas.
Man, I really dig the Tenth Doctor. I know there’s only one series of episodes left with the guy, so I guess…wait, I forgot.
I think I should check in with Torchwood again.
They were a bit disappointing the first time around. I hope they do better this time.