The coolest moment in last night's Doctor Who Christmas special is when the robot angels use their Christmassy flying powers and razor-sharp halos to attack our heroes. The little red guy, Bannakaffalatta, finally overcomes his shame about being a cyborg in a society that hates cyborgs and won't let them marry. (Social allegory much?) By embracing his cyborg pride, he destroys all the angels with his built-in EMP generator. The rest of the special, however, is just a towering pile of cheese.
That replica of the Titanic that the TARDIS crashed into turns out to be a spaceship orbiting Earth. On board, a group of tuxedo-wearing aliens are celebrating a fake Christmas in a perfect recreation of the doomed oceanliner. But then it all goes wrong when the ship (intentionally) crashes into a meteorite storm and the robot angels launch a killing spree. Cue 30 minutes of running up and down stairs and across teetering walkways.
Someone needs to take show-runner Russell T. Davies' slo-mo button away. There's a long section near the show's climax where the action slows down to a two-minute crawl so we can linger on the terrified faces of the B-list stars who remain alive, and then watch the Doctor set his jaw heroically.
"Voyage of the Damned" felt like Dickens on E. You have the sweet old man who comes out with colorful-but-wrong "facts" about Christmas, like the idea that the British eat actual Turkish people. You have the good-hearted but vulgar fat couple who don't 'alf love each other with almost superhuman mawkishness. And then you have Kylie Minogue's perky waif who just wants to see the stars.
A lot of the time, the episode feels like just a series of heart-warming or tear-jerking moments strung together along a ribbon of plot. This was the first time I really felt like I was watching a children's program.
That said, it's pretty entertaining stuff. Russell T. said his ambition was to make a "disaster movie," and most of the episode does keep up the feeling of imminent destruction. A lot of the best bits are cribbed from "The Satan Pit," except with the angels instead of the Ood. But Davies uses the formula well. And he bucks convention by having the single most odious character survive all the way through.
Bottom line: "Voyage Of The Damned" was better than Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, in that it actually made sense and felt suspensful and thrillery. But it was also the most sentimental episode of the new Doctor Who series, and that's saying something. It was also the highest-rated Doctor Who episode since 1979, with 12.2 million viewers.