Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Countdown - Voyage Of The Damned

To celebrate the fact that 2013 is the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, we are taking a look back at all of the episodes of the show which featured David Tennant as the Doctor. At the end of our look back we'll be asking you, the fans, to vote for what you think is the ultimate David Tennant episode of Doctor Who....

We continue with the next David Tennant episode.... Voyage Of The Damned
Read our previous Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Countdown posts here.

29. Voyage Of The Damned
First Broadcast on 25th December  2007. Running Time: 71 Minutes. Viewing Figures: 13.31 million.
Written By Russell T Davies.
Directed By James Strong.
Executive Producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner. Rating: 8/10.


When disaster hits the Titanic, the Doctor uncovers a threat to the entire human race. Battling alongside aliens, saboteurs and robot angels, can he stop the Christmas inferno?

Extras: Promotional Photos | On Set Photos |  Videos | Articles | Screen Caps

Production Notes:
Russell T Davies' idea behind the 2007 Christmas Special, was disaster movie. Davies' was a huge fan of the 1972 film The Poseidon Adventure - an action film about a ship which is turned over by a huge wave - and decided that a similar plot set in space could be a great basis for the Doctor's festive adventures. And if you're thinking of a maritime disaster story, then Titanic is what immediately springs to mind, so where better to base the tale than on a starship replica of the famous ship.
A teaser for what was to come came at the very end of the series 3 finale when the TARDIS hits something and a lifebelt featuring the name Titanic is amongst the debris.

Davies began working on his idea for the episode, which was then called Starship Titanic, and drafted in James Strong, who had recently worked on Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution Of The Daleks to direct.
Interest in Doctor Who was at fever pitch during this time and was attracting interest on a global scale. A guest starring role in the series was becoming ever more coverted and Davies received interest from not one, but two huge star names keen to appear in his Christmas special.
James Strong met the agent of Easy Rider actor Dennis Hopper on a plane journey and established that he was keen to bag a role, but it was a meeting at the series 3 press launch that finally secured the star name for the episode. Attending the launch was William Baker, a friend of Doctor Who's Mark Gatiss, and creative director to pop sensation Kylie Minogue. Baker was a big fan of the show and had based some of Kylie's tour sets around a sci fi theme as a tribute to the show and now he was suggesting that Kylie would be very interested in taking a starring role alongside David Tennant.
Although Kylie is best known for her career in music, she was already an actress and had in fact started her showbiz days in the Australian soap Neighbours, where she played one of the shows most popular characters of the 1980s, Charlene Ramsay. She had gone on to act in various films including a cameo in Moulin Rouge and had provided a voice over for The Magic Roundabout.

On 26th March Kylie Minogue met up with Russell T Davies and Julie Gardener in London. Davies had been working on a one off companion for the Christmas Special and it was at this meeting that he offered Minogue the role. 
The character was to be a waitress serving guests on board the Starship Titanic, who would befriend the Doctor and help him, but who would disappoint him and thus force him to leave her behind at the end of the story.
Minogue accepted the role, but said she could not be sure of her schedule. The press began reporting on the star casting as early as 22nd April.

Davies continued his work on the episode and began developing ideas for Minogue's character. With her in mind he began to base her role on Halo Jones, a sci fi heroine from the comic book 2000AD. By late April Davies had started to call the character Peth and by mid May he had decided that her exit would now be due to her sacrificing her own life in order to save the Doctor. 
On the 15th June Minogue's representatives contacted Davies to confirm that she would be available to shoot on the episode for three weeks.

The first draft was completed on 5th June. Changes included several names Foon was called Struzie, Frame's surname was originally Blane, and Minogue's character Peth became Astrid Peth - Astrid being a anagram of TARDIS.
Max Capricorn was originally Mr Maxitane and then Max Callisto, and was originally going to be seen as a passenger on the Titanic in the ballroom during the episode's opening scenes. He was not to be ill and confined to a life support machine in this draft. 
The episode was renamed Voyage Of The Damned in late May, when Davies learned that former Doctor Who script editor Douglas Adams had designed a computer game called Starship Titanic, which had been previously released in 1998. 
An idea to include the Judoon, who had appeared in Smith And Jones, in the concluding scenes of the episode were abandoned at an early stage in the writing.

By mid July it became clear that big scenes were going to have to be cut, as they were far too reliant on CGI effects and were impacting on the budget.
The biggest change was to the scene involving Buckingham Palace. Davies had originally planned for the Titanic to chop the Palace in half leaving the Queen angrily shaking her fist after Doctor and the ship, rather than having the Doctor steer the ship up to safety at the last moment. 
Also cut were much more extravagant scenes of the chaos and destruction as the Titanic is hit. 
At the same time it was decided that Astrid's scarifice scene needed to be bigger. The script editor, Brian Minchin, suggested to Davies that he should make use of the teleport bracelet to rescue Astrid, which then led Davies to the idea for the scene of the Doctor's failed attempt to save his friend and new companion.

On 3rd July BBC Wales released the news that Minogue would be teaming up with Tennant to the press. This was accompanied by a photo of shoot of the pair cuddling and smiling for the cameras.
At the same time another member of the cast was announced, Bernard Cribbins was to make a guest starring role as a newspaper seller, Cribbins had previously appeared in the 1966 Doctor Who film Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD and in the 2007 Doctor Who audio adventure Horror Of Glam Rock.

Production kicked off on Voyage Of The Damned at the Upper Boat studios on 9th July. The first scenes to be shot were those of the bridge over the chasm. Recording on this set went on from 9th July - 11th July.

Sadly David Tennant's mother Helen McDonald passed away during the recording of this episode and he understandably took a break from the production at this point to be with his family. 
Ever the professional Tennant soon returned to work and continued with filming.

Filming for the reception was carried out the Exchange Building in Swansea. And then three days were spent at the Coal Exchange in Cardiff were scenes in the guest lounge were filmed. Murray Gold and Ben Foster, the Doctor Who composers, were on set for these scenes and they played the guitar and piano for the ship's band.

From 19th July to 27th July the action took place at the Johnsey Estates in the Mamhilad Park Industrial Estate in Pontypool. Scenes of the Host storage room and the various Titanic corridors and stairwells were filmed there.

It was back to the Exchange Building on 28th July and 30th July for additional scenes in the reception, as well as the arrival of the TARDIS. 
More special effects work was completed at Upper Boat on the 31st July. 
Later that day, the scene where the tour group visits London was recorded around St John Street in Cardiff. One of the road signs erected was for Donovan Street, a cheeky reference to Minogue's former boyfriend and Neighbours co star, Jason Donovan. 
Colin Baker, who played the Sixth Doctor, visited the shoot on this night, which also saw all of Cribbins' scenes filmed.

At the end of July Minogue wrapped her work on the episode and left Cardiff to continue with her other engagements.
The rest of the work on Voyage Of The Damned, however, was not yet complete. Further effects work was conducted at Upper Boat on 1st August , while the concluding scene with the Doctor and Mr Copper was filmed at the WDA Compound on the Cardiff Docks. 
Further scenes on the Titanic's bridge were recorded at Upper Boat on the 2nd, followed by those in the ship's kitchens at Johnsey Estates on the 3rd. On 6th August the remaining material in Host storage was also filmed there. 
Final sequences on the bridge were then completed at Upper Boat on the 7th and 8th.

With most of the episode complete, only a few scenes were now required. Most of these took place on 21st August, with the newsreader footage, taped at BBC Broadcasting House in Llandaff. The scenes in the interior of the TARDIS were, as always, filmed at Upper Boat. 
Shots of Buckingham Palace were actually Cardiff City Hall. The production team had approached Prince Charles about making a cameo appearance in Voyage Of The Damned, but he declined the request. And so Angharad Baxter took on the role of Queen Elizabeth, with Jessica Martin dubbing the monarch's dialogue. 
Finally, on 21st October, the scene of Morvin's fall down the chasm was rerecorded at Upper Boat.

Even after extensive editing, Strong found himself unable to cut Voyage Of The Damned down to its one-hour timeslot without dismissing scenes that were crucial to the plot. Julie Gardner was put in to action and luckily she was able to secure a seventy minute timeslot for the special instead, which given it's Christmas Day transmission was a gift indeed. 

Murray Gold had been busy creating a new arrangement of the Doctor Who theme music which would be debuted with Voyage Of The Damned.
This new version included elements of the arrangement composed by Peter Howell in 1980. 

In October, the death of Howard Attfield, who was set to play Donna Noble's dad Geoff throughout the fourth series of the show in 2008, led to Bernard Cribbins being brought back to reprise his role from Voyage Of The Damned
Davies decided to rename the character Wilfred Mott, he was originally known as Stan. The end credits for Voyage Of The Damned were changed. Also added to the credits was an in memoriam dedication to Doctor Who's first producer, Verity Lambert, who passed away a few weeks earlier on 22nd November.

Doctor Who became the centrepiece of the BBC's Christmas Day viewing with Kylie Minogue's celebrity staus ensuring that Voyage Of The Damned was watched by 13.3 million viewers. That's more than an extra three million viewers than tuned in to either of the previous Christmas specials, and it became Doctor Who's biggest audience since 16.1 million watched episode four of City Of Death in 1979 (which was broadcast during a strike which had shut down ITV). 
Voyage Of The Damned became the second most watched show for the week, the first time that an episode of Doctor Who had ever been placed so highly, the series' previous best placed episode was a fifth-place mark for 1975's The Ark In Space part two. 

Astrid Peth: The Shooting Star
Astrid Peht was a waitress on board the starship Titanic, who always dreamt about being out amongst the stars but had so far only managed three years serving in a starport restaurant until she got the job on board the ship. She quickly struck up a flirty friendship with the Doctor and he sneakily took her down to Earth so she could see it in person, and she was overjoyed to be in an alien world. Soon after their return to the starliner, it was struck by meteoroids and Astrid was amongst the survivors, helping the Doctor stop the Heavenly Host.
When the Doctor went to confront Max Capricorn, she followed him, and on learning what Capricorn intended to do, she drove a fork lift truck into the cyborg's Max-Box and sent Max and herself to their deaths in the heart of the nuclear engines. 
The Doctor later tried to save her by attempting to draw out her body from the transporter device that had sent her briefly to Earth but the pattern was already to degraded and all he could do was send her dissipating body out through the starship's portholes and literally amongst the stars where she drifted for eternity.

Max Capricorn: The Megalomaniac
CEO of Max Capricorn Cruiseliners on Sto for 176 years, Max's body had decayed and so he placed himself in the cybernetic Max-Box to preserve his head. His own company had voted him off the board. He planned for his own luxury starship, The Titanic, to be struck by meteoroids, hopefully killing everyone on board. The crippled ship would then crash to Earth creating nuclear devastation, although Max himslef would remain safe within and Omnistate Impact Chamber. He hoped his board would then be indicted for mass murder  - the ultimate revenge. Max had arranged to be collected from Earth and retire to a new life on Penhaxio Two. He was killed by Astrid Peth driving the fork-lift truck into his Max-Box, sending them both to their deaths in the nuclear engines below them.

The Heavenly Hosts:
The Heavenly Hosts were robotic servants and guides on board the Titanic starliner. Max Capricorn had programmed the angel like robots to kill everyone on board, mainly by attacking them with their razor sharp halos. The Hosts could be deactivated with an EMP pulse, but once Capricorn was dead they recognised the Doctor as the most senior figure on board the ship and followed his instructions to fy him to the bridge and thus save the ship from crashing to Earth.

Bannakaffalatta was a diminutive Zocci travelling on the Titanic and who liked to flirt with the ship's waitress Astrid. He was one of the guests who joined the Doctor and Astrid on their breif trip to Earth. Bannakaffalatta was a cyborg due to injuries and he used his electromagnetic power source to destroy some of the Heavenly Hosts, sacrificing his own life in the process.


Astrid: You're looking good for 903.
The Doctor: You should see me in the mornings.
Astrid: Ok.

The Doctor: Allons-y Alonzo!

Mr Copper: Of all the people to survive, he's not the one you would have chosen, is he? But if you could choose, Doctor, if you could decide who lives and who dies, then that would make you a monster.

As explained in the Children In Need special scene Time Crash, the Titanic collided with the TARDIS because the Doctor left its shields down.
Kylie Minogue's performance of Can't Get You Out Of My Head during her 2006/7 Showgirl: The Homecoming tour featured disco versions of the Cybermen joining her on stage.
Jimmy Vee played The Moxx of Balhoon in The End of World, the Space Pig in Aliens of London/Word War III and the Graske in the interactive episode Attack Of The Graske. He's also played the Graske and a baby Slitheen in episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures.
Composer Murray Gold and arranger Ben Foster both cameo as members of the Titanic's band, along with singer Yamit Mamo.
During the location filming for the 'London' scenes, Sixth Doctor actor Colin Baker visited the set as he was in Cardiff that week, performing in a play.
The theme tune has been revamped for Voyage Of The Damned. "I think I just decided to spruce it up - new drums, new rhythm section, new bass line, new little bit of piano," says Murray Gold. "I hope people liked it!" Did you spot the little nod to the 1980's Peter Howell version in there?
The episode is dedicated to the late Verity Lambert, the very first producer of Doctor Who and a legend in the TV industry. Verity died on 22 November 2007, one day before Doctor Who's 44th anniversary.
There have been several references to the Doctor and the original Titanic - from pictures of him present at the launch (Rose), denial of any responsibility in its unfortunate fate - and how he survived its sinking by clinging to an iceberg (The End Of The World).
Voyage Of The Damned marks the first time in the new series that the Doctor has referred to Gallifrey being in the constellation of Kasterborous.
Older viewers may recall that another race of mechanical men with a habit of chanting "Kill, kill, kill" and getting their hands stuck in doors appeared in the Fourth Doctor adventure The Robots Of Death.
Several of the cast of Voyage Of The Damned have appeared in Classic Doctor Who adventures. Bernard Cribbins played policeman Tom Campbell in the 1965 film Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD. Clive Swift played Jobel in the 1985 adventure Revelation of the Daleks. Geoffrey Palmer previously appeared in The Mutants and Doctor who and Silurians. He's also the father of Charles Palmer - director of Doctor Who adventures Smith and Jones, The Shakespeare Code, Human Nature and The Family of Blood. Jessica Martin, who voiced the Queen, played werewolf Mags alongside Sylvester McCoy in The Greatest Show In The Galaxy.

  • David Tennant - The Doctor
  • Kylie Minogue - Astrid Peth
  • George Costigan - Max Capricon
  • Clive Swift - Mr Copper
  • Gray O'Brien - Rickston Slade
  • Russell Tovey - Midshipman Alonzo Frame
  • Debbie Chazen - Foon Van Hoff
  • Clive Rowe - Morvin Van Hoff
  • Jimmy Vee - Bannakaffalatta
  • Geoffrey Palmer - Captain Hardaker
  • Bernard Cribbins - Wilfred Mott