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Robot Angel: Information: the Titanic is en route from the planet Sto in the Cassavalian Belt. The purpose of the cruise is to experience primitive cultures.
Just as we exoticize other cultures, apparently, aliens exoticize ours. Or the parts of Earth culture they like, stuck together willy-nilly, so that the end result is a charming Old Earth Christmas pleasure cruise... set aboard a spaceship named after Earth's most famous ship, the Titanic.
The Doctor, who's appeared aboard after accidentally crashing into it, can recognize a dire portent when he sees one. Sure enough, it's not long before the spaceship crashes into a space-iceberg, and a fair amount of hell breaks loose.
The Doctor has the usual motley collection of eccentrics around him: nice waitress Astrid (who the Doctor picks as his next companion), Happily Married contest winners Morvin and Foon, Jerkass Rickston Slade, Mr. Copper (played by Richard from Keeping Up Appearances) the alleged Earth expert, and Bannakaffalatta, the spiny red cyborg (though don't tell anyone). They first try to make their way to the bridge, which is now under the inexpert if enthusiastic command of one Midshipman Frame, after the captain's untimely death. But one of the evil Christmas angel robots is coaxed into revealing that the real source of evil leadership is on Deck 31. Now they must defy the dying ship and the creepy angel robots to get there.
And creepy they are. When a pocket of survivors comes to Midshipman Frame's attention, he can't do much more than watch helplessly as the angels kill them.
Still, they haven't spotted the Doctor et al yet, as the motley crew sneaks through the ship's secret passages.
There are deaths. The Doctor discovers that he gets to ask the Host (the robot angels) three questions, but wastes two of them. Eventually, Deck 31 is reached and proves to contain the Titanic's ludicrously wealthy yet cyborgified and unhappy owner, Max Capricorn, who is bent on crashing it into Earth and riding out the collision in an impact-proof chamber, in a complicated revenge scheme against the board of directors which owns the ship and locked him out of the company. And the Doctor is powerless in the arms of the robot angels, so Astrid has to take the Heroic Sacrifice on herself.
With Capricorn dead, the Doctor now has full command of the Host, and messianically spreads his arms to have the angels carry him up into... the control room. He calls Buckingham Palace to have it evacuated, and even manages to keep the Titanic from crashing into London. The Queen waves at him as he sails past.
What's left of Astrid gets a final kiss from the Doctor and becomes stardust. Mr. Copper asks if he can come along in the TARDIS as the next companion, but the Doctor really doesn't want any more companions right now, after having all the of the previous ones either lost forever or in love with him or both.
- Anyone Can Die - The deaths of Morvin and Astrid are very unexpected.
- As are Foon's and Bannakaffalatta's.
- And subverted with Slade surviving, despite having Asshole Victim writen all over him.
- Artistic License History - In-universe. Old London, capital of the country UK, ruled over by Good King Wenceslas, populated by devotees of a god named Santa and his wife Mary. And then something about eating Turks for Christmas dinner. The man claiming all this turns out to be a fraud.
- Badass Boast - "I'm the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord. I'm from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I'm 903 years old, and I'm the man who's gonna save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?"
- Also a rather unfortunate case of Unspoken Plan Guarantee.
- Black Dude Dies First - Poor Morvin.
- Bittersweet Ending: Let's face it, if it wasn't for kind Mr.Copper profiting from this it would have been a full-fledged Downer Ending.
- Boring Insult - "All of them slaughtered, and why? Because Max Capricon is a loser".
"I never lose!"
- Bow Ties Are Cool - The Doctor dons one as a part of his outfit to blend in on board.
- Camp - With bells on.
- Christmas Episode/An Asskicking Christmas
"Look, I don't know where you're getting your information, but you're completely wrong. Christmas isn't a barbaric festival of blood. It's about love and thanksgiving and generosity and... who am I kidding, all of my Christmases are like this."
- Dead Star Walking - Literally.
- Disorganized Outline Speech - The Doctor's rescue plan. The second one this year after the one given to Martha in "Human Nature".
- Distressed Dude - David Tennant gets manhandled a lot in this episode.
- Doomed Contrarian - Subverted in the case of Rickston Slade. He's a rude, selfish asshole, and there's little doubt that the audience is just waiting for the sweet catharsis that his death/comeuppance will bring. He's one of the few people who live, and he walks away from the whole thing ever richer, because he just invested in the rivals of the spaceliner that had the accident. The look on The Doctor's face when Slade is thanking him and explaining his good fortune was probably shared by more than a few audience members.
- And then he literally just walks away from it all. No last-second comeuppance or anything.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Wilfred Mott makes his first appearance as a street vendor selling newspapers. He would go on to become a major recurring character in series 4 and eventually the companion for the Tenth Doctor's final episodes.
- Of course, he wasn't intended to be. The actor who was going to play Donna's father passed away, so this unrelated minor character was retooled into her grandfather. This was a good thing.
- Expy - The Hosts look and act like the antagonists of a serial from the Tom Baker years, "The Robots of Death".
- Well, this is a little over six months after angels which stood still in the background at first, then started killing.
- Fantastic Racism - Against cyborgs.
- Faux Symbolism - Flying Angel Doctor! Some Church of England vicars actually used the scene to illustrate themes of redemption and evil.
- Also occurs earlier in the episode, when two Hosts are holding the Doctor. He is standing directly in the camera's line of sight of one, making it appear that he is wearing a halo.
- Flat What: At the Cold Open, the Doctor's trademark escalating "What? WHAT? WHAT?!" ends with a lifebelt rolling into his hands with the word "TITANIC" written on it. Cue this.
- Foreshadowing: Near the end of the story after the danger has passed, Mr. Copper and Rickston Slade are the only ones from The Doctor's group that have made it. Mr. Copper comments that "Of all the people to survive, Slade is not the one you would have chosen, is he? But if you could choose, Doctor, if you could decide who lives and who dies, that would make you a monster". Of course then cue the events of The Waters of Mars when he does try to choose who lives and dies. Although we don't see it for very long, the potential horrors of the Time Lord Victorious are all too apparent.
- There's also a brief bit of foreshadowing when the tourists beam down to Earth for a bit of Christmas shopping. Aside from Wilf sitting in a kiosk selling newspapers, Astrid mentions that there are no stars in the sky. Very subtle, but awesome to catch after watching the whole season.
- Forklift Fu
- Genre Savvy - At last, the people of London have remembered the weirdness that seems to happen around Christmas and fled en masse.
- Gory Discretion Shot: It's only assumed -- but with very good reason -- that the trapped technician is decapitated by the Host's halo.
- Gravity Sucks
- Happily Married - Morvin and Foon.
- Heroic Sacrifice - Lots of these. Poor Foon, Bannakaffalatta and Astrid...
- Human Aliens - Be honest, apart from Bannakaffalatta, does anyone on board really look like they're from another planet?
- According to Word of God, Russell T Davies wrestled with how to make it clear that the rest of the Titanic's crew and passengers weren't just a bunch of humans. It was only after it was too late that he realised he should have made them talk about "the humans" (in the third person) more often.
- Humans Through Alien Eyes - New Zealand may be beautiful, but this is just a street. Astrid thinks it's riveting.
- I Always Wanted to Say That: Twice.
- "Allons-y, Alonzo!"
- Take Me to Your Leader
- Incredibly Lame Pun: The Doctor's joke about "How to get ahead in business" does not really go over well.
- It's a Costume Party, I Swear - The higher class passengers tell Morvin and Foon the Christmas party is Fancy Dress
- Kill'Em All: Oh, wow, does it ever fill that one.
- Killed Mid-Sentence.
- Leave No Witnesses: Information: It is the plan.
- Light Is Not Good: Shiny white-and-gold angels! Creepy shiny white-and-gold robot angels that decapitate people with their halos.
- Mauve Shirt
- Meaningful Name - Played straight with the Titanic; averted with Astrid, whose name is an anagram of TARDIS (causing much speculation online), but nothing comes of it.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: Averted. The four Titanic survivors (including the Doctor) are all male.
- No OSHA Compliance: Long two-foot-wide metal bridges as the only way over a nuclear reactor engine?
- Oh Crap
Host: Information: You are all going to die.
- Overly Long Name: Bannakaffalatta
- Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: A couple of awesome occasions. Too bad they both pretty much precede a Heroic Sacrifice.
Bannakaffalatta: Bannakaffalatta proud! Bannakaffalatta CYBORG!
- Real Life Writes the Plot - Astrid is set up to join the Doctor as a new companion, but Kylie Minogue probably can't spend a year filming in Wales.
- Shout-Out: To Starship Titanic
- The penultimate security protocol number the Doctor tries on the host before settling on 1 and getting a result is 42
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Meant in a good way with Bannakaffalatta when everyone realizes that fighting off the Hosts with pieces of iron and instead opts for a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Scully Box: Kylie Minogue's diminutive height is exploited by having Astrid pull up a box and stand up on it in order to give the Doctor a goodbye kiss.
- Sorting Algorithm of Mortality: Subverted. Every scrap of Genre Savvy says that Rickston will have a bridge dropped on him early on, while Astrid will survive and leave with the Doctor; no such luck.
- Space Is an Ocean
- Space Sailing
- Stellar Name - Astrid was named as a more subtle version of "Astra". The anagram is apparently just a coincidence.
- Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: The Host are meant to be servants and decorations, yet their halos can decapitate people. Justified, though; they were installed because the owner was planning to use them to kill everyone.
- Tempting Fate/What Did You Expect When You Named It? - A ship called the Titanic! What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
- Invoked actually - it was named after the "most famous ship of Earth" - they just didn't know what it was famous for'. And the passengers, having no idea of Earth culture, had no idea of the ship's history.
- Third Person Person: Bannakaffalatta, though wouldn't you be if you had a name like that?
- Twinkle Smile - "It really does that?"
- Uncanny Valley - The Hosts, dear god, the hosts when they move and talk.
- Unflinching Walk - Also a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Verbal Tic - The Host cannot begin a single sentence without first saying: "Information".
- What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic - When the Angels go into battle mode, they remove their halos to use for weapons, leaving the little support struts on their heads, which resemble horns.
- Whole-Plot Reference - To The Poseidon Adventure
- You Fail History Forever: In-universe, the tour guide for Earth.
Guide: To repeat, I am Mr Copper, the ship's historian, and I shall be taking you to old London town in the country of U.K. ruled over by good King Wenceslas. Now human beings worshipped the great god Santa, a creature with fearsome claws, and his wife Mary. And every Christmas Eve the people of U.K. go to war with the country of Turkey. They then eat the Turkey people for Christmas dinner...like savages.
- It's then revealed that he's not actually a historian and has no idea what he's talking about.
- The X of Y