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.
The Doctor: Titanic. Um... who... thought of the name?
Robot Angel: Information: it was chosen as the most famous vessel of the planet Earth.
The Doctor: Did they tell you why it was famous?
Just as we exoticise other cultures, apparently, aliens exoticise 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 recreation of Earth's most famous ship, the Titanic
The Doctor, who's appeared aboard after accidentally crashing into it (picking up from the last episode), can recognise a dire portent when he sees one. Sure enough, it's not long before trouble arises: the ship's mechanical servants start to malfunction and harm people, plus the ship's captain deactivates the spaceship's shields, then magnetises the hull to purposely attract three blazing meteors so they crash against the ship. From this point on,all 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, 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
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
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. However, Mr Copper also happens to have one million pounds sterling in his bank account, so he probably won't be struggling in the future.
Information: This episode contains examples of the following tropes
- 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 - Economics: Sto's economy has serious problems. Foon and Morvin supposedly can't ever pay off a 5000-credit debt. The exchange rate between credits and pounds is about 50:1, according to the Doctor, so that "crippling" debt is only 100 pounds, or about US $160.
- Artistic License - History: In-Universe, "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 worship 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." Don't worry, this is what you get for trusting someone who has a first-class degree in Earthonomics.
- 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?"
- 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:
The Doctor: All of them slaughtered, and why? Because Max Capricorn is a loser.
Max Capricorn: I never lose!
The Doctor: You can't even sink the Titanic!
- Bow Ties Are Cool: The Doctor dons one as a part of his outfit to blend in on board.
- Call Back: The Doctor being pleased when he finds out Alonzo's name and then saying "Allons-y, Alonzo!" is a reference to "Army of Ghosts".
- Camp: With bells on.
- Chest Blaster: Bannakaffalatta produces an EMP from his chest to take out several Robot Angels at the cost of his life.
- Christmas Episode / An Ass Kicking 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."
- Crush. Kill. Destroy!: Information: Kill! Kill kill kill!
- The Hosts
- Max Capricorn
- Deadly Disc: The Robot Angel's halos.
- Dead Star Walking: Literally.
- Despair Event Horizon: When Morvin falls into the engines, his wife Foon doesn't see much to live for and does a Taking You with Me with a Host as she jumps into the engines herself.
- Disorganized Outline Speech: The Doctor's rescue plan. The second one this year after the one given to Martha in "Human Nature".
- Disproportionate Retribution: Max Capicorn gets ousted by his own board of trustees and blamed for the company's failure. So he contrives to crash the Titanic (2000 killed) into Earth (6 billion killed) and get the trustees jailed for mass murder. Wow.
- 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.
- Driven to Suicide: Poor Foon...
- EMP: Used to take out the robot angels by Bannakaffalatta and then with the piece salvaged from his cyborg body.
- Fantastic Racism: Against cyborgs. At least they are allowed to marry now.
- 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.
- 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 Wilfred Mott 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 series.
- Foregone Conclusion: Information: It's a ship called the Titanic, surely this will be a smooth voyage with absolutely no danger at all. It even hits something in the very first scene of the episode — the TARDIS!
- Forklift Fu: Astrid uses one against Max Capricorn.
- Genre Savvy: At last, the people of London have remembered the weirdness that seems to happen around Christmas and fled en masse. London is now a ghost town.
- A God Am I: The Doctor's anguished cry of "I can do anything!" Then he must confront the fact that for how often he's ranked himself with gods, he really isn't, and really can't.
- 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...
- Hope Spot: Astrid was wearing a teleporter bracelet! Surely those must have some kind of safety feature! They do, but it got broken in the chaos and the Doctor only can reassemble half of her, leaving her as a ghost. He's forced to Mercy Kill her, turning her into stardust so she could fly through the universe as she always wanted to.
- Human Aliens: Be honest, apart from Bannakaffalatta, does anyone on board really look like they're from another planet?
- 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.
- Inconvenient Summons: The Doctor is teleported back to the ship while in the middle of a conversation with Donna's grandfather.
- Insistent Terminology: Information: No, you can't shorten Bannakaffalatta's name.
- It's a Costume Party, I Swear: The higher-class passengers tell Morvin and Foon the Christmas party is Fancy Dress.
- Jerkass: Rickston spends the entire episode with one Kick the Dog moment after another, trying to leave people to die and insulting people and insisting that, e.g., he be the first one across the dangerous bridge. However, even he gets a Pet the Dog moment witnessing the death/recording of Astrid. Then he spoils it at the end by talking about how much richer he is. Jerk. If nothing else, part of the reason he seems happy is because it screwed over the other batch of Capricorn's Board of Directors who share responsibility for the disaster.
- Karma Houdini: Him being one of the few survivors of the episodes events arguably make him this. He even has the gal to tell the Doctor that this made him a profit in a way.
- Killed Mid-Sentence
- Kill 'em All: Information: You are all going to die. Oh, wow, does it ever fill that one.
- Leave No Witnesses: Information: It is the plan.
- Light Is Not Good: Information: Shiny white-and-gold angels! Creepy shiny white-and-gold robot angels that decapitate people with their halos.
- Literal Genie: Information: The angels will answer three questions. Any three questions? Wait, I didn't mean to do that, can I take it back? What do you mean, "No"?
- 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? Though the area was damaged from the whole meteors striking the ship. Then again, Max did want the thing to fail...
- Oh Crap: Information: You are all going to die.
- Overly-Long Name: Bannakaffalatta
The Doctor: Look, can I just call you Banna? It's going to save a lot of time.
Bannakaffalatta: No. Bannakaffalatta.
- Pun: The Doctor's joke about "How to get ahead in business" does not really go over well.
- Pre Asskicking One Liner: A couple of awesome occasions. Too bad they both pretty much precede a Heroic Sacrifice.
Bannakaffalatta:: Bannakaffalatta proud! Bannakaffalatta CYBORG!
Astrid: Mr Capricorn... I resign.
- Running Gag: Another Christmas, another disaster menacing London. This time the citizens wise up and evacuate the city to stay safe of whatever could happen. And once again, the "snow" falling during Christmas is actually spaceship's ashes.
- 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.
- To Starship Titanic.
- Information: The penultimate security protocol number the Doctor tries on the host before settling on 1 and getting a result is 42.
- The story contains a number of Shout Outs to the work of Doctor Who scriptwriter and later Blake's 7 script editor Chris Boucher. The look and personality of the Hosts is based on the killer robots in Boucher's Fourth Doctor story "The Robots of Death". The damaged Host repeating "Kill... kill", the Host's hand stuck in the door, and the secret room full of Hosts on stretchers are also direct copies of moments from the same story. The teleport bracelets are from Blake's 7, and the Angels' "Information:..." catchphrase is from Zen, the Liberator computer in Blake's 7.
- Slow Motion Fall: Any time someone falls to their death. Which happens frequently, to people you like.
- 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.
- Stupid Sacrifice
- Foon really didn't need to throw herself off the bridge with the Host once she roped it. It's implied she was Driven to Suicide.
- Neither did Astrid. They explicitly showed the brakes were cut, but the forklift was moving slow enough she could have easily jumped clear.
- Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Information: The Hosts 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.
- Taking You with Me: Foon takes a Host with her when she decides to kill herself after her husband's death.
- Teleporters and Transporters: Through the bracelets they give to the passengers. It can also theorically recuperate a killed passenger, but when the Doctor tries this with Astrid, the system is too badly damaged.
- Temporary Love Interest: Astrid
- 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 original ship's history.
- Third-Person Person: Bannakaffalatta, though wouldn't you be if you had a name like that?
- Twinkle Smile: Max Capricorn's repeating advertisement has a tooth that does this when he says "My name is Maaaxxx".
- Brick Joke: When the Doctor gets to meet him for real, the same tooth twinkles with the "my name is Max" bit. "It really does that?"
- Unflinching Walk
- Up, Up and Away!: The two Hosts carrying the Doctor takes this pose with their free arms to crash through the deck.
- Verbal Tic: Information: The Host cannot begin a single sentence without first saying: "Information".
- Wealthy Ever After: Mr Copper.
- Whole Plot Reference: The Poseidon Adventure IN SPACE!
- Writers Cannot Do Math: See Artistic License - Economics above.
- The X of Y