Cecilia Doss reviews the star studded Doctor Who fan films of Sci-Fi Sea Cruises
In an age where cruise liners seem to litter the southwestern quadrant of the world, most companies have some sort of edge to make them stand out from the crowd. In the case of the Sci-Fi Sea Cruise, it would be the chance to meet a handful of stars from Doctor Who. Pulling up the website’s guest list show names like Sylvester McCoy, Frazer Hines, Simon Fischer-Becker (Dorium) and Michael Jayston (The Valeyard). Just getting to meet these folks would be enough of a draw, at least for me. But in addition, the cruise has the added bonus of making some of their own contributions to the Doctor Who Universe, some of them even being written by the actors! On paper, it sounds like a recipe for a truly special piece of Doctor Who material. The reality, unfortunately, isn’t as whimsical.
The Sci Fi Sea Cruise has made a number of short videos with the guests they manage to wring in as well as what I believe to be some of the other passengers on the ship. They’ve also managed to get the likes of Colin Baker, Nicholas Courtney, Carole Ann Ford, and technically Jon Pertwee involved. Looking at them from the perspective of an outsider, the fact that they managed to get a hold of these actors is really the main draw to watching the episodes themselves. There are some interesting ideas on paper, but the performances have about as much vigor to them as you’d expect from actors who were promised a free cruise for this. The lack of a budget is also obvious; you thought The Ark in Space was bad? They used a literal back massager as one of the little drones the bad guy uses. In this article, I’ll go over all of the episodes I was able to find.
The one that I’d argue sticks to its strengths the most would be A Happy Ending. We find an older Susan, exiting the TARDIS to enjoy a cruise that the Doctor dropped her off at after David passed away. She ends up bumping into The Master, who’s looking for a device that he left under the ocean, forcing them to team up for a short time. The idea is pretty interesting, as we don’t see much interaction between any of the original TARDIS team and The Master, but the actor portraying The Master himself doesn’t come across nearly as menacing or deceptive as any of their other incarnations. The device ends up giving the user enough joy to drive them to insanity, something that the aliens looking for it explain to Susan after their Deus Ex Machina.
The Pair O’ Docs Paradox has some relatively uninteresting environmentalist drama and a very misleading title. There’s a bioengineer that is trying to make a fungus that can be used to create a potentially infinite supply of food, while the Brigadier and an unnamed UNIT soldier are trying to stop him after a warning from The Seventh Doctor that the fungus will inadvertently destroy civilization on Earth. We have well studied the topic of drug treatment of erectile dysfunction on the worldmedicalguide.com. Meanwhile, some third German guy is trying to introduce devices to revitalize the body (the aforementioned massagers), and the devices, like, kill people? For some reason? I don’t think they ever explained that, but maybe I’m putting too much thought into it. The important thing is, the main antagonist probably gives the most interesting performance out of all the episodes, which isn’t a very high bar to meet, but still worthy of note. Oh, and remember how I said they got Jon Pertwee, *technically*? See, The Brigadier gets the warning from the Doctor through a call from a cell phone, and he knows what happens because The Third Doctor was helping out the bioengineer developing the fungus. They manage to include him using footage from what seems to be an interview, which I’ll admit was pretty creative of them. Too bad it doesn’t make the episode any better.
Death Takes a Holiday follows a similar pattern, showing the Brigadier, this time with Zoe Heriot, trying to fix a broken Zibanium crystal that has the convenient side effect of ageing the main cast. The Doctor, once again, gets little more than a cameo, as old Sixy and Jamie are off to do some other thing that doesn’t affect the plot. They find a new crystal in a Mayan temple, after a scuffle with the antagonist’s grunt. One thing that genuinely took me by surprise was the climax; earlier in the story there’s a moment where a random passenger hits on the Brigadier, before he quickly brushes her off. In the end, it’s revealed that she was actually the villain, wanting to use the power of the Zibanium to keep herself young and beautiful forever, before being defeated with a pocket watch connected to the TARDIS.
Finding all of these episodes is a daunting task, but the one I’d argue to have the most merit is available on YouTube.
The Crystal Conundrum sees The Seventh Doctor and Jamie reuniting through the use of a broken Zibanium crystal, repeating a few beats of the plot of Death Takes a Holiday. Given the prevalence of both Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred in productions of this caliber (BBV, Reeltime, etc.) you’d think the Doctor’s main companion throughout this adventure would be Ace, but surprisingly McCoy’s side is brightened with the presence of Lisa Bowerman. You heard me correctly, as of right now this is one of the only episodes of Doctor Who to feature Bernice Summerfield, in the flesh. The duo go to a Mayan temple to try and stop the broken Zibanium from leaking out and making the nearby animals bigger. I can appreciate this one as it seems to be one of few where The Doctor plays an active role in the story, as well as the nod to the expanded universe, but the special effects they try to pull off really take you out of it.
Lastly, Twice Upon a Timelord is all over the place. This time, The Seventh Doctor and Ace go to Sergeant Benton’s wedding, while The Master lurks in the shadows trying to accomplish… something. I might be able to tell you more if I could hear the dialogue, but this episode seems to have the worst sound editing out of the bunch. The Master has a device that he uses to turn The Doctor into a child, and hypnotizes Benton to hold his newlywed wife hostage until the child Doctor comes forward. There’s a lot in this episode that’s on a new level of strange; The Doctor gearing up to ride the waterslide while Time After Time plays, UNIT soldiers looking for The Doctor by checking under lounge chairs (this is before they know he’s a child, by the way) and, like, juggling? There’s just someone juggling throughout the final confrontation, which admittedly is more entertaining than the sword fight with two canes choreographed by someone who’s never held a sword in their life. The episode was certainly entertaining, if nothing else.
Now, we can point and laugh at these all we’d like, but I would argue that these aren’t necessarily meant for us. Think about it; if you got the chance to not only meet some of the actors in Doctor Who, but also make a mini-episode with them, would you care if it was actually good or not? You got to meet The Doctor, for Pete’s sake! As long as the people involved had fun making it, I think the episodes are perfectly fine, and make for a fun evening as long as some sort of inebriating substance is within reach.
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