“Dragonfire” is the last adventure of the twentyfourth season of “Doctor Who” classic series which aired in 1987. It’s a three parts adventure written by Ian Briggs and directed by Chris Clough.
The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Mel (Bonnie Langford) arrive on Iceworld, a colony on the dark side of the planet Svartos. The colony is governed by Kane, whose body temperature is so low that he has just to touch a normal person to kill her. Kane buys people to make them his servants in preparation for his plan.
On Iceworld, the Doctor and Mel find an old acquaintance, Sabalom Glitz, who had come to the planet in search of a treasure but is in trouble because he owes Kane a lot of money. Together with Ace (Sophie Aldred), a girl arrivade there from the Earth of the twentieth century due to a strange space-time vortex, the four try to figure out if the treasure really exists.
This DVD contains a good amount extras. There are typical contents such as production subtitles, the Radio Time Listings, a promo of the “Doctor Who” DVDs to be published soon and a gallery of pictures from this adventure.
There are comments in the adventure alternative audio track by protagonist Sophie Aldred, actor Edward Peel, writer Ian Briggs, director Cris Clough, script editor Andrew Cartmel and composer Dominic Glynn moderated by da Mark Ayres.
Fire and Ice. A 35-minute documentary on the production of this adventure.
Deleted and Extended Scenes. Almost 10 minutes of scenes cut in part or completely from the final version of this adventure.
The Doctor’s Strange Love. A chat among fans about “Dragonfire”.
The Big Bang Theory. Danny Hargreaves, special effects technician in the new “Doctor Who” series, explains how some of the most sophisticated explosions in the original series were produced.
Isolated Score. The option to listen to the music composed by Dominic Glynn in a separate audio track.
At the end of the twenty-fourth season, actress Bonnie Langford intended to leave “Doctor Who” because she wasn’t satisfied with her character. We certainly can’t blame her because Mel was really poorly written being little more than a screamer. The production team considered a few options to replace her and eventually Ace was created as a new companion for the Doctor.
Ace is a teen-ager from the twentieth century grew up in Perivale, a London suburb, but she arrived on the planet Svartos due to a strange space-time vortex apparently caused by one of her experiments with explosives. Due to the difficult environment in which she grew up, she quickly became very cynical developing a bad temper and a passion for explosives. Not surprisingly, when she acts she barks and looks for something to blow up and only then maybe she think about what to do.
I’m not a big fan of Ace but she’s a significant improvement compared to Mel, a character who was wrong from the beginning. Some background for Ace is showed from the beginning and she knows Sabalom Glitz, a character already seen in the season “The Trial of a Time Lord“, though only in a couple of “Doctor Who” novels there are elements that explain how intimate was their relationship.
The plot of “Dragonfire” is a mixture of elements inspired sometimes in an obvious manner to other works. Nothing wrong with that – it happened many times in “Doctor Who” – but in this case the trick works only partially. For example, Kane is a mixture of Dracula and Batman’s Mr. Freeze and it works quite well whereas the “dragon” looks too much like the creatures of the “Alien” saga but that shows the significant budget difference in the two productions and “Doctor Who “inevitably comes out badly from that comparison. The arrival of Ace, whose real name is Dorothy, on Iceworld is taken from “The Wizard of Oz” but at least the character is developed quite differently.
The plot of “Dragonfire” has its problems too. Kane’s plan is convoluted and despite the fact that this adventure is made up of three episodes action is very diluted and there’s quite some padding. The story is also infamous for the cliffhanger between the first and the second episode because it makes no sense.
The Doctor voluntarily puts in a seemingly dangerous only to create suspense at the end of the first episode but at the beginning of the second episode we immediately see that actually there’s no danger and above all there’s a break in the action that makes the cliffhanger absurd. The result is what is considered the worst cliffhanger ever seen in “Doctor Who” and an embarassing moment of television.
In the end, the only decent part of the plot is the progressive discovery of Kane’s story and motivations, the rest at best suffers from a certain dullness. The the cast performances are generally good and can maintain a certain interest for the audience and because of this mix of positive and negative elements “Dragonfire” has a highly controversial reputation but with a negative trend.
In my opinion, all things considered, “Dragonfire” is a decent adventure but if it weren’t for Mel’s departure and the Ace’s entrance it might very well be forgotten. The extras on the DVD are overall even better than the adventure. This is a product for “Doctor Who” fans.
In Region 2 nations, this DVD is part of the “Ace Adventures” box set – available on Amazon UK – so a global judgement of that box set must necessarily be given only at the end of the reviews of the adventures it contains.