After the worst first three stories a season has ever had to endure, at least ‘Dragonfire’ was an improvement. It’s saying something about 1987 Doctor Who that this is clearly the best story of the four, especially as it still includes some pretty dodgy bits including the Doctor dangling over a cliff holding on to his umbrella for no reason at all apart from trying to make a joke on the term ‘cliff-hanger’.
|Edward Peel as Kane|
We have a great villain at least – Edward Peel’s Kane is chilling in more ways than one. The dragon, apart from the legs, looks pretty good too and some of the ice sets look very good. Sadly some look very plastic but we can’t expect perfection can we, especially not in this season, which is clearly the worst in the shows history – that I’ve viewed that is, I hope it doesn’t get worse than this! The death scene of Kane exposing himself to sunlight and melting is one of the most impressive effects seen in Doctor Who in the first 24 years, I have to tip my head to the production team for that. Very much like Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark).
The story is at least darker than the previous tale, and it is helped by the score provided by Dominic
|Bonnie Langford, Tony Selby, Sophie Aldred and Sylvester McCoy.|
We have the return of one of the best characters from Season 23 in Glitz, played by Tony Selby. He slips right back into character very easily as the loveably rogue, and you can’t help but think he would have worked well as a companion, especially with Colin Baker’s Doctor. That would have worked very well. He works well with McCoy as well, but as a pair I think the Sixth Doctor and Glitz would have taken the show somewhere new and exciting.
|Ace's room on Iceworld|
We have a new writer on ‘Dragonfire’, Ian Briggs. He turns in three solid episodes which are paced very nicely. The move to three-part stories is a good one, and strange that it wasn’t trialled before. I suspect the way that the budget was drawn up is why – John Nathan Turner had a budget decreed by the BBC for three stories over 14 episodes. Two four-parters and a six parter. He split the budget into two-three parters by using the OB budget for one and the studio budget for the other, hence ‘Delta and the Bannerman’ was almost completely OB save one short TARDIS scene, and ‘Dragonfire’ was completely studio-bound. This pattern would continue for the following two years.
|The dragon reveals the treasure.|
A story like ‘Dragonfire’ could only have been done in studio. Although some parts of the frostly set are rather dodgy, generally the feel is conveyed even if you see polystyrene here there and everywhere. This is the final story for Mel (Bonnie Langford) and the first story for Ace (Sophie Aldred).
|Kane's face peels away :)|
Unfortunately the writers and script editor never had a mind to do something with Mel. We hadn’t seen much of her before this series and they could have revealed more about the character, introduced a few twists, cut back on the screaming but it seems nobody wanted to sadly. In the end we get her screaming her lungs out at every opportunity and being rather generic for the rest of the time. Cartmel appears to have wanted as much of a clean slate as possible to work from, and so the introduction of Ace is the first big step in the changing of the series.
Sophie Aldred adds a great bouncy (but different) energy to the show, being somewhat aggressive and having a penchant for blowing things up. However, it’s very hard to buy that Ace is only 16 years old, even if Sophie Aldred does look youthful for her age. Which she does.
Ian Briggs does leave a few holes in the script. The mother of the little girl Stella, (Stella is a child that runs around and hides for much of the story, very incidental but a nice touch) seems to not care about the ship with all the others shoppers on it being destroyed or consider the possibility Stella might be on board. That was a bit odd I thought. Kane’s been waiting in Iceworld for 3000 years and couldn’t solve the puzzle of the Drogonfire? Pu – lease! But you know, this is Doctor Who, right?
Far from perfect, but far from a turkey too.