‘Dragonfire’ (TV)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Fire and Ice

Hello Ace and welcome to the TARDIS!

In May 2012, a brand-new ‘Doctor Who’ DVD box set was released. This contained two stories from the Sylvester McCoy era of ‘Doctor Who’ and they were called the ‘Ace Adventures’. I was looking forward to seeing these stories featuring Sophie Aldred as Ace when I purchased the DVD box set.

I like Ace as a ‘Doctor Who’ companion. I’m lucky to have met Sophie Aldred at ‘Doctor Who’ conventions and I get on well with her. The two stories featured in the ‘Ace Adventures’ DVD box set are as follows. There’s ‘Dragonfire’, which is Ace’s debut TV tale, and ‘The Happiness Patrol’.

‘Dragonfire’ is a three-part adventure by Ian Briggs. It is set on a spaceport colony called Iceworld on the dark side of the planet Svartos. The Doctor and his friend Mel visit there inside its freezer centre.

They reunite with an old friend of theirs, Sabalom Glitz as well as meet a new friend, a rebellious teenager named Ace. Soon, all four venture into the depths of Iceworld to look for ‘the Dragonfire’.

This story was the finale of Season 24, Sylvester McCoy’s first season as the Doctor. Season 24 is considered by many ‘Doctor Who’ fans to be the worst ever made. I have a fondness for Season 24.

When voted in ‘Doctor Who Magazine’, fans considered ‘Dragonfire’ to be the best story out of Season 24. However I don’t adhere to that viewpoint as I find ‘Delta and the Bannerman’ is the best.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed ‘Dragonfire’ as a story and found it okay. It served as a good introduction to Ace’s character in the series. But what lets this TV tale down for me is its cheapness.

I know it’s down to budget and ‘Dragonfire’ suffered since it was the last of the season. But I found the ‘Dragonfire’ studio sets pretty unconvincing and it made me feel less engaged with the TV story.

The thing that stood out for me from this is of course Sophie Aldred as Ace, who makes an impressive ‘Doctor Who’ debut. Ace is a spunky, rebellious teenager who happens to be on Iceworld.

She’s a cafe waitress when the Doctor and Mel meet her. Soon, she ditches being a waitress and helps the Doctor and Mel with searching for the Dragonfire. She has this love for Nitro-9 explosives.

It’s interesting that Ace got caught in a timestorm that brought her to Iceworld, since she originally came from Perivale in the 1980s. It’s not revealed yet how she was caught in a timestorm in the first place.

The story’s villain is Edward Peel as Kane. I actually saw Edward Peel at the ‘Acceptable In The 80s’ convention in Chiswick, London in October 2011. I sadly wasn’t able to meet him at the convention.

Thankfully I had a few pages of a ‘Dragonfire’ script signed by Edward Peel and Stuart Organ who plays Bazin in this story. This was when I participated during an interactive panel at that convention.

Edward Peel’s a very good actor and delivers an interesting villainous performance as Kane. It’s scary when he kills people with his icy-cold bare hands. I do feel though his back-story was rather rushed.

This story features the last appearance of Bonnie Langford as Mel. I have to say her exit is poorly handled. There’s no build-up to her exit and it feels so sudden when she announced she was leaving.

I feel sorry for Bonnie Langford as Mel, since she didn’t really have a good outing in the TV series compared to the Big Finish audios. She tended to scream a lot, which grated me on the ears at times.

I wish that Mel had a stronger departure from the TV series and that there was a build-up to it. Maybe having ‘Dragonfire’ as a four-parter than a three-parter would’ve helped a lot in that respect.

Sylvester McCoy is reasonably good as the Doctor. I think Sylvester has managed to find his character. Although he’s playing the clown in certain scenes, he can be dark and manipulative in this.

But honestly! That ‘Part One’ cliff-hanger with Sylvester’s Doctor! For no reason, the Doctor climbs down this icy chasm until he hangs from a cliff with his question-mark umbrella seemingly to his death.

Why?! Why did he climb down the chasm?! He should have known it was unsafe to do that. I get that it’s a pun for a ‘cliff-hanger’, ha, ha. But there’s no sense or logic to the whole cliff-hanger thing.

Tony Selby returns as Sabalom Glitz in this story. Glitz previous appeared in ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’. I was pleased to see Glitz, but his reaction to the Doctor’s new face wasn’t really long enough.

Glitz is still the loveable rogue when the Doctor and Mel reunite with him. He wants the Dragonfire in order to get off Iceworld and get back to his ship, the Nosferatu. But it isn’t very easy as he thinks.

I liked the scenes Glitz has with the Doctor when they venture deep into Iceworld itself. I wonder where Dibber is though. Glitz gets on Ace’s nerves, especially when he insists that she stays behind.

The monster in this story is a dragon, although not the conventional type. It has the Dragonfire treasure inside his head. I wasn’t really impressed with the costume design for the dragon monster.

There’s a pretty horrific scene in ‘Part Three’ where Kane exposes himself to unfiltered sunlight and melts away horribly. I found that unnecessarily gruesome, even though it was an impressive effect.

The story ends with Mel going off with Sabalom Glitz and the Doctor invites Ace to join him on his travels in time and space in the TARDIS. Ace is overjoyed when she happily agrees to join the Doctor.

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s a making-of documentary called ‘Fire and Ice’ with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews. There are also deleted and extended scenes to enjoy. There’s ‘The Doctor’s Strange Love’ on ‘Dragonfire’ with Simon Guerrier, Joseph Lidster and Josie Long. There’s ‘The Big Bang Theory’ with Danny Hargreaves and there’s a photo gallery of the story. There’s a DVD audio commentary on the story with Sophie Aldred, Edward Peel, director Chris Clough, writer Ian Briggs, script-editor Andrew Cartmel and composer Dominic Glynn, moderated by Mark Ayres. There’s also an isolated music option by Dominic Glynn and there’s an info-text commentary option to enjoy. There’s also a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story. There’s a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘Death to the Daleks’ with Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen.

‘Dragonfire’ is good introduction to Sophie Aldred as Ace, the new companion for the Seventh Doctor. It wouldn’t rate this story highly as other ‘Doctor Who’ fans, but I did enjoy what I saw of it.

‘Dragonfire’ rating – 6/10

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2 thoughts on “‘Dragonfire’ (TV)

  1. Timelord 007

    Possibly my favourite story from this awful season, sadly being studio bound it lacks scope, i also found this was badly overlit so it lacked atmosphere, decent performances, Mel was badly written out however.

    6/10 a fair rating, excellent reviewing as ever Tim.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Okay. That’s interesting that ‘Dragonfire’ is possibly your favourite story from Season 24. I prefer ‘Delta and the Bannermen’ over this one.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this story, Simon. Yes having the story studio bound doesn’t do any favours and yes it was pretty overlit. I’m glad you agree with me that Mel’s departure was badly handled in this one. I’d like to hear the latest Seventh Doctor, Mel and Ace adventures sometime soon, starting with ‘A Life in Crime’.

      Glad you enjoyed my review and that you approve of my rating on it.

      Thanks Simon.

      Tim. 🙂



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