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Dragonfire

Reviewed by Paul Scoones

Dragonfire is not a particularly good Doctor Who story, but it's a darn sight better than its predecessor! There were a number of 'steals' from other sources in Dragonfire: the lead villain, Kane, was a not so obvious Count Dracula, and there were some distinctly unsubtle overtones from the Alien films, especially in Part Three, but you won't pick them up unless you've seen the films. One particular scene was played virtually verbatim from a scene in Aliens where two of Kane's mercenaries are hunting the Dragon (read: alien) with heavy blaster rifles equipped with a movement detector. Writer Ian Briggs was having his fun in exactly the same way as so many Doctor Who writers have done before him. Let's face it, so many stories have 'borrowed' extensively from other sources.

Like the rest of Season 24, Dragonfire also had some pretty serious faults. The direction lacked impact for a start: a few suspense-filled scenes whilst hunting the Dragon were available in the script, but the director neglected to make proper use of these opportunities to the detriment of the story. Some of the acting was bad also; something that typifies Season 24 (as does the direction), and I'm sorry to have to say that the worst offender of the lot is newcomer Sophie Aldred. Her part was not particularly cleverly written, but she didn't help matters by turning in a totally amateurish performance. Unless she learns how to act before Season 25, I hope that Dorothy, sorry, 'Ace' doesn't last long as a companion. The 'street kid' image just didn't work - it's true she's not a screamer, but she's not that intelligent either. The sooner this 16-year-old school dropout companion leaves the better. I just couldn't believe the tackiness of her explanation of how she came to be in the city of Iceworld. Mel's decision to stay on the Nosferatu II with Sabalom Glitz was also badly written, and was all too obviously added in as an afterthought, as was Ace's decision to join.

Why Mel went with Glitz I just don't know - perhaps she fancied him?! Presumably we'll see him and perhaps Mel at Perivale, a place where the Doctor and Ace agreed to meet the likeable rogue. Kane was a good villain for a change, although his mercenaries were mostly clichéd 'zombie' characters. His past history and his connections with the Dragon were well thought out as well; for once everything actually seemed to fall together with few plot holes evident, mainly being the explanation of how Ace came to be on Iceworld. Not a bad end to the season, when you compare it to the other three.

Reviewed by Michael Mayo

Beyond all doubt the best story of Season 24. Although it was no classic, or even above average, I enjoyed it because it marked a distinct change in atmosphere from the past three stories. Gone at last was the self-mockery from Paradise Towers and Delta and the Bannermen, to be replaced by good acting and direction. As usual the script had its regulated doses of comedy, but this aside, Ian Briggs would make a wonderful writer if employed by a different producer (unlike Malcolm Kohll). It even had a bit of long-missed drama, if a little overdone, in the form of Belaz's attempt to rid herself of the employ of Kane. Glitz made a welcome return, and other characters worth a mention are Kracauer (although a little too 'chief caretaker-ish'), and the Doctor's new companion, Ace. She is miles ahead of Mel and Peri being a character who can at least take care of herself and doesn't scream! Being totally studio bound, one would expect the sets to be drab and a bit unrealistic, and one would be right. At least, some of the sets were. The major problem concerning this story was how to make the plastic walls/roof/floor look like ice, when infect they are totally dry. This was overcome slightly with the odd bit of white vapour. The Dragon itself was one of the most clumsy, unbelievable and stupid creations Doctor Who has ever seen. JNT's monsters always seem to be humanoid in configuration, whereas before it was a good mix. It was a neat twist also to have the monster turn out to be a 'goodie' this time. Cliffhangers are important, I think, and unfortunately only Part One's was reasonable, if a little overdone. Overall, the good points outweigh the bad, so hopefully, if Season 25 follows the trend of this story, it might just be bearable.

This item appeared in TSV 6 (April 1988).

Index nodes: Dragonfire
Reprinted in: Special Reprint Edition