OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 673
STORY NUMBER: 152
TRANSMITTED: Monday 07 December 1987
WRITER: Ian Briggs
DIRECTOR: Chris Clough
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 4.7 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: Ace Adventures Box Set (Dragonfire/The Happiness Patrol)
Kane orders McLuhan & Bazin into the ice tunnels to search for the Dragon and to bring him it's head. The Dragon takes the Doctor to another chamber where he shows the Doctor starcharts but the Doctor is concerned noting that the positions are wrong. On the way back to the others they are ambushed by McLuhan & Bazin and the Dragon pursues them. Glitz leaves Ace & Mel in the Ice Caves to go to fetch explosives from the Nosferatu but arrives in time to see it lift off carrying Iceworld dwellers fleeing from Kane's army, then sees it destroyed by Kane. McLuhan & Bazin slay the dragon but are killed trying to remove the crystal from it's head. The Doctor, Ace & Mel go to the Tardis where the Doctor works out that several thousand years have passed since the dragon's star charts were made. Ace goes to fetch explosives from her room but is seized by Kane. The Doctor & Mel find the bodies of the dragon, McLuhan & Bazin and the Doctor removes the crystal for safekeeping. They find Glitz looking for Ace and hear an announcement from Kane demanding the Dragonfire crystal in exchange for Ace's life. Kane uses the crystal to power up Iceworld turning it into a huge starship and sets forth to his home world of Proamnon. The Doctor tell him that Proamnon has been destroyed in his absence and when he opens the main viewing window to see for himself he is melted by the rays of the sun. Mel elects to stay on the Iceworld complex, now rechristened Nosferatu II by Glitz and Ace is persuaded to travel with the Doctor.
Deeply unsatisfying: The A.N.T. hunt that McLuhan & Bazin are sent on? Hardly like the BUG Hunt in Aliens at all, and made worse by the Dragon bearing a resemblance to the Alien creature. Kane's face melting? No, that's not the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark at all. I do remember that this episode got complaints at the time due to the melting face incident at the end. I was reminded of this when I watched it with my son Jonathan (aged 5) who'd really getting into his Doctor Who and he turned round to me and said "I no like Dragonfire, I no like the melty face!"
Mel's leaving scene is gibberish, supposedly nicked from Sylvester McCoy's audition piece and her reason for leaving makes no sense at all whereas, as I said three days ago, you could perhaps see her staying in the late 50s in Delta & The Bannermen. I believe that while the possibility of Bonnie Langford departing had been known about for a while, the thought being that Ray in Delta & The Bannermen might replace her, it wasn't sure until filming actually started on this story. So the ending, which inexplicably would have seen Ace who has spent the entire story abusing Glitz, now has Mel inexplicably staying with him. I've never warmed to Mel, and I fell that her character and the casting of the actress, both of which were producer John Nathan-Turner's idea, were a big mistake.
Back to the story. I mentioned the ripped off ANT Hunt - doesn't the Dragon die far too easily which rather undermines the threat it posed earlier - but what's the point of McLuhan & Bazin anyway? They're effectively replacements for Belazs & Kracauer in this episode so why bother killing Belazs & Kracauer in the previous one? And honestly what point does that stupid little girl serve in the story? I've watched all three episodes now and have had no reason to mention her in the plot summaries. She's just using up screen time for no reason whatsoever. Dragonfire won various polls in the wake of season 24 but I didn't think it was my favourite story of the season even then (Paradise Towers for me). The first two episodes are OK but this episode just looses it's way.
Dragonfire was written by Ian Briggs, another writer like Delta & The Bannermen's Malcolm Kohll that Andrew Cartmel had met on a BBC writer's course. Cartmel championed his cause before producer John Nathan-Turner going through several script ideas before they arrived at what eventually became Dragonfire.
Dragonfire was novelised by Ian Briggs and released in March 1989. It was released on video in December 1993 and on DVD as part of Doctor Who: Ace Adventures Box Set alongside The Happiness Patrol on 6th May 2012, and watching the story for the blog has been my first opportunity to view the discs.
A month and a bit after Dragonfire finished the BBC's new science fiction comedy series Red Dwarf aired for the first time.