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Doctor Who: Dragonfire

"This is naff. This is mega naff."

'Dragonfire' brings Sylvester McCoy's atrocious first season to a suitably atrocious end. But on the plus side it does introduce Ace and write out Mel so it ain't all bad.

Like so many companion exits, Mel's departure is sudden and devoid of any kind of buildup. At no point during this story does she voice any desire to leave. She isn't even given a flimsy pretence like she's fallen in love or is needed elsewhere because of reasons. She just all of a sudden decides to leave. She gives up travelling throughout all of time and space with the Doctor to... go travel around the cosmos with Glitz? That make no sense at all. That's like trading in a BMW for a Reliant Robin. Still, shouldn't really grumble. Mel is gone and that is all that matters. Especially since it means we get the far superior Ace as her replacement.

You never forget your first Doctor and the same is true of your first companion and this adolescent pyromaniac was mine. That sounds a lot dirtier than I intended, but I am too lazy to rephrase it. Now, much like the Seventh Doctor, I'm well aware that Ace is not quite as amazing as my six year old self remembers. She comes across like your stereotypical stroppy teenager and talks like she's been written by someone who has never met a teenager in their life, even when they were one, but has a pretty good idea of what they talk like, which seems to involve using their own name as a catchphrase. Also, Sophie Aldred's acting is less BBC and more CBBC. Despite all that, Ace is still a welcome breath of fresh air after a string of one dimensional screamers. She's more assertive than either Peri or Mel ever were, not afraid to give the bad guys lip, handy with home made explosives, and not prone to shattering glass when the monsters show up. She is also the first companion in a long time that has something resembling a genuine backstory. That jacket is pretty nifty, too.

Like the previous three stories in this nightmare of a season, 'Dragonfire' is slow, boring, badly acted, cheap looking, filled with by the numbers villains, and makes very little sense. If Kane was meant to be exiled for all time why'd they leave him with the very means of escape? Why did Kane concoct this elaborate scheme to get Glitz to find the dragon when he already had the troops and firepower to hunt it down and kill it? In fact, why even go after the dragon at all? Ice World was a bloody spaceport for crying out loud. All Kane had to do to escape was take any ship he liked and turn the AC way, way, way up.

This is also a story that has no clue what to actually do with the Doctor. I mean, honestly, what the hell does he even do here? He doesn't find the dragon, the dragon finds him. He doesn't save the people of Ice World, Kane kills them all save for the annoying kid and her annoying mum. He doesn't even defeat the bad guy. Sure, he tells Kane his home planet is gone and his dreams of revenge thwarted, but he would've discovered that without the Doctor's prodding. He might as well have just stayed on the TARDIS because nothing he does has any real impact on what is happening.

Notes and Quotes

--Ace's real name is Dorothy. Hmm, a girl named Dorothy whisked away to another world by a storm. Why does that sound so familiar?

--It is strongly suggested that Kane and Belazs were previously lovers. But since Kane's touch is deadly how did they... you know what, I don't need the details.

--The end of episode one features an infamous cliffhanger where the Doctor literally hangs himself over a cliff by his umbrella for no apparent reason. According to script editor Andrew Cartmel, the passage leading to the cliff was meant to be a dead end, leaving the Doctor no option but to scale the cliff face.

--The dragon looks like a really lame Alien cosplay.

--I do love the scene where the Doctor tries to distract the guard by engaging him in a philosophical debate and gets a lot more than he bargained for.

--Sophie Aldred auditioned for the part of Ray in 'Delta and the Bannermen,' but lost out to Sara Griffiths. Which is kinda ironic since Ray was mean to replace Mel as the companion, but it ended up being Ace instead.

--We can all be eternally grateful that they cut out the line about Ace losing her virginity to Glitz. *shudder*

Mel: "Oh all right, you win."
The Doctor: "I do? I usually do."
Mel: "I'm going now."
The Doctor: "That's right, yes, you're going. You've gone for ages, you've already gone, you're still here, just arrived, haven't even met you yet. It all depends on who you are and how you look at it. Strange business, time."

The Doctor: "Think about me when you're living your life one day after another, all in a neat pattern. Think about the homeless traveller and his old police box, with his days like crazy paving."

Belazs: "What are you doing here?!"
The Doctor: "That's a very difficult question. Why is everyone around here so preoccupied with metaphysics?"
Glitz: "I think she's going to kill us, Doctor."
The Doctor: "Ah! An existentialist."

Ace: "They couldn't understand how blowing up the art room was a creative act."

One out of four Reliant Robins.
Mark Greig is firestarter, twisted firestarter More Mark Greig


  1. Having just watched this on DVD I am wondering whether the reviwer would have given it a zero were it not for the presence / introduction of Ace?

  2. I see no new comments are allowed on Delta and the Bannermen, so skipped to here!

    Ace is the bright spot here for certain. I find this a tolerable story thanks to her, it feels very '1st Doctor-ish', but not his best stuff to be certain. Just seeing the last of Mel shoots this up a couple points.

    That cliffhanger is so weird to see. I had heard about it before seeing it, and then sure enough it looks like he dangles from his umbrella for no reason!


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