The 3,000-year-old supervisor of a shopping mall uses a hypnosis doubloon to recruit henchmen in a serial that channels iconic moments from 80s cinema.
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Oh, you lucky, lucky people. You’re about to learn of the time when Doc and Mel bumped into Sabalom Glitz on a space trading colony. Well, it was more like a freezer warehouse with a cafe. The fact it has a cafe is strangely important because we bump into a waitress that thinks everything is totally Ace and brill, and who may or may not be hitching a ride at the end of this serial. Oh, and when I said freezer warehouse before, I of course meant a place where a Mr Freeze-wannabe is storing tens of soldiers that he’s bought, brainwashed, and turned into undead popsicles.
Sabalom Glitz has just sold his entire crew to Mr Freeze, in fact, and somehow in the process purloined a map to the treasure hidden deep beneath Ice World that, legend has it, is guarded by a dragon. Naturally, he was allowed to steal the map by this week’s baddie because old Freezy McFreezeface really wants said treasure, and somehow getting Glitz, unaccompanied by a crew, to battle a dragon for it is, I’m sure you’ll agree, the most straightforward way of getting one’s frozen paws on it. Doc, Mel and newcomer Ace join Glitz’s fellowship and thus adventure and hilarity ensue.
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– Kane’s melty face!
– *That* cliffhanger. I’ll bet some genius has written an article about that on the Who Back When website.
– The introduction of #BestCompanionEver. Where’s your homemade explosives Rose?
– Xenomorph-like bio-mechanical dragon.
Rating: 5/5 doomed passengers of the Nosferatu. I for one was completely shocked that a vessel with that name would have anything but a pleasant and uneventful voyage.
Hey Ace, Rose here..explosives? Where’s your dimension cannon?
Welcome to Iceworld
Dragonfire sees the introduction of Ace and the start of the most popular Doctor/Companion partnership since the 4th Doctor and Sarah-Jane. Our old friend Sabalom Glitz also returns and of course he’s up to his neck in trouble as usual.
The café scenes are populated with all kinds of weird and wonderful beings – ok so it’s not exactly the Cantina scene from Star Wars but I admire the attempt
The supporting characters are all well played especially Belazs
The face melting of Kane
If Kane is such a tech whizz, why couldn’t he just put all his freezing tech on to a spaceship and just hot foot errr cold foot it out of there?
Has Kane really not listened to the space news about his planet going supernova?
Overall, Dragonfire is an enjoyable story and well acted throughout. There seems to be a lot of nods to other sci-fi such as the café/cantina scenes, the Alien/Xenomorph looking monster and the face melting like Raiders of the Lost Ark. If you look at the story really closely then there’s plenty of holes but it doesn’t stop it being enjoyable for me.
I award this 4.1 (of course Michael Ridgeway will give this 5/5) out of 5
My dear old things!
Popping back to offer comment on the magnificent Dragonfire!
I remember watching this live and in living colour way back when in 1987, god I’m old…
There’s a lot of superficial bollocks in this one but I’m a positive kind of person so:
Kane scared the living shit out of me and his Raiders of the lost ark demise was bloody brilliant.
Younger me (and now me if we’re being brutally honest) would have crawled naked over broken glass, lego and aids needles just to listen to Ace fart through a walkie talkie. Yummy yummy, a delicious apple crumble in my tummy!
Huzzah for Glitz! Huzzah for no more Mel! Huzzah for the bollocks ending to episode 1!
One of my favourite Sylvester McCoy outings.
4.1 shut up Jethro you perverts out of 5
It’s a bit of a slow start for Ace, but she’s one of my top three companions, along with Sarah Jane and Jo Grant. Ace has agency, flair, and above all a complex inner life, in ways that we’re never before seen in Who. But she’s not there yet.
Not the worst ~Seventh Doctor~ story, but not his best. Very liminal, kind of an in between story. Three point two suits this one.
For point of reference I watched the extended version included on the BluRay season 24 boxset
I was doing paperwork while watching episode one so I can’t really give my usual “the Doctor and crew” blerb so we’ll just jump right in.
I think this was a very good story, the characters were all very interesting and fun. It was great to see Glitz again, the late Tony Shelby (who managed to die twice between this and when I watched the Ultimate foe) gives a great performance.
Ace was ace, I really enjoyed her. I’ve heard a lot of good things so I hope the character lives up to it. They seem to be setting up a lot of mystery surrounding her, let’s hope it goes somewhere.
I’ll just finish my discussion on the companions with a poem:
We didn’t know you well
You weren’t anything special
But at least you didn’t smell.
Moving on, the other aspects of this story were also good. The effects, especially the face melting was astounding. Costumes and sets were very neat, loved the uniforms especially the Pickelhaub (the spiked helmets).
Overall this story earns 3.5 obvious patchwork rectangles out of 5. (Those who saw the Extended versions will get the joke)
Steven from Canada
Glitz selling his crew into slavery is kinda on brand for him I suppose. Oh look, it’s Ace! Much more of her to come. In this one she’s a little annoying actually with her saying Ace all the time. Sophie Aldred only had experience in children’s programmes, so at times, particularly in this one, she comes across as not particularly great. The original script had references to Ace losing her virginity to Glitz which thankfully was cut, though expanded media has used this. Mel going off with Glitz at the end is a little strange with the books suggesting the Doctor subconsciously forced her to leave so he could get a better companion (Headgames for that one).
Oh dear, definitely the Xenomorph from Wish.com in this one. A.N.T. hunt? Bug hunt is referred to in Aliens. Why has it taken Kane this long to get the Dragonfire? It doesn’t feel particularly hard to do. You would have thought that he would have been able to do so at some point before this one. The costumes are a little over the top, especially with the guards’ Pickelhaube-esque helmets. And Edward Peel feels a little out of place, as he’s clearly better than the material that he is being given. His death is fairly gruesome actually, channelling the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Though him going mad and raising the sunshield is rather quick. Presumably RTD also copied that idea for End of the World from series 1.
Slightly messy and a bit cheap 2.5/5
I don’t know why this one has such a bad reputation; I enjoyed it.
Clearly there are a lot of parallels to Dracula, with Glitz’s ship being named Nosferatu, and Kane being immortal and having to sleep in a coffin analog.
There were a lot of parallels to the movie Aliens, from the look of the creature to the little girl being the last survivor, to two of Kane’s soldiers hunting it with a proximity detector.
– RedDwarf bazookoids for the win!
– Glitz returns!
– Introduction of Ace! (I had thought she called the Doctor “Professor” as a similar title, but she called him that before she knew his name, so it was just a nickname she had given him on first sight, like calling Mel “Doughnut” and Glitz “Bilge Bag”.)
– I think the 3-part episode format works very well. We have seen many 4-parters that had padding and dragged, and most of the 2-parters seemed rushed. Too bad they didn’t figure this out years before.
– No one is responding to the voice of the PA system, and the Emergency Services Team seems to be MIA.
– It was a better send off for Mel than most of the companions got.
This gets 3.5 memory-erased cryogenically frozen drone soldiers out of 5.
Build High for Happiness!
Count down with me.
I’ve probably watched this 5 times too many and I still can’t bring myself to like it.
There are exactly 4 elements that shine: The sets, the dragon, the melty face, the crystal space ship.
There are exactly 3 good elements: Sylvester, Belaz, the hand pistol design.
There are exactly 2 okay elements. The secondary officers.
The rest is one big stinking pile of lumpy malted milkshake.
I’ll stop us before we hit zero, but we’re gonna get close.
There’s no introduction to anything that’s happening. The plot happens in reverse, as nothing makes sense until the end. The villain is dull. The directing is lacking. I love Sophie, but her debut acting is horrible. Glitz is written terribly. Mel’s only shining moment is her sendoff, and it’s ruined because she leaves for no reason. the rest of the acting is garbage. The literal cliffhanger still makes no sense to me, especially since Glitz simply walks to the lower ledge to help Doc down. Ace is frightened to climb, then has a ladder. Why are we wasting time with a blocked doorway leading nowhere?
The icing on the ice? We don’t need to retro-rewrite anything because this story’s already been done better. It was called The Hand of Fear. Something behind the scenes ruined this production. This story is bad and most everyone should feel bad. It had many good ideas but wow, what a ham-fisted disaster. Not even a tense countdown at the end. Sad 1.1
This is the one I couldn’t find anywhere and so am reviewing it based on what I can remember from 1987; here we go!
Doc hangs off an ice cliff with his brolly;
Everyone dies except the annoying woman and her child;
Mel absconds with some space-dude;
Ace joins the crew;
The villain dies all Raiders of the Lost Ark style;
I’m thinking of the right one, right?
Based on that, I have no choice but to give this
5 remembered things out of 5
Here is my mini review for “Dragonfire”
This is Brill, and Ace!
Not only is this far better than last weeks, but it’s a fantastic serial, and one of McCoys best.
Whatever was saved in the budget last time, helped boost this story’s sets, costumes and overall production to help craft a
an interesting backdrop that introduces us to the fabulous Ace, and it’s a nice farewell for Mel too, both of whom are terrific in
McCoy continues to improve, and Glitz is back, in by far his best story ( and performance ) in Dr Who.
Two great 80s movies are also paid homage ( Aliens and Raiders of the Lost Ark ).
But why does the space console on the giant crystal/ice ship look like a Tardis console??? Is this a leftover prop ( maybe from the Rani’s Tardis? )
the similarity was a bit silly in a series like Dr Who. At one point I thought someone would reveal themselves as a Timelord!
However, let’s not talk about that “ Cliff-hanger” in episode 1….
Supporting cast was pretty good overall, but tell me, did the Ice Vampire, as I like to call him, break the fourth wall at one part of the story?
All in all, this was really excellent, and so enjoyable. Right down to the model work, the different corridors, slippery floors and everything in between.
4.5 Canisters of Nitro 9
Dear Who Back When,
Quite a mini mini review this time! Here’s my review:
Sometimes, limitations breed fantastic creativity. Sometimes. I really tried, but I couldn’t follow this at all. A despot with a terrible eye for sculpture is trapped for 3,000 years with a nice alien or a robot in a supermarket, or something? Can’t he just leave the way the shoppers leave? There’s a great big docking bay easily available. There’s probably a bus connection there! I guess he needs to stay cold, but there is a frozen goods section. Probably a refrigerated van you can travel in. I’ve been stressed about this for weeks. Also why does Kane commit suicide? Why does the Doctor climb over the ledge?
Glitz is back though, so that’s something. And Ace is here. That’s fun. A supermarket??
Looking forward to your review!
Dragonfire is a hidden gem! Whilst the cafeteria scenes are pretty poor, it was a stroke of genius to get Jacob Rees-M0gg to play Kane.
Aha! A space café like in Star Wars!
Ooooh! A monster like in Alien!
Ace! A teenager who loves explosives!
This sounds like a belter!
Well, not really.
Glitz returns but he was always so much better with Dibber at his side. That said, I wonder if there was ever talk of a spin-off of his and Mel’s further adventures. WOULD WATCH!
Ace’s dialogue was cringe back when this aired and time has done it no favours. No one ever spoke like this in the 80’s! But on the plus side she is instantly likable and has great chemistry with McCoy.
But the best thing about Dragonfire are the villains. These actors are actually playing bad guys as opposed to panto villains, and it makes SUCH a difference. Edward Peel as Kane is simply fantastic and his suicide scene is still shocking to this day. Very Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
Not a great story but certainly moving in the right direction.
Rating – 3.3
I loved the reviews this week. Awesomely creative all around. Laughed out loud several times. Thanks everyone.