Dragonfire, a three-part classic Doctor Who serial, is now available on DVD. This adventure marks the finale of the 24th season of the show, and features some big events for the companions of the titular character.
As Dragonfire begins, the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Mel (Bonnie Langford) arrive at Iceworld, a trading colony on the dark side of the planet Svartos. This is not a pleasant locale by any means, run by the evil Kane (Edward Peel), a man whose body temperature is as cold as ice. Kane controls the port with a frozen fist, forcing others to fall in line, and keeping an army on ice, literally. This is an attitude that will soon spurn rebellion. Not exactly a dream vacation for the pair.
Before the Doctor can get on with whatever it is that brings him to Iceworld, though, he runs into his old “pal,” Sabalom Glitz (Tony Selby). Glitz has gotten himself into trouble with Kane, and the only way to get out of it is for Glitz to find a treasure hidden deep within the planet. With Kane keeping a surreptitious eye on them, Glitz and the Doctor journey into the bowels of the orb to find the riches that may or may not be guarded by a dragon.
While the Doctor is off with the slippery fiend, Mel meets a waitress named Ace (Sophie Aldred), who is actually from Earth, transported to Iceworld by a chemistry experiment gone wrong. Ace doesn’t exactly have the temperament for the customer service industry, and it isn’t long before she finds herself out of a job. Which works out, because her skills, especially those involving the production of explosives, would be put to much better use in the service of the Doctor.
Oh, and there is also a sculptor, who is, mysteriously enough, making the form of a woman for Kane out of ice.
As with many Doctor Who stories, there is much more going on than meets the eye. Everything, from Kane, to the dragon, to Iceworld itself, is not as it seems. This spirit of unpredictability really sells Dragonfire as a serial worth watching, and keeps the pacing and excitement factor high. It doesn’t hurt that the villain in these episodes is quite ruthless, and stopping him becomes an extremely high priority, given what he is willing and able to do.
Dragonfire is a pivotal serial in the Doctor Who run because it is an episode that bridges the tenures of two companions. By the end of the third part, Mel is gone, through a series of events I won’t spoil, and Ace is now on board. This is especially important because, coming so close to the end of the original series, Ace will be the last companion featured. Sure, Doctor Who will eventually be resurrected. But for fans of the original show, Ace is the last.
Perhaps because of all of these reasons, the sharp storytelling, devilish bad guy, and pivotal events, Dragonfire is considered one of the great Who stories, and has been ranked as the Seventh Doctor’s best. It holds up extremely well, and while I have not viewed all of this Doctor’s tales, it seems like it is probably worthy of this distinction.
The extras only sweeten the deal. Besides the typical PDF materials and photo gallery, there is an isolated score from which to better enjoy the show’s music. Ten minutes of deleted and extended scenes are included, and the picture and sound have been remastered pretty well. It’s not high definition quality, but it surely looks better than when it aired in 1987.
The audio commentary this time around is done by actors Aldred and Peel, director Chris Clough, script editor Andrew Cartmel, writer Ian Briggs, and composer Dominic Glynn. It is moderated by Mark Eyres, who also composed music for Doctor Who.
Dragonfire gets a 35-minute making of featurette. Like other Doctor Who releases, this is a treasure, allowing fans behind the scenes. There is also a 12-minute special on the special effects of the series, and “The Doctor’s Strange Love” is made up of writers and a comedian analyzing the story.
In all, Dragonfire is a terrific tale, and an even better DVD. Doctor Who fans should find whatever they are looking for in it, be it great television episodes, or insight in a beloved series. That’s why it is one that I can recommend buying.