Season 24 – Story 147
“If you want my opinion, all this talk of treasure and dragons, it’s all a load of old space dust” – Glitz
The Doctor takes Mel to Iceworld, a trading colony on the dark side of the planet Svartos. They’re reunited with shifty vagabond Glitz and befriend Ace, a boisterous teenager plucked by a time storm from London’s Perivale. Glitz has a map to some treasure in the glacial vaults, where the Doctor is keen to seek out a fabled dragon. Iceworld is run by Kane, a criminal who thrives on subzero temperatures and whose touch is fatal. He was exiled to Svartos 3,000 years ago, with the dragon (a biomechanoid) as his jailer. The creature’s head contains a crystal radiating Dragonfire energy. When a vengeful Kane learns that his home world Proamon expired many years ago, he exposes himself to sunlight and melts. Mel decides to stay on Iceworld with Glitz, while the Doctor allows an excited Ace to join his travels.
Part 1 - Monday 23 November 1987
Part 2 - Monday 30 November 1987
Part 3 – Monday 7 December 1987
Studio recording: July 1987 in TC1, August 1987 in TC3
The Doctor - Sylvester McCoy
Melanie - Bonnie Langford
Glitz - Tony Selby
Ace - Sophie Aldred
Kane - Edward Peel
Belazs - Patricia Quinn
Kracauer - Tony Osoba
Customer - Shirin Taylor
Anderson - Ian Mackenzie
McLuhan - Stephanie Fayerman
Bazin - Stuart Organ
Zed - Sean Blowers
Archivist - Daphne Oxenford
Arnheim - Chris MacDonnell
Pudovkin - Nigel Miles-Thomas
The Creature - Leslie Meadows
Announcer - Lynn Gardner
Stellar - Miranda Borman
Writer - Ian Briggs
Incidental music - Dominic Glynn
Designer - John Asbridge
Script editor - Andrew Cartmel
Producer - John Nathan-Turner
Director - Chris Clough
RT review by Patrick Mulkern
It’s the first time I’ve seen many of these season 24 episodes for 25 years and they feel almost as good as new. Yes, there’s an air of pantomime; at times they’re tacky and silly, but they exude a sense of fun and urgency. There’s no fannying about as – boom! – the adventure hits the ground running. In many ways, it presages the pace of 21st-century Doctor Who.
And there’s a lot going on in Dragonfire’s three episodes: the Doctor’s gang on a treasure hunt; a frosty despot undermined by his minions and creating zombies in his deep freeze; a semi-robotic dragon with a crystal in its head that can energise a spaceship; the return of Glitz from The Trial of a Time Lord; and a nifty companion changeover.
As season 24 progresses there’s a feeling that producer John Nathan-Turner has again stumbled upon a workable formula and, impressively, new script editor Andrew Cartmel has found three promising writers at short notice, giving the lie to his predecessor Eric Saward’s lazy assertion that he couldn’t find people up to the job.
BBC drama boss Jonathan Powell told Cartmel to start pitching Doctor Who for children (and Dragonfire has touches of Narnia, The Wizard of Oz), but Ian Briggs’s scripts still allow for philosophical asides, and a horrific head-melting demise for Kane, which had parents reaching for the BBC complaints line.
I'm sure this story is packed with cinematic and literary allusions – many of which I didn't spot. But the name of the planet Svartos must derive from "svart", the Norwegian and Swedish word for "black".
It’s an all-studio production with few design failings. Kane’s multi-tiered, dry-ice-filled domain is the most impressive; the lower levels with fake snow on pathways and polythene sheeting just about passable as ice walls. The biomechanoid monster is influenced by Alien but far less horrific and it plods around as the actor within gingerly balances a gigantic head.