In the bowels of an ice planet/interstellar supermarket, ruled over by a murderous master of cold, arrives time-and-space traveler the Doctor (the Seventh, played by Sylvester McCoy) and his sunny companion Mel (Bonnie Langford) with her abundant ginger curls. In no time at all they're on a dragon hunt, accompanied by a sketchy space rogue (Tony Selby) and a spirited girl from Earth, Ace (Sophie Aldred--who, at the end of the three-episode serial, becomes the Doctor's new companion). Dragonfire
is a particularly frustrating Doctor Who
story; it has moments that are smart, surprising, and intriguing… and moments that are flabbergastingly dumb. (It doesn't help that the sets and costumes combine cheapness and extravagance as only the 1980s could.) The extensive extras--including a making-of featurette and detailed trivia notes--suggest that this narrative schizophrenia is mostly due to an interesting script being poorly translated into production. But the script has its own problems, which are cheerfully pointed out in another extra, with three clever Brits discussing Dragonfire
in depth, savaging its failings but also appreciating its virtues. These unusually frank bonus features make this DVD package much more engaging than the story would be on its own. McCoy's Doctor is lackluster, with enjoyable moments of whimsy but lacking any gravitas. Fortunately, Aldred delights; her charisma makes her the center of the story from her first appearance, outshining the bland Langford. Another plus is the supporting performance of Patricia Quinn (from cult movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show
) as a rebellious underling. --Bret Fetzer
At the Iceworld Space Trading Colony on Svartos, the Doctor and Mel unexpectedly encounter an old 'friend.' The penniless and desperate Sabalom Glitz has only one option to leave Svartos: find the fabled 'Dragonfire' treasure concealed somewhere in the depths of the planet. Joined by Ace, a teenage waitress with a love for explosives, the group ventures off to uncover lost riches, not knowing that Kane, Iceworld's ruthlessly intimidating overlord, will gladly murder them all to gain possession of the Dragonfire himself. Before long the Doctor finds himself playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with Kane's mercenaries, descending through the ice caverns ever closer towards the deadly gaze of the monstrous dragon that lurks below.