Thursday, August 30, 2018

TV Review: Doctor Who: Dragonfire (1987)

Doctor Who: Dragonfire (1987) written by Ian Briggs and directed by Chris Clough

The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) goes to the Iceworld Trading Colony on Svartos for an adventure. He and companion Mel (Bonnie Langford) run into an old acquaintance, Glitz, who is in debt to the base commander Kane (Edward Peel). Glitz has an old map that leads to a fabulous treasure guarded by a dragon in the depths of Svartos. If they can find the treasure, Glitz can repay his debt and leave on his ship. The three enlisted the aid of Ace (Sophie Aldred), a teenage waitress on the colony who is an explosives expert from twentieth century England. Base commander Kane has ulterior motives, though, and is manipulating the situation for nefarious reasons that come clear by the end of the show.

McCoy is fabulous as the Doctor, following the Patrick Troughton model of comic bungling and quirkiness. McCoy delivers for the dramatic moments as well. As the villain, Peel manages to be both low key and highly menacing without going over the top like the typical Doctor Who baddies. Aldred shines as Ace (and becomes the Doctor's companion through the rest of McCoy's run). She's spunky and self-assertive--not at all the shrieking damsel in distress. The "dragon" looks pretty good for a Doctor Who monster from the 1980s.

The sets are a bit cheap looking, especially by today's standards. The visual effects are minimal which works in favor of the show. Occasional bits of the story don't make much sense and create peril for peril's sake rather than for the story's sake. Not cheap-looking is one surprisingly gruesome death, so the show isn't for the under-ten crowd, even if that was the show's primary audience in 1980s Britain.

Overall, this episode is a fun outing for the Doctor--recommended.

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