Doctor Who #676: Dragonfire Part 1

"What's the matter, getting cold feet?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Nov.23 1987.

First appearance of Ace, on Iceworld, where a vampsicle rules and has it in for Glitz.

REVIEW: Let's talk Ace, shall we? I'm not gonna lie, she's one of my favorite companions , and she's really the Anti-Mel, isn't she? She's a street as Mel is posh, and as we'll come to discover, has a lot of depth to her background whereas Mel was never really given one. A key moment is the monster showing up and Mel immediately screaming her head off, while Ace remains silent. Mel describes herself as boring, Ace is anything but. She's messy, unreliable, anti-authoritarian, and a bit of a pyro. She's not just self-destructive, she's destructive, period. An unusual kind of companion. Of course, we don't know she's to become a companion yet. She's just this odd waitress who's basically an extra in her first scene, a borderline criminal not really any different from Glitz, someone for Mel to pal around with while the Doctor is off with the rogue, and quite far down in the credits. And yet, even when filtering out hindsight, she's a companion from the moment she meets the Doctor. She's giving the Doctor advice and ready to sabotage her job, calling him "Professor" and establishing a quirky chemistry with him, and taking the lead in action scenes. Even the Mel-Ace cliffhanger bits are about her. Mel is already just a tag-along.

For the third story in a row, we're treated to marching band uniforms (these white with a Prussian helmet), so there must have been a sale or something. I will forever remember Season 24 as the Marching Band Season now. Otherwise, Iceworld is a pretty cool (no pun intended) studio-bound location. The 80s pastels are dated, sure, but the crystal structures look interesting (at least when a breeze doesn't make the Saran Wrap move) and the villain's lair has the feel of a deep-freeze Gothic cathedral. Ace works in a colorful version of the Mos Eisley Cantina, complete with throwaway aliens in the background. One of my favorite bits, in fact, is the Doctor's exit, played in the background, where he coo-chi-coos a furry baby and it snaps angrily. Startling and funny. The Star Wars reference is important because this definitely moves us into science fantasy. A planet with fantastic locations underground, a treasure map, a dragon's hoard... Even the planet itself has a fantastic, spiky look. And has there ever been such a D&D start to a Doctor Who adventure before?

The villain, Kane, is in the business of buying, branding and freezing people to build a mercenary army, but he's really played as a frozen vampire. Kane (a homophone of Cain, in the myth the father of monsters like vampires) sleeps in a coffin that lowers his body temperature, has a cold touch that kills, and seems able to mesmerize his victims with a soothing tone of voice. Ace almost falls prey to it, and it makes her slip up on her age, revealing she's 16 but tells people she's 18 (see? already more interesting than Mel). Ace's life could go either way at this point. Rebel or criminal? Go with Kane or with the Doctor? These are polar (again, no pun intended) opposites. Kane's plans are pretty simple - universal domination and all that - but the Doctor's are at once more benign and more complex. He says he's been "tracking" something on Iceworld for a while and now wants to visit, and while he doesn't disabuse Mel of the notion that it's the legend of the dragon that interests him, Season 26 will reveal he was after Ace, the time storm that brought her there, and her connection to Fenric all along. Whether it was the plan all along or just turned out that way, this is the start of the dark, manipulative Doctor, and I'm stoked!

REWATCHABILITY: High - New Who fans who don't know if they'd like Classic Who because it's not arc or companion-based could start here and, I think, would be surprised.



Blog Archive


5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zine