Doctor Who #677: Dragonfire Part 2

"What are you doing here?" "That's a very difficult question. Why is everyone round here so preoccupied with metaphysics?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.30 1987.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor and his friends find Iceworld's treasure inside the dragon's head.

REVIEW: Damn, that cliffhanger doesn't get any better in its resolution, does it? The Doctor climbs over a railing overlooking a deep crevasse and is then surprised that he's suspended over a cliff? A strange bonehead move that somehow gets him on the level below with Glitz's help, but I don't know how that worked exactly. A confusing opener to the episode, only notable for showing off Sylvester McCoy's athleticism and willingness to do anything (later he lets himself get pelted with sparks, batting them away with nothing more than a hat). It gets better from there, with a wonderful twist on "distracting the guard", a guard passionate about discussing philosophy. Not just another BBC extra, he's a rare intellectual, and kind of makes me miss the Sabalom Glitz we met in The Mysterious Planet. The rogue is neither witty nor the amoral killer he was in his first appearance, or else Belazs would be dead and he'd have taken off in the Nosferatu at the episode's mid-point, never to be heard from again.

Ace continues to be more resourceful than Mel, following the Doctor with a hand rope ladder (no companion ever thought of carrying a backpack before?), and managing not to get knocked out like a certain redhead. Her story about wishing to escape her dreary life and waking up on Iceworld is amusingly told to the girl formerly known as Peter Pan, but this isn't Never Never Land. Ace's real name is Dorothy. This is Oz. I suppose that makes the Doctor the Wizard who will give her life meaning and eventually take her back to Kansas/Perivale. Not only does this play into the fantasy aspect of this story, but also seems clear inspiration for the Moffat era, which the showrunner termed a "fairy tale". I'm not sure how "earned" Ace's confiding in Mel really is, but I suppose she never made any friends on Iceworld and is hiding a deep loneliness.

Kane is up top killing his mutinous underlings for melting the statue of his dead girlfriend (does this guy think he's Mr. Freeze?), while the main threat of the episode seems to be the "dragon". As it turns out, the dragon is friendly, and after the Doctor prevents Glitz from shooting it, shows up to mow down a frozen zombie out to kill the heroes. I like the design, though it's a patchwork thing. The rubber suited body is actually quite weak compared to the massive insectoid/reptilian head. Those spines on its back may betray its original use as a Ridley Scott Alien (was it? can't wait to check out the DVD extras to find out if I'm right or if it's just a rip-off). But there are more twists. The dragon is actually mechanical and hiding the "treasure" (some MacGuffin energy source) inside its head. Crazy stuff.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Still think it's a rocking good story, but it takes a hit because of the silly cliffhanger between Parts 1 and 2.


Anonymous said...

A clip that may help explain the mysterious cliffhanger:

CiB said...

Didn't Mr Freeze only get that preoccupation with saving his wife thing (as opposed to being a gimick) in the Batman animated series of the early 1990's? In which case, surely it's Mr Freeze who thinks he's Kane!

Siskoid said...

That's true. But Iceworld looks to be set in the future, so... TIMEY-WIMEY!!!

Siskoid said...

Anon: That's from the DVD, no worries, I'm flipping that thing this week.

Madeley said...

I think it'll become more obvious in the final McCoy series, but one of the things I love about Ace is how, as her backstory is revealed, this era is HER story rather than the Doctor's. Rather than being a cypher meant to bring out characteristics of the Doctor, it's really the other way round. He's Gandalf in this, she's Bilbo.

Or maybe she's the apprentice, actually, the teenage protagonist in a Harry Potter-esque fantasy. That's way more agency than any other companion got, even in the new series.

Siskoid said...

McCoy has been Merlin (in Doctor Who) and Radagast (in The Hobbit), so those parallels aren't so out of left field.

I think you may be right about Ace and her agency. New Who has often made the companion the protagonist, but the stories were still about other things. In Ace's case, Season 26 was almost entirely about resolving her personal story through the threat/adventure of the month.


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