Review [DW]: “Dragonfire”

24×4. Dragonfire
Writer: Ian Briggs
Director: Chris Clough
Script Editor: Andrew Cartmel
Producer: John Nathan-Turner

Synopsis: The Doctor and Mel visit Iceworld, a seemingly benign trading colony on the planet Svartos where the sinister Kane maintains control, and become involved with the efforts of former adversary Sabalom Glitz and Ace, a teenager from 20th-century Earth, to locate a mysterious dragon in the ice caves and its legendary treasure.

Review: Like “Paradise Towers” and “Delta and the Bannermen,” “Dragonfire” is another example of reasonably good execution of an underdeveloped premise. Iceworld is a nicely designed and memorable location, Kane is an intimidating villain if not exactly a very complex one, and the script boasts two strong characters in Sabalom Glitz, who functions as a not-entirely-trustworthy ally of convenience for the Doctor here, and Ace, who exudes a certain vulnerability under her brash exterior. And as Doctor Who “monsters” go, the dragon stands out for being non-hostile, and its somewhat hokey appearance actually makes sense when we learn that it’s a robot. What doesn’t hold up as well is the reason for all this to be happening in the first place. Namely, Kane’s own people exiled him to Svartos three thousand years ago, with the dragon sent there to act as his jailor. But as others have pointed out, are we supposed to believe that Kane waited three thousand years before deciding on this escape plan, and why would his own people leave him with any means of escape at all? The ending is also rather weak: upon learning that his home planet was destroyed long ago and that he’ll never have his revenge, Kane commits suicide, and Mel decides to stay behind to keep an eye on Glitz, who plans to take charge of Iceworld. But Glitz shows little indication of having mended his ways – he’s sold his crew to Kane when they first encounter him and intends to steal his ship back rather than pay off his debt to Kane – and I can’t see what makes Mel think she’d be able to influence him, or why the Doctor would deem this a good idea. I realize that Bonnie Langford was intent on leaving the series, but why not simply have the Doctor return her to Earth?

Rating: **1/2 (out of four)

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