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Doctor Who XXIV.12-14: Dragonfire

June 15th, 2014 (08:07 pm)

Between sessions of evidence-gathering for the conference paper I'm delivering later in the week, I've been catching up on the Doctor Who DVD backlog with small doses of Dragonfire. I voted this top in the season polls in 1987, and can still see why, as there is a better-defined sense of threat in this story than in its three season 24 siblings, and a credible villain in Edward Peel's Kane. Realisation is still very erratic, though; I'd not appreciated how far the characters are dependent upon sharing the knowledge of the author and viewer about where the others are until reading Paul Scoones's production notes, for example. The making of... documentary at least gives the director freedom to admit that he didn't really pay attention to the logic of the story, hence the nonsensical visuals including the Doctor's pointless climb over a rail so he can dangle over a sheer drop at the end of part one, there being no sign of the ledge he was apparently trying to reach... There is a lot of inconsistency in the line delivery, too, especially from Sylvester McCoy who sometimes seems to need to work too hard on his Doctor. Sophie Aldred is great when having to confront Kane or his followers but at other times she seems to be under instruction to ham things up more - the dreaded children's programme sensibility mentioned by writer Ian Briggs and Chris Clough in the documentary, which was antipathetic to the spirit of Doctor Who but seen as a necessary part of the placation of hostile head of drama Jonathan Powell. A word of praise though for the everyman mercenaries McLuhan and Bazin, played by Stephanie Fayerman and Stuart Organ; their naturalistic playing of the 'ANT hunt' in part three is welcome amidst the histrionics elsewhere. Their deaths acquire power consequential upon their dogged determination to get their job done, despite having no particular pride or interest in the task in hand.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/2014/06/15/dragonfire.html.


Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: June 15th, 2014 09:42 pm (UTC)

I have never liked Dragonfire very much. Controversially, in its season I much prefer Paradise Towers and Delta and the Bannermen - the former is funnier and more intelligent, the latter more fun and (contrary to fan opinion) more polished. My childhood love of Time and the Rani has long vanished, however.

I would agree about it seeming too much like kids TV, in scripting, acting and design and would add that most of seasons twenty-three and twenty-four seem the same way. I disagree about the sense of threat: I don't think Kane feels much of a threat nor is his motivation clear for much of the story, though this is arguably a problem endemic to season twenty-four.

Still, it does have good points, most notably Edward Kane as the most successful villain in some time and some interesting costume design and memorable music. A generation raised on The Sarah Jane Adventures may feel more comfortable about having this and the rest of seasons twenty-three and twenty-four in the canon than fandom did in the late eighties.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 15th, 2014 11:25 pm (UTC)

I don't think it's controversial now to prefer Paradise and Delta, and indeed then the editor of Celestial Toyroom castigated readers for placing Dragonfire first.

Otherwise I still find Kane believable, motivation and all; though his sidekicks speak of mercenaries without, I suspect, knowing what the word means, but that's also the fault of the script.