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Dragonfire (TV story)

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Dragonfire
DragonfireTeam
Novelised as: Dragonfire
Doctor: Seventh Doctor
Companion(s): Mel, Ace
Featuring: Sabalom Glitz
Main enemy: Kane
Main setting: Iceworld, Svartos, circa 2,000,000
Key crew
Writer: Ian Briggs
Director: Chris Clough
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Release details
Story number: 147
Number of episodes: 3
Season/series: Season 24
Premiere broadcast: 23 November - 7 December 1987
Premiere network: BBC1
Format: 3x25-minute episodes
Production code: 7G
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Dragonfire was the fourth and final story of Season 24 of Doctor Who. It marked the final appearances of Melanie Bush and Sabalom Glitz and featured the debut of Sophie Aldred as Ace.

Synopsis Edit

On Iceworld, the Doctor and Mel unexpectedly encounter an old friend – Sabalom Glitz. Joined by Ace, a teenage waitress with a love for explosives, the group ventures off to find the fabled Dragonfire treasure. But as usual, dark forces close in on them - and Iceworld itself.

Plot Edit

Part one Edit

Iceworld is a space-trading colony on the dark side of the planet Svartos. It is a mysterious place of terror and rumour, ruled by the callous and vindictive Kane. He buys supporters and employees and makes them wear his mark iced into their flesh. Kane’s body is so cold that one touch from him can kill. In his lair is a vast cryogenic section. Mercenaries and others are frozen and stored, their memories wiped for a future unquestioning army. Kane stays there when he needs to cool down. There is also an aged sculptor carving a statue from the ice.

The TARDIS arrives in a refrigeration sales section. The Seventh Doctor and Melanie Bush meet their roguish acquaintance, Sabalom Glitz. He owes Kane money. Glitz has come to look for a treasure guarded by a dragon in the icy caverns beyond Iceworld. Glitz has a map he won from Kane in a gamble. Kane wanted him to have the map because he wishes to use Glitz in his own search for the treasure. The map has a tracking device in its seal. Kane has Glitz’s ship, the Nosferatu, which he orders destroyed. Not knowing he is being used, Glitz goes off with the Doctor in tow. Women are not allowed on the expedition so Mel stays with a waitress they have met, called Ace. Ace behaves appallingly to customers and is fired. Mel is stunned to hear Ace is a human from late twentieth century Earth who only arrived on Iceworld when a chemistry experiment caused a time-storm in her bedroom.

Ace and Mel blow up an ice block and are arrested. They are interrogated by Kane, but Ace uses nitro-9 and they escape. As they run down the corridors, they encounter the dragon.

The Doctor, separated from Glitz, climbs over a parapet. He loses his grip, and hangs from the railing, holding onto his umbrella.

Part two Edit

The dragon shoots laser beams at Mel and Ace. They realise that the dragon isn’t real and run away.

Glitz arrives and helps the Doctor to the bottom of the chasm. Glitz wants to head for his ship, and gives the map to the Doctor. Kane overhears them.

Kane’s staff are not happy. Once they have taken his coin they are his for life, as Ace knows when she rejects an offer. Officer Belazs was not so clever. She is keen to escape. She arranges for the Nosferatu not to be destroyed, hoping to use the craft to escape. When this fails, she tries to persuade Officer Kracauer to help her overthrow Kane, but he is one step ahead. Their attempt to alter the temperature in his chambers and kill him fails. Kane kills them both. The same fate awaits the ice sculptor who has finished his statue of a woman called Xana.

In the ice caverns the Doctor and Glitz find the treasureless dragon. It is a biped which does not breathe fire. It fire lasers from its eyes. Mel and Ace have ventured into the caverns too. They meet their allies and are defended by the dragon, which guns down Kane’s cryogenically altered soldiers sent to kill them. The dragon takes them to a room in the ice. It is some sort of control area. There is a pre-recorded hologram message. It explains Kane is half of the Kane-Xana criminal gang from the planet Proamon. When the security forces caught up with them, Xana killed herself to avoid arrest. Kane was captured and exiled to the cold, dark side of Svartos. It seems Iceworld is a huge spacecraft and the treasure is a crystal in the dragon’s head. It is the key Kane needs to activate the ship and end his exile. The dragon is both Kane’s jailer and his chance of freedom. Kane overhears through the bugging device on the map.

Part three Edit

Kane sends his security forces to the ice caverns to bring him the dragon's head, offering vast rewards for bravery. He also orders his army to cause chaos in the Iceworld shops, driving the customers towards the docked Nosferatu. When the Nosferatu takes off, Kane blows it up. The only survivors are a young girl, Stellar and her mother, who have become separated. Shortly afterward two of Kane’s troopers kill the dragon and remove its head, but are killed themselves.

Departures and beginnings
Old friends leave and a new one joins.
MemnarcAdded by Memnarc

The Doctor has realised that Kane has been a prisoner on Svartos for millennia. He retrieves the dragon's head. He is told Kane has captured Ace but is willing to trade her for the “dragonfire”. The Doctor, Glitz and Mel go to Kane’s private chambers for the exchange. Kane rises to the Doctor’s taunts but still powers up Iceworld as a spacecraft. It rises from the surface of Svartos. However, when Kane tries to set course for Proamon to exact his revenge, he realises he has been a prisoner so long the planet no longer exists. In despair, he opens a screen in his ship and lets in light rays, which melt him.

Glitz claims Iceworld as his own spacecraft, Nosferatu II. Mel decides to stay with him to keep him out of trouble and tells the Doctor that Ace doesn't wish to return home. He promises to take her home to Perivale: via the “scenic route”.

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

References Edit

Astronomical objects Edit

Individuals Edit

  • Ace's real name is Dorothy. She is sixteen years old.

Locations Edit

Spacecraft Edit

  • The Dragonfire is the power source for the Iceworld spacecraft.

Species Edit

  • Someone who looks like an Argolin can be seen on Iceworld.

TARDIS Edit

Time travel Edit

Story notes Edit

  • Working titles for this story included Absolute Zero, Pyramid In Space, and The Pyramid's Treasure.
  • The Radio Times programme listing for part one was accompanied by a black and white head-and shoulders publicity shot of the Doctor and Melanie, with the new computer-generated Doctor Who logo superimposed in the bottom left-hand corner, bearing the accompanying caption "After 24 years, the TARDIS clocks its 150th adventure and 670th episode — with Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford / BBC1, 7.35 p.m. Doctor Who".
  • Script editor Andrew Cartmel encouraged his writers to read the academic media studies textbook Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text by John Tulloch and Manuel Alvarado to acquaint themselves with the series.
  • Ian Briggs used some short passages from Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text in the dialogue of Dragonfire.
  • Briggs had included in the back story for Dragonfire that Ace had recently lost her virginity to Glitz. The plot point was, unsurprisingly, not included in the episode as shot. Paul Cornell later semi-canonised the event in his New Adventures novel Happy Endings.
  • The original script featured a different, but similar character called Razorback in the role that would later be occupied by Glitz. After recognising the similarities between the two characters, John Nathan Turner encouraged Briggs to bring Glitz back in place of his original character.
  • At one point, the character Kane would have been called Hess. That was changed due to the announcement that the Soviet government under Gorbachev was no longer opposed to the release of Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess on humanitarian grounds, and due to Hess's death by suicide in Spandau Prison, Berlin.
  • Although Ace is sixteen, the actress Sophie Aldred, who played her, was nearly ten years older at the time.
  • The melting of Kane is reminiscent of the melting of the villain in the original Raiders of the Lost Ark film.
  • In Asian mythology, dragons' heads are said to contain a jewel which is commonly connected to their ability to fly: This is similar to this story's "dragon" having a valuable gem in its head that can grant Kane the power of "flight" (escape).
  • This is the second story in a row to feature a full vehicle exploding, killing everyone on it. In Delta and the Bannermen it was a bus; in this it's Glitz's ship.
  • Ace wears various Space Shuttle mission patches on her black bomber jacket.
  • There are several references to the Alien franchise the second instalment of which having been released a year before this episode was first shown such as the Xenomorph like appearance of the Dragon and the Dragon being hunted through corridors by soldiers with large guns and motion detectors before it ambushes them.
  • Kane's death scene was filmed using a wax bust of the actor's face, which was melted down in front of a recording camera, with the footage later sped up for incorporation in the episode. In the scene where Kane's bust melts, there is a notable absence of red wax to tone his demise down for a family audience. The colour red has been used to mimic blood when this technique is applied to show a character melting in filmed productions, such as the death of Toht in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Ratings Edit

  • Part One - 5.5 million viewers
  • Part Two - 5.0 million viewers
  • Part Three - 4.7 million viewers

Myths Edit

  • This is the 150th Doctor Who story. (It is the 147th broadcast, although the BBC promoted it as the 150th in Radio Times. The production team apparently arrived at the total by counting the four segments of season twenty-three's The Trial of a Time Lord as four separate stories. Additionally this is listed as the 148th as Shada is counted as a story, making this the 148th produced and the 147th broadcast. The 2009 Region 1 DVD release of Delta and the Bannermen indicates it as the 150th story.

Filming locations Edit

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.

Continuity Edit

Home video and audio releases Edit

DVD Contents

External links Edit


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