a real world point of view
|Main setting:||Iceworld, Svartos, circa 2,000,000|
|Number of episodes:||3|
|Premiere broadcast:||23 November - 7 December 1987|
|Doctor Who television stories|
|Delta and the Bannermen||Remembrance of the Daleks|
- You may be looking for the titular power source.
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.
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.
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 has overheard through the bugging device on the map. He 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.
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”.
- The Doctor - Sylvester McCoy
- Mel - Bonnie Langford
- Ace - Sophie Aldred
- Sabalom Glitz - Tony Selby
- Kane - Edward Peel
- Belazs - Patricia Quinn
- Kracauer - Tony Osoba
- Customer - Shirin Taylor
- Anderson - Ian Mackenzie
- McLuhan - Stephanie Fayerman
- Bazin - Stuart Organ
- Zed - Sean Blowers
- Pudovkin - Nigel Miles-Thomas
- The Creature - Leslie Meadows
- Announcer - Lynn Gardner
- Stellar - Miranda Borman
- Archivist - Daphne Oxenford
- Arnheim - Chris MacDonnell
- Assistant Floor Manager - Christopher Sandeman
- Costumes - Richard Croft
- Designer - John Asbridge
- Incidental Music - Dominic Glynn
- Make-Up - Gillian Thomas
- Producer - John Nathan-Turner
- Production Assistant - Rosemary Parsons, Karen King
- Production Associate - Anne Faggetter
- Script Editor - Andrew Cartmel
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Lighting - Don Babbage
- Studio Sound - Brian Clark
- Theme Arrangement - Keff McCulloch
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Visual Effects - Andy McVean
Astronomical objects Edit
- Ace's real name is Dorothy, she's sixteen years old.
- The Dragonfire is the power source for the Iceworld spacecraft.
- Someone who looks like an Argolin can be seen on Iceworld.
- The Doctor's TARDIS contains star charts.
Time travel Edit
Story notes Edit
- Working titles for this story included Absolute Zero, Pyramid In Space, and The Pyramid's Treasure.
- Part One ends on a literal cliff hanger with the Doctor hanging onto his umbrella in a seemingly pointless act.
- 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 the episode 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 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, but 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 Hess' 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.
- Patricia Quinn (Belazs) would later play Queen Angvia in AUDIO: Bang-Bang-A-Boom!.
- Tony Osoba (Kracauer) previously played Lan in TV: Destiny of the Daleks.
- 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.
- Part 1 - 5.5 million viewers
- Part 2 - 5.0 million viewers
- Part 3 - 4.7 million viewers
- This is the 150th Doctor Who story. (It is the 147th broadcast, although the BBC promoted it as the 150th. 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 (TV version) 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
- The set designer badly fails in at least one scene, to achieve the intent of the script in creating Iceworld. In part two, when Ace throws Nitro 9 at the 'zombies', the 'rock face' behind her is obviously a billowing white curtain, rather than a solid block of ice.
- Sabalom Glitz last appeared in TV: The Ultimate Foe (part of The Trial of a Time Lord). This was his third and to date, final appearance on the series.
- Ace was brought to Iceworld via a time storm, the reason for which was revealed in TV: The Curse of Fenric.
- Mel reunites with the Doctor and discovers why she left him in this story in PROSE: Head Games.
- In an alternative timeline, Mel died in the crash of the Nosferatu II while travelling with Sabalom Glitz. (NOTDWU: He Jests at Scars...)
- The presence of Glitz implies it takes place after The Mysterious Planet, so it most likely takes place around 2,000,000.
- While in the Land of Fiction library, Ace would later find a fictionalised version of these events in the form of a novel entitled Dragonfire. (PROSE: Conundrum)
Home video and audio releases Edit
- This episode was released on DVD in the Ace Adventures box set, along with The Happiness Patrol, on 7th May 2012.
- Review of the Episode
- Official BBC Episode Guide for Dragonfire
- Detailed synopsis of Dragonfire at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- Dragonfire at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)