The Friday Docback Basks In The Glow Of 'Dragonfire'!! DOCTOR WHO Story #147, A Report From Last Weekend's BBC Home Entertainment/Alamo Drafthouse, Aint It Cool News 'Daemons' Screening, A Preview Of Season/Series 7 Daleks, More!
Published at: May 4, 2012, 7:25 a.m. CST by merrick
With a look at “Dragonfire,” a three part McCoy-era DOCTOR WHO adventure initially transmitted November-December 1987 .
THE RECIPIENT OF LAST WEEK’S “CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS” / “THE DAEMONS” DVD GIVEAWAY
... is Roderick L, AL.
The name of game was to write me at, or closest to, a pre-selected time on a pre-selected date. My pre-selected time was Sunday, April 29 at 7:17 PM CST USA. Roderick’s e-mail arrived at 6:27:57 PM CST USA on Sunday, April 29.
Roderick, your contact info has been passed onto BBC Home Entertainment, who are kindly handling fulfillment in this contest. We truly, deeply , appreciate their support and efforts.
Everyone else? Stay tuned. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had other opportunities soonish...
AUSTIN WHOVIANS SEE "THE DAEMONS" (PERTWEE, Story #149) ON THE BIG SCREEN AT LAST WEEKEND'S BBC HOME ENTERTAINMENT, ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE, AINT IT COOL NEWS SCREENING!!
With boundless thanks to John Ary of AICN Toys from his patience and diligence while pulling this reel together...
“This is naff. This is mega-naff. And what’s more, I’m out of nitro.”
Ace, “Dragonfire” Part 3
The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Mel (Bonnie Langford) arrive on Iceworld, a “space trading colony on the dark side of the planet Svartos,” to search for a “dragon” said to exist amidst the facility’s labyrinthine lower levels. Our heroes quickly learn that there’s far more to this metaphorical dragon than meets the eye. Their quest brings them into direct conflict with Iceworld’s overboss Kane (Edward Peel), his army of pseudo-zombified cryo-preserved mercenaries, and introduces them to “Ace” (Sophie Aldred) - who is destined to become the Doctor’s next companion.
“Dragonfire” never advances any particularly grand story notions or game-changing conceits (short of exiting companion Mel and introducing Ace, her replacement), but it does what it does rather well and cleanly. Breezily paced by director Chris Clough and tightly scripted by Ian Briggs, the story is well photographed and features a number of environments which feel immersive and striking...
...despite their sometimes obvious budgetary limitations. Propelled by a dark backstory which is sometimes more compelling than immediate matters at hand, “Dragonfire” gets down to work quickly, goes about it’s business briskly, and is smart enough to never dwell unduly on any one movement. Other than...
The cliffhanger bridging Parts One and Two, which represents what is easily one of the most awkwardly conceived, blocked, and executed moments in DOCTOR WHO history. It features the Doctor deliberately putting himself into an inescapable and literal ‘cliffhanger’ scenario, whose subsequent resolution is skirted, unclear, and awkward. This is absurdity and clunky execution of the highest order - a misstep boldly owned by director Clough.
'It's a complete cock-up' says“Dragonfire" director Chris Clough about the Doctor's ludicrous 'cliffhanger' moment. To be fair, from this angle, you can see what APPEARS to be a ledge below the Doctor...possibly his intended destination? Even if so, nothing about the stunt's execution even vaguley works.
“Ace,” the Doctor’s companion-to-be, is introduced here as a waitress from Earth who was whisked away in a “time storm” and brought to Svartos. This backstory, and why destiny ultimately collided her with the Doctor, is apparently revisited later in the McCoy era. Ace describes herself as something a lost soul, never truly feeling she belonged on Earth...but still finding her footing amongst the stars.
I worked as a waitress in a fast food cafe. Day in, day out, same boring routine. Same boring life. It was all wrong. It didn’t feel like me that was doing it at all. I felt like I’d fallen from another planet, and landed in this strange girl’s body. But it wasn’t me at all. I was meant to be somewhere else. Each night, I’d walk home and I’d look up at the stars through the gaps in the clouds - and I’d try to imagine where I really came from. I dreamed that, one day, everything would come right. I’d be carried off back home, back to my real mum and dad. Then it actually happened...I ended up here. Ended up working as a waitress again. Only this time, I couldn’t dream about going nowhere else. There wasn’t nowhere else to go.” - Ace, “Dragonfire” Part Two
That’s a great and poignant set-up for a companion, and Aldred (who had never performed on-camera before this story) wears it well...confidently holding her own against the larger-than-life likes of Peel’s Kane and Tony Selby’s reprisal of Sabalom Glitz (introduced in “The Mysterious Planet” - C. Baker, Story # 143). The performances of both characters are earnest, welcome, and sometimes luminous - but the nature of their roles themselves points to this story’s greatest shortcoming in the eyes of many fans: derivation.
As presented, Kane is more or less a DOCTOR WHO’s equivalent of BATMAN’s Mister Freeze - albeit without a suit or technological trappings. He requires (and seems to thrive on) the super-coolants which are the heart of his operation. His allergies to heat are disabling and even fatal, he’s able to freeze objects with merely a touch, and he worships the the visage of long lost woman he once admired. That’s Mister Freeze, more or less.
Similarly, it’s hard not to compare Selby’s Glitz - a reckless, card-playing, constantly-in-trouble, anti-authoritarian pirate/smuggler/entrepreneur - to both STAR WARS’ Han Solo and (more appropriately) STAR TREK’s Harry Mudd. Selby brings admirable humor, charm, and timing to his part...but it’s a role we’ve seen before, several times over. Not unlike the “dragon,” which here looks like a low-rent Queen from the ALIEN films. A good thing in this case, as the creature is ultimately hunted by soldiers with big guns and trackers...ALIEN-style. In for a penny, in for a pound I suppose. Less room for confusion that way.
So, in “Dragonfire,” we have an unlikely collision of conceits from three or four mainstream franchises...which admittedly sounds like a very bad thing at face value If this is the case, why does this story remain worthwhile on the whole?
As we’ve discussed a number of times here on the Docbacks, the presence of derivation / “conceits” are not necessarily negative. The original STAR WARS found inspiration in a number of prior sources, including DUNE and early Kurosawa films like THE HIDDEN FORTRESS. The original STAR TREK was, at the very last, influenced by a few Westerns, ‘50s genre fare like FORBIDDEN PLANET, and perhaps even (and this is my musing...I have no evidence to support this...and the timing may not align correctly) a German space exploration series called RAUMPATROUILLE. There’s some BEOWULF in ALIENS, as another example. And the list goes on. Science Fiction, perhaps more than any other genre, is easily influenced and shaped by what has come before. Thus, bashing together conceits often doesn’t, by definition, feel like too significant a travesty. But how such conceits are merged and used...i.e. how organic they become within the new “whole” being created...becomes the critical factor in the effort’s success. The immediate “universe” of “Dragonfire” makes sense, and feels rational enough, despite its sometimes familiar trappings. Thus, derivation ultimately serves the story at hand quite nicely, and scripter Briggs wisely throws enough curve-balls to effectively counterbalance the potentially bad aftertastes of such aping. A dodgy and dangerous game to be sure, but a challenge which is nicely met here.
McCoy’s Doctor attempting to distract and confound an apparently thuggish guard, only to find himself reversely distracted and confounded by the man’s unexpectedly existential, philosophical nature, proves one of the more humorous McCoy era sequences I’ve experienced thus far - for my money, nothing’s funnier than flummoxing one’s hero. Lovely effects work in Part Two features a pan downward from the frozen spires of Iceworld...across Svartos’ desolate and darkened surface...to the opposite crescent of the planet, which is radiating luminous heat. A nicely conceived and strongly executed moment. Briggs’ audacious inclusion of a brief side adventure, featuring outgoing companion Mel and new companion Ace in protracted sequences together before Mel’s exit from the show, is to be commended for both it cleverness and audacity. A fascinating means by which we say goodbye to one friend, and greet another.
On Iceworld, not even rampaging cryo-mercs and mysterious laser-pulsing 'dragon' monsters can keep sweet Stellar (Miranda Borman) from her milkshake.
Zippy, visually distinctive, and interesting (in a comic book sort of way) throughout, “Dragonfire” never achieves any meaningful level of gravity, and often feels like it’s merely skirting compelling notions rather than investing in them fully. But to clumsily paraphrase BABYLON 5’s J. Michael Straczynski, part of telling one's story well involves knowing how to go in with guns blazing and get the hell out of there. This approach is exactly what “Dragonfire” banks on, and, all things being equal, the gamble pretty much pays off.
The newly restored “Dragonfire” is available on DVD HERE in the U.S. and HERE in the U.K.
Special Features include...
Fire and Ice (35:07)
A look at the making of this episodes, featuring insight from...
-- Andrew Cartmel (Script Editor)
-- Ian Briggs (“Dragonfire” writer)
-- Chris Clough (“Dragonfire” director)
-- Edward Peel (Kane)
-- Sophie Aldred (companion “Ace,” introduced in this story)
1) a Docback should be about completely open and free discourse regarding all things WHO with, obviously, some variation on subject matter from time to time - the real world intervenes, discussions of other shows are inevitable, etc.)...
2) matters of SPOILAGE should be handled with thoughtful consideration and sensitivity. Posts containing SPOILERS should clearly state that a SPOILER exists in its topic/headline and should never state the spoiler itself . "** SPOILER ** Regarding Rory" is OK, for example. "** SPOILER ** Battle of Zarathustra" is fine as well. " **SPOILER** Why did everyone die?" Is NOT good.
And, above all...
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In short, it's easy. Be excellent to each other. Now party on...
Ray would have been a better companion than Ace, along with the silly stuff surrounding how Ace came to be with the Doctor. You can tell the deal with Mel leaving was tacked on the end of this story at a late stage. Aside from the literal cliffhanger this was a good story.
George Gallaccio (Production Unit Manager), Robert Holmes (script editor), Graeme Harper (production assistant), Douglas Camfield (director), Philip Hinchcliffe (producer), Christopher Baker (production assistant), Robert Banks Stewart (writer), and Christopher Barry (director).
And that's got to be a wonderful way to win bar bets at conventions: "How many actors with the last name Baker have played the Doctor?"
It was around the time that watching the show became virtually impossible, as the parenthese controlled the telly those nights, and they felt that Who wasn't worth 30 minutes of my time. It was rare to get a chance to watch it.
I remember figuring out that this new kid Ace was either going to be the new companion, or she was gonna be killed in the final episode.
In those days, there may have been tabloid news stories about cast replacements, but I was a nipper who never read a newspaper.
When Bonnie Langford was going, I was torn between shouting for joy, and actually surprisingly getting caught up in the scene.
If she and her Doctor(s) had been given that level of material to work with in the past, maybe I wouldn't have hated her presence so much.
Terry Walsh - he has doubled for Pertwee and Tom Baker, most notably handling a lot of the battle in The Sontaran Experiment when Baker had broken his collarbone.
(Yes, I agree that we shouldn't be spamming the list like that any more. But, if people want a complete list of Doctors, let's make sure the list is completely complete, instead of incompletely complete. ;) )
Ironically, this story seemed to be a highlight for Season 24. Oh, how low the bar was set. It seemed like, despite the cliffhanger for episode 1, Doctor Who was starting to claw its way out of the morass that it had sunk into. Getting an episode that seemed okay seemed a victory for that year. To be fair, though, a lot of the issues for the year seemed to be production issues as much as or more than script issues (the cliffhanger in this story made sense in the script, but wasn't set up right in the studio). Of course, with that last statement I have to say that in the case of Time and the Rani it all started at the script and nothing in the production could really overcome it.
I think there was a massed Huzzah! let out by fandom when Mel left, but she did get one of the better leaving scenes in the series. Not as good as others - I suspect that the best companion's leaving bit would be either Ian and Barbara, or (more cynically) Adric, but people's mileage may vary on this one. (I would say the other contenders would be Susan, Jamie and Zoe, Jo, Sarah Jane, Rose (season 2, not the season 4 bit) and Donna. I suspect that we are going to end up with the Ponds in contention for best leaving after this year.) Still, at least they didn't have her suddenly wanting to get married to Glitz (*cough* Leela) or just wandering off during the middle of a story (*cough* Dodo *cough cough*)
For the old show, Ace was my favorite post-Leela-or-Romana companion. And for that matter, one of my favorites pre-Sarah Jane (though I'll match the original crew or Jamie as a companion. Now, there would be a match - the Doctor running around with Jamie and Ace. It's a shame we didn't get this as a story, Jamie having to be the voice of restraint for Ace...)
I agree 100% with your assessment re: S24 and Dragonfire. It really did seem like a glimmer of hope for better episodes to come, didn't it?
Oh, and when you talk about Leela suddenly getting married, don't forget Peri as well. :)
in the script, the Doctor had reached a dead end to the passage, and had to lower himself down to be able to continue moving. It didn't come across this way on the screen, it seems more like he just came up with the idea out of the blue that he wanted to dangle from his umbrella instead of walking down a pathway.
...the jewel in season 24's crown. Or, more accurately, the sweetcorn in the the turd that was season 24. I actually really like Dragonfire, it dropped the pantomime shitness and hammy scripting of the other S24 stories, and actually dared to have such things as action, pace and a decent monster. Plus Ace was fit and we got shot of Bonnie bleeding Langford. Result!!!
Plenty of fake Beatles out there; you find the right story, and it would be a hoot...
Ah - there you go - Beatles come to America, 1964. Then, pull an Attack of the Killer Tomatoes with The Silence with their -Wooos- in I wanna Hold Your Hand...
OK. I've amused myself now...
Always thought that was a really cool change to the Daleks, and I was disappointed that they didn't go further with having more specialized types of Dalek. Could have made them much more interesting. I recall Dr Who magazine having a comic (Emperor of the Daleks, I believe) that detailed how Davros obtained his renegade Dalek army (got them from Spiridon[!] with some help from The Doctor). In it, they had a "psyche Dalek" which was essentially a giant brain in a glass bulb mounted on a Dalek chassis. Not the most practical design, but it was a nice change.
My heart left the original series in the Colin Baker's unfortunte first episode and never really returned. I liked Sylvester McCoy a lot as an actor, but when it came to the show as a whole, my eye was never as forgiving in his time as it might have been when I was younger. As a result, Dragonfire was one of those stories that I just couldn't look at without cringing (I actually don't remember the plot at all, just my pained reactions while trying to watch a tape a few years after having missed the original broadcast).
Edmond Warwick stood-in as the Doctor when Hartnell was away having a rest cure.
Also played Darrius in The Chase - yet another instance where the Doctor took a body from someone he met was going to meet.
Especially that moment with the guard. Hilarious. And we're introduced to spunky Ace, who I love quite a bit.
I'll be getting the restored DVD. The effects were hit and miss, weren't they? But when they got it right, many shots looked pretty amazing.
Hallo! Just a quick reminder that series 2 of Sherlock airs tonight in the States on PBS. Not sure what time it's on, so check your local listings.
Support the show in the States and you may just get a shorter wait time next year...
I thought that the original went a full 90 minutes. They had interruptions last night for their regular Masterpiece Mystery credits and the intro by Cumming (?) and still finished 5 minutes or so before I expected it to.
I'll have to go back and check the timing on the original.
Sadly, due to a shorter time slot on PBS, cuts had to be made to the show. PBS didn't cut the show though, the makers of Sherlock decided what to cut out to fit with PBS's time slot.
The full version will be made available to buy at a later date though.
Hope it didn't affect your enjoyment of the show too much!
It didn't affect my enjoyment, I was just puzzled. I saw the episodes originally in January *cough cough* and thought the time looked a bit different, but couldn't remember what had been in there originally that got cut.
As long as it's the original versions that come out on the DVD later this month, it's all fine.
Yes, it is true, I am one of the vanishing few who can truthfully claim to be older than The Doctor.
As to the HAT, consider the situation in Time and Space but situate the exterior of the TARDIS so that its door opened directly onto the interior's egress.
Of course the doors might get in the way but happily they both open inwards and outwards. So opening the left in and the right out means it is possible for someone to walk directly through from one side to the other.
BUT the inside/outside mapping results in a curious inversion. From the point of view of an independent inhabitant of the machine, the person making the transition has just been reflected - right to left, left to right.
Now we need merely perform some nanoscale surgery to saw the person down the middle and glue two of the halves together - voila, two hearts!
Of course the surgery has to be a little more drastic than that - peoples' guts are startlingly asymmetrical - but if we get this far the rest is comparatively easy to do.
And since we get two left-over halves we can glue them back together with no hearts. Well, an artificial heart and leftovers. Plonk them back wherever you got 'em from and few would be the wiser.
Now imagine the kissing doors with a time differential and a future person walks back into their own past. Now there are 2, they walk back into the future. Then close the doors and wait out the time differential.
Question: how did those 2 people get into that TARDIS when a moment before there were 0 people in that TARDIS.
Now the 2 open the doors and walk into the earlier TARDIS. Sit there flirting with each other and lose track of time until the time differential is exhausted and don't go through the doors again. What happens?
I assume you're all aware of this, but if you're not, please read the article! It all got a bit silly in the end...
I always find myself wanting to say Cummerbund for Benedict's last name, though I hadn't felt any need to change the first name to Bandersnatch.
I certainly can't blame him for what he said to the Masterpiece person. And, to be fair to Benedict, I don't see CBS rushing out to make a thinly veiled ripoff of Downtown Abbey despite its getting a Golden Globe.
The 2012 MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival takes place over the 23-25th August, and will include an exclusive screening of the premier episode of the seventh full series of modern Doctor Who for delegates at the event.
I would suspect that it wouldn't be that much later after that for the episode to show on the air, so we're probably looking at a start date sometime in September. That gives them plenty of time to show the first 5 episodes and put out a DVD for the first part of the season in November for holiday sales.
Using the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival as a guide, I think you're probably right about the start date for series 7.
Hasn't the time flown by? Before we know it, the opening episode will be but a memory...
1 chance in 12 yours was November of last year. Wildly improbable, nothing to it, bad form to ask, move along ...
Actually it was a pretty good day. Last year I bit the bullet and finally dropped a couple family members whose roles in my life had for decades consisted of nothing but stress induction. So 50 was a quiet, gentle birthday. In outrageously good health (thanks, LDN), business good and getting better, and feel like I'm getting that burst of neuron growth that's supposed to accompany the age.
But ... well in face in real life I do wear a hat. I got wedded to it the couple of years I lived in the rainforest. You don't mind being wet in a rainforest, you see - it's always misting down - but you don't want it running into your eyes. And then when it's sunny it's fierce so you want something to keep it off, etc.
My old Akubra was purchased from Strand Hatters in Sydney 20 years back so naturally when it developed holes in the peak I went there for a replacement. After a few months it arrived and I went to get it shaped and the salesman asked politely how old my old hat was. And when I told him he said the new one should last at least that long - how old would I be when I came in to replace it?
And then I felt 50.