“Dragonfire” is an uncommon example of a story that bridges two companions. It’s Bonnie Langford’s final serial and Sophie Aldred’s first. Watching these again, I’m forced to concede that Melanie never did really work as a character. The program never told us who she was or why she was traveling with the Doctor, and while Langford’s effervescence and sense of optimism makes her a really watchable person, especially compared to some of the misery-pants who preceded her, it’s not surprising that people tend to forget her.
But Ace is unforgettable. I think she has a great start here, with lots of terrific moments to come. She’s unlike most Doctor Who companions because she’s clearly a badly broken person full of anger who keeps people at arms’ length through rage and very weird insults. She keeps calling Mel “Doughnut,” which might mean she’s disdainful of how sweet Mel is, I guess!
Aldred plays the introspective character stuff incredibly well for an actress new to television, and she really sells Ace trying to be nonchalant when she’s really sad and worried. To be fair, when she’s given a mouthful of ungainly Doctor Who dialogue, she’s about as successful as you or I would be. At one point, her writer makes her ask something like “Do you want to have an argument with a can of deodorant that registers nine on the Richter scale?” That’s the sort of line commercial producers gave Orson Welles when they wanted to piss him off.
“We know a remote farm in Lincolnshire, where Mrs. Buckley lives. In July, Nitro-Nine explodes there…”
Anyway, around these parts, this season went over miles better than “The Trial of a Time Lord.” Our son was blown away by the new title sequence and arrangement of the feem toon, and wouldn’t let me skip through it even once. He says that he can’t decide which of the four stories is his favorite because he liked them all, and his favorite part in this story was surprisingly not the climax, where Edward Peel does his Ronald Lacey impression, but a moment about halfway through part three, where two of Kane’s guards set off a booby trap inside the dead dragon’s head and are electrocuted. And despite the grumble I have about the catacombs and caverns being too close to Iceworld’s surface to believably hide any kind of secret for three thousand years, this was a very good story that’s aged really well. And since the next season is one of my favorites from the entire run of the show, liking this even more than I remembered makes me wonder how much more fun I’ll have this time around.
We’re going to take a break and savor the anticipation for a few weeks though. We’ll watch season twenty-five of Doctor Who in June, but first we’ll have fun looking at something from Who that’s both old and new in just a couple of days, and we’ve got some other great new-to-the-blog programs in the weeks to come, including one I’ve never seen before, so stay tuned!