|Hello Ace, Goodbye Mel|
I don't blame Sylvester McCoy for this. I like his Doctor so far. He is capable of doing good stuff when given the right material. The end sequence when he's saying farewell to Mel and inviting Ace on board the TARDIS is perfectly pitched. As is his final confrontation with Kane (Edward Peel). Yes, there's a little too much slipping and sliding about in this story and yes, the cliffhanger at the end of part one is the stupidest in the shows history but apart from that I think he's pretty good. Also, as I said a couple of stories back, McCoy shows the Doctor's mind working. You can see him think. I like that.
Dragonfire sees the departure of Bonnie Langford as Mel and her replacement with Sophie Aldred as Ace. I have said all I intend to about Bonnie Langford but she is not too bad in this. A little toned down and a little sidelined if truth be told. Sophie on the other hand is a breath of fresh air. Whilst there are some slightly off moments and the 'down with the kids' style slang can be a bit wearing she does a fine job. Here's a companion with a bit of depth. A woman with issues. She's not easily cowed, carries home made explosives in her bag and does a fine line in minor verbals. We will see how she works out but already she feels more in sync with McCoy's Doctor than Mel ever did.
It's nice to see Tony Selby return as Sabalom Glitz even if - once again - he's an odd character tonally. It's all banter and bluster on the one hand but then we discover he's sold his crew to Kane. It is a bit thrown away really and although initially the Doctor seems to disapprove it doesn't take long before he's wheedled himself back into the Doctor's good books. Although perhaps leaving him in Mel's company at the end is the Doctor's punishment. It isn't the most convincing of reasons for Mel's departure and you'd expect Glitz to dump her on the nearest planet he can. But Selby's performance is as entertaining as it was in Trial.
I also liked Edward Peel's portrayal of Kane. The villain as romantic anti-hero. He's nasty, ruthless and fixated on revenge for his exile and his lover's death. The perfect illustration perhaps of revenge as a dish served cold. The scene where he tries to convince Ace to take his coin and join the ranks of his mercenary army is chilling. No pun intended. It's made more effective by the fact that Ace's possible fate is foreshadowed by Belazs's (Patricia Quinn) story.
There's not much of a plot: ice-cold villain seeks escape from prison in order to wreak his rewenge on those who put him on Iceworld. The Doctor and Mel just happen to stumble in to the end game.
Iceworld itself isn't the most convincing of places. It's either half-supermarket, half-studio or an impressive collection of plastic disguised as ice. The 'Dragon' itself is from the school of 'man in a costume' Doctor Who beasties. Actually the gigantic hole in the plot of this story is quite why it takes Kane three thousand years to get around to hunting down the 'Dragon' in order to escape. Especially as it seems pretty straightforward a task.
My biggest quibble with this story is the cute child sub-plot. Why? And did the child really need to be a Bonnie Langford mini-me? That final shot of the whole story is vomitously twee. The whole sub-plot could be removed from the story and it would make not a jot of difference. In fact it would positively improve the story.
So not a bad story that ends Season 24 with a glimmer of hope. Imagine how you'd feel if Delta and the Bannermen was the last story of season.