OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 671
STORY NUMBER: 152
TRANSMITTED: Monday 23 November 1987
WRITER: Ian Briggs
DIRECTOR: Chris Clough
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5.5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: Ace Adventures Box Set (Dragonfire/The Happiness Patrol)
The Doctor and Mel visit the Iceworld colony on the planet of Svartos where they are reunited with a down on his luck Sabalom Glitz and meet waitress Ace. Glitz has a treasure map which he coerces the Doctor into helping him follow, but refuses to take Mel & Ace with them. What Glitz doesn't know is that the seal on the map contains a bug/tracking device enabling local warlord Kane to track them. Ace is fired from her job and then she & Mel are seized by Kane after they try to unblock a passage sealed with ice. Kane tries to coerce Ace into joining his army but she and Mel escape only to be cornered by the dragon creature that leaves in the ice tunnels while the Doctor becomes separates from Glitz and ends up dangling over an ice chasm.
That wasn't bad at all, enjoyed that. Yes the cliffhanger makes no sense as seen on screen with the Doctor literally hanging from a cliff. Personally I think Mel being scared by the sight of the dragon with the monster reveal would have made a better ending to the episode. There's some fun stuff going on here: a frozen food centre on an ice planet would seem to be an obvious Iceland/Iceworld joke.
Back comes Tony Selby as Sabalom Glitz but it's a debut here for Sophie Aldred as new companion Ace. We learn a lot about her very quickly: she's 16, pretending to be 18, from Perivale in the 20th century, a liking for home made explosives which has got her into trouble and transported to Iceworld by a timestorm. That gets picked up in a few years time but was it planned at this stage? Possibly because it's a bit odd for a 20th century girl to be out in space. (apparently not according to the DVD Commentary) They're attempting to give her some attitude here but because this is going out pre watershed she can't swear like any normal teenager would. The outbursts they've given her instead aren't so bad but are immediately undermined by having Mel repeat several of them. The original intention was the character's real name would be Dorothy Gale, just like the character in Wizard of Oz and drawing comparisons between the time storm & the tornado, but the surname never made it to the screen and a different one was used when the character eventually received one in the books..... Ace's costumer involves a jacket adorned with badges, including a pair of Blue Peter badges that Aldred herself had won years before. The red tights under the cycling shorts that are worn for this story just look horrible though!
This was Sophie Aldred's first television job, having previously interviewed as a Kang, for Ray in Delta & The Bannermen (Aldred could ride a motorbike) and for Ace, but by the time this episode aired she'd been seen presenting Corners, a BBC children's program setting her on a career working in children's television and then into voice overwork that continues to this day. Follow her on Twitter as @sophie_aldred.
This episode went out on Doctor Who's 24th anniversary and gained the highest viewing figures for that season. Dragonfire was publicised as the 150th Doctor Who story, which involves some creative accountancy from the BBC as it ignores Shada but counts Trial of a Timelord as 4 stories!
Making a brief appearance in this episode as a former member of Glitz mutinous crew which he has sold to Kane is Sean Blowers as Zed. He'd later be seen as John Hallam in London's Burning alongside Glen Murphy who was Glitz's previous sidekick Dibber in Trial of a Timelord. Meanwhile the mother of the child, who Ace throws the Milkshake over causing her to loose her job, is Shirin Taylor who was the short lived female camper in Stones of Blood.