Wednesday, March 13, 2013

7G3 - Dragonfire 3

"I suppose it's time I should be going." And with that line, one of the more notable companion departure scenes for one of the least notable companions begins. The scene itself is played well enough by Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford, but there is never a sense of real emotion to be found anywhere. It looks like two characters who have reached a mutual decision to split up, but neither wants to be the one to say it first. You could ask the obvious question of why Mel wanted to leave in the first place, to say nothing of why she would want to become the traveling companion of a rogue pirate in a giant spacecraft shaped like a starfish, but as Mel was a two-dimensional companion from the start, any explanation would have seemed both surprising and expected.

Once Ace was introduced in this story, and to a lesser extent Ray in the previous story, it was clear by comparison that Mel was just not the companion for this new era of Doctor Who. There was no attitude or no edge to Mel. You would never have to worry about telling Bonnie Langford to shave her armpits like John Nathan-Turner famously did to Sophie Aldred. Aldred was yet another iconoclast joining the new wave. Aldred's first appearance in a studio was her first studio session for Dragonfire. Sylvester McCoy fell into acting rather than being properly trained for it, and Andrew Cartmel and his new team of writers came from outside the world of Doctor Who and were completely fresh to this 24-year-old programme. Even the directors were relatively new to the show as well, and John Nathan-Turner, the only obvious holdover from years gone by, was keen to have a new outlook given the strife and controversy of the past two years.

The other sudden relic, in addition to Mel, was a story like Dragonfire. It seems like a Season 15 story stuffed into the late 1980s, even down to the quality of the sets. Season 24 had been a season of great transition, but whereas other notable seasons that ushered in a great deal of change (Season 7 and 18 spring to mind) set the standard for things to come, Season 24 feels like a purge of the old rather than a surge of the new. From now on in the classic run, even when the show brings back established favourites like the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Brigadier, they all add to the mythos of Doctor Who rather than rely on it. Season 24 is made up of 14 episodes that, for the most part, must be endured to understand and appreciate where the show would go from here.


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