Doctor Who Story 151 – Dragonfire
What’s It About?
On the planet Svartos the Doctor and Mel reunite with Sabalom Glitz and embark on a quest to find the treasure of a mythical dragon.
My semester has begun so, as with the previous post, expect me to make occasional connections between what I am studying and what I am watching. And as it happens, I am currently studying Marshall McLuhan in my Religion in Media class, which is relevant to Dragonfire because McLuhan is namedropped. Specifically, one character is named after him. As it turns out, quite a few characters are named after film and media theorists, and I am tempted to find what Briggs was trying to say by referencing them. Here is a quick overview:
- Béla Balázs, Hungarian-Jewish film critic
- Siegfried Kracauer, German theorist who studied the effect of technology on memory
- Marshall McLuhan, Canadian theorist who coined the phrase “the medium is the message,” meaning that medium dictates more to our understanding and cognition than the message communicated
- André Bazin, French film theorist/critic who argued for films portraying “objective reality” rather than the manipulation of reality
- Rudolf Arnheim, German film theorist and psychologist who believed meaning could be perceived through patterns, shapes, and colors and that art, then, was not merely aesthetic but a perception of meaning and the world
- Vsevolod Pudovkin, Russian director
Of these theorists, McLuhan is the one I am most familiar with.
With these pieces in play, it is tempting to find a connection between them, a pattern which links them, in an attempt to discern a larger idea in Dragonfire. Unfortunately, such a connection eludes me. Perhaps Kracauer is a reference to the fleeting memory of what constitutes a Doctor Who story, much as JNT said that the memory cheats. Perhaps McLuhan’s ideas of hot and cold media relate somehow to the dual nature of Svartos with its dark, polar region and hot, sunny region. Or maybe it is all a suggestion to not look too deeply since this is light entertainment, which I doubt because Briggs makes frequent references to film theory, philosophy, and Doctor Who studies. I’m inclined to think that the pieces never quite come together from a critical standpoint.
On the other hand, the story is a fun adventure with references to fantasy epics and adventure. Ace’s introduction has quite a few references to The Wizard of Oz, perhaps another clue to decoding the story. So, even if there is no greater message here, or even if the message fails to manifest, there is plenty to engage with. In all, a fine ending to an enjoyable season. Season 24 is a promising start to a re-working of Doctor Who.