Sunday 1 November 2020

Inspirations - Dragonfire

Ian Briggs, the writer of Dragonfire, clearly has an interest in cinema and film theory. The plot contains references to a number of movies, and many of the characters have names relating to cinema.
Briggs also has the task of writing out the current companion, Mel, and introducing the new one, Ace.
Producer John Nathan Turner asked for the inclusion of Sabalom Glitz, who is returning from Trial of a Time Lord.
The dragon of the title is the Biomechanoid. Its design is inspired by the Xenomorph from Alien / Aliens. This is most noticeable in the body, with large projections on the back. Aliens is referenced further in the "ANT hunt" in the third episode. Two of the Iceworld staff search for the dragon using motion detectors, and the sequence is clearly supposed to mirror scenes from the Alien sequel - where the creatures close in but can't be seen, their presence only known from the detector sounding.
The new companion, Ace, has the real name Dorothy, and she arrived on Iceworld after being caught up in a time storm. This is a reference to The Wizard of Oz, in which a girl named Dorothy is transported to a fantastical land by a tornado. The Wizard of Oz is best known through the 1939 MGM film version, which starred Judy Garland. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was written by Frank L Baum, and was first published in 1900. Three silent versions of the story were filmed before the 1939 version, one of which featured Oliver Hardy.

The main part of the plot for the first two episodes is a treasure hunt, or Quest type story. We've only ever had a couple of those in the series before - e.g. The Keys of Marinus, "The Key to Time" season.
Characters on a quest, trying to steal a crystal from a dragon might well be a reference to The Hobbit.
The villain of the piece is a man named Kane, the name deriving from Citizen Kane - Orson Welles' 1941 film which many regard as the greatest movie ever made. His criminal background seems to reference Bonnie and Clyde, whose story was filmed in 1967 with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the title roles, one of the most iconic of gangster movies.
Kane's demise, melting in the heat of the sun, is inspired by the deaths of archaeologist Belloq and his Nazi allies at the climax of the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Ronald Lacey, who played the Gestapo man in the film, was considered for the role of Kane).
The cafeteria sequence where the Doctor and Mel meet Glitz, and first encounter Ace, is meant to reference the Mos Eisley Cantina scene in the first Star Wars movie.

Kane's assistants are named Belazs and Kracauer. Belazs gets her name from Bela Balazs (1884 - 1949), the Hungarian film theorist. Kracauer comes from Siegfried Kracauer (1889 - 1966), another film theorist, this time from Germany.
Other characters are named McLuhan - from Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian media studies expert; Bazin - named for the French film critic Andre Bazin; and Podovkin - named for the Russian film director Vsevolod Pudovkin, a contemporary of Sergei Eisenstein. One other character is named Arnheim, from film theorist Rudolph Arnheim.
More film theorist names were intended for other characters, but were dropped.
Glitz's spaceship is called the "Nosferatu", which gets its name from the 1922 filmed version of the Dracula story, directed by F W Murnau.
Some of the dialogue is lifted from the pages of the academic tome Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text, by John Tulloch and Manuel Alvarado. Script Editor Andrew Cartmel had encouraged his new writers to read this, and Briggs quoted from it directly (the "assertion that the semiotic thickness of a performed text varies according to the redundancy of auxiliary performance codes" dialogue).

Moving away from film theory and media studies, the Doctor is seen reading the book The Doctor's Dilemma, a play by George Bernard Shaw first performed in 1906.
In Asian mythology, dragons are supposed to have a crystal in their heads which enables them to fly. This inspired the dragon having the power crystal hidden in its cranium.
The setting of Iceworld is a combination of a frozen foods store (Bejams, which was renamed Iceland) and a motorway services station.
The Doctor's speech to Mel when she announces she is leaving comes from Sylvester McCoy's audition piece.
Next time: the return of the Daleks for the series' 25th Anniversary year, but not in the 25th Anniversary story...

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