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Doctor Who Ace Adventures DragonFire / Happiness Patrol DVD Review - -
Doctor Who Ace Adventures DragonFire / Happiness Patrol DVD
Reviewed by
Chris Tyler
Doctor Who Ace Adventures DragonFire / Happiness Patrol DVD Review This collection is the lingering memory of a story that is a hot mess.  There’s just too much going on.

Feature 5.0
Video 6.0
Audio 6.0
Special Features 6.5
Total 6.0
Distributor: BBC
Running Time: 192 Minutes
Reviewer: Chris Tyler
: PG


Doctor Who Ace Adventures
DragonFire / Happiness Patrol


Taken from the polarising Season 24; Dragonfire represents both the best and the worst that the 7th Doctor’s tenure has to offer. Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice about the episode is the completely uneven tone.  Hardened criminals and aliens gather at Ice World’s seemingly only working bar to drink milkshakes but Kane (the stations resident despot) murders people in graphic ways with no thought for the little ones. We can’t show people drinking alcohol; it might take time from their killing sprees. There is a large element of pantomime in this story; people have to deliver large chunks of expeditionary dialogue without pausing for breath like they are trying to throw up a very wordy hairball. Yet there are things to like here too, Kane’s face melting still looks pretty cool and the section where the Doctor tries to distract a guard by engaging in a philosophical discourse owes a lot to Douglas Adams and is actually pretty funny.  I have mixed feelings about Ace who gets introduced in this episode.  Obviously I had a huge crush on her when I was 15 but she’s a lot more annoying now and she spouts this terrible pseudo profane dialogue. People get called “Toe rags” and “Bilge rats” with alarming regularity. Still she’s better than Mel; just not that much.

Mel is here too and I know that the official line in Doctor Who circles is that she got a hard deal and she’s really a fantastic actress and people only didn’t like her because of her reputation. Bollocks. She just can’t act. In fact she is such a bad actress famous comments have been made about it. Noël Coward said of her after watching a play in which she appeared and in which a horse had defecated on the stage, "If they had shoved the child's head up the horse's arse they would have solved two problems at once."

The “horse” in this case is the Dragon. I guess it would be negligent to write a review about Dragonfire without mentioning the infamous scene where the Doctor carefully climbs over a precipice only to dangle from his umbrella for no apparent reason. A literal cliff-hanger as it were. And yes it’s still here and yes it still makes no sense. And the fact that at the time the BBC refused to comment and the writer said that the explanation would be in the novelisation doesn’t help.   It is explained here sort of; apparently it made sense in the script but the explanation for it didn’t make it to screen.

And whilst I love the Kane melting scene he’s a very compliant villain who conveniently decides to commit suicide as soon as there’s a slight crimp in his plans.

All in all not the worst story but certainly not the best and its obvious deficiencies are not made up by its moments of brilliance.

Video: Video quality is consistent of a program of this age but seems fine.  

Audio: Has obviously been cleaned up and doesn’t suffer from any of that annoying clipping that plagued early releases of Sylvester McCoy’s stuff. Stereo Only.

Special Features:

Sophie Aldred what the hell are you wearing? Just kidding that’s not what it’s called but it should be. Fire and Ice is a retrospective on this story. Sophie is seen here sporting bright red knitted bobble hat and a strange bright red knitted cardigan. She also talks about her debut story but I have no idea what she said because I was too distracted by her outfit.

The Doctors Strange Love: What this again? Who are these people? I don’t care what you think about Doctor Who. Go away!

Deleted and extended scenes: Yeah, like this needs to be longer.

The Big Bang Theory: Have we really run out of things to say about Doctor Who? If this feature is anything to go by, yes, yes we have. Marvel as the world’s most uncharismatic man takes us though some of the explosive highlights of the last 50 years and then sucks all the fun out of them by talking about OH&S.

The Happiness Patrol.

One of the “Oddball” stories from season 25. The Happiness Patrol has always divided fans. Some love it; some hate it and the truth is, as usual, somewhere in between.  The Happiness Patrol deserves neither the derision that its haters pile on it nor the fanatical love that its supporters seem to have for it.

The Doctor and Ace arrive on a planet that the Doctor has been hearing rumours about.  It turns out that it is a dystopian nightmare, a place where everyone is forced to be happy all the time, where an hint of sadness is met with execution or “disappearance.”  In many ways it’s the classic Doctor Who story.  The doctor arrives on a planet and discovers something gone wrong, undertakes to fix it and his companion gets into trouble and needs rescuing. But The Happiness Patrol is both more and less than that. There is some good atmosphere, some good dialogue and it looks like it’s going to be a good creepy story, right up till the point where the “Candyman” arrives. Silly doesn’t begin to cover it. It might be perfectly legitimate in a sci-fi show to have a robot that is made of candy that looks like the Bertie Basset mascot after all in an infinite universe everything has been built. Should such a creature come after me I might run, I might even be scared but I’d also be sniggering. Over lit and under directed;  The Happiness Patrol will never be a classic episode but it has some good moments.

The bit where the Doctor talks about guns and their philosophy to someone pointing a gun at him is pretty good. Ace is much better here but there’s some terrible acting not the least of which comes from Sylvester. Sometimes he’s great but sometimes he’s just mugging for the camera. At three episodes The Happiness Patrol could hardly be accused of outstaying its welcome but there is little incentive to go back and sample its’ charms. The lingering memory of the story is of it being a hot mess, the sewer dwellers might have seemed like a good addition to the story but they are just too much and have too little to do as well as not looking very good.  There’s just too much going on.

Video: Video Quality is consistent of a program of this age but seems fine.  

Audio: Has obviously been cleaned up and doesn’t suffer from any of that annoying clipping that plagued early releases of Sylvester McCoy’s stuff. Stereo only.

Special Features:

Happiness Will Prevail: The makers of this serial don’t seem delusional about how good this story is, (well apart from Andrew Cartmel obviously) but they are viewing this mess through rose coloured glasses that’s for sure. Apart from that, it’s a fine retrospective.

Deleted and Extended Scenes: See comments regarding similar in Dragonfire.

When Worlds Collide: A vaguely interesting documentary about Doctor Who’s political leanings through the years featuring some of your favourite Doctor Who alumni; Terrance Dicks, Barry Letts, Bob Baker et al.



Feature: 4.5/10

Audio: 6/10

Video: 6/10

Special Features: 6/10

Overall: 5/10

The Happiness Patrol

Feature: 5/10

Audio: 6/10

Video: 6/10

Special Feature:7/10

Overall: 6/10 


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