Written by Matt Fitton
Directed by Ken Bentley
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Mel), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Ginny Holder (Gloria/Secretary), Des McAleer (Lefty Lonnigan), Stephen Hagan (Nathan Later), Harry Myers (Atomon/Sperovore Banker/Steward), John Banks (Mayor/Sperovore Auditor/Sperovore Financer)
Released by Big Finish July 2016 - buy on Amazon UK
The first in the latest trilogy of adventures seeks to answer the question of what happened to Melanie Bush after the Doctor left her on Iceworld with the nefarious criminal Sabalom Glitz or “bilgebag” as Ace still prefers to call him.
Despite not appearing in person, Glitz casts a long shadow over this story having apparently run out on Mel leaving her to pay off his debts to the intergalactic criminal underworld. Whilst for the Doctor and Ace, the events of Dragonfire were years ago, it’s apparently been a much shorter span of time for the girl from Pease Pottage since her “days like crazy paving” came to an end and Bonnie Langford inhabits the role as if she is returning after a short span of time rather than the best part of three decades.
For those of us now used to seeing her as the maternal Carmel Kazemi in EastEnders, it’s a joy that she is able to recreate her younger persona so effortlessly. It is also a joy to hear her reunited with both Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred, even though their performances seem more in keeping with season 24 than their later stories. Despite the fact that this story is presumably meant to be set at an indeterminate time after the Doctor and Ace’s audio adventures with Hex and Hector, Ace seems to have regained her somewhat more youthful persona and spends the whole story affectionately calling Mel by her old nickname “Donut”, possibly more often than she ever used it on screen.
Dragonfire is not the only television story referenced by ALifeofCrime which also manages to incorporate references to Time and the Rani and Hell Bent (clearly a favourite at Big Finish Towers) amongst others. Also referenced are the popular television series Hustle and the Sperovores are creatures straight from the pages of Lovecraft.
Aside from the three leads who will remain reunited for the next two Big Finish main range outings at least, the other highlight of this play is Ginny Holder as the enigmatic Gloria who appears to have unfinished business at the end of the story and so will likely return before long.
Overall, whilst very much of a lighter tone to the last month’s pseudo-epic TheTwoMasters, this is an enjoyable tale with Mel once again proving that as a character she still has a lot of potential to be explored. Those who look back with nostalgic fondness towards season 24 despite its faults will find this a rewarding listen.