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on 2 February 2012
It's 25 years since these stories appeared on television, and it certainly seems a long time ago since I used to sit in front of the television waiting for 'Wogan' to finish so i could press play/record on the video and tape each episode religiously each week. I know that some 'fans' class these as poor episodes, and that the McCoy era comes in for some stick. but for me they're both part of why I fell in love with Doctor Who in the first place.....and not just for the amazing and gorgeous Sophie Aldred! You'll be able to read plot lines,etc elsewhere (and anyone reading this probably knows the stories quite well anyway). Both of the stories were fairly controversial at the time. The end of Kane - the villain in Dragonfire, not the WWE superstar (though that WOULD have been good) meets a particularly gruesome end (think of the Nazis dying in Raiders of the Lost Ark) and it was deemed too scary for children. The villain in Happiness patrol is the fabulous Kandyman who was criticised for being an evil version of Bertie Bassett! Probably true, but for me Kandyman is one of the greatest, creepiest and overlooked villains in Who-history. The melancholic mouth organ music matches the tone and the guests stars look like they're having a great time. It's maybe nostalgia that makes me give these stories 5 stars, probably Dragonfire deserves 3 but I couldn't mark Happiness Patrol down. Rumours are that Greatest Show in the Galaxy will be out before next year too so I can't wait to head back to Segonax soon! Happy memories, and remember, all those who give it one star (which somebody will) that happiness will prevail.
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This is a box set of two stories from Sylvester Mccoy's era of the show. A cardboard box contains two dvd's, each in their own individual packaging.

Each is a three part story. The first, Dragonfire, was the last story of the twenty fourth season of the show, and was shown in 1987.

The second, the Happiness Patrol, was the second story of the twenty fifth season, and was shown in 1988.

Each is complete on a single disc.

Dragonfire sees the Doctor and Mel visit the planet Svartos. Where they meet rogue spacetrader Sabalom Glitx [previously seen in Doctor Who - The Trial Of A Time Lord [1986] [DVD] and Ace, a teenage girl from Perivale. There's a legendary treasure in the catacombs of the planet. A hunt for it begins. But with a monster on the prowl and Kane, the evil ruler of the planet having schemes of his own, danger awaits.

The Happiness Patrol takes place on Terra Alpha. A planet ruled by a lady called Helen A. Who insists the populace be happy. And anyone who goes against that faces punishment. A fatal one. Will happiness prevail, or will the world change over the course of one long night?

Most will have opinions on these stories already. You either hate the whole era with a passion. Love it regardless. Or think it's brilliant.

The uninitiated will find two stories that have all the problems of Doctor Who of the time production wise: cheap budget. Obvious studio bound settings that are grossly overlit. A tone and style akin to that of a pantomime. And editing for timing reasons leaving vital expsoition on the cutting room floor.

But Dragonfire was facing the edicts of BBC heirarchy who wanted the show made for children. And a production team who'd come into this new era will little prepared and were slowly figuring out where they wanted to go with it. By the end of Dragonfire, they have. Although you have to get past the weakest companion departure scene ever. And that's not the only scene in the script that doesnt come over well on screen. The first cliffhanger making no sense at all.

The Happiness Patrol is from a production team that know what they want to do, but still face some of the above constraints. Sheila Hancock delivers a strong performance as Helen A. Who is not necessarily meant to be Margaret Thatcher, but just comes over that way anyway. But for every good idea of this one there are the above mentioned problems again.

So we have two stories that are not all they could be, but given the problems the show was up against at the time, they both do have their moments.

Each DVD has the following language and subtitle options:

Languages: English.

Subtitles: English.

They are also English audio captioned.

Each DVD has the usual features for this range:

A commentary from various members of cast and crew [but no Sylvester Mccoy on either one].

Production infornation subtitles.

A photo gallery of pictures from the stories and their making.

The Radio Times listings for both stories as PDF files.

Isolated music score.

And a trailer for the next release in this range [naturally it's the same trailer on both discs].

Other features:

Both have making of documentaries. A thirty five minute long one for Dragonfire and a twenty five minute long one on the Happiness Patrol. All the interviews are done against a minimalist background, but each does offer interesting looks at how things that were clear in the scripts didn't come over so well on screen - such as the first cliffhanger in Dragonfire - so they are well worth watching.

Each has deleted and extended scenes. Fifteen minutes worth on Dragonfire and twenty three on the Happiness Patrol. Since both do include the parts of the scenes that made it into the episodes, to put them all in context, these do feel overlong, and don't contain much of substance.

Dragonfire also has:

The Big Bang Theory. A nine minute long feature with a special effects man from the current version of the show looking at visual effects scenes from the old one. Possibly for those interested in this kind of thing more than anyone else, but he's a good interviewee and it does have it's moments.

The Doctor's Strange Love: another fifteen long minute chat from two writers and a comedienne about the show. This time filmed on the set of the TARDIS console roopm from Eleventh Doctor stories. This is stronger than the previous one in this series because it has less attempts at humour and more interesting comment, so it is a thought provoking watch.

As is When Worlds Collide, a forty six minute long documentary on the Happiness Patrol. The story caused a slight stir in the media in 2010 over alleged political leanings. And this looks at how the show has tackled politics and big issues from it's beginning to it's present day. Whilst it concentrates more on the Pertwee era than the others it is a good feature and some of the points it makes at the end are good food for thought.
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on 20 June 2013
how wrong was I!! as a life long Dr Who fan (40 years) The happiness patrol was an adventure I remembered for all the wrong reasons, I honestly believed it was the end of the programme, granted at the time I had many outside distractions as school/college years came to an end. I didn't understand it at the time, a poor story, an uninspiring production, a pantomine it simply appeared like a children's programme and I had outgrown it. As I had loved what Sylvester McCoy & Sophie Aldred did with the main characters and the price was reasonable I bit my tongue and took a chance. Result! a brilliant original story with dark tones and humour aplenty, a fine cast assembled who really give their roles their all. All these years later this adventure still appears fresh and modern with very original ideas. As for the Kandy Man -truly awesome! Sylvester & Sophie bringing a warmth to the programme missing today. Sophie's portrayal of Ace seems to have inspired many of the assistants of recent years. Dragonfire whilst lacking the quality of "happiness" has humour aplenty and introduces "Ace" to the Tardis. Excellent extras have added to my wonderful rediscovery of these adventures, an altogether enjoyable experience.
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on 6 September 2012
And these stories are one of the reasons why. When I first saw this when they were broadcast in the 1980's I thought I would die from embarrassment. Everyone knew I was a 'Who' fan and these really were the nadir for me. I stopped watching after that only to return for the McGann TV movie.
Having watched them again I realise I was probably a tad harsh on them the first time round. Yes, the acting is not the greatest, and yes the storylines and script are weak in places but they still retain a sort of childish charm that I missed the first time round.

I was 19 at the time they first were broadcast and I think that I was worried that stories such as these would damage my 'street cred' (not that my stock of street cred was ever very high to begin with). But I have grown older and I hope a bit wiser and have come to realise that I don't care what anyone else thinks. Fun. That's the word I was looking for. They are unadulterated, nonsensical fun. If you can get in that frame of mind before watching them...Be careful. You might just enjoy yourself.
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on 29 April 2012
Can't wait for this set to come out! Roll on Bank Holiday Monday!! It was just the audacity of the then writers to give the Doctor a dysfunctional working class teenager as a companion that I find insprirng here. I really don't care whether the realsiation isn't top-notch its the integrity of the writing that shines out for me. I do find the Ace/7th Doctor dynamic one of the best ever in the whole series and it's a great pity we never got to see how it ended on screen. Yes, the issued based stuff is of its time but the Doctor as an almost probation officer to the wayward Ace and not doing too grand a job is an intriguing take on the character. Plus Sylv & Sophie do have great on screen chemistry. I'm a 50 year old Who fan and by the mores of fandom I should be slagging these stories off and making everyone avoid them and get Pertwee or T. Baker ones instead - but folks, life isn't that simplistic!! I can even say wholeheartedly that I LOVE the Candyman with his weasley, hysterical voice - just what Capitalism is!!! Ace & the Professor ROCK!!!
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on 9 March 2012
Okay, so Dragonfire does suffer a bit from the transitional wobbliness of Season 24, but The Happiness Patrol is just flat-out brilliant.

It's a satire of Thatcherism through a funhouse mirror, the epitome of Who throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.

And if anybody's embarrassed by a giant evil Bertie Basset robot, they are definitely watching the wrong TV show.

Grumpy old fans hate it. I can think of no better recommendation.
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on 26 April 2012
Two stories from the late 1980s starring Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred.

"Dragonfire" sees the Doctor and Mel arrive on Iceworld where they soon become entangled in a hunt of the fabled treasure guarded by a mysterious dragon. They also meet Ace, explosives expert and gung-ho adventurer. This is a fine tale, holds the attention all the way through. Yes, so it contains what may be the silliest cliffhanger in Dr Who history (unless you count the bath-mat in "Death to the Daleks") and if you haven't seen "Aliens" then the in-jokes involving the little girl will go completely over your head. But it's well-written, looks and sounds great, the dialogue sparkles and Kane is one of the most memorable original villains of the McCoy years. It's nice to see Glitz again as well. It's certainly a credit to the production team that the "melting face" scene (despite the low budget) manages to look much better than the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" version which inspired it.

"The Happiness Patrol" is one of those stories which works on two levels. On the one hand it's a colourful adventure full of outlandish characters and monsters. On the other, it's a sharp and astute political/social satire on all things bland, phoney and shallow (including Thatcherism). I'm sure many will shed a tear during Susan Q's 'meaningless smile' speech in the first episode, or when Helen A (a memorable villain) ultimately discovers she is human after all. Whether they should have stuck to the original Kandyman design is something that's open to debate, but he is without doubt unlike anything ever seen in Dr Who and is certainly the best and most hilariously obnoxious "grotesque" in the show since Sil.

Overall, this is well worth the money. The imagination and creativity of the McCoy era in the face of tight budgets and a hostile BBC really comes over in these stories.
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on 2 February 2012
Excuse the pun there, but I couldn't resist.

I know this doesn't come out for another 3 months yet, but I have seen both stories and I am reviewing them, not the special features.

I was pretty excited when I found out that this was going to be released, as these episodes are two of my favorite of what I have seen of the McCoy Era.

DRAGONFIRE is a very cool story (another pun, not intended), and it's also Mel's last story (Thank God!). I even in some ways like the cringeworthy cliffhanger at the end of part one, in which the Doctor is left hanging from a cliff from his umbrella. It's crazy.

THE HAPPINESS PATROL has a really weird concept, if I am honest. Basically, Happiness is compulsory, or you get 'put out of your misery'. The alien in this story alone makes it worth watching. The Kandyman looks like Mr Bassett gone wrong.

I must say, I am excited for the 17th May!
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on 10 May 2016
I have always enjoyed Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred as The Doctor and Ace. Here we have two fun tales of the last classic Doctor. They show how Sylvester was taking the Doctor in a more serious path and Ace was the perfect companion. Dragonfire sees the departure of Mel. It was a tough ride for Mel in the series and she never really was given her own style and as a result Bonnie Langford struggle with the character.
The second tale is a personal favorite and has The Cybermen who are favorite aliens of mine. The extras are fun and informative good solid entertainment.
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on 8 February 2015
These storys has so much going on for this and is such an enjoyable piece of television. I have seen this story three times now and i still enjoy watching it again, its so underrated. The 7th doctor in my opinion is fantastic and just seems to get better and better by each season i would personally recommend any sylvester mccoy story and yes even Delta and The Bannermen.
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