Monday, January 20, 2014

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Dragons

Last Monday in this space I wrote about cult-television knights.  This week, I change course to feature their nemesis: dragons.

A dragon is widely defined as a legendary monster, one with the physical qualities of a lizard or a snake.  Myths of dragons exist in European, Mediterranean, Chinese, and Middle Eastern society.  Some dragons are believed to be winged, while other legends suggest they remain earthbound, living in caves.

Because dragons are difficult to “create” on TV budgets, they have not been seen as frequently as more human-sized monsters or creatures.  Nonetheless, over the years several have appeared in regular series, especially of the animated variety.

In 1992, a Fox sitcom called Scorch ran for just three half-hour episodes before cancellation, but featured the adventures of a small, sarcastic dragon that lived with an American family.  So basically the series was ALF…with scales.  

In this case, Scorch was over a thousand-years old, and was struck by lightning before crash-landing into the Stevens home.  There, he moved in with a Dad (Jonathan Walker) and his daughter, Jessie (Rhea Silver-Smith).

More recently, another “comedy” dragon appeared in the short-lived HBO series Flight of the Conchords in 2007.  In the seventh episode, “Drive By,” an animated serpent called Albi The Magic Dragon appeared in animated form.

Dragon Tales (1999 2005) meanwhile was a children’s show (developed by Land of the Lost star Wesley Eure...) about two children, Max and Emmie, who could use a dragon scale to transport them to Dragon Land, where they met and shared adventures with dragons  such as Ord, Cassie, and the two-headed Zak and Wheezie. 

More recently, two other children’s programs, Dragons: Riders of Berk (2012 – 2013) and Dragons: Defenders of Berk (2013 – 2014) -- based on the 2010 film How to Train Your Dragon (and starring David Tennant…) -- have aired on the Cartoon Network.  This series features such memorable CGI dragon creatures as Toothless, Storm-fly and Thornado.

Animated dragons have also appeared on Ben 10 (as captives to the Forever Knights), but television has generally been bereft of live-action dragons. 

That changed with the arrival of Game of Thrones (2010 - ), an elaborate fantasy series which features the hatching of three dragon eggs, and the development/growth of those dragons.  In particular, the dragons are contextualized in the series as a kind of (living) weapon of mass destruction, and therefore greatly feared.


  1. John fun analysis of Dragons. They are always interesting in stories. Even Lost In Space had dragons.


  2. If I could add a personal recollection:

    Here in the Chicagoland area, we grew up with children's TV host Bill Jackson and his sidekick, Dirty Dragon. Whether he was eating the mail in the post office (on Cartoon Town) or eating the coal in the furnace room (on Gigglesnort Hotel), Dirty was always a trip. Even when he made an appearance (via a man in a life size costume) at a theater in Crest Hill and scared me to death (hey, I was only two!). But Bill Jackson helped calm me down.

  3. Anonymous2:01 AM

    Dragons have always been the standard or most boring fantasy creature in my mind. Nevertheless every movie or TV series has their own interpretation of the creature and only the most cartoonish renditions actually annoy me. I am always surprised how dragons are a succesful part of a movie even though my prejudice is against them.


  4. Sometimes, I think if dragons and dinosaurs still existed then we’d be running and saving our lives just like the people in the movies. It would be fun an adventurous. I am happy about one thing, that kids’ shows don’t show dragons as a threat but as a friend and which is why I like that my kids are not scared of anything now. It all happened because of Andy Yeatman and his shows on Netflix.


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