"If they should break through, run as if something very nasty were after you, because something very nasty will be after you."
After two thoroughly enjoyable adventures from Messrs Holmes and Adams, the Key to Time saga hit its first stumbling block with 'The Stones of Blood'.
It's a story of two very distinct halves: one good, one not so good. The Doctor and Romana's search for the next segment of the Key to Time leads them to Earth where they encounter chanting druid cults (this being the English countryside, the neighbourhood druid cult is naturally run by the local gentry), human sacrifices, and bloodsucking stone circles. Because of this the first two episodes have the feel of the classic Gothic era of Hinchcliffe and Holmes. It never quite reaches the same heights as that era, however, but is still fun, especially whenever the Doctor is interacting with Professor Rumford.
The final two episodes, however, are an absolute mess. It’s like Fisher got bored and just couldn’t be bothered to think up any more story and decided to throw a load of half thought out ideas at the screen. Once the action relocates to a hyperspace ship the whole thing descends into a daffy sci-fi farce as the Doctor is put on trial for the horrendous crime of opening a door. The moment he slips on the barrister’s wig it's clear Tom Baker has no intention of taking any of this even remotely seriously.
And none of it makes a lick of sense. How did Cessair of Diplos escape from the ship in the first place? And why hang around the same part for thousands of years? Escaped prisoners don’t normally set up camp outside the prison walls. And if she has a medallion that allows her to change her appearance why has she stuck to the same face all these years? And what exactly was she trying to achieve in this story? It is never revealed why Cessair is doing what she’s doing, she's just portrayed as one of those villains who do evil things because she is evil.
The stone creatures, the Ogri, had the potential to be a memorable monster, but the production fumbles it. It was a massive mistake to show them moving about. As with the Weeping Angels, they should’ve only moved when no one was looking at them. They lose all menace the instant we see them rolling around like they're on skateboards.
Name Drop Alert
The Doctor mentions meeting Albert Einstein and John Aubrey and says that Aubrey had a great sense of humour. He also thinks that he invented Druidism as a joke.
Notes and Quotes
--The original cliffhanger to Episode 1 would've seen Cessair, disguised as the Doctor, pushing Romana off the cliff. Tom Baker objected to this as he thought it would be upsetting for children and the scene was changed to never show who pushed Romana. Shame really, because that would've been a great cliff-hanger.
--The location used for stone circle was Rollright Stones near to the village of Long Compton on the borders of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire.
--Romana, those shoes do look fabulous, but they are completely wrong for the line of work you are currently in. Not suitable for running at all.
--Love how the Doctor just throws away his umbrella when he realises it isn't going to rain. Exactly the sort of thing he would do.
--The series celebrated its fifteenth anniversary five days after the broadcast of Episode 4. Anthony Read had asked David Fisher to write a new scene where Romana and K-9 surprise the Doctor with a cake celebrating his birthday. However, producer Graham Williams vetoed this idea and the scene was never shot. The cake had already been ordered and was eaten by the cast and crew.
--This was also the series' 100th serial.
The Doctor: “Doesn't the blood upset you then?”
Vivien Fay: “Oh, it'll probably be just another sacrifice.”
Romana: “I thought you told me Earth was civilized now.”
The Doctor: “I hope that knife's been properly sterilized.”
Leonard DeVries: “Blasphemer!”
The Doctor: “No, no, you can catch all sorts of things from a dirty knife- lockjaw, tetanus, not to mention staphylococcal infections...”
Martha: “I won't be a party to this!”
The Doctor: “Good for you!
Romana: “What's that?”
Vivien Fay: “A policeman's truncheon. Last year when she went to lecture in New York, she took it with her in case she got mugged.”
Romana: “And did she get mugged?”
Vivien Fay: “No. She got arrested for carrying an offensive weapon.”
Professor Rumford: “Doctor, did I understand you correctly? That thing is made of stone.”
The Doctor: “Yes and it's closing in on us fast.”
Professor Rumford: “But it's impossible.”
The Doctor: “No it isn't. We're standing still.”
Two out of four Great Seals of Diplos.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.