Friday, July 9, 2010

Serial 100: The Stones of Blood - The Key to Time Part 3

Doctor: Tom Baker (4th Doctor)

Companions: Romana I, K-9

Written by: David Fisher
Directed by: Darrol Blake

Editor's Note: Still on the Key to Time, kids. I needed a break after the one-two punch of the beginning of the week, but I'll see you back here Monday with "The Androids of Tara". For now, just sit back and enjoy Cassandra's discussion of "The Stones of Blood".

Background & Significance: It's the week of Halloween, 1978. What should you be watching to get you in the spooky scary mood?

Why, "The Stones of Blood", of course!

The third serial in Doctor Who's sixteenth season and coincidentally the third installment in the epic Key to Time, it's important for a couple of reasons. The main one being that this lovely serial happened to be the 100th broadcast story in the show's long history.


To ring in the auspicious occasion, writer David Fisher was commissioned to pen this adventure, the first of four Who stories he would be asked to write, including next week's "The Androids of Tara" and the previously reviewed "The Leisure Hive".

Unfortunately, no asparagus people in this, but plenty of supernatural hijinx and ultimately a story that starts off awesome and ends up disappointing.

But enough of that buzzkill, we'll get to that soon enough, I'm sure. Let's take a closer look, shall we?


Part 1:

We open on the TARDIS spinning around in the time vortex like the magical machine she is.

I laughed so much during this.

Then we get a glimpse of the two pieces of The Key to Time. The Doctor, fresh from their last adventure, tries to put them together while Romana looks on in adoration and respect, like any good assistant should.

But that doesn't last very long, and Romana takes the pieces away from the Doctor's fumbling fingers and puts them together quite easily. She says she's good at puzzles. I say she's a bitch.

Adding insult to injury, she then instructs the Doctor to go take the tracker to the TARDIS console and figure out where the next piece is. Fortunately, he manages to catch himself and say it was his idea. Well done, Doctor. You sure showed her.

So the Doctor discovers where they're headed next and gets this big cheesy grin on his face.

Oh man. Doctor, does this mean it's gonna be good?

And then we cut away to the full moon hiding behind some clouds and this.

In case you can't tell, it's a stone circle.

At this point, I got really excited because I thought it was Stonehenge and then my brain went directly to this.


Anyway. So it's a full moon and it's dark, and there's a creepy stone circle on the moor. You know what that means. There's beasties afoot.

So a bunch of these guys in tacky robes file out of the darkness and into the circle. It's all very scary and impressive.

And that's when they start chanting.

We see the moon again and leader guy walks around with two bowls and pours whatever's inside them on the stones. Let's assume it's blood, since that's the title of the serial and everything.

After he pours the blood on the stones, things start to get interesting. And by interesting I mean the stones start glowing all radioactive like. And by glowing all radioactive like I mean like this.


Oh, and not only do they glow, but there's also this garbled sound effect of a loud, beating heart, ala Poe.

Double weird.

We then return back to the TARDIS, where the Doctor gets a lesson concerning females and the time it takes them to get dressed. When Romana finally steps out into the main room, she looks like this.

The Doctor questions her choice in footwear, which happen to be some very stylish heels. Super cute. I'm actually kind of jealous of them. Romana gets concerned and goes to change into something more appropriate for tramping around the moors.

Tackiest. Hooker shoes. Ever.

But the Doctor waves her away because some loud echo-y voice is saying "Beware the Black Guardian."

Romana's confused. Who the hell's the Black Guardian?

So the Doctor breaks the news to her: she wasn't sent by the Time Lord President, but by the White Guardian disguised as the Time Lord President. There's some exposition saying that, like the pieces of the Keys, the Guardians can also assume any form they wish.

They talk about this for a while, and it feels like the writer's just catching up those who missed out on the premise of the first two serials. But we've been along for the ride since the beginning and know what's up, so we can move on.

K-9 shows up! And then an alarm starts beeping. The Doctor says they've arrived. And apparently everyone in the universe knows the Doctor's favorite planet is Earth. Cool.

He instructs Romana on some local slang, which all results in K-9 erasing everything he has in his memory bank concerning tennis. No, I'm not joking.

I f*cking love K-9.

The two Time Lords leave the tin dog on guard duty and go tramping about on the moor in search of the third segment of the Key. They find some huge indentations in the ground. Romana explains it away, but the Doctor is not convinced.

The tracer points ahead toward the stone circle featured earlier, and off they go.

Once there, the Doctor shows off his knowledge about megalithic stone circles and the sorts of things they were used for, once upon a time. It's terribly interesting, if you go for that sort of thing.

Romana starts to test if one of the stones might be the Key, but then she's surprised by one Professor Amelia Rumford. The Doctor chats her up. She's under the impression that she's met him before. It's all very charming.

Professor Rumford talks about how the different surveys of the area over the years include different numbers for the stone circle (apparently called "The Nine Travelers") and how odd that is. But the Doctor has no time for such archeological prattle, there's dried blood on the ground.

Looks like he's about to play some leapfrog.

A voice chalks it up to some sort of sacrifice. And that voice belongs to Vivien Fay, a friend of Professor Rumford's, come to help out with the survey.

Sacrifices? But Doctor, you told Romana Earth was civilized now.

Oh, apparently it's just some group of Druidic Studies people who play at being Pagans in the circle at night. Well, that's all right then.

Apparently their leader, a Mister de Vries, lives in a large house a couple miles away. The Doctor feels the urge to investigate, and leaves Romana behind to keep a lookout on the two ladies. Once the Doctor's gone, they indulge in some male bashing before getting to work. That's how you can tell these are progressive, strong female characters, after all. (Ugh.)

Romana gets a lesson in surveying and 70s feminism.

And I guess Romana's never seen a crow before, because one shows up and she asks what it is. She says it looks evil. I completely agree. Stupid birds.

Off somewhere, dude in a robe lights a fire in an ornate jar. Looks like some kind of ritual. Could this be the same guy from the beginning with the bowls of blood?

Why, indeed he is.

He and a woman pray to Cailleach, goddess of war and magic. Dude says the name funny. Meanwhile, the Doctor arrives at the estate. Apparently his arrival is prophesied? There's a bad pick-up line in there somewhere.

Because he is an impatient soul, and de Vries is changing out of his wizard robes, the Doctor sneaks into the house to have a look.

There's a bunch of portraits on the wall, and de Vries finally shows up and explains them all to the Doctor, like a good host... Even the three that are obviously missing.

There's some ominous music, and out in the circle, Romana looks up and notices they're being stalked by crows.

The survey work being done for the day, Professor Rumford and Vivien invite Romana over to Vivien's cottage for some tea and sandwiches. It all sounds like a grand time. But Romana is a party pooper and insists on waiting for the Doctor. Unlike others, she gets the first rule about being a Companion and not wandering off.

There's an long close up shot of a raven for some reason and then we see the Doctor and Mister de Vries enjoying some alcohol. The Doctor questions de Vries on how he knew his name, but he gets out of it by firing back with another question. Clever.

De Vries explains his religious preferences and the Doctor calls it boring. Ha. That's what you get for being a filthy goddess-worshiping Pagan, de Vries.

And then we get a glimpse of this thing.

I pretty much died laughing here.

I had no idea birds were supposed to have dreadlocks.

The Doctor goes to take a closer look and de Vries whacks him on the back of the head for insulting his tree hugging ways.

Lesson learned: Never cross a fake Druid.

Back at the circle, Romana hears a voice calling for her. The Doctor's voice.

But what? He just got knocked out two miles away. Curious.

She then decides to break the first rule of being a Companion and wanders off. Barefoot.

Reaching a cliff, she looks down. Nothing but the sea. Where's the Doctor's voice coming from then? It led her here, didn't it?

And then she steps backwards and falls off the edge of the cliff, screaming at someone.

Part 2:

We come back from the cliffhanger and find Romana hanging off a cliff. Oh that David Fisher. What a wit.

I also love obvious blue screen sea below her.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is still unconscious, only now he's tied to a rock in the middle of the stone circle.

Oh noes!

The woman de Vries was chanting with in the house earlier runs forward and protests the scenario. Perhaps she's jealous she's not the one getting all tied up-- Oh, wait, no, sorry, it's murder.

... Say what?

And then it comes out that de Vries wants to slit the Doctor's throat. A blood sacrifice to the Goddess.

As the tension continues to mount, we cut away to Romana. Who is still hanging on a cliff. That was exciting. Let's go back to the circle.

So then the Doctor decides it's time to wake up and bid his assailants a cheerful hello.


He tries to have a chat with de Vries about the importance of sterilizing sacrificial knives, and whether the Goddess rides a bike, but he just keeps shouting about blasphemy, so that goes nowhere.

Wait, Doctor, did you say bicycle?

Very conveniently, Professor Rumford shows up on a bicycle to rescue him from the crazy Druids. She cuts him free, hopefully with a knife that is properly sterilized this time.

Professor Rumford explains that the reason she was so conveniently around is because she wanted to give Romana a flask of tea. The Doctor doesn't understand this, because surely Romana was with the Professor the whole time?

No, Doctor, Romana's still chilling out on the cliff.

Professor Rumford and the Doctor call out for Romana but it's no use. They'll have to wait til morning to organize a search party, unless they could get a dog from somewhere...

K-9 to the rescue.

K-9 locates Romana easily, but when he says that the Doctor is with her she flips out. Huh what?

The Doctor tosses Romana his scarf to let her climb up, but she's under the impression that he pushed her off the edge of the cliff.

Oh, but wait, the segments of the Key to Time can transform the appearance of anything. So someone around here's got it, knows how it works, and isn't afraid of killing people. That, friends, is called upping the stakes.

The three of them head back to the TARDIS so Romana can change. Now she looks like a wine-colored gypsy.

Back at the circle, Professor Rumford is worried because the Doctor hasn't shown up yet. Vivien is there for moral support and tea.

The Doctor, Romana, and K-9 sneak up on the circle. Romana tries the tracer again. Lo and behold, the signal is back, even though it wasn't there earlier. Hmmm...

They join up with Professor Rumford and Vivien and have a marvelous party. Eh, not really, but the Doctor asks Professor Rumford if she can show Romana her notes on the area and she gets really excited.

Apparently unfazed by the attempted human sacrifice earlier, the Doctor decides to go hit up de Vries again.

At his place, de Vries... Ah, forget it. I'll just youtube it.

So... yeah. That happened.

Back at Vivien's cottage, Romana is going over Professor Rumford's piles of notes. Vivien shows up with sandwiches. (Heh.)

They talk about boring things and then Romana observes that the land the stone circle stands on and the surrounding area has always been owned by a woman. Well that's cool. Then Vivien's a downer and craps all over Romana's burgeoning theory about some sisterhood or something.

Also, check out her bling.

Romana wants to go to de Vries' house, because 700 years ago a convent was there and all the land used to belong to the Mother Superior, and maybe there's some records there to further prove her theory. Professor Rumford is all for going, but Vivien begs an excuse to stay and enjoy her sandwiches.

They find the hall in ruins. But more awful than the hall being in ruins is this sight:

Poor K-9. =(

The Doctor tries to suss out what happened to K-9, but all his circuitry is messed up from giant rock creature.

Romana comes up with a way to save him and takes him back to the TARDIS while the Doctor and the Professor go after the creature. The Doctor informs us that the creature lives on blood. Dun dun dunnnnnn.

And then we see this delightful thing again.

Lady Gaga is jealous.

Whoever's wearing the costume has taken the bodies of de Vries and the woman, and proceeds to pour their blood onto another of the stones in the circle. It goes all glowy and Tell-Tale-Heart-y.

Back at the hall, the Doctor and Professor Rumford are searching for... the Goddess?

Somehow the Doctor connects the missing paintings with attaining his goal. I don't know. It's all rather shady. The Doctor strokes a stone carving of a raven and a secret passageway opens in the wall.

Good birdie. Nice birdie.

Romana hooks up K-9 to the TARDIS after messing around in his insides and goes outside to take a breather. Circuit surgery is rather trying.

That's when she notices she's getting stalked by birds again.

Down in the secret passageway, the Doctor discovers the missing paintings are all of the same woman.

Gasp. It's Vivien!

For some reason Romana's off tramping through the woods near the circle. Vivien finds her. And then she uses her magic wand to make Romana disappear. (What is it with the Romana cliffhangers? Honestly.)

Part 3:

So I guess Vivien Fay is the Cailleach. That's nifty.

Down in the cellar, The Doctor's got company.

Hulk smash.

They pimp out of there but there's another outside waiting for them. It busts through the gate. At this point, I get the feeling these stones enjoy dramatically destructive entrances through windows and doors. Maybe they make a game out of it. Who knows.

Then this happens. And you just have to see it for yourself.

Hahahaha. I flipping love that.

Vivien's doing something weird with her magic wand when the Doctor and Professor Rumford find her. (Oh that is just filthy.)

There's a confrontation and Vivien drops the news that she's got Romana.


And apparently she's got a static electricity forcefield around her. Oh so that's what she was doing. Right.

Then she disappears.

There's some exposition in which the Doctor identifies the rock creatures as Ogri, silica-based creatures that absorb simple proteins, hence the blood sacrifices. Good lord, this is starting to sound like my biology class.

So the Doctor starts scheming and sends Professor Rumford off to go find some crystals for something or another.

It's okay, Professor. I don't get it either.

Later in the cottage, the Doctor is tinkering with some machine he's gone and built. Professor Rumford shows up with the crystals, and the two get to talking about hyperspace for a while, which is apparently where Romana got shipped off to.

There is a really awkward bit of conversation where Professor Rumford asks the Doctor if he's from outer space. And the Doctor asks K-9 to assess his machine, whatever it is. Then they go to test it out.

It doesn't work. Ha.

So they try again, but this time with Ogri approaching. That's called tension, kiddos.

The machine does what it's supposed to this time and sends the Doctor into hyperspace, on what appears to be a space station of some sort. But where's Romana?

Oh there she is.

They wander around the place. In regular space, K-9 battles the Ogri. But he's almost out of power.

Good thing they decide to back off on their own then, eh? K-9 hypothesizes that they've gone to recharge with more blood. And so they have.

Enter Ususpecting Camper A and B in the randomest scene I have ever seen. Well, this week, anyway.

Unsuspecting Camper A shimmies out of his tent like a (shirtless) manly man and looks around at the two huge stones that have seemingly parked themselves on his front lawn. The nerve of them, really.

He calls out to Unsuspecting Camper B to have a look at the new neighbors. Unfortunately for her, she touches one. And the Tell-Tale Heart starts up again. She's stuck.

And the Ogri then proceed to drain the lifeforce out of them. Literally. They turn into skeletons. It's nuts.

After that lovely bit of magic, we find the Doctor and Romana still poking around the hyperspace ship. Is it just me or has this gotten crazy boring? Why is nothing happening? I demand a blood sacrifice, complete with unsterilized knife.

Instead, the Doctor opens this magical door and these guys show up.

I do believe in fairies, I do, I do.

The pretty sparkles are the Megara, justice machines. They deliver impartial justice. If they find you guilty, you get it. No exceptions.

Now, let me just say here, this is a great concept. Insanely fascinating. But why why why is it in this story? It doesn't fit at all.

The Doctor was a naughty Time Lord and broke the special seal on the door of the room the Megara were in. And such an action is punishable by death. Uh-oh. That's rather inconvenient.

Back at the circle, it's time to turn on the hyperspace beam again. But who's this? That ain't the Doctor.

It's Vivien Fay, and she's painted silver, and she looks like the Tin Man, and it's incredibly awkward.

Guess we're not in Kansas anymore.

K-9 tries to act like a tough dog and keep Vivien away from the hyperspace beam, but he isn't fully recharged yet. So she pulls a bitch move and blows up the machine with her magic wand and disappears again. But not before making telepathic connection with the Ogri and bossing them around.

Honestly. People have no manners.

In hyperspace, the Doctor and Romana finally make it to the designated beam up spot, waiting for Professor Rumford to bring them back. Romana's really bored, so she cops a feel.

Awww yeah.

And then Vivien shows up with some Ogri. She breaks the bad news, we see a close up of her shiny face, and the episode ends with this.

Yawn yawn. So bored.

Part 4:

Vivien's got the Doctor and Romana trapped. The Ogri are closing in.

In the knick of time, the Megara turn up and put an end to all the shenanigans. Party poopers. Vivien seems to recognize them.

They inform the Doctor that he's been tried and found guilty and will be sentenced to death. Vivien's a creeper and stays to watch.

But the Doctor objects! There hasn't been a trial! Oh, but there has been, he just wasn't there to see it.

Can I just say how uninteresting it is to watch these sparkles float in the air? If I wanted sparkles, I'd watch Twilight.

Oh snap, I just went there. I must be tired. (Spoilers: I am.)

The Doctor can't defend himself because he's a humanoid and can't appreciate machine law. So my question? Where's K-9 when you need him? I'd watch that. K-9: robot dog, intergalactic lawyer, all-around badass.

There's a bunch of legal blah blah blah while the Doctor tries to get his sentence appealed and stalls for time. The Megara give him two hours. Woot!

Elsewhere, Professor Rumford laments the loss of the machine. Apparently it's morning. K-9 suggests she rebuild it. Under his supervision, of course.

Hyperspace. Let the trial begin.

I love how he just has a wig like that in his pocket.

They swear Romana in and beam a truth assessor into her brain. I'm pretty sure that violates an Amendment or something.

Anyway, the Doctor questions her and she passes the truth test and is excused. We get a quick cutaway to K-9 and the Professor working on the machine, and then it's back to Law & Order: Hyperspace.

The Doctor calls Vivien to the stand, but she resists and even tries to get the Ogri to do her bidding. But the Megara turns one into sand.

Hahahaha. Bitch.

So while she's getting sworn in, the Doctor tells Romana that he believes the Megara are really here to apprehend and serve up some justice to Vivien Fay, since she's the only other thing that's been around for 4,000 years...

Romana thinks there should be something in the cottage back in real space that would incriminate her and tip off the Megara. Too bad they're stuck in hyperspace.

For some reason the Megara won't beam the truth assessor into Vivien's head. It's stupid and illogical and clearly just wasting time since it's too early in the episode to wrap things up. Blah.

Romana talks to herself. An Ogri sneaks up behind her.

All in time to be beamed back by the fixed machine. How very convenient, no?

The Doctor continues to wrangle with the Megara about Vivien until she volunteers to be truth assessed.

Romana and the Professor sneak into Vivien's cottage even though they know she's not there. There's some more legal haranguing back in hyperspace. Professor Rumford loses hope in finding anything incriminating in the cottage.

That's when Romana finds the answer in the kitchen, since that's where women aught to be anyway. Apparently our friend Vivien has an aversion to citric acid, and therefore has a different metabolism to humans. Which is why the Ogri don't want to eat her.

The Doctor calls the Megara to the stand. I'm bored with this storyline.

Oh hey look, Ogri!

Seriously. They love smashing through doors. Awesome.

Now, for all the crap I give the Megara storyline, Tom Baker really delivers in these courtroom scenes. I mean, really. See for yourself.

Since the episode keeps switching back and forth between storylines and I cut the bits that didn't apply from the youtube, Romana is about to get beamed back into hyperspace while the Ogri once again attack. Yaaawwwwwwnnnnnn. Please let's wrap this up already?

So the Doctor does get fired at by the Megara, but Vivien is caught by the blast and both she and the Doctor are knocked out.

The Megara really find themselves in a pickle because they're not legally authorized to kill her. The Doctor convinces them to check in her brain, make sure she's okay.

And thus, she is outed as the criminal Cessair of Diplos. Finally.

Romana jumps into the fray like a ninja with her evidence. Unfortunately, an Ogri tagged along. But that's okay, because the Megara make it stop and sentence Cessair/Vivien/Cailleach.

Somehow everyone winds up back in the stone circle for the sentencing.

They turn her into a stone. How amusing. The Doctor sends them on their way.

Oh, and the segment of the Key to Time was the crazy necklace she was wearing the whole time, otherwise known as the Seal of Diplos. Cool. We can get the frak out of here. And after an awkward goodbye, they do.

Final Thoughts: Tom Baker's rather good.

I enjoyed watching him in this serial, even when it was boring and stupid and jumped the shark with the Megara. (Okay. I'm being harsh. The idea, like I said before, is a great one, but it so does not fit together well with how the serial began and it feels like a completely different story. I want blood and cults and evil moving rocks, not hyperspace courtroom drama.)

You can also really see how he and Mary Tamm (Romana) are building off each others' performances and warming a little more towards each other as the season progresses. It's a great thing.

Ultimately, I'd put this towards the top of the list of what we've seen so far of Tom Baker, just based on performances alone. The story, however...

I really, really enjoyed the first two episodes. They were fun, they clipped along and kept me entertained. But once we hit Part Three, it felt like a lot of the momentum was lost and hit a dead stop when the Megara showed up. Which is insanely disappointing. I had high hopes for this.

All in all, decent, but definitely not the best I've seen.

Next Time!: 4th Doctor! Androids! Politics! More David Fisher! Matt's back on Monday for more Key to Time goodness with "The Androids of Tara"!


  1. Ha! Amusing, as I thought the exact opposite- "*groan* Not another stupid cult story!" 2 dull episodes, then suddenly the hyperspace court stuff with some Megara and a reimagining of Who's usual (The Ark, Keys of Marinus, etc.) Kangaroo Court runaround- I found it to be the saving grace, bringing me back from the brink of sleep and entertaining me in a way that the first two never did. In fact, I was ready to call this the weakest of the Key to Time serials (until I saw Power of Kroll) due to the first half, with the second being the only part that gave me pause.

    Diff'rent strokes, eh? :-)

  2. I have to agree with you,the first two episodes were superb whilst the final two... well :/ I would definatly count this as one of the last great gasps of Gothic Horror Doctor Who