Stones Of Blood: Doctor Who: Season 16
Stones Of Blood SYNOPSIS:
The next segment of the key to time is located on present day Earth. Landing near an ancient stone circle Romana and the Doctor meet archaeologist Professor Rumford and her assistant Vivian Fey. Mention of a druids cult sets the Doctor off to meet the supposed leader, Mr De Vries in his nearby Manor house. De Vries receives his guest and then knocks the Doctor out and prepares him for sacrifice to the Celtic goddess Cailleach.
Professor Rumford interrupts the ceremony and the druids escape. Romana is in turn saved by the Doctor and K-9 after an apparition of the Doctor pushed her over a cliff edge. De Vries and his maid are crushed to death by mobile giant stones called the Ogri for their failure and K-9 is badly damaged battling the Ogri.
Romana pieces together that the owners of the house and the surrounding lands have always been women or rather the same woman - Vivian Fey is the Cailleach. Vivian takes Romana captive fleeing into hyperspace with Rumford and K-9's help the Doctor follows where he finds a prison spaceship, rescues Romana and unknowingly releases justice machines the Megara.
They were to try Cessar Of Diplos but now the Doctor is charged for interference and he sentenced to death. He and Romana must convince them Cessar is Vivian Fey and is using the disguised segment of the key to time before the Megara carry out their sentence.
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Stones Of Blood CAST & CREW
Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor)
John Leeson (K-9 Mk. II)
Mary Tamm (Romana I)
Beatrix Lehmann — Professor Rumford
Susan Engel — Vivien Fay
Nicholas McArdle — De Vries
Elaine Ives-Cameron — Martha
James Murray, Shirin Taylor — Campers
David McAllister, Gerald Cross — Megara Voices
Production Staff for Serial 5C:
Writer - David Fisher
Director - Darrol Blake
Script editor - Anthony Read
Producer - Graham Williams
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Stones Of Blood REVIEWS
The 100th story! Although we've only rated about 83 or so. Watched Stones Of Blood on DVD about a month ago and so it's fresh in the memory.
It's the cursory Earth story of the season, figures one of the segments of the Key To Time would have to be on Earth, least they're limiting it to only one story of each series now. Got to give it to Williams, there's more alien planets featured in his era than any other! Guessing when the White Guardian was flipping through his Rolodex to get someone to find all the key bits he happened upon the Doctor's affinity for Earth and thought well out of my choices this blokes the only one who's been to one of the planets I think a segment is on.
Ok now to the story, Stones Of Blood is a cracker for the last ever Gothic horror type story in the series and a nice homage to human sacrifice cult type films. The Doctor is at his most incisive, witty and intelligent. Romana is at her most sardonic, brilliant and sexy. The guest cast all act above the call of duty, Amelia Rumford rockets straight into the Dr Who all time top 5 eccentrics on the show and steals every scene she's in and Vivian Fey alternates her charming affability and snarling villainy well in a dual role. Mr. Defires is good too as the silky head of a cult of the Calleiach.
The plot is well realised, revolving around Cessar of Diplos, an escaped alien prisoner who has been hiding on Earth for centuries thanks to finding and utilizing the segment of the Key To Time and passes the time pretending to be a Celtic goddess and gets a cult to feed her pet stones, the alien Ogri that hide out in a nearby stone circle. Realizing someone wants the key good 'ol Cessar does anything to prevent losing it.
The setting of the desolate moors, another dark old priory and even a bit of stock footage coastline works well for atmosphere. The glowing Ogri don't look too bad in the shadows and man can they move for bits of rock (there's one particularly hinchcliffesque scene where they suck the blood out of some hapless campers) but they suffer a bit in the light. In fact the Stones Of Blood suffers a bit in the second half when most of part 4 in set on the prison ship Cessar escaped from in hyperspace. There the Ogri look like BBC made polystrene rocks. And the brightness of the ship is just too bright…once you get over the weirdness of the megara justice machines which are basically swirling twinkling lights the court room stuff is ok, when they attempt to try and execute the Doctor over what must be the dumbest charge in the galaxy. This almost succeeds in making the story silly…but not quite…best of the Williams years and close to it but not quite a 10…settle for giving Stones Of Blood 9.5/10 just for the nice chilly Gothic atmosphere it starts off with.
The Stones Of Blood is set in the minature stone circle of The Nine Travellers (in reality its Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire) Again, great location. And strangely its actually helped by the video tape quality of recording. The whole thing has that "Englishness" that is Dr Who - moors, cliffs, quaint little cottages, big manor houses, stone circles and lovely countryside. Given half a chance, I'd up and bugger off to England just to see the location itself for this story.
Secondly, its got Beatrix Leahman in it. Good ol' dotty, resourceful and spritely Amelia Rumford! Dr Who's best ever companion that never was. Imagine her with Tom and co going off on adventures. Tom always said that she was his favourite guest artist for the series so I always felt he should have put a word in Graeme's ear and brought her on full time for a while. She's an absolute gem in this story as she does her geographical surveys and riding all over the countryside on her bike. Plus her scenes with the Doctor, Romana and then later K9 are pure gold.
Thirdly, the stones. Creeped me out when I was a kid and they still look great as they go smashing their way through English cottages and Estate houses. Fourth; Druidism. Hey, I was actually interested in it as a kid. I thought they sacrificed Time Lords in stone circles. How could you not be? Fifth; That little scene where the campers get sucked dry. Its a nice, tight and scary as shit scene. Its also quite graphic. And it has virtually nothing to do with the plot and you never hear or see those two campers before or afterward. Sixth; K9. Hey; he works really well with Beatrix Leahman! Seventh; hey I just reckon Stones Of Blood is fucking brilliant! 10/10
What I remember well about Stones Of Blood is the dark moodiness of the moors and the whole feel of the first episode with the crazy Amelia Rumford (who also appeared in Mordialloc's Beauty Queen of Leenane apparently), and the haunting pagan ceremonies.
Is this actually stone henge? Or is it just something that looks like it?
I don't really remember the Ogri - but reading about them, you can see how this could look very very dodgy in realisation.
I kind of remember Romana (I think) disappearing at one stage, but that's about it… I don't remember any of the second half of the episode set on the Space ship with the trial and stuff - but it looks extremely interesting… this is the one I'm looking forward to re-watching the most I think!
The only fact I have on Stones Of Blood is that they recorded a whole scene celebrating the Doctor's 741st birthday (for the 100th episode), but they cut it at the last minute as it was thought that it could confuse people as to "where baby time lords come from"
I don't know if it was the poor quality of the video, that lateness of the viewing (combined with too much chocolate) or the expectations I had... but something didn't quite click on the re-watching of this.
There were two things that took away from the overall effectiveness of Stones Of Blood for me.
1) The Ogri. I don't think it's possible to do moving stones well. The idea of them is fantastic - I mean nobody knows how or why stone formations like this exist. The Pagan rituals that go with them are kind of fascinating - and well realised here... although I doubt that they'd be stopped by a little old lady on a bike! But that bit works well - and the moving rocks work in that they're threatening and menacing... the small scene with the campers adds to this. I love the pounding beat that accompanies them as well. It's just, well, they're a moving rock! Nicholas saw the end of this episode while I was watching yesterday afternoon, and while he was interested for a bit, when he saw the rocks he laughed and said "man, that's crap". 30 years ago it may have been good - but to be honest, I don't know if it would look all that good if the guys from the mill CGId it today... it's a good idea, but hard, maybe impossible, to not look crap. So maybe I'll forgive them for this one!
2) There's a fair bit of Vivien Fey that doesn't make sense. So she escaped from her planet and brought some Ogri... but why has she remained on Earth? How does she know the spaceship exists in hyperspace above the rocks? You'd assume it might be because she knows she's supposed to be on trial in it - in which case, why does she go on it at all?
For mine, there's a lot left unanswered about Vivien Fey which disappoints... cos she could have been a brilliant character. The mystery of the paintings was well played out and added to her mystique, and maybe some of the above was answered there, but I don't recall it... If it was, I take it all back... if it wasn't, I don't!
It is a great story though. K9 is probably at his best here, and yes, working with Amelia he is great. The Romana / Doctor combination is kind of falling away a bit though... all of a sudden she's doing silly side kick things... like falling down a cliff in a contrived fashion (or was this just to try and make a cliff hanger... that was really no pun intended... it was a pretty bad cliff hanger).
So overall, a great premise that was generally well realised, however, unlike the previous segment in the key, needed a little more explanation.