Monday, 24 August 2009

Doctor Who: The Stones of Blood

Part One

“They’ve been circling all afternoon…”

We know the score for openings this season by now- the TARDIS flies through space a bit, then a bit of banter in the TARDIS between Romana and the Doctor. It’s become a formula, but it’s a good one. And then it’s straight to some brief scene to establish the kind of story this is going to be- a stone circle, druidic cultists, loads of atmosphere. Great!

Romana’s decided to wear a Burberry cap. Er, how classy. And the Doctor’s decided to finally tell her about the white guardian, in a scene that makes strangely little of the fact he’s been concealing it from her so far. One could almost suspect this whole ongoing thread was only there as an excuse to provide a bit of exposition halfway through the season for the casual viewer!

Some nice humorous bits as our heroes leave the TARDIS as K9 erases all knowledge of tennis from his memory banks and the Doctor hurls an umbrella away with great force. Litterbug! And then things really start getting good as the indescribably fantastic Beatrix Lehmann turns up as the brilliant Professor Amelia Rumford with her in-no-way-sinister “friend”, Vivien Fay.

As an aside, I’m fairly sure Tom’s Doctor has been more or less teetotal in contrast to his predecessors (a case of art not imitating life), but he accepts a sherry from De Vries in a brief but necessary scene for plot things to be set up (along with lots of pleasingly accurate history about John Aubrey and modern druidism). Only briefly, though, as the cultists end up inevitably starting to ritually sacrifice the Doctor in what must have been intended by David Fisher (new writer!) as a double cliffhanger. As it happens, it’s a rather odd one, with Romana being threatened while on OB video with a perilous sheer cliff that’s on film.

Part Two

“I hope that knife’s been properly sterilised.”

Now we’ve had an episode introducing our refreshingly small guest cast (which is about to get even smaller as our cultists friends all proceed to bugger off), we can really get on with the fun. Of course, there’s a certain exchange between Amelia, Romana and Vivien which cannot go unmentioned: “Hop on the back.” “Er, would you mind if I just walked?” ”Oh, nonsense! You may find it rather hard.” “it’ll be a new experience for you, no need to be afraid.” Do you reckon there might be some sort of subtext there?

We get our first incidence of the deadly Rocks Of Doom trying to appear menacing as they, er, advance, but that’s actually ok as this fits in rather nicely with the silliness of the story. And the plot’s actually rather clever, giving us lots of clues to piece together that Vivien is the Cailleach.

Part Three

“Are you from outer space?”



“I’m more from what you would call ‘inner time’.”


I know I was defending the advancing Stones of Doom a mere episode ago, but I must admit the stones advancing on the Doctor and Amelia in the secret cellar type thingy are a bit pants. But Amelia immediately banishes all thoughts of rubbishness from my mind by splendidly announcing that she and the Doctor should capture one of these creatures in the name of science. Bravo! But apparently these rocks are, the Doctor tells us with a straight face, from the planet Ogros in Tau Ceti. Fancy that.
There’s an intriguing attitude to hyperspace in this story, incidentally- even Romana pooh poohs it as a theoretical absurdity that clearly is never used. So how have all the many faster-than-light spaceships we’ve been seeing all the time in Doctor Who been working then?

The whole nature of this episode changes in this story- we even get some guest characters who aren’t Amelia or Vivien as a camping couple are killed by Ogri in a surprisingly scary scene. And with the change of scene to the inside of the spaceship (and its dead Wirrn), the story steps up yet another gear with the appearance of the splendid bickering Megara.

Part Four

“As your counsel, I advise you to submit to execution. So much easier in the end.”

All the stuff with the Megara is outrageous padding really, but it’s all such great stuff. David Fisher is clearly having great fun with the mockery of pompous judges and frankly so am I. I love the way the Megara keep mentioning how generous they are to allow the Doctor to appeal his sentence, after which he will of course be executed. Oh, and the doctor’s wig is great as well.

The Doctor’s catching out of Vivien, or Cessair of Diplos, is actually rather good, and it’s a nice ending for the kiddies to see her turn to stone. It’s also great to see the Doctor outwit the Megara, but then he always was a step ahead of them!

Fantastic, then, and a superb debut from David Fisher. This season hasn’t been doing at all badly so far, it must be said! 5/5.

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