THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
TV STORY "THE PIRATE
PLANET" AND THE NOVEL
"THE SHADOW OF
THE NINE MAIDENS &
THE STONES OF TIME
'THE KEY TO TIME' DVD
RELEASED IN SEPTEMBER
THE SEARCH FOR THE
THIRD SEGMENT OF THE
KEY TO TIME LEADS THE
DOCTOR, ROMANA AND
K9 TO BOSCOMBE MOOR
ON EARTH IN THE LATE
20TH CENTURY. HERE
RUMFORD AND VIVIEN
FAY, WHO ARE
SURVEYING AN ANCIENT
STONE CIRCLE CALLED
THE NINE TRAVELLERS.
WHAT IS THE LINK
BETWEEN AN ANCIENT
CELTIC GODDESS, AN
ALIEN CRIMINAL AND A
HYPERSPACE? AND CAN
THE DOCTOR ESCAPE THE
DRUIDIC SACRIFICE OF
BLOOD TO UNCOER THE
MYSTERY OF THE MOVING
The Stones of Blood
28th october 1978 - 18th november 1978
David Fisher, who would also write the subsequent story, was commissioned to script the third story in the Key to Time season. Beginning life as “The Nine Maidens” before becoming “The Stones of Time” (initially the idea was to unify all the season’s titles by making each one “The Something of Time”) and then eventually “The Stones of Blood”, Fisher’s four-parter would be Doctor Who’s one-hundredth televised story. And not only that, “The Stones of Blood” would also be broadcast in the weeks leading up to the show’s fifteenth anniversary. Accordingly, the story is one that looks to both the series’ past and its future.
In a nod to the show’s recent past, “The Stones of Blood” is for the most part a story told
very much in the gothic horror style that Philip Hinchcliffe helped to cultivate during his tenure as Producer. It features a group of Druids led by a man named De Vries – the only male to feature in the story, save for the Doctor - who worship the Cailleach (the Druidic goddess of war and magic), as well as giant stones that come to life and exsanguinate people.
However, “The Stones of Blood” is also quite a progressive story that, particularly towards the end, leans much more towards the quite heavy science fiction genre that the series would focus on more and more as Graham Williams’ reign as producer progressed. It is
also notable that, as I have already intimated above, women dominate the serial. The villainess of the piece is, somewhat remarkably for a 1978 Doctor Who serial, a woman - Vivien Fay / Cessair of Diplos (Susan Engel) – and even the Doctor and Romana’s helper for the story, the unforgettable Professor Rumford (Beatrix Lehmann), is female. And for the most part this predominantly female ensemble suits the story wonderfully, though perhaps having a great chunk of plot revolving around Mary Tamm’s insensible shoes was taking
matters a little bit too far…
In all seriousness though, Fisher’s plot is very good indeed. Vivien Fay’s true identity may
be a little bit obvious right from the offset, but other than that “The Stones of Blood” is tremendously engaging, somehow managing to strike that ideal balance between macabre horror and outright fun. In what other serial could you find the Doctor taking on the roll of bullfighter against a giant stone, or see him serve as prosecuting counsel before two excited little bureaucratic flashes of light? And in what other serial could you find a literally cliff-hanging cliff-hanger? It is not difficult to see why in the DVD documentary “Getting Blood From The Stones” Clayton Hickman cites this story as being his favourite of the whole Key
to Time season.
Above: Clayton Hickman reveals his favourite Key to Time story in "Getting Blood From The Stones"
Turning to the DVD release and to the bonus material included on the disc, the 26-minute “Getting Blood From The Stones” feature is a top-notch documentary that looks back at the making of the story. I was greatly amused to learn that, at the time of the location filming in Oxfordshire, Tom Baker was homeless and, more to the point, did not seem overtly concerned about finding himself a new home, instead content to wander from one person’s floor to another. Surely that was taking method acting a bit far? I also thought it was funny
that on location a gang of students ‘dematerialised’ the TARDIS one night!
The second commentary track – the new one featuring Baker, Tamm, Engel, and Fisher is also exceedingly entertaining. As seems to be the case on all these Key to Time DVD commentaries, Baker makes a huge fuss about how “ravishing” Tamm looks throughout the story, though I can hardly blame him - that orange outfit with the high heels and the flat cap is a sure winner in my book! There is one very funny bit where Tamm is talking about how she once flashed Colin Baker backstage during one of the Doctor Who stage plays and he did not even bat an eyelid – you can feel Tom’s envy…
“Tom Baker was Doctor Who!”
- Susan Engel
The rest of the bonus material is less notable, but nonetheless still worth a quick look. The 13-minute “Hammer Horror” featurette is quite interesting, especially the part about movie Doctor Peter Cushing being in the running to play Solon in “The Brain of Morbius”, but the “Stones Free” featurette; the deleted scenes; the model-making feature; and the Blue Peter clip are not really all that gripping. What is good though is the clip from Nationwide; good is the sense that it is so bad, that is. Not only does it see Baker behave dreadfully, really laying into the poor bloke interviewing him, but it also has Carol Anne Ford (the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan) and Tamm playing a game of one-upmanship with each other. “Well I wasn’t just an ‘assistant’, I was actually his granddaughter…” says Ford, to which Tamm hits back with something like “well I took on this role because my character is so much more sophisticated than all those that have come before…” It is absolutely hilarious – you have to see it to believe it.
And so, all told, I would not go so far as to say that “The Stones of Blood” is either the best story of the Key to Time season or even the best DVD in the box set, but there is without doubt more than enough to like about this story for it to stand up to repeated viewings. It is just a shame that the producer pulled the plug on the Doctor’s surprise birthday party…
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
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