Doctor Who #490: The Stones of Blood Part 1

"Never mind. Forget it." "Forget. Erase memory banks concerning tennis. Memory erased." (Part of that line was another .wav file we had on an old computer for trashcan deletion or somesuch.)
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD and in a Special Edition boxed set. First aired Oct.28 1978.

IN THIS ONE... The next segment appears to be on present-day Earth, near a druidic stone circle.

REVIEW: Ah, no epilogue last time, so a massive prologue this time. Watched in close sequence, going through the whole premise of the Key to Time again is redundant, but I have to acknowledge that it makes sense in the context of how it was originally broadcast. At least they find a good reason for it in the story - letting Romana in on the Guardians' involvement, as trust is built between her and the Doctor - and ultimately, it's a help to modern audiences who might slide a random story into their player. Not too surprisingly, there at least one segment of the Key on Earth, but since the object will turn out to be alien, it may just be the TARDIS finding it more easily during its stay on that mudball the Doctor calls his favorite. Tried and true coordinates and all that.

After the serious exposition, some humorous banter, Romana choosing the worst possible shoes for the English countryside, K9 being literal, and in a reversal from past practices, Romana is a companion who needs Earth explained to her, but not the rest. It's a nice twist on the usual formula, and it means she's not really used as a cabbage head. The things she wonders about, we don't. The things we do, she's right there explaining them along with the Doctor. Sometimes even before he does. She's not so much bossy as she is super-competent, and he's the insecure one who feels the need to make decisions already made. Strong women becomes something of a theme in The Stones of Blood, with the archaeologist duo of Emelia Rumford and Vivien Fay showing up, the latter derisive of "males" (you may or may not consider these two Who's first gay couple as a result), while De Vries' house was formerly inhabited by a series of (potentially black) widows. Viewers who know their Arthurian legends should immediately sit up when hearing one of them was called Morgana, especially since we've already been introduced to a Fay.

I'm frankly surprised the show has never done druids before, which would have been a good fit under either Dicks or Holmes. Of course, they aren't really historical druids, but rather modern-day cultists using stone circles to conduct their rites. As is common in this type of story, we can expect their goddess, the Cailleach, to be some alien being. But for now, it all seems very supernatural. Ravens and crows everywhere (I'm pretty sure someone as reasoned as Romana shouldn't be thinking they look "evil" though), the mystery of stones that might be moving, a surreal tour of a house that includes missing portraits, a cool feathered creature/ritual costume, and the Doctor playing a role foretold (and that's the third Key of Time story in a row to include mental powers such as prescience - coincidence?). Spookiest of all, Romana being drawn to the cliff's edge by the siren call of the Doctor's voice. Ooh, that fall looks pretty real!

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A strong mystery, a well-used location, some memorable characters, good banter... More than enough to forgive a lengthy and repetitive exposition scene.



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