Doctor Who #491: The Stones of Blood Part 2

"Hello. I hope that knife's been properly sterilised." "Blasphemer." "No, no, no, no. You can catch all sorts of things off a dirty knife, you know."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.4 1978.

IN THIS ONE... Vivien Fay is revealed to the druids' goddess, and some moving stones crush those who have disappointed her. Also, K9.

REVIEW: Hey! No reprise! It was so well done, too! And so is the beginning of this episode. Romana holding on for dear life looks pretty real, and even the CSO shot of waves crashing down below succeeds. Sorry Romana, the Doctor can't hear you, he's unconscious, strapped to a stone, waiting to be sacrificed by druids! It's with some delight that I note Romana eventually getting bored with her jeopardy. It does take a while for anyone to come to her aid. The Doctor's lucky this time. First, the druids aren't all on board with human sacrifice. Second, he wakes up at an opportune time, and as he so often does, he entertains by taking it all in his stride and making light of the situation. And third, Emilia Rumford shows up, taking an evening bike ride through the moor. Because that's the kind of ballsy, batty old lady she is. (One may wonder if she was at all the prototype for the 6th Doctor's audio companion, Evelyn Smythe. Evelyn isn't so dotty, but there's something of Emilia in her.) The druids run, K9 is called in to play bloodhound (listen for the wooden boards he runs on behind the tall grass!), and Romana is saved.

While I admit I haven't been too kind with K9 since he premiered, here the production seems to have found its sweet spot in regards to the metal pooch. He's argumentative, but in an amusing way. His computers start whirring for the longest time rather than admit he doesn't know something. He's used as a tool in acceptable ways (as a dog, really), and he's mortally wounded in a heroic battle with a blood-drinking, glowing menhir called an Ogri (that seems odd, what is its relationship to the ogres of folklore?). This would in fact be the perfect time to kill K9 off, because I've just suddenly found a liking for him. And isn't that always the way with generally unlikable characters? Their last episode is the one that will make you miss them. Of course, that would mean he would have died at the... hands?... of a great big slab of stone that would be one of Who's more ridiculous monsters were it not for the violent imagery that accompanies it. To whit: The description of De Vries and his Martha's gruesome deaths ("skulls smashed to a pulp") and the full bowl of blood the Goddess feeds it.

The Goddess, it's no surprise, turns out to be Vivien Fay. Those missing paintings all feature her in various historical periods, and besides, her fake laugh tells me she's hiding something. (It could just be a strange acting choice, of course, but the episode already has a terrible over-actor in Martha.) Once we know Vivien is the baddie, we're allowed to see her in ceremonial garb and zap, she tornadoes Romana to Oz with her staff. Expect it all to be explained scientifically in the next episode, though one explanation given in THIS episode seems strange to me. The idea that the Cailleach can take various forms makes the Time Lords come to the realization that it's all thanks to the third segment, which has metamorphic properties. This is the first we've heard of the segments having ANY properties, much less unique ones depending on the piece. Did writer David Fisher have conversation with the script editor no one else had?

- The episode has some excellent visuals and great pieces of dialog too. Emilia Rumford is a fun, atypical ally for the Doctor, and for once, I'm even liking K9's contributions. Shame about some of the "bigger" acting from guest performers.



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