THE STONES OF BLOOD part one
Well this is really a classic DW set up right from the spinning TARDIS in the void to the Mary Tamm changing clothes scene (why is there no further hallways in the Tardis though? And that makes the TARDIS interiors look like what they really are: cheap). Nevermind, it all works for me again and I just love it to pieces again. The location, the umbrella, the stones, both fake and real look excellent. A word about the music: it really sounds fresh and gives this episode a bit of a change from the others. At one point, when the Doctor stoops to examine the crushed area of land, the music sounds like a brief homage to Bernard Herrman music (who did the DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH and many, many others). The bit sounds like it was used exactly like the movie it came from (a historical I think) in the Irwin Allen shows (mostly used in LOST IN SPACE but also many times in TIME TUNNEL and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA) but here it is a new version and very, very brief. It sounds great.
Other things to give this episode atmosphere besides the excellent sets and location shooting: the crows, the paintings, and…two great female guest stars that play the Professor (she seems to be a forerunner of Evelyn in the Big Finish audios) and her fellow scientist Vivian. Both are excellently cast and both display a possible menace and a warm quality as friends. When the Doctor tells Romana that she should keep an eye on them both, it’s not wholly surprising but that something is amiss and both Vivian and Amelia give half hearted responses of friendship and warning…it’s truly creepy.
I also love the Romana doesn’t have Earth sensibilities, from her shoes to the language (“I used to be a brown owl.” “Really?”) and has to field questions about where her name comes from. In fact, names are a lot in this: from the Calleach black widow to the Doctor telling Amelia he is a Doctor and not a professor (Listen up, stupid Ace!) to Amelia’s run down of writers of journals and scientific literature to DeVries’s run down of goddesses and the wives of the hall he is now in and their dead husbands, all in the paintings, names seem very important.
And not a trace of the key to time segment yet.
And then there’s the cliffhanger: not quite a hanger as faller but it’s a classic cliffhanger in the FLASH GORDON and Republic serials of old…Romana falls off a cliff. I remember at the time it was a strange cliffhanger, because what pushed her? It seemed as if it were the Doctor! Tom refused to show the Doctor as menacing supposedly because it would frighten children to think his image was mean and evil AND because the “evil” Doctor thing had been done already (Invisible Enemy, Invasion of Time). In any event, Mary Tamm does quite well.
This episode starts off a cracking scary adventure which I believe part two will keep up…and then…well, shame about the rest really but here we go…
STONES OF BLOOD 2-4
Well, ep 2 delivers more Hammer like horror and sci fi and the goods. Romana afraid the Doctor was evil was a good touch, K9 is once more in top form throughout the story, and the guest stars prove just as good as the main characters. And to me, for once in the show’s history, the characters seem real, likable, and fitted into the plot all at the same time. The Doctor’s jokes fit in and aren’t over the top except for maybe ep4’s barrister’s wig as he is on trial of his life. Amelia seems to really care about the Doctor, Romana and K9; Vivian covers her deception well even if her motives might be sketchy---is she in fact just an alien prisoner in hiding? Is she planning something else? Is she stuck on Earth? It’s never really stated. The raven and crow thing is not really expounded upon either but these are minor things. Perhaps Vivian really is (as some fans suggest) in a relationship with Amelia in a sexual way (?). She doesn’t seem to want to kill her when threatened and it is apparent that Amelia is helping the Doc and Romana. Ep3 is better than I remembered as I felt things went a bit sour when the Doc went into hyper space and Vivian reveals herself as a silver skinned alien. On the commentary’s end, Mary Tamm felt that they should have been given medals for getting through this story but I felt just the opposite. In a way it’s light, airy, breezy, fast paced, and with characters that I seem to care about. The hyper space thing is well discussed and the Doctor’s conversations are, at least to me, never boring. He’s just very funny (“Well then maybe you can explain it to me”). I could have done without the bullfighting the Ogri over the cliff however.
About Time 4’s review of this episode is a bit annoying, and a bit wrong. They discuss the bad CSO or blue screen under Romana in Ep1 that isn’t reprised in ep2. Truth is the cliffhanging bit isn’t seen until the very start of ep2. To me it doesn’t look bad at all and certainly it’s new to this show and daring to try it. And it looks adequate. Again, special effects are not why one watches DW, it’s the story or the humor or the scares or the ideas. In fact, to veer a bit, in 1966 in the US soap operas were merely two people talking in a room for a half hour except for Dark Shadows, which went on location and shot OUTSIDE and matched up to large sets and costumed rooms. I see DW as much the same. About Time also gets a few other things wrong: While Romana knew some of what the Doctor told her or retold her, she didn’t know the White Guardian sent her on this trip to find the Key to Time.
Hyper space has a long and varied history in written sci fi and in televised sci fi. DW and Star Wars might get all the credit for visual sci fi hyper space stuff but it at least got a mention in the very first LOST IN SPACE and of course was discussed and shown in great detail in the very first THE TOMORROW PEOPLE story as well as many other TP stories. It made more sense there than in any of the others but whatever, here in DW it’s well done IMO.
This is the first of many K9 breakdowns, near deaths, etc and it is quite upsetting. Glad to see Romana fully active in the action and the solutions. The stone circle looks good and the Ogri, despite some reservations others have about them, look great to me. On this viewing I noticed that one of them seems to have a face, nose, mouth, eyes, the works but it is not overdone, certainly it seems a bit like the stone face in the old cable series FRAGGLE ROCK but never mind. I found the way they were filmed to be…to make them very disturbing. When the crash down a door or through windows and seem to chase people, they are effective but as in most DW, one’s imagination has to be called into play to imagine what they were going for rather than what you actually see. The scene in ep3 of them sucking the blood of the campers is very disturbing and horrid. I’m surprised they did that or were allowed to after all the calls for less violence and less disturbing imagery. There’s even blood being shown poured onto the Ogri.
The Devries museum/castle/house is well done inside and out. The cottage of Amelia and Vivian is quaint and quite nice, it looks very real and very cozy. The outside as seen from the door is also well done, painting or not. The hyper space stuff is well done and actually atmospheric in a sci fi manner, changing the very nature of the story from horror to more sci fi and even pulp. Sue Engel does a great job with a thankless villain role and makes one really dislike her but she’s rather charming when she wants to wait with anticipation for the Doctor’s execution by the Megara.
As yes, the Megara. Well done lighting. Anyway as justice machines, they’re well, not really machines and they’re also very irritating as they are highly conceited and for no reason because they can’t even get who they are after correctly. A great deal of the faults of this story appear in ep4 with the Megara, Fay’s real plan (?) whatever that is, and the Doctor’s “clever daring do.” As justice machines they lack intelligence. They’ve been locked up? By whom? Why lock up justice machines? And who was supposed to let them out? The dead policemen? And who are the policemen? That silly looking robot thing locked up next to Romana? It was supposed to be a Sea Devil thing next to her which would have made even less sense? The Wirn? Or was the Wirn a prisoner too? And how can the Megara be justice machines and not know what Cessair looked like? How did she orchestrate all this? And why is not able to stop the Megara? I can almost accept the Doctor did something clever with what? Was it the thing he took from Fay? Was that the segment that did that to the Megara? Or the thing he did with the controls of the spaceship? Or was the Doc meaning that he sent the ship someplace to give he and Romana some grace? And as dumb as the Megara are, why not just give up the execution thing since the Doctor really helped them do their job? Also: the Doctor is being executed as he touches Vivian and instead of both of them dying, they both fall to the floor with the energy beam sparkling around them. What? Why? And why wouldn’t the stupid justice things just read her memory cells to being with?
I feel this story made Romana a much warmer character and at times, that’s good but I also liked her ice maiden coolness and conceitedness in RIBOS and some of PIRATE. Here, though, she is a fully fledged Time Lord/Lady but with warmth as evidenced by her kiss to Amelia at the very end when they were leaving in the TARDIS.
This story is not terrible, is pretty easy to get through and watch, has a lot of fun, and a great deal of atmosphere especially in eps 1 to the middle of 3 and unlike a lot of people I think K9 is a great idea and a great companion. A great deal of this goes to John Leeson and Tom Baker. I can think of no other Doctor that can make K9 seem like a believable, real machine/companion dog than Tom Baker. Try to think of the First, Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth, or Seventh with K9 and for this long a time and not be overshadowed by it or overacting with it or just being bored by it. For me, Tom (and his female leads) makes K9 work on the screen.
Certainly in future there will be duller and stupider and more morbid stories to come but for now, DW is funny, different, and does things no other show can do. That will change over time to the classic show’s end. And even if you don’t like this story, chances are that in the next story the setting and characters and situation will change enough for you to like THAT one unlike the UNIT years. In this time, IMO, DW could do no wrong even when it did!
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