The Rolling Stones become vampires.
Of course not! Although it would explain a great deal about the band. But no, this is really about Stonehengesque stones that drink blood. Really.
The Doctor and Romana are looking for the third piece of the Key to Time. each segment has been disguised as an everyday object like a banana or a sausage sandwich or a lifesize cardboard cut-out of Ana Matronic. It could be anything. Anyway, this segment is hidden on Earth. And would you believe it, it is near the killer stones. Surprise surprise.
Yes, the Key to Time is tricksy. They have to assemble it for the White Guardian in his eternal war against the Black Guardian. Unlike ebony and ivory, these two won’t live in perfect harmony. If only the Doctor could invite them to the TARDIS for a karaoke session, these two may be able to get along. Alas, that is too simple and we will never see them singing Garbage’s Stupid Girl.
Talking of stupid girls, our villain (or villainess) is Vivien Fay AKA Cessair of Diplos. She is the one that is using the Ogri as her henchstones (thugaliths?). Our Viv is a sly one. She was banged up for murder and theft in a space prison in the depths of hyperspace. She stole the Great Seal of Diplos, a maguffin that has powers of transmutation and transformation. No, those aren’t the same thing. This Great Seal can also, rather conveniently, establish hyperspatial and temporal co-ordinates. Just as well that she hadn’t stolen the Mediocre Seal of Diplos for that cures dandruff, turns gold into lead, and allows you one free meal at the Tau Ceti Burger Bar. She would also still be in jail with the sparkly justice machines.
Now, given that the Doctor and Romana are looking for the segment of the Key to Time, can you guess what it might be? Answers on a postcard to the usual address (there is no usual address).
Having escaped from space clink, you may have thought that Cessair would have it away on her dainty size fours and get as far away as possible. Nope, she just left hyperspace and settled near the access point to the prison ship. This is why she is a stupid girl. If you were an on-the-run prisoner, would you really set up home in one place and then live there for centuries while hoping that nobody notices that you aren’t kicking the bucket? Really?
Unlike most villains, all our Viv wants is to live a nice peaceful life with the odd sacrifice made to her in the name of the Cailleach. This is perfectly normal for the countryside. In fact, if you listen to The Archers on Radio Four, it would sound awfully similar to this story.
Our near-immortal jailbird, when she is not taking part in black masses, lives with the elderly Amelia. This fact causes Whovians to harp on about the so-called lesbian subtext. Who knows? If the writer of this story had said that they were lesbians, fifty-seven Whovians would probably punch the air. But wouldn’t that make Amelia a cradle snatcher given the age gap? Or is Viv robbing the grave? Thanks. If they are lesbians, they are not doing it with each other.
And yes, Cessair is hundreds of years older but to make my lame joke work, please ignore that fact.
When she is masquerading as Vivien Fay, she is all Women’s Institute, naked calendars and jam cakes. But when she is Cessair, she gets all silvery and slinky in a lowcut dress that impossibly doesn’t fall off. This dress is hideous. She doesn’t suit it and it doesn’t suit her. It is so tight that you can actually see what she ate for breakfast. Plus, why does she only appear all silvery when she is on the prison ship? When she returns to Earth, she returns to her mousey persona.
Did I mention that these stones also move. Well, they do. This is a good thing because otherwise it might have felt a little contrived if the victims had to go to the stones rather than vice versa…
Local: Them be the stones. Of blood!
Tourist: Oh, really? How quaint. Are they made of blood?
Local: Um, no. O’ course not. They are named thusly because they drink blood.
Tourist: Are they dangerous? Can they come after us?
Local: Ah, no. They will only sup your claret if you touch them.
Tourist: So as long as people keep away, they are safe?
Local: I didn’t say that. They have ways of bring people to them.
Tourist: How so?
Local: Putting adverts in the local paper pretending to be lonely hearts, suddenly becoming magnetic and drawing planes crashing into them, accidentally falling over and rolling down the hill to the campsite, hiring druids or Satanists to bring them wishy-washy pagans…
Tourist: That happens a lot does it?
I think you get the picture with that. Ahem.
Not all of the stones in this stone circle are blood-sucking monoliths. No, some of them prefer wine or sangria instead. One funny stone likes to drink milky tea with a twist of lemon but all the other stones ignore him. Sadly for the Doctor and Romana, they have to deal with the alien ones called the Ogri, the ones that like a bit of the red stuff. Hey ho, just another day at the office.
One of my favourite scenes is when a couple of campers get deaded by the Ogri after coitus. The campers not the Ogri that is. This is a great scene because these two people, who don’t appear in any other scene,…ahem…these two people are real people. They are people whom you might encounter on the street in the way that you would almost certainly never meet someone like Amelia or K9. This scene is very well-acted considering these two people are just there to be killed off.
Tom Baker is, as always, highly eccentric and seems to be acting in a different story to everyone else.
His companion in this adventure is Romana. Played by Mary Tamm who is great. She is a Time Lady that the White Guardian decided should help the Doctor with finding the segments of the Key to Time. Very much the poshest Gallifreyan we have seen in the series so far. Tamm plays the First Romana (she will regenerate next season) exceedingly well. She only played the character for a handful of stories but she is memorable.
Overall the adventure is very well-written but it is disjointed. The Earth sections and the space sections don’t mesh as well as I might have wanted. It doesn’t stop the flow of the story but it is odd. Aside from that though, The Stones of Blood is a great serial and shouldn’t be missed.