BOX OF JHANA
Stones of Blood
K9 and Company novel
Doctor Who: Voyager (again)
Stones of Blood
Reviewed by Kate Orman
First Appeared in Burnt Toast#10, 1992
Season 16, story 3. Code: 5C
Romana: Stop! I have new evidence!
There's nothing like a good old-fashioned demonic cult to get a story going. Doctor Who has had everything from Ibrahim Namin to the goat-masked Satanists in K9 and Company. A cult provides plenty of atmosphere, and instant motivation -- just add water (or blood). The Stones of Blood opens with druids Leonard De Vries and co. dancing naked round a fire (well, wandering about in a studio Stonehenge with torches, anyway), worshipping a Celtic goddess who (surprise surprise) turns out to be an alien. These stories are fuelled, I suspect, by the sneaking conviction that it's all real -- that the 'old religion' or the Egyptian gods or whomever really could come marching back to claim their world. And further fuel was probably provided by Eric Von Daniken's deceitful books. God was not an astronaut but Susan Engel spray-painted silver and wearing a towel on her head.
What would appear to be a Hinchcliffian strain (cults, blood, sacrifices) in a Graham Williams story is quickly dispensed with, as the vengeful Callieach -- alias Cessair of Diplos -- disposes of her wonderfully mediocre worshippers. Martha (who can almost act) and Leonard (who can't act at all) are both squashed by two of the appropriately named Nine Travellers, standing stones that won't stand still. The setting becomes the monsters, a genuinely big, nasty and unstoppable menace -- especially in the frightening (and quite unexpected) scene in which two campers are sucked clean of flesh by the hungry Ogri.
Cessair herself hovers between being alien and wicked and just plain awful. In her disguise as Vivien Fay, she is constantly upstaged by the wonderful Amelia Rumford. Tom Baker's Doctor could have done with a Rumford-style companion; full of trivia and opinions, squaring up to the unknown armed only with her sausage sandwiches and an Enid Blyton approach to adventure. Amelia was certainly the strongest female supporting character in the season, and perhaps in the entire Tom Baker era.
By now I've mentioned almost all of the characters in the story. It takes place almost in a void, a Copper Beeches isolated setting in which terrible things may be happening inside the stately country manors. Terrible things are going on inside De Vries' mansion, as the Doctor discovers when he takes a glass of sherry. A door opens to reveal the masked and thoroughly eerie Callieach in all her glory. The Doctor simply walks up to her without fear.
Romana is left alone in the stone circle, in the middle of an empty field which looks a bit like the location for the Wuthering Heights film-clip. When a ghostly voice starts calling her name through the fog, the effect becomes almost claustrophobic -- helped along by one of Dudley Simpson's simplest and subtlest scores. There's a lovely bit of lonely flute when the Gallifreyans first arrive in the circle which really sets the feel for the next two episodes.
Anyway, about halfway through the story, the druids are squashed in favour of the Megara, and a long and clever legal battle between the Doctor and his would-be executors. Here we are back in the familiar universe of Graham Williams: corridors, Douglas Adams SF comedy, corridors, lots of dialogue, and corridors. Unlike, say, the Empress, the hyperspace vessel is an interesting place to be. Things happen, the dialogue is clever and to the point, and truth wins out over both legal sophistry and primitive superstition. Romana and the Doctor continue on their quest for the Key to Time -- little knowing that the best stories of the season are over. Stones is a blend of Hinchcliffe horror and Williams humour; the two flavours complement one another in a tasty little story.
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