Monday, 17 February 2014

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Stones of Blood

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Amelia is more than capable of handling Rocks.
Doctor Who - Season 16, Story Three - The Stones of Blood
Written 5/8/13

Hurrah! We've reached the 100th Doctor Who story, even if we've gone about it in a way which is certainly topsy turvey. It's also by far the best story of this season, although with the levels of quality so far this is quite exciting. Seeing as I've seen next week's story before, I can now say that Season 16 is four-for-four. The Stones of Blood has a clever script which emphasises a few key characterisations very well to create a mixture of genuine mystery and appreciable humour. There really is no other story I can think of that could ever make me take lumps of rock seriously as enemies...
      The search for the third segment of The Key To Time brings an excited Doctor to 1970s England, where archeologist Amelia tells them about the mysterious set of "travelling" stones from an ancient stone circle, and the local cult that worships there. Amelia's friend, Miss Vivian Fey, is discovered to be 4000 years old, an alien fugitive who escaped her captors and has been using silicon-based life forms, the vampirific rock-shaped Ogri, to do her dirty work. The Doctor is forced to find her prison ship and then must argue for his life in order to halt his own execution and to find the third segment, which is the necklace which hangs around Fey's neck.
     Beatrix Lehmann's Amelia Rumford is a constant presence throughout the story, and delivers the vast majority of its charm as she is faced with The Doctor and Romana's world and is principle in helping them defeat Fey and the Ogri. The character created by David Fisher is one with an intangible sense of the personable, and along with the greats like Duggan and Jago, she is one of this era's best guest characters. Most of all, she provides the medium through which the story explores both The Doctor and Romana's interactions with Earth (this being the first real case where a visit to Earth isn't a "trip home" for the companion).
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The Doctor and Romana talk with shiny alien policemen.
     To be honest the serial isn't very even in tone, with the first half feeling a lot more similar to the gothic stories of old and the latter two feeling more of the contemporary style, not helped by the Megara, the justice robots who hold The Doctor's trial in the last two episode, turning what was initially a dark horror story about sentient rocks which feed off of human blood into a futuristic space opera in which The Doctor must prove the crimes of an alien responsible for grand espionage. That's probably what saved it though, as the blatant melodrama that trickles through the first two episodes' cult scenes is often a lot for me to take, even as someone who's usually all for chewing the scenery.
     The Stones of Blood is just enjoyable - everything is done right, and in a way that is still memorable and fun. A story like this in the previous seasons would have maybe left me rather bored, but a combination of good circumstances pulled it through - good use of K9 for once, a great guest character in the form of Amelia and the binding presence of the Key To Time arc to give our characters purpose and meaning. More amazingly, all of these things allowed me to like a story from a Doctor Who genre that I typically have no time for. And, you know, I love it when a story does something like that. I really do.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: We revisit Tara as we fight evil counts, okay split-screen effects and terrible Taran beasts. It's The Androids of Tara.

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