Special Edition and Region 2 DVD Extras include:
First ImpressionsLike Romana, I too got my first introduction to the Earth of the Doctor Who universe through this story, and I was slightly surprised that it was a present-day Earth and not a futuristic one as might have been suggested by dialogue in "The Ribos Operation" (story no. 98) or the spacey settings of the show in general. I didn't realize Earth was so primitive either, and I anticipated some disappointment and boredom during the search for this third Key to Time segment.
However by the time Part Three was finished, I was so pleased with the plot's surprise twists and escalations, that I thought it was turning out to be even better than "The Pirate Planet" (story no. 99). Doctor Who was a show that just kept getting better and better. I was hooked as a fan for life, and have always held a special place in my love of the program for the Key to Time stories that initiated me.
That said, the earlier parts of the story are a bit lacking. There is a lot of exposition near the beginning, which rightly needs to be what it is. However, more gripping questions would improve things a lot and help to engage the audience's curiosity in all that gets explained. If you're already interested in the cultural or scientific possibilities behind stone circles, it's great stuff. If you're not, it's doubtful that episode one will grab you. Professor Emilia Rumford's absent-minded ramblings to the bored and unusually patient Doctor epitomize the stagnant pace of the first episode's exposition.
However, I do want to give a nod to the first scene in the TARDIS dealing with the Key to Time and say that I welcome this scene far more than the birthday party idea that producer Graham Williams rightly vetoed. First of all... but my first point is a spoiler, so you'll have to turn to the In-depth Analysis version of this review to read it. Secondly, it is good to have the entire quest explained again for those who might have missed the first episode of "The Ribos Operation" and joined the season later on, while at the same time this allows "The Stones of Blood" to be completely understandable to anyone as a stand-alone story. Thirdly, the first scene that we do get complements the final scene perfectly, tying the story together like a well structured pair of book-ends. The birthday idea offers little beyond inside-joke indulgence by comparison, and probably would have come off as really silly to the non-devoted viewer. But scene-swapping aside, what we get throughout most of the episode could still be improved with a sharper line of questioning to generate more interest in the flow of information and exposition.
Although lacking a good satisfying materialization for the TARDIS, this story is perhaps the best yet for demonstrating the interior/exterior relationship, thanks to all the logical mid-story returns to the vehicle.
Early on, "The Stones of Blood" features the most common story-crutch brought to over-use by the era of producer Philip Hinchcliffe (seasons 12-14), a gothic dark-arts cult, in this case a Druidic chapter led by Mr. & Mrs. deVries, who worship the mysterious Callieach. The deVries's turn out to be very melodramatic characters, and the cultish angle lacks interesting substance. Much more on that in the In-depth Analysis version of this review.
But most refreshingly, the cult is soon pushed far into the background, as far more interesting elements take center-stage, and as writer David Fisher makes good use of as many other possible rumours and theories surrounding stone circles as he can. On the larger scale, Doctor Who TV productions never quite returned to the same mindless kind of gothic cults after "The Stones of Blood". Like the rest of this same story indicates, from now on, it's on to more interesting subject matter, and a more intelligent level of drama and humour. Much more to my tastes.
That said, episode three of "The Stones of Blood" is perhaps the most excellent 25 minutes of the whole of season sixteen, at least in being so perfectly plotted and balanced in the script. Episode three is packed full of all the best elements that give Doctor Who its unique charm.
The effects are quite satisfying as well - lots of colourful, full visual beams where required, not to mention shimmering backgrounds and optical picture mixes to make the later portions come alive. Electronics Effects Supervisor A.J. Mitchell does a superb job on this story, as does uncredited guest Sound Effects editor Liz Parker, who makes the menace of the Ogri stones come alive. I quite like that the Megara turned out so different than most of the creatures one usually sees on Doctor Who; they truly represent an exploration of something new and different, which the show so often needs more of.
An odd disappointment is the editing during the chases - quite often too much of a shot is used, destroying the illusion of continued pursuit and the unrelenting tension the chase needs to sustain.
I do think Professor Rumford falls into a common misconception among scientists regarding the speed of light while she's trying to explain hyperspace, which I have great fun in detailing in my article on speed and e=mc˛. Although writer David Fisher leaves room for this to not be the complete truth (thankfully it is Rumford who spouts it and not our more widely studied main character the Doctor), it is sad that this view doesn't really get challenged either. It is actually more interesting when you find out how in many ways it is really hyperspace that put the "c" in E=mc˛.....
Episode Four doesn't quite have the same excitement or logic of the previous episode, despite having enough action to maintain a good energy throughout. (Of course, you wouldn't want me to spoil the final episode in the Buyers' Guide version of my review, now would you?)
This story is the 3rd adventure in season 16's Key To Time quest. It has become available on DVD and VHS video.
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