Dr. Who: The Stones of Blood, Part 2

Continuing the Doctor’s and Romana’s somewhat spooky adventures in contemporary Cornwall as they search for the third Key to Time.

At the end of Part 1, Romana was lured away from the stone circle by a voice that sounded like the Doctor’s calling to her, and luring her off a cliff. Part 2 begins with a literal cliff-hanger.

Romana hanging on the edge of a cliff

Romana is clinging to the edge of the cliff over the ocean and shouting for help. It’s a good thing she’s barefoot; her toes can find tiny footholds in the rock face and help to keep her from falling to her death and turning into Lalla Ward a few months early.

When we last saw the Doctor, he’d been conked on the head by a couple of Druids. They’ve since conveyed him to the stone circle and called an emergency meeting for their grove (which is the proper name for a group of Druids). He now lies trussed up on the flattish stone in the middle of the circle as the Druids prepare him for a human (or, in this case, Gallifreyan) sacrifice.

The Druid leader’s best friend Martha doesn’t like the idea. Cutting an animal’s throat to get some blood for their ceremonies is okay with her–but this is murder!

“It is the will of the Cailleach,” says the leader, DeVreis, as he draws a big, curving knife from its decorative scabbard. They can’t question the will of the goddess, and the Cailleach demands blood.

DeVreis ready for sacrifice Doctor rescued

DeVreis and Martha argue about it for a bit, until the Doctor regains consciousness and asks if that knife is properly sterilized.

The question of whether or not he would have talked them out of sacrificing him remains answered. They all hear the sound of the Doctor’s rescue arriving in the form of an elderly archeology professor on a bicycle.
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Dr. Who: The Stones of Blood, Part 1

My second venture into 1970s Doctor Who and folk horror for this Halloween season.

Stones of Blood

The Stones of Blood is one the Key to Time stories from Tom Baker’s 5th series as the Doctor, an overarching plot that connects all of the stories during that year. The Doctor and his new assistant, a younger Time Lady named Romanadvoratrelundar (Mary Tamm) are sent to various places around the universe by an entity known as the White Guardian to hunt down and collect objects that make up the Key to Time. These objects can be transformed into large crystal fragments once they’ve been found. When all six pieces are collected, they must be assembled to create a device that gives the wielder absolute timey-wimey powers.

Before we get to the actual story, this first episode therefore begins in the Tardis’s unlit and minimalist kitchen with the Doctor and Romana attempting to assemble the two pieces they’ve gathered so far from Ribos and the fun but silly Pirate Planet. Behind them is a 1930s-style fridge, in which they store the Key to Time when they aren’t working on it.

The third planet, on which they have to search for the next piece of the Key, will be Earth. Romana’s never been there, but it’s well known to be the Doctor’s favorite planet so he’s looking forward to showing it to her.

Meanwhile, somewhere on Earth (Cornwall, as it turns out), a scene very like the one at the opening of K9 & Company is being enacted. Robed and hooded cultists have gathered for a midnight ceremony, but this group is meeting at the center of a circle of Stonehenge-like stones instead of a ruined chapel, and the name they’re chanting isn’t Hecate. It’s Cailleach (yes, I did have to look that spelling up).

The cultists pour small bowls of blood onto the stones–and the stones glow red and begin to pulse and make a sound like a heartbeat.

One of the cultists raises her head and cries out:

“Come, O Great One, come! Your time is near.”

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The Gorgon

Gorgon reflection

Overshadowing the village of Vandorf, stands the Castle Borski.

From the turn of the century, a monster from an ancient age of history came to live here. No living thing survived and the spectre of death hovered in waiting for her next victim.

The above, slightly incoherent, text introduces this beautifully atmospheric but not-quite coherent Hammer horror film about a creature from ancient Greek mythology who, for reasons of her own, has decided to menace early 20th-century Bavaria.

It’s in Vandorf that the story begins, in an artist’s studio with a bit of implied, bareback nudity from the artist’s model. There’s no reason to get attached to these two people, but what happens to them will start a chain of events to lead our main characters into the plot.

The model, Sascha, wants to get married. Bruno, the artist, promises that they will when he gets a bit of money to pay off his debts. But Sascha can’t wait that long; there’s a baby on the way.

This being 1910, Bruno perceives the urgency of the situation. He heads out immediately to speak to Sascha’s father, even though she’s afraid that Daddy will kill him instead of giving them his blessing to get hastily married.

Sascha runs after Bruno as soon as she’s got some clothes on and follows him through the woods during a moonlit night. Eerie music that sounds almost like a woman singing tells us that the pregnancy and Daddy s reaction to it are the least of their problems.

Artist and model Stone hand

Sure enough, Sascha sees something that makes her scream in terror and fall over.

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And Now the Screaming Starts

Phantom Hand

Britain’s Amicus film studio was in many ways a sort of Hammer Jr. in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Its output is often confused with Hammer’s–so many of its films also star Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee–but they can be distinguished by their wider use of source material. No Dracula or Frankenstein sequels here, but anthologies based on short stories by Robert Bloch and less well-known horror authors, plus original story ideas, and the occasional obscure novel brought to light.

This particular film, with its lurid title, is based on a ghostly gothic novella with the more sedate title of Fengriffen. Its implied horrors are spiced up with some shocking ’70s red-paint gore, and the extensive use of a bloody severed hand crawling around. Its heroine and hero, an extremely pretty young couple (played by the extremely pretty young Stephanie Beacham and Ian Ogilvy), are supported by a cast of distinguished actors in small roles. And, yes, one of them is Peter Cushing.

Like Dragonwyck, it’s a Rebecca-ish story, and this film gives us a Rebecca-ish opening voiceover:

“In my dreams, I go back to the year 1795, to a time when I was happy. I was on my way to be married. I was going to the house in which I was to find my days filled with fear, my nights filled with horror.”

Charles and Catherine

Sir Charles Fengriffen and his fiancée Catherine are riding toward his home, Fengriffen, in a carriage. The couple are not yet married, so they are accompanied and chaperoned by her Aunt Edith.  Catherine is viewing her future home for the first time.

Fengriffen House, when we first see it, is a place many people will immediately recognize.  Oakley Court is a 5-star hotel just outside of Windsor today, but in the 1960s and ’70s it was abandoned. British film studios often made use of its handsome exterior and rooms within. The Rocky Horror Picture Show would be the most famous example.  Some viewers may feel the urge to sing “There’s a liiiiiiiiiiight, over at the Frankenstein Place” at the sight of it.

I’m a little bit sad looking at it for this review; I had made reservations to have tea there in July, and of course that whole trip had to be cancelled.

Inside, Catherine tours the rooms of her new home. Her first impression, and question are, “What a lovely old house. Is there a ghost?”

“Ghosts galore,” Charles assures her, and lists a few in a joking manner. He doesn’t mention the one that will be so destructive to both of them. At this point, he doesn’t believe in it.

Fengriffen House

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The Horror at Red Hook

The Horror at Red Hook was written in 1925, during that period when H.P.  Lovecraft was living in Brooklyn after his marriage to Sonia Greene. New York City came as a culture shock to this retiring Providence boy, especially given the diverse ethnicity of immigrants who came from all over the world. The story expresses something of his suspicion of foreign people who didn’t look like the kind of people he was familiar with, enacting odd customs and speaking in languages he didn’t understand, as well as reflects his general, personal unhappiness with his surroundings.

Confidential Personnel Records: NYPDLovecraft’s original story is about a man named Thomas Malone, a New York police detective who has been sent to recover in a rural part of Rhode Island after a traumatic experience involving the collapse of a brick building and the deaths of a number of people in the slums of Red Hook. He can’t even abide the sight of a brick building.

In this Dark Adventure Radio Theatre adaptation, Malone (voiced by Sean Branney) is under a psychiatrist’s care during his enforced stay in the country. His story is told as part of his psychotherapy; the doctor urges him to speak of the horrors connected to that experience–everything he’s tried so hard to forget.

Malone tells the doctor that he wouldn’t understand. He lacks imagination.

“To hint to an unimaginative man of a horror beyond all human conception, a horror of houses, and blocks, and cities diseased with evil dragged from Elder worlds…  I’d be pacing inside a padded cell instead strolling country lanes.”

But of course the doctor insists on hearing it, and Malone’s story of what happened in Red Hook unfolds in flashback.

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Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 5

The exciting final segment of this story.

Jo's sacrifice

It’s a rare thing for a Doctor Who serial to run 5 episodes. Usually, they’re 4 or 6, with the occasional 2-parter to fill out the year. To me, most of the 6-parters feel as if they go on too long, with the plot lagging around the 4th or 5th episode as the Doctor and his companion(s) sneak down endless corridors or are captured and escape–yet again.

One of the advantages of The Daemons as a story is that there is none of this lag; losing an episode tightens the narrative. And there’s not a corridor in sight.

Another advantage is that much of this story was filmed on location in and around Aldbourne: the village green, the churchyard, the barrow site, the meadows and country lanes that the Doctor zips along on a motorbike. No quarries, though. Only the interiors are studio sets, and this open-air setting gives the story a sense of freshness and just a bit of grounded, this-is-England reality to balance out the fantastic elements.

AzaelLike the giant Daemon who makes his  appearance at the end of Part 4.

While the bluescreen effect as Azael  grows from tiny to 30 feet tall is not as well done as his initial appearance–he doesn’t seem to be connected to his surroundings in the cavern–he is impressive once he’s up there towering over the coven.

His voice is recognizable; this is Stephen Thorne, the same booming-voiced actor who played Omega in The Three Doctors.

As usual, the energy Azael expends to grow to this size creates an earth tremor  that knocks everyone in the village off their feet. Even out on the village green, they know that he’s returned.

While the coven is distracted, Jo Grant and Mike Yates try to run for it–but the stone gargoyle Bok is awake and blocks their exit with a few zaps.

The Master decides that a chicken isn’t the best blood sacrifice to get Azael on his side. A human being–Jo, in this case–will be a much better offering once she’s dressed for the part. Black-robed minions drag Jo off to prepare her to be sacrificed.

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Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 4

At the barrier

The Doctor’s companion Jo Grant, who was concussed when she jumped out of Bessie in Part 3, wakes up in her bedroom at the Cloven Hoof pub during the latest earth tremor that signals the appearance of the Daemon. Before the local doctor sedated her, she was insistent on going to the cavern under the church in search of the Master. Now that she’s conscious again, it’s the first thing on her mind.

Her UNIT friends, Sergeant Benton and Mike Yates, along with Miss Hawthorne, are right at the foot of the stairs, blocking her exit. So Jo sneaks out  instead, climbing out of her window, walking across a flat part of the roof, and finding a handy ladder to get down so she doesn’t have to make another dangerous jump.

Jo climbs out the window

I thought for a moment that she was intending to hijack Bessie, parked nearby, but she only slips around the car on her way to the church.

The Doctor, meanwhile, is still at the barrier that encircles the village of Devil’s End and prevents anyone from getting in or out by incinerating them. He’s advising the UNIT technical team on the other side of barrier about how to generate sufficient electrical power to supply the oscillator he described in the previous episode so they can create an opening in the barrier big enough to drive their van through.

How to do it? “Reverse the polarity!”

You knew he was going to say that sooner or later

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Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 3

Doctor on a motorbike

Part 2 ended with the Doctor explaining to Jo that the “tomb” in the longbarrow is actually a container for the shrunk-down but still very heavy spaceship they’ve found on the floor.

While they’ve been talking, the little gargoyle from the cavern under the Devil’s End church has followed them down into the barrow. As Part 3 begins, it stands at the tomb entrance, blocking their way out.

But it’s difficult to feel that Jo and the Doctor are threatened by this creature (whose name is Bok); whenever I see it, I can’t help thinking of the Flying Monkeys from Oz.

The Doctor isn’t intimidated by it either. Brandishing a small object made of iron–a trowel, I think–he shouts some words in an unfamiliar language at it. Even though the Master, back at the church, is mentally urging the little monster on, Bok cringes before this “incantation” and retreats.

BokAfter the gargoyle has gone, the Doctor tells Jo that the words were lyrics to a old Venusian lullaby. Roughly translated:

“Close your eyes, my darling, or three of them at least.”

 

The Doctor doesn’t believe in magic spells, but Bok does and that’s what matters.

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Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 2

While Part 1 had a good set-up, with a stormy night, an archeological dig into an ancient longbarrow burial mound with the ominous name of the Devil’s Hump, and a Black Mass calling up something evil, but this second episode is where the daemons of the title really start to get out and around. The Master

Part 2 begins just where the first part ended; Mr. Magister (aka the Master), having successfully summoned up a certain powerful being, is shouting “Azael! Azael!” His cowering coven notice that the stone gargoyle in the corner of the cavern now has glowing red eyes.

Back at UNIT HQ, Mike Yates and Sergeant Benton are watching a rugby game on the office telly and realize they’ve missed the midnight archeology program about the opening of the Devil’s Hump longbarrow–which the Doctor had wanted to prevent. They switch channels to try to catch the end of the show, and the first thing they see is Jo sobbing over the supine and frosty form of the Doctor. The transmission breaks off.

The two men first attempt to contact the Brigadier, who’s out for the evening dining in his dress uniform. When they can’t get hold of him,  they decide to head for the village of Devil’s End themselves.

The Doctor has been frozen by the blast of snow and icy wind that emerged from the Devil’s Hump barrow once Professor Horner opened it. I assume the professor was killed by the same blast, since we never hear another word about him. Other people who were a little bit farther from the opening seem to have survived.

The village doctor gently tells the sobbing Jo that her Doctor is indeed dead–but before he can turn into Tom Baker ahead of schedule, a faint pulse is detected. The small-d doctor is confused by what sounds like two heartbeats in his patient’s chest, but he has the Doctor conveyed to a bed in one of the rooms at the Cloven Hoof to be thawed out.

BokThe television news team at the barrow site swiftly pack up their gear, eager to get away. After they depart, we see a pair of larger red eyes glowing in the dark from within the barrow.

In the morning, even though his coven has gone, the Master is still down in the cavern below the church quietly praying. I take it that his duties as parish vicar don’t require him to do any morning services up in the church. As if in response to his prayers, some very large creature we don’t see comes stomping out; it casts its shadow over the hapless constable, who was sitting on guard at the gate of the barrow field.
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Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 1

While I did first see Doctor Who during the early part of Jon Pertwee’s run, those episodes that involve UNIT fighting off various alien invasions of Earth never engaged me very much. They still don’t–apart from this one.

What makes this particular story stand out for me is that its alien invasion is dressed up as a Hammer-type horror movie. Its setting in an English country village and the trappings of witchcraft throughout the story evoke films like The Witches and The Wicker Man. And yet, in the end, the film it’s most closely related to turns out to be Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit.

The Daemons

This first episode of The Daemons begins on a dark and stormy night in a village called Devil’s End (actually, Aldbourne in Wiltshire). We get close-ups of a toad watching from the underbrush, a cat peeking out from shelter, and something black and slinky crawling along beside the road (actually, it’s a furry hat pulled on a string). A man is leaving the local pub, the Cloven Hoof, with his dog, when the dog breaks free of its leash and chases the creature up into the churchyard. The man follows it there, where he sees something horrible.

The man is found dead the next morning. The village doctor tells a concerned middle-aged lady dressed in a cloak belonging to Margaret Rutherford that the death was caused by a heart attack, but the lady, Miss Hawthorne (Damaris Hayman), vehemently disagrees. She sees it as part of something more dark and disastrous that’s going on.

“The signs are there for all to see,” she insists. “I cast the runes this morning!”

At UNIT HQ, the Doctor and his assistant Jo March (Katy Manning) are debating the central theme of this story: science versus superstition. Jo is very much an Age of Aquarius girl. The Doctor doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but is certain that there are always scientific explanations for phenomena that aren’t yet understood.  He despairs of ever making a scientist of her.

As a demonstration, he shows her and Captain Mike Yates some “magic” by making his car Bessie start up and drive around the garage yard by herself. The two are astonished, until the Doctor reveals that he’s doing it all via a remote-control device in his coat pocket. Did they really think that it could be anything else?

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