Dr. Who: The Stones of Blood, Part 4

Vivian and the Stones. It looks like they're performing at an awards ceremony.

Part 3 ended with Vivian Fay (a.k.a. the Cailleach) gloating over trapping the Doctor in hyperspace.

Part 4 starts the same way, but Vivien’s gloat doesn’t last very long. The Magara, those sparkly justice machines the Doctor accidentally unleashed, now float in to intervene–and bring just about everything that was interesting in this story to a screeching halt. They announce that they’ve tried the Doctor while he was busy elsewhere, and in spite of a spirited defense from Sparkly Magara 2, Magara 1  has judged the Doctor to be guilty. The punishment is execution.

Vivian would like to see this execution happen right away, but the Doctor gets the Magara to grant a 2-hour delay so he can appeal the sentence. This “appeal” will take up the greater part of this final episode. Nothing really finishes off a good horror story about blood-absorbing stone monsters quite like a farcical trial with comic robots.

Doctor and MagaraThe Doctor dons a barrister’s wig, which he keeps in his pocket for just such occasions. In his defense, he calls Romana and Vivian as witnesses.

Romana testifies that she and the Doctor found dead prisoners in all the other compartments they opened, and the Doctor opened the one with the seal on it, releasing the Magara in ignorance.

When he calls Vivian, the Doctor hopes that she’ll have to identify herself. Her original self. He’s certain that she must have been a prisoner aboard the ship and that once the Magara realize who she is, they’ll forget about him and bring her to justice.

Vivian refuses to testify. She calls on her Ogri as reinforcements, and one of them gets zapped into sand by the Magara. Faced with this power that’s greater than hers, she agrees to speak but insists that she’s just an ordinary Earth woman and doesn’t know a thing about whatever the Doctor might have done.

It’s daybreak down in the stone circle. K9 has recharged sufficiently to help Professor Rumford to repair the hyperspace-projector thing which Vivian destroyed.

Once that’s done, they return the circle to test it, and manage to beam Romana back. One of the Ogri comes with her–I suppose it was right behind her when she wandered away from the trial aboard the ship.

The two women and little robot dog hastened to the cottage to search for any clue that will help them identify Vivian, or at least indicate what kind of alien she might be. It’s Romana, while looking through some books on a shelf, who notices that Vivian has crossed out certain recipes in a cookbook–the ones that have citrus in them. The professor recalls that Vivian said she was allergic to lemons, and she also avoids other citrusy items like grapefruit.

From this, Romana deduces that Vivian’s blood chemistry is so different from humans that her blood doesn’t appeal to the Ogri, and that’s why they don’t attack her. It doesn’t explain why they obey her.

Professor Rumford and K9 Ogri at the door

In fact, there’s never explanation for what Vivian’s up to, and that’s the greatest failing of this final episode. We’ve learned that she’s been here in Cornwall for the last 4000 years, posing as a goddess and living as a series of landowners over the centuries. But what’s she been doing all that time? Civilizations have risen and fallen in less time. She has access to a spaceship, so is there some reason she’s still hanging around Earth? Is she simply biding her (very long) time and hiding out, or was there some long-range plan behind her guarding the stone circle and occasionally sending out the Ogri to get blood?  What does she want? Wealth? Power? The ego-boost of having the simple-minded natives worshipping her?

I can only guess, since the story never tells us. Once her identity is discovered, she tells us very little about herself. Unlike many villains, she doesn’t spend time explaining her fiendish plans… if indeed she has any.

Back on the spaceship, the Doctor continues to play Barrister and questions the Justice Bots. They tell him that they were on their way to a planet called Diplos to deliver a particular criminal.

A female criminal? the Doctor wants to know.

Why, yes, Cessair Diplos. She was wanted for murder and the theft of the Great Seal of Diplos, which has the powers of “transmutation, transformation, and the establishing of hyperspatial and temporal coordinates”–all the stuff that Vivian can do.

Not that this discovery does the Doctor any good. He’s going to be executed anyway.

Romana and K9 have meanwhile narrowed down the possible planets that Vivian might have have come from, when the Ogri that returned from the ship with Romana catches up to them. It’s broad daylight now. I didn’t think the Ogri could go around during the day, that they turned to stone in the sunlight, but this one is pulsing and glowing menacingly outside the cottage window.

They are just preparing to leave when it bursts in at the front door.

The professor, Romana, and K9 must have slipped past it, since the next time we see them, they’re back at the stone circle with their projector. K9 holds the Ogri at bay with his nose-laser while Professor Rumford beams Romana to the ship. (Romana actually uses the word “beam” to describe her transportation.)

Trial

The Doctor is executed by the Magara, but it doesn’t take. Of course not. It’s his show. There’s an explosion that knocks him off his feet, and Vivian is knocked out.

While she’s unconscious, the Doctor takes the opportunity to get the Magara to scan her brain to make sure she hasn’t suffered any damage. They wouldn’t look into her mind before, but now that they’ve been tricked into doing it, they finally identify her as Cessair Diplos, the criminal they were transporting.

Among her crimes, the Magara add at this point, was running off with several  inhabitants of Ogros “for her own ends” (whatever those might be).

Romana shows up with new evidence to help the Doctor, but it’s no longer needed. The Ogri are to be sent back to their home planet. To her long list of crimes, Vivian/Cessair is additionally changed with impersonating a religious personage–“to whit, Celtic goddess”–which carries a penalty of 1500 years.

I would have thought that the murder on Diplos, not to mention who knows how many murders on Earth, would carry even greater penalties, but we hear nothing about that.

The Magara deliver their punishment and go away. At the last minute, the Doctor gets the third segment to the Key to Time. Professor Rumford will have lots of work to do with a whole new survey of the Nine Travelers now that they’ve changed one last time.

Tardis minimalist kitchenAfter this, it’s just a matter of saying goodbye and getting back into the Tardis to add the latest crystal to the Key and pop it into the fridge.

There’s so much I like about the beginning of this story: its setting in a location I’ve been to and the use of so many exterior scenes, Beatrix Lehmann’s delightfully eccentric old professor, the hint that the crows and ravens are spying and carrying information, the cyclical history over the centuries of the standing stones always belonging to women (the same woman, as it turns out). It is therefore a great disappointment to see it all dropped for this fizzle of an ending. Vivian Fay had the makings of a great villain, and I wish we’d seen and heard more from her before she got “stoned”.

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Author: Kathryn L Ramage

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats named after the Brontë sisters. In addition to being the author of numerous short stories, reviews, essays, and period mystery novellas, she is also the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a dukedom called the Northlands on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period.