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.

Continue reading “Dr. Who: The Stones of Blood, Part 4”

Dr. Who: The Stones of Blood, Part 3

Vivian zaps with her wandAt the end of Part 2, Romana was zapped by Vivian Fay and beamed out into some other as-yet unspecified place.

Sadly, this story, which has started out so well, begins to go downhill from here. While there are still some good scenes in the next two story parts, there’s a distinct shift from the trappings of folk horror to some rather silly science fiction.

It’s Doctor Who, so you have to expect all things that might be otherwise taken for supernatural events to have a scientific explanation, even a wonky sci-fi one. But did it have to be so- 

Well, we’ll get to that when we come to it.

Over in the secret cellar at the Hall, formerly the home of Mr. DeVries before the stone-monsters got him, the Doctor and Professor Rumford are examining those paintings that were removed from the wall upstairs. All three ladies who used to own this house and the meadow where the stone circle sits look just like Vivian Fay.

Professor Rumford is surprised that Vivian never mentioned that she belonged to the Montcalm family.

She isn’t, the Doctor makes it clear. “She is the Montcalm family,” as well as the two other families that have owned the Hall since the Dissolution. Not to mention being the Mother Superior of the convent that was there before the house. And she probably manages the company that now owns the property that the stone circle is on.

Rumford, who’s still adjusting to these new kinds of ideas, objects. There’s a span of over a 150 years between the three women in the paintings.

The Doctor replies, “What’s 150 years when you’ve been around for 4000?”

For Vivian is the Cailleach, the Celtic goddess whom the Druids have been worshipping. (But that’s not who she really is either.)

Prof. Rumford and the Doctor look at portraits

Continue reading “Dr. Who: The Stones of Blood, Part 3”

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.
Continue reading “Dr. Who: The Stones of Blood, Part 2”

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.”

Continue reading “Dr. Who: The Stones of Blood, Part 1”

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.

Continue reading “Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 5”

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

Continue reading “Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 4”

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.

Continue reading “Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 3”

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.
Continue reading “Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 2”

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?

Continue reading “Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 1”

The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 2

This second audio-drama boxed set from Big Finish carries on the adventures of detective Madame Vastra and her assistants as presented in The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 1.

The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 2

Dining With Death

The first episode is noteworthy in that it’s written by Dan Starkey, who plays Strax.

Even back in the 1890s, Earth was a common meeting-place for various aliens, being both an out-of-the-way galactic backwater and neutral territory. When representatives of two great empires, attempting to negotiate a peace settlement, are blown up along with half the restaurant where they were having dinner, Madame Vastra ends up agreeing to act as a facilitator for further diplomatic talks–which will take place at her home.

Continue reading “The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 2”