Romana wearing the fantastic peach outfit with K9 in The Stones of Blood.
The Stones of Blood is the third story in season sixteen of Doctor Who. It features the fourth Doctor alongside Romana and K9. It was written by David Fisher and is part of the season long Key to Time arc. This story was also the 100th televised story.
The first two episodes of the story are set on present day earth and revolve around stone circles and Druid rituals. At the end of episode two we get a drastic shift to space, with Vivan Fey being revealed as the Cailleach/Cessair.
To get it out of the way – I had a whole lot of squee about Mary Tamm’s initial outfit in this story -a Scottish tam, a peach jumpsuit, and hugely impractical shoes which she abandons. I love the realism of her acknowledging how horrible her shoes are and deciding to forego walking in them.
Beatrix Leahman is also does an fantastic job in portraying the eccentric Professor Amelia Rutherford. When Rutherford discusses her work and gets so excited about sharing her research notes with Romana, I was immediately reminded of so many actual Professors I know. This was a fantastic portrayal of a mature woman with experience, intellect, and charm.
We also get a female companion in this episode in the form of Vivien Fay/Cessair of Diplos/Cailleach. The Variety! podcast has a recent episode that is all about Cessair and her role as villain in this story. I highly recommend folks take a listen for a deeper dive into this female villain portrayal.
The bits that were not so well done:
- A giant – clearly fake – hunk of rock going around attacking people. The less focus on the Ogri as a failed prop the better.
- The transition between the historical feel of the first two episodes and the space drama narrative of the last two episodes was a bit jarring initially.
Overall, I loved all of the female characters in this story and how much authority the females had over moving the story forward. This was also a really great story of K9, with a lot of witty lines and seeing K9 actually maneuvering on grass.
Romana and the Doctor.
The Ribos Operation is the first story in season sixteen of Doctor Who. It features the fourth Doctor alongside Romana and K9. It was written by Robert Holmes and is the first story in the season long Key to Time arc. This story is also where we are introduced to Mary Tamm as Romana for the first time.
I love Romana’s sass, intellect, and tendency to challenge the Doctor on all fronts. She is quite capable of questioning the Doctor and putting him in his place when his actions don’t make sense. I also love that she keeps quoting the Tardis manual at the Doctor and telling him how he is flying it wrong – for new Who fans, this bickering reminded me a lot of when River Song flies the Tardis. As a bonus Romana’s fashion sense is so on point – see “The Stones of Blood” story is you need additionally examples of Romana’s fantastic wardrobe choices.
The plot of this story revolves around a scam gone wrong, with the Tardis crew getting caught in the middle of the scam in their attempts to locate the key to time segment. The plot itself is almost secondary to the setup of the Key to Time mission itself, we are introduced to the Guardian and given a vague reason as to why it is imperative that the Doctor locate all the segments of the key, else the universe implode. The setup isn’t fantastic, but it does a well enough job in providing a framework for all of the stories within season sixteen.
Overall, this was a middle of the road story for me. I liked bits of it but I wasn’t enthralled by the plot.
The Pirate Planet
The Pirate Planet is the second story in season sixteen of Doctor Who. It features the fourth Doctor alongside Romana and K9(!). It was written by Douglas Adams and is the second story in the Key to Time arc.
This was the last serial of the classic Doctor Who era to be novelized, but I actually read the novelization prior to watching the story. This is partially because I’ve been trying to read all the novelizations which are based on Douglas Adam’s scripts, mainly because I simply love his writing and love trying to pick out bits that are purely Adams in the novelizations. The Pirate Planet was Adam’s first contribution to Doctor Who and the novelization contains an interesting discussion of the early draft versions of this story and dives into the archives which hold Adam’s work.
For the Adam’s fans watching this story, at one point the Doctor says “Don’t Panic” which made the Hitckkicker’s Guide fan in me squee. Additionally, the Doctor’s line “Standing around all day looking tough must be very wearing on the nerves” — was later used in a The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio serial, by For Perfect toward a Vogon.
Personally, I’m glad I read the novelization of this story first. The half-robot pirate captain and his killer robot parrot looked way cooler in my head then they did in the 1978s costuming. The portrayal of the captain was one of my least favourite parts of the televised story. The novelization contained much more nuance and presented the captain as more than just a bumbling/raging lunatic.
Overall, the story has a great mix of comedy with a sci-fi story line. It is overflowing with ideas and at times seems like there are too many ideas to be contained within a four episode story arc. However, I loved seeing Romana and K9 in action during this story, they are both some of my favourite classic Who companions. Plus K9 gets an amazing fight scene with the robot parrot, which is simply awesome in my books.
Given that this was the second story in the Key to Time arch, my plan is to go back and watch The Ribos Operation next.