"Have I got a treat in store for you, Romana."

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Well, no, actually, Doctor, you haven't.

It's not that Stones Of Blood is bad bad. You know, train wreck, hide behind the sofa, Invisible Enemy bad. It's just... poor. Badly plotted. Listless. And dull, dull, dull.

It's a shame, in a way, as the inherent creepiness of a stone circle could make the basis of a terrific horror story. But it's a totally wasted opportunity. The Ogri are embarrassingly incompetent monsters who couldn't outrun an arthritic sloth. Occasionally glimpsing the stagehands shoving 'em along doesn't exactly help with suspension of disbelief either.

Smirksome as they are, though, they're not really the problem. The problem is a plot with so many loose ends it could fringe the Doctor's scarf. What, exactly, is Cessair trying to achieve on Earth? And why does she go back into hyperspace? Why do the Ogri do what she tells them? And how many of them are there, again? The birds - what's all that about? And none of this is helped by having odds and sods of the earlier version of the script, in which the Ogri were humanoid, lying about, resulting in a mystifying giant footprint at the beginning and a reference to the Ogri crushing De Vries and his sidekick when we later see them draining the juice out of their victims. What a pile of spaghetti.

Then there's Stones Of Blood's plot structure. Hitchcock might be able to get away with killing off major characters early on and shooting the plot off in a new direction, but Hitchcock this ain't, and steering the audience towards the expectation that De Vries is the major villain and then doing him in falls flat on its face. For a start, De Vries is pretty pathetic, even when waving his, er, sword over the Doctor, so we're not exactly on the edge of our seats. (The Doctor doesn't help this at all, either, by his attitude of comfy relaxiness. Sure, he's the Doctor and all, but there isn't a pixel of tension there.) And what feeble attempt at misdirection there is is undermined by Vivien Fay transmitting her secret evilness on all frequencies from her very first scene.

The hyperspace scenes, too, are a major error of judgment. Couldn't they have found a less utterly trite way of showing hyperspace? As for the Megara, for implacable death-dealing justice machines they're a bit on the sad side. (Red Dwarf did the concept so much better in Justice World.) And yawnsomely arbitrary as the Doctor's death sentence is, we can't help but feel it's self-inflicted: yanking open the door willy-nilly was a bloody stupid thing to do, not to mention a horrendously clanking plot device. The death sentence/courtroom scenes are, like the sacrifice scene, totally lacking in tension: often with the Fourth Doctor his unruffled surface is a cover, but here it seems to be all there is. And if he's not worried, we're not worried. And if we're not worried, we might as well put the kettle on.

There are other assorted bits of rubbish, too. Wheeling on the campers for the sole purpose of immediately wiping them out is a heinous crime that should have seen the script dudes lined up against a wall and mown down with flamethrowers. Why don't we actually see the Doctor shoving Romana off the cliff? That would've been a lot more fun. And oh, yeah. How can it be that "a time is approaching" that needs the use of the Key? They're Time Lords! There is no a time!

Characterisation is pretty much underwhelming. Apart from giving herself away too quickly, Cessair is probably the best of an indifferent bunch. The limp De Vries and his hysterical companions are too melodramatic, the Megara are too much of a comedy double act, and while it's nice to see a woman scientist, Beatrix Lehmann's line readings are too shaky to make Professor Rumford a convincing enough character.

It's quite a nice story for Romana - we love her scenes with the Doctor over the Key, and we particularly like her testing the ground's specific density with her high heel. And as we've already observed, it's Doctor lite, which is pleasant enough assuming you don't actually want to care about anything that's happening.

Ogri... Megara... hyperspace... so very interesting... zzzzz....

MORAL: Don't hang around to gloat.



That unglamorous first outfit of Romana's, complete with eeh-bah-goom hat, is a serious mistake. Although we're not sure that the second one, briefly resurrecting as it does that hideous 70's trend of having your petticoat peeking out from under your skirt, is an improvement. And you can see her bra when she leans over in the cottage.


"It looks... evil." Come on, Romana! You're supposed to be a scientist!


Isn't it weird actually seeing De Vries smoking on a kids' show?


Yet more robes and hoods in yet another sacrifice scene. Sigh.


The scenes where an Ogri looms up and biffs the Doctor from behind are unfortunately rather too hilarious...


How does Romana get from leaping backwards athletically over the cliff top to clinging onto the cliff face? There isn't even a ledge she could have landed on!


There's a scene in the stone circle, then one with the Doctor, Romana and K9 having recently come out of the Tardis, then one in the stone circle again. In the circle, the sky is black, whereas in the Doctor scene it's grey.


There's a rather nice pisstake scene where the Doctor concludes the stones live on blood - after delivering this awful pronouncement, he and the Professor look solemnly and simultaneously in different directions. Hammertastic!


A swinging light? How many cliches could they get in here?


Why do the Doctor and the Professor run to the edge of the cliff only to yell "We're trapped!"


That bullfighting scene's horribly embarrassing.


The Doctor appears to have some trouble correctly pronouncing Romana's name.


The ending, with the Doctor glancing sideways at Romana as he struggles with the key, is perfect - understated, hilarious and totally in character. It's not much, we know, but it's something.

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