‘The Black Archive #47: The Stones Of Blood’ reviewed

❉ This essay opens up a world of academic research and detail, writes Nick Mellish.

Tom Baker (The Doctor), on location for The Stones of Blood, at Rollright Stones, June 1978. © BBC.

“The level of care taken in crafting this latest entry in the Black Archive range should not be sniffed at, and series newcomer Katrin Thier writes with powerful knowledge and a tangible enthusiasm.  It held my attention from start to finish…”

The Stones of Blood is one of those stories I’ve always enjoyed.  Back when I was a child and the satellite channel UK Gold repeated Doctor Who on Sunday mornings in omnibus format, The Stones of Blood captivated me.  I hadn’t been a fan of The Pirate Planet and The Androids of Tara was yet to underwhelm me, but the idea of a key to Time itself was something that appealed, and The Stones of Blood was so much fun.

Mary Tamm (Romana), in studio for The Stones Of Blood, BBC Television Centre, July 1978. © BBC.

Years on, I’m still very fond of the story (courtroom scenes and all: they’re a hoot!) and it would appear that I am not alone.  The 47th entry in the Black Archive range from Obverse Books gives us an essay on the story by series newcomer Katrin Thier.  As noted before in these reviews, the essays tend to tackle stories from one of three angles: essays that really dive deep into the plots and themes and concepts in the episodes or the series overall (sometimes light reads, sometimes weighty academia); essays which look at the stories’ creations; and tangential affairs that use the stories more as a starting point for other discussions.

Mary Tamm (Romana) and Tom Baker (The Doctor), on location for The Stones of Blood, at Rollright Stones, June 1978. © BBC.

This essay here is very much in the last mould, which may not be my favourite one but does lead to learning as you go down roads you didn’t expect to travel.  Thier uses the story as a springboard to take on the history of druids and megalithic circles; cultural mythology and what an audience in the 1970s would have been expected to know; geometry and social history; possible etymological roots for character names and the influences David Fisher may have had to hand when writing the scripts; and far more besides.

Tom Baker (the Doctor) and Beatrix Lehmann (Professor Rumford), in studio for The Stones of Blood, at BBC Television Centre, July 1978. © BBC.

While I feel that other essays in the range have been better at referring back to the main text, I do not want to take away from what is here as it’s definitely worth paying attention to.  What’s arguably most impressive is that it shows just how inspirational Doctor Who at its best (or even at its worst) has the potential to be.  To me watching it, I nod towards the titular Stones and know they’re linked to ancient texts and rituals, but go little further.  To Thier, they open up a world of academic research and detail, and that’s something to celebrate.  The level of care taken in crafting this essay should not be sniffed at, and Thier writes with powerful knowledge and a tangible enthusiasm.  It held my attention from start to finish, and particular highlights for me included learning about Violet Trefusis.

Tom Baker (the Doctor) and Beatrix Lehmann (Professor Rumford), on location for The Stones of Blood, at Rollright Stones, June 1978. © BBC.

The mark of a good essay is whether they will stick with you the next time you watch the story, and I suspect this one will.  I’ll hear the list of names previously taken by Cessair, but this time around I’ll do so in the knowledge that they’ve been very carefully chosen by Fisher and should I wish to, I’ll dip back into this book and brush up on their histories

At times like those, the Black Archive is an indispensable range for Who fans wanting to look a little closer, and Thier’s essay will surely stand up as strong as any megalith.


 ‘The Black Archive #47 – The Stones of Blood’ by Katrin Thier is out now from Obverse Books, RRP £3.99 – £8.99. ISBN9781913456092. Buy Black Archive books from the Obverse Books website!

 Nick Mellish is a regular contributor to We Are Cult, and author of Target Trawl. Sometimes, he blogs: http://tinternetmellish.blogspot.com

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