Synopsis: Continuing their quest for the six segments of the Key to Time, the Doctor and Romana arrive on Earth near a stone circle. They learn that an ancient cult is performing blood sacrifices in honour of the Celtic goddess the Cailleach. The Cailleach is not what she seems. Then again, neither are the stones in the circle. And furthermore, neither is the space ship, hidden in hyperspace…
- Forward by Nick Fisher
- I. The Tor
- II. Professor Rumford
- III. The British Institute of Druidic Studies
- IV. Inside the Circle
- V The Manor
- VI. Joselito
- VII. A Theoretical Absurdity
- Interlude: A Short Guide to Justice Machines
- VIII. The Megara
- IX. The Secret of Vivien Fay
- X. Execution
- XI. A Meeting on the Moor
- Afterward by Michael Stevens
Background: Adapting scripts from the 1978 adventure, the book uses the text from the 2011 audiobook by David Fisher, with minor tweaks for the print edition by editor Steve Cole.
Notes: The book opens with the legend of a shaman tormented by visions of a demanding goddess who sent birds to pluck out his eyes. The shaman’s tribe erected six stones in a circle, which were then joined by three more stones that were said to drink the blood of the tribe’s sacrifices. The legends also tell of the inhabitants of Bodcombe Manor, built in the 18th century by Lord George Montcalm for his second wife, who was rumoured to be a witch. Lord Montcalm and his children died mysteriously from plague and his widow went on to marry three more times, each husband dying in suspicious circumstances. When it looked like she might be brought to justice, Lady Montcalm disappeared. The house then fell into the ownership of the reclusive Mrs Trefusis and, much later, her distant relative, Senhora Camara. The current owner, Anton de Vries, is ‘a gentleman of Anglo-Indian descent’.
The scene where the Doctor tells Romana the truth about their mission for the White Guardian is cut, replaced by a summary of events so far. The second segment was found on the planet Calufrax, and not Zanak (repeating the same mistake Terrance Dicks made in his version, misinterpreting a line from Fisher’s scripts that also seems to suggest the heroes visited Calufrax). Back on Gallifrey, Romana lived mostly indoors with almost no experience of wide open spaces. She had tried skating on the frozen moons of Platos and climbing the volcanoes of Ignos, which she’d found ‘moderately enjoyable’. In a later interlude about the justice machines, we learn of the cloud creatures of Neri as well as the giant amoebas of Amphitrite, whose identity keeps changing with a constant division of their cells
De Vries is a ‘plump man sporting a wisp of a beard’ and Martha Vickers is, rather cruelly, described as ‘a middle-aged lady with the face of a discontented bulldog’. Martha was a member of the Women’s Institute in nearby Bodcombe Parva but grew bored of it. She joined the druid circle after meeting de Vries two years earlier. She was a hunter in her youth, encouraged by her game-hunting father, so is not worried by the sight of blood from animals sacrificed in the cult’s rituals. There’s a suggestion that Martha’s Daddy issues might have prompted her attraction to de Vries; such is her infatuation, she’d once hoped in vain that he might one day choose her over his beliefs. She has a brother who has a flat ‘on the Hoe’ in Plymouth.
De Vries claims the portrait of Lady Montcalm might have been painted by Van Dyke. His house is home to the British Institute of Druidic Studies and the manor has been fitted out with numerous classrooms. De Vries mentions that he’s expecting a group from Liverpool to arrive next week:
The Doctor stopped in his tracks. ‘Not The Beatles?’ He grinned broadly. ‘Wouldn’t The Rolling Stones be more appropriate?‘
The Doctor’s mention of John Aubrey is more explicitly a memory from personal experience, the Doctor having met him several times. As she clings to the cliff face, Romana is attacked by a flock of seagulls. The birds, not the band. Fisher corrects Dicks’ mistake about the ‘Cornish fogous’ (Dicks mistook this for the name of a person, rather than the iron-age subterranean buildings particular to the region). The Doctor tells Emilia that robot pets are all the rage in the USA, where they also do cats, rabbits and peacocks.
We learn about Emilia’s two brothers: Hector was a colonel in ‘the Sappers’ (the Royal Engineers) before being blown up by a bomb in Northern Ireland: Jasper was ‘the fool of the family’ so, rejected by Sandhurst, he entered the clergy. On the hyperspace ship, Romana is incarcerated in a cell with the dead body of an ‘octopoidal creature’ with horns. The two campers are here named Pat Blount and Zac Hardcastle. The stones completely absorb the couple before ejecting their bones and shoes ‘like pellets from an owl’. The Megara are shining silver globes that float in mid air. The Doctor ends the adventure by setting up a chess set – which leads nicely into the next story….
Cover: Anthony Dry, once again taking inspiration from Chris Achilleos, places the Cailleach, the Doctor, the TARDIS and a segment of the Key to Time within a right-angle formed by a bolt of electricity.
Final Analysis: So the story goes, David Fisher was never that happy about Terrance Dicks’ novelisation of The Stones of Blood. BBC Audio producer Michael Stevens commissioned Fisher to revisit his TV scripts for a new adaptation as an audiobook, which was subsequently released in 2011, narrated by actress Susan Engels, who played Vivien Fay on telly. BBC Books range editor Steve Cole made minor tweaks to the audiobook script for both this novelisation and The Androids of Tara, but it’s essentially Fisher’s work. The book benefits from a delightful forward by David’s son, Nick, which reveals some of the author’s influences and interests. Of particular note is Nick’s belief that his father regretted that he hadn’t been an academic, something that we might bear in mind when we come to Professor Emilia Rumford later in the tale.
While Fisher delivers a faithful adaptation of his original work, he also fulfils the mission of improving on Terrance Dicks’ rather skimpy version. The first chapter is a joyfully bloodthirsty history of Bodcombe, while an interlude brings us a summary of the development of the Justice Machines, both of which have a gossipy style that inevitably remind us of Douglas Adams. It’s a comparison I made in discussing both of Fisher’s previous Target books, but there’s a maturity to the writing this time, with less of the manic over-explaining of The Leisure Hive. Much as I usually love Dicks’ straightforward approach, this now usurps his novelisation as the definitive adaptation.