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25 May 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 510: The Stones of Blood, Episode Two

Dear diary,

It’s been a while since I’ve trotted out my regular complaint that I’d love Doctor Who to all be made on film rather than video tape. The Stones of Blood is just one of those stories which really does make me long for film, though. It doesn’t help that it’s a story with lots of exteriors and location work that’s all been confined to videotape, too, and I think I’m right in saying that this is the first time we’ve seen a night shoot for the programme which hasn’t been shot on film.

There’s some beautiful lighting in the location work - especially during the scenes of the Doctor and Amelia Rumford in the stone circle - but it just feels a bit flat by being shot on videotape. It don’t have any of the depth that film would give it, and it’s a real shame. I’m also thrown by the wildly different lighting in several sequential shots throughout the night - it seems to shift from midnight to late evening from shot-to-shot, which I’d guess was a casualty of the filming schedule. It shouldn’t irritate me as much as it does, but I just found it very distracting!

Not quite as distracting, though, as the fact that they’ve changed the cliffhanger between episodes! As scripted, Episode One ends with Romana seeing the figure of the Doctor at the cliff’s edge before he pushes her over to her doom. I believe that Tom Baker refused to film this sequence because he didn’t feel it was right for the Doctor, so instead we have Romana following the Doctor’s voice, and then simply losing her footing and falling over the edge. This episode, though, continually refers to Romana seeing the Doctor push her over the cliff (she’s even horrified when the real Doctor appears to save her), and they quickly speculate that someone has discovered a way of using they Key to transform their appearance. It all just feels at odds with what we saw yesterday, and that left me a little confused!

All I’ve done so far today is complain about things, but that’s not to say that I’ve not enjoyed the episode. Those few small niggles left me a little disheartened, but there’s plenty of other things in the story that I am enjoying. Curiously, coming after a story from Douglas Adams which is supposed to be funny, there’s a number of lines in today’s episode which left me laughing - particularly the Doctor’s insistence that K9 had always wanted to be a bloodhound! The you’ve got pretty much anything that’s said by Vivien Fey or Amelia Rumford. Thelatter in particular is amusing me because she seems to be playing the part as Patrick Troughton playing the Second Dr Who! There’s numerous little mannerisms in her performance that can’t fail to put me in mind of some of his stories - especially those early Season Four ones, when he was especially giddy!

It’s not all light-hearted, though. You’ve got the Doctor being offered up as a sacrifice, the death of a so far fairly important figure, and the set of the Big House gets completely trashed. Perhaps most effective is that they pretty soundly destroy K9. Coming only a few episodes after he duked it out with the Polyphase Avatron, I really believe that the Ogri have great strength to be able to sound the Doctor’s best friend in such a way! Then there’s the reveal that Vivien Fey has been around for a long, long, time. I knew it was coming, but it still really works for me, and it’s nice to see little hints being dropped along the way, such as Romana noticing the line of women who’ve owned the land, and the missing paintings. I’d forgotten that this revelation came so early in the story, but I guess it signals that we’re going to be off in a different direction soon enough… 

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