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Doctor Who and the Stones of Blood

Dr A and I recently got our hands on an episode of the Stones of Blood – part of the Keys to Time series of Doctor Who featuring Tom Baker (broadcast 1978).

This has a cracking archaeology-themed storyline, which proves beyond doubt the animacy of archaeological remains.

The first two episodes are especially enjoyable. Filmed on location at the Rollright Stones, they feature a Druidic cult, a Celtic goddess, menacing corvids and two female prehistorians. What’s not to like?

I hate to give away a whole plotline, but it doesn’t take long to guess from their tendency to glow in the dark and their thirst for human blood, that there’s more to these standing stones than simple calcium carbonate.

While there’s a good deal of silliness in the episodes, there’s a good dose of atmosphere and horror too. The outfits and rituals are pretty effective and the sequence where two campers encounter the stones would have given me nightmares for days if I’d seen it when I was a child. Archaeologists – think twice before you pitch your tent too close to that stone circle…

The episodes draw on folklore relating to standing stones, name drops several genuine archaeologists and presumably draws inspiration from the pinnacle of archaeological TV drama Children of the Stones, which aired in 1977 and was filmed on location at Avebury.

Animism and animacy are topics archaeologists (including Dr A) have explored in recent years. The stones and rocks in the landscape around you now may not be randomly glowing or craving your blood, but people have recently been bombarded by beach pebbles, flung at their streets and houses by stormy seas. As the storms in SW England have demonstrated, the world around us is far from passive.

Dr H

Read more about archaeology and science fiction on the blog here.

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4 responses to “Doctor Who and the Stones of Blood

  1. Andy

    I remember that story-the stones pursuing the Doctor who ends up hanging off a cliff..I think.
    Yes, a literal cliffhanger.

  2. Dr H

    Hi Andy, that’s right, there is a cliffhanger! It’s Romana, though, who is left dangling and the Doctor has to haul her to safety with his scarf.

  3. John S.

    Hurrah! One of my favourite Doctor Who episodes ever! That bit with the hand being drained to a skeleton gave me nightmares when I first saw it. Not sure if it made me the archaeologist I am today, but certainly made me a very wary camper…

  4. Dr H

    There are some great sound effects from the Radiophonic Workshop too, breathing stones, etc, that really add to the atmosphere.
    It would be good if the next series of Doctor Who featured a Mark Gatiss authored episode about archaeology – MR James meets the Doctor, on a deserted headland in East Anglia…

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