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.

Ghosts and Daemons

This week I have been lucky enough to encounter two great TV show from the 1970s featuring archaeological references

The first is from The Stone Tape, a TV drama from 1972, in which a group of scientists and computer specialists encounter a powerful haunting in an old house (being renovated to form their new headquarters).

The team, who are working on a new recording device, discover that the building itself has recorded the death of a servant in the nineteenth century. But has this “stone tape” also retained traces of something far more ancient?

Strange noises (perfectly orchestrated by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop) and glowing lights evoke menacing prehistoric spirits.

Coincidentally, The Stone Tape was referenced in this week’s Doctor Who (Hide), which mentioned keeping supplies of spam to keep the ghost at bay – in The Stone Tape, US soilders based in the house during WWII feed spam to the ghost in order to placate it.

This leads me on to my second 70s experience – Doctor Who and the Daemons (Jon Pertwee period – 1971).

Drawing on the Chronicle broadcast of the excavation of Silbury Hill, this Doctor Who story starts with TV coverage of the excavation of a prehistoric mound near the village of Devil’s End (in reality the village of Aldbourne, Wiltshire).

When the mound is opened, it all goes wrong. The pompous archaeologist is frozen to death, and a demon-like alien escapes – only to be harnessed by the Master, who is masquerading as a local vicar. It’s well worth watching. One of my favourite scenes is this, in which the UNIT team approaching the site get a view strange hoof prints leaving the excavation site.

If you see any of these in your aerial photos be afraid, be very afraid…

Dr H