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.

The Dangers of Time Travel

The recent film Start Trek: Into Darkness has sent Dr A and Dr H back to the original series.

It’s many, many years since I watched some of these episodes, so the turn of events in All Our Yesterdays (Series 3, Episode 23) took me by surprise.

Spoiler alert! I’m about to give away the plot, so don’t read on if you’re currently working your way through a Star Trek box set and don’t want to know the twist in the story!

On travelling down to a planet threatened by immanent destruction from a supernova (all in a day’s work) Kirk, Spock and Bones accidentally travel in time, becoming trapped in the planet’s past (Kirk in a period akin to the 17th century and Spock and Bones in a forbidding Ice Age).

During their stay in the past, Spock starts to display some unusual behaviour.

The vegetarian, unemotional, non-violent Vulcan engages in the following activities:

Eating meat

Kissing beautiful women

Attacking his shipmate

Bones saves his skin, however, by pointing out to Spock that by travelling back 5,000 years, Spock has in fact devolved to become like the Vulcans of the time – meat-eating, violent, uninhibited “Barbarians”.

This is an aspect of time travel (already riddled with dangers) that I hadn’t previously considered. The whole idea of cultural evolution/ devolution is highly problematic, but what if you devolved physically as you travelled back in time? Imagine travelling back 2 million years and finding yourself transformed into Homo habilis. How would you manage the technology to travel back to the future? Would you, in your new state of being, want to?

Spock, faced with leaving the beautiful stranded Zarabeth (who will die if she leaves her icy prison), only returns to his own time because Bones cannot leave without him. The Vulcans have become a lot more civilised over 5000 years, but they certainly have a lot less fun.

Dr H

Screencaps from Trek Core

Thanks also to Fresca of l’astronave for reminding me of all the reasons to love Star Trek.