Doctor Who episode 491: The Stones of Blood – Part Four (18/11/1978)
‘You have been tried and found guilty of the following charges: impersonating a religious personage, to wit, a Celtic goddess…’ If only the Megara had been around in the Pertwee years they would have cleared up most of UNIT’s cases in record time. This is immense fun. I’m a sucker for a courtroom drama, so turning this final episode into Crown Court in space was always going to float my boat. But when it includes the Doctor calling Romana ‘Miss Dvoratrelundar’, Vivien feyly consenting to the mind probe, and the Megara being incredibly stuffy and pompous and accusing Romana of incompetence, I’m completely sold.
That’s not to say that the action happening outside the courtroom is any less engaging. Romana and Emilia’s discovery that Vivien is an alien from Diplos may play no part in finally bringing her to justice, but it at least fills in a few blanks for the audience (like how she happened to be accompanied by Ogri, and why they don’t eat her). It also feels very much like Russell T Davies was thinking of the scene when he wrote the ninth Doctor’s ‘narrows it down’ routine in World War Three.
I’m also totally in love with Emilia Rumford’s friendship with K9. The dog might be a bit of a taskmaster (Emilia’s weary sigh as he nags her to continue rewiring is cute), but they’re such a lovely pair, and you’d have to be more po-faced than I am not to adore the little pat she gives as they return to Vivien’s cottage. In return, Romana gives her a peck on the cheek as she leaves Emilia on what looks like a very cold moor. If that’s not evidence that everyone knew exactly what the script was implying about Emilia’s lesbianism I don’t know what is.
I don’t think this is quite as strong as The Ribos Operation or The Pirate Planet, but those were by Doctor Who’s most experienced hand and its most brilliant newcomer respectively. By any measure, this is a great script, well realised, and with a standout villain (Vivien seems half amused by the Doctor’s lawyerly pretensions, and has a great “OK then” moment when the Megara shoot one of her Ogri, and she quickly agrees to take the oath). The way it twists from what looks like another Nigel Kneale knock-off into something much more exotic is inspired. That’s three hits in a row for Season 16. This show is on a roll.
Next episode: The Androids of Tara