the many local inhabitants who fell victim to the Ogri

Books Having built an excellent reputation for producing authentic readings of the TARGET novelisations of classic Doctor Who, with The Stones of Blood, AudioGo have controversially dispensed with Terrance Dicks’s 1980 adaptation in favour of new work by the story’s original scriptwriter David Fisher. TARGET had always been in the business of asking the originator of each story if they’d be interested in adapting their work into prose, but according to the preview in Doctor Who Magazine, Fisher hadn’t been aware of a book coming out until it was published, his agent having not passed on the news. He’s no longer with that agent. But happily all of these years later, AudioGo have gifted him the opportunity to provide his take on the story.

From slap bang in the middle of the Key To Time season, The Stones of Blood sees the Doctor and Romana pitch up at the stone circle of Bodcombe Tor, where eccentric friends Professor Amelia Rumford and Vivian Fey intrigue them with their stories of the stone circle and they become messed up with a local druidic sect. As anyone who’s seen the television version will know, Fisher begins the story with what at first appears to be the kind of Hammersque tale beloved of producer Philip Hinchliffe all blood sacrifices and sibling tragedy, but soon drifts back into the typical whimsy of newer producer Graham Williams until by the end, Baker is trying to outwit a machine-based legal system represented by a couple of obstinate balls of light.

Fisher’s fascination with stone circles began with a filming trip to the Western Isles and extending his story to novel length allows him to demonstrate his grasp of their history, especially in a Radio 4 Book of the Week style introduction which is thick with the lore of Bodcombe Tor and although arguably some of his observations render later exposition obsolete, it’s still fascinating to hear about the many local inhabitants who fell victim to the Ogri across the years and the development de Vries’s rituals. The scratch of land in the tv episode becomes a fully realised patch of countryside, the kind of isolated drop of remote Englishness that would later reoccur in K9 and Company and be parodied to good effect in Hot Fuzz.

Having not read the Dicks adaptation, I can’t contrast the two approaches but Fisher’s feels substantially longer than those old TARGET stories which kept to a fairly limited pagination this spreads a hundred minutes of screen time over a leisurely four hours but its worth it for the level of detail Fisher brings to his characters. The two ill-fated campers gain thorough back stories and Romana’s aristocratic energy is contracted beautifully with Rumford’s harebrained academia. Both have to navigate what for them are entirely alien concepts; sausages sandwiches and bicycles for the former and in the case of the latter the futuristic world the Doctor has brought to the door of her cottage.

There’s a tendency in some of these readings for the actor to attempt impersonations of the original cast but Susan Engel (who portrayed Vivien in the original television version) largely reads much of this in her own voice, apart from moments when its electronically treated, which gives it the feeling of a sinister bedtime story. But it’s impossible for the mannerisms of the actors not to break through such as the grin which always breaks across Baker’s voice during sarcasm and she clearly has great memories of working with Beatrix Lehmann who is also lovingly resurrected. Once again, John Leeson is called on to recreate the voice of K9 and once again his is a proper performance, absolutely heartbreaking in the moment when his power drains away lest he become too invincible.

All in all this is a thoroughly entertaining listen that absolutely repays the decision to hand Fisher back command of his work.

Doctor Who: The Stones of Blood by David Fisher is published by AudioGo. RRP: £13.25 ISBN: 9781408467114. Review copy supplied.

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