(2022) David Fisher, Target – BBC Books, £7.99 / Can$16.99 / US$10.99, pbk, 194pp, ISBN 978-1-785-94794-0
"We won't find Dracula hanging around the Manor. But we may find something equally disturbing..."
The Doctor is delighted when his quest for the Key to Time leads him to his favourite planet, Earth. But his friends are less enchanted: Romana is nearly lured to her death by a sinister apparition, and K9 is all but destroyed by a belligerent boulder with the power to move – and a thirst for blood. An ancient stone circle becomes a battleground as the Doctor must outwit the deadliest alien criminal this side of hyperspace - and her bloodthirsty silicon servants...
This isn’t the first version of The Stones of Blood to appear in book form, there was a version written by Terrance Dicks – who else – way back in 1980, which was a slim affair, faithful to the broadcasted story from 1978, but not adding anything else.
So who better to pen this new version than the writer of the screenplay, David Fisher, and we do have additions in this version, which is almost a third longer than Dicks’ original. As well the revised story we get a insightful foreword by Nick Fisher about his late father, the man and the writer; as well as an afterword by Michael Stephens who commissioned David Fisher to write an audio version in 2011, which because of its nature differs from the televised version. Therefore, the book is a happy marriage of the TV and audio versions, completed by Nick Fisher as his father died in 2018. The plot is expanded giving greater depth to the supporting cast in terms of background, ambitions, and even secrets. We also get a bit of local history and colour, as well as some sparkling and witty dialogue, and a very good rendition of the quirky nature of Tom Baker’s Doctor, however, there is a problem.
The problem is that the story does suffer from being a plot of two halves, we get a very gothic horror opening in keeping with some of the other gothic horror adventures that the Fourth Doctor enjoyed. It is creepy and atmospheric, involving dark, bloody deeds at the stone circle called the “Nine Travellers” at Boscombe Tor. Therefore, we have an opening consisting of witchcraft, human sacrifice, ancient goddesses, Druids, some odd investigators on the prowl, and even bloodthirsty stones. Then the plot switches to outer space and a prison ship trapped in hyperspace, and the plot becomes a space opera story with strange aliens and robots, and the Doctor being put on trial by two Justice Machines. Caught between two stools, the plot suffers because of this jump in setting and tone that seems to drain the sense of threat from the proceedings. Putting aside the convoluted plot, we shouldn’t forget that the story is the third part of 'Key of Time' series with the Doctor and Romana and K9 helping out the White Guardian, to thwart the dastardly plans of the Black Guardian, by finding and uniting the scattered parts of the Key of Time, and thus restoring cosmic balance.
To sum up, despite the plot leap, those who remember the original broadcast version will enjoy this expanded tale, and I’m sure Whovians will be glad to add it to their collection of Target tales.
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