“Goddess of war, death and magic. Beware the raven or the crow, Doctor. They are her eyes.” – De Vries
What better setting is there for a Doctor Who episode than an ancient stone circle in the middle of the night with ravens and blood and aliens? I don’t know if fans would generally consider it so, but this is for me the absolute best episode of the entire Key to Time series. It definitely has the most elements of horror of the six—it’s full of mood and jump scares and suspense. I think the show did a great job of bringing “rocks” to life, especially when the Ogri suddenly appear at the window and doors, but I’m glad they didn’t jump to them too quickly but instead let the story build up a bit, following a bit of a red herring with the Druidic cult leaders until they are unexpectedly slaughtered.
The whole story is thing of mystery and surprises, not the least of which is that the whole setting switches halfway through unexpectedly from the ancient and natural to the brightly lit and futuristic. It’s also fun how the story offers clues along the way, like hinting about the rocks moving with the confused surveys and mysterious indentations on the ground and to Vivien’s identity with portraits and talk of the line of female landowners. As I’ve mentioned before, I always like it when ancient myths end up being evidence of aliens in the show, so having a four-thousand year old Druidic goddess turn out to be a stranded alien and the whole notion of erecting stone circles to cover in blood for sacrifice as starting with the silicon-based Ogri is wonderful.
In addition to a great premise, some great performances are also key to the story. We are treated to one of those larger than life characters in the person of Emilia Rumford; the actress puts such gusto into her portrayal that she steals the show. The character of Vivien, later in her true form as the silver skinned Cessair, is also quite well played. It seems like there is a subtle difference in the archness she shows in her two guises. I also love the undercurrent in the Doctor’s tete-a-tete with De Vries. Even K-9 suddenly gets to be a self-sacrificing hero.
Best (or worst) unsettling moment:
The camping scene will forever be seared in my memory from childhood as one of the scariest Doctor Who scenes ever. It starts out ominous as they awake and find two stones suddenly just standing there where they weren’t before. It’s a sudden scare when she touches the stone and cries in pain. When her hand suddenly fades through to bone and they both scream in agony as the screen fades to red, it’s the height of terror.
I wish they could have highlighted more of Cessair’s role over the years as the goddess and matron of the manor. The appearance of the Doctor’s machine to enter hyperspace machine is a bit silly which undercuts the seriousness of the danger a bit too.