Me: Our 100th story! Can you believe it?
Sue: Is that all? How many stories are left?
Me: 50…ish. It’s complicated.
Sue: What a surprise. So we’re not even two-thirds of the way through this yet? Is that what you’re saying?
Me: Don’t say it like that. And Nicol is baking us a celebratory cake, so it’s not all bad news.
This landmark story begins with the Doctor trying to assemble the first two segments of the Key to Time.
Sue: That’s good. I was annoyed when we didn’t see him pick it up at the end of the last story. Hang on, wasn’t this a round on The Krypton Factor?
When the Doctor discovers where the next segment is hidden, he grins like a Cheshire cat.
Sue: Earth. Has to be.
Me: It’s so sweet that you know that.
Sue: We’re due for a good down-to-earth story after all the spacey stuff we’ve had to endure lately. Oooh, Stonehenge. The Box of Andromeda in buried under there.
Me: It’s not Stonehenge and it’s not the box of Andromeda.
Sue: Where am I getting Andromeda from? Is there an Andromeda Experiment?
Christ, this is worse than some student essays I’ve had to mark.
Me: You’re thinking of the Pandorica.
Sue: I’m sorry but I don’t remember what these things are supposed to be called. I didn’t know there was going to be a test this week.
Me: Your memory is terrible.
Sue: No it isn’t. I just don’t file away unimportant information. Ask me who won the men’s singles final at Wimbledon in 1982.
Me: Okay, who won the men’s singles final at Wimbledon in 1982?
Sue: Jimmy Connors
Me: Okay, so who won it in 1990?
Sue: That’s not the point. The point is, I remember the stuff that I care about and I discard all the stuff I –
Me: Don’t care about?
Sue: Don’t give me those sad eyes. And it was Stefan Edberg.
In a stone circle (which definitely isn’t Stonehenge), some Druids are performing a complicated ritual.
Sue: Not another bloody cult. Cults and miners, that’s all we ever get. The perfect Doctor Who story would involve mind-controlled Masons mining for minerals.
Me: On Mars.
Romana changes out of her Abba costume into something more practical.
Me: This was back in the days when you could wear Burberry without looking like a guest on The Jeremy Kyle Show.
The Doctor is reminded to be on the look-out for the Black Guardian.
Sue: Right, we must meet the Black Guardian this week. Why else would they mention him? I’ll keep my eyes peeled.
The Doctor brings Romana up to speed on the Guardians and what they stand for.
Sue: Is there a Grey Guardian?
Me: Yes, he’s the Guardian of badly written slash fiction.
After some witty banter involving tennis (which Sue adores, of course), our heroes leave the TARDIS so they can retrieve the third segment. The Doctor is immediately drawn to some holes which have been made in the grass. Romana uses her high heels to examine the ground’s density.
Sue: I love Romana. I hope she sticks around for a while. These two have great chemistry. It’s a fun relationship. It’s River Song-esque.
The Time Lords enter a stone circle, where they encounter Professor Emilia Rumford. Sue immediately falls in love with her.
Sue: How is it that this story, and the story before last, are both a lot funnier than the one written by Douglas Adams?
And then, just when you think it can’t get any funnier, Vivien Fay turns up.
Sue: She is definitely the Black Guardian. Her pink suit is just a diversion.
The Doctor leaves Romana alone with the two women while he hikes off to investigate De Vries, the local Druid leader. Romana passes the time helping Vivien and Emilia measure the circle.
Sue: Ooh, she’s got a dumpy level.
Me: A dumpy what?
Sue: You wouldn’t understand. It’s like me and that box thing. See, I’ve forgotten what it’s called already.
Sue: It’s Bob the Bastard!
For the several weeks now, we have been terrorised by a vicious crow. When he’s not standing in front of the kitchen window eviscerating dead mice like he’s posing for Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds album cover, he’s scaring the cats. Sue isn’t a big fan of crows. Especially Bob.
The Doctor arrives at Mister De Vries’ house.
Sue: This is a very nice location. It reminds me of Raymond Blanc’s place.
Me: Now you are just trying to sound like you can remember stuff.
Sue: I tell you what, though, the direction in this story is very good. Lots of symmetry. Nice.
Sue doesn’t believe me when I tell her that we have moved into a television studio, which is the best compliment a set designer can get.
As the Doctor mooches around, he notices that De Vries keeps a bird in his house.
Sue: I bet the crow is the Key to Time. Or maybe Bob the Bastard is the Black Guardian?
The Doctor and De Vries discuss Druidry over a sherry.
Sue: This is not for kids.
Me: What isn’t?
Sue: He’s smoking a tab. That’s how we know he’s the bad guy.
To demonstrate his innate badness, De Vries knocks the Doctor unconscious before he can meet someone dressed in a feathered costume.
Sue: Is that the monster this week? Oh dear. It’s a bit… homemade.
Left alone in the stone circle, and with night falling rapidly (so rapidly you can smell the director’s fear), Romana throws off her shoes and follows the sound of the Doctor’s voice. Sue is on the edge of her seat.
Sue: (grimacing) She’ll sting her feet on those nettles. I can’t bear to watch this.
The episode concludes with Romana walking backwards off a cliff.
Sue: A cliff-faller instead of a cliffhanger. I don’t know what happened there but I enjoyed the rest.
Sue: Hey, the last cliffhanger was so bad, they were too embarrassed to repeat it. At least they had the decency to admit it, I suppose.
The Doctor lies unconscious on a stone altar. A Druid coven surrounds him, led by De Vries. Suddenly, a Druid named Martha decides to intervene.
Martha: Leonard, I don’t like this.
Sue: Leonard? Bit of a funny name for a bad guy, isn’t it? Leonard.
Me: “Is it Leonard?”. No, you’re right, it doesn’t work.
Martha reminds Sue of Megan, Don Draper’s wife from Mad Men. Megan is one of the most beautiful women in the world (allegedly, Sue, allegedly) – that’s how dark this scene is lit.
Emilia interrupts the sacrifice and the coven leg it.
Sue: I can hear their cars starting up in the background. That’s funny. I bet they all drive Volvos. They really should have stuck to dogging, you know. It’s a lot less dangerous (allegedly, Neil, allegedly).
Romana is clinging to the side of a cliff, but Sue isn’t impressed.
Sue: Just let go and drop onto the ledge you are standing on, love. It’s massive.
The Doctor is worried about Romana.
Sue: Emilia just mentioned mine workings. I bloody knew it.
Emilia suggests that they call it a night.
Sue: (As Emilia) I know, let’s go for a quick pint at the Slaughtered Lamb!
Now Sue is just showing off.
Sue: **** me, K9 on grass. I never thought I’d live to see the day.
K9 struggles to negotiate the unfamiliar terrain at first, but when he gets going, he really gets going.
Sue: Freewheelin’ K9! This reminds of the time I ran out of money in France and I had to freewheel all the way back to the ferry terminal.
The Doctor rescues Romana, but when he pulls her up onto the grass verge, they are surrounded by CSO.
Sue: Why didn’t they shoot that scene on location? I know it’s dark out there, but so is this. I can hardly see a thing.
Romana returns to the TARDIS for some sensible shoes.
Sue: And a stupid dress. Yeah, that will be so much better if you fall off another cliff, love. Nice, though.
The Doctor returns to De Vries’ house with K9, who lags some way behind.
Sue: I have the same problem when I take Buffy for a walk, now that she has arthritis, bless her. The Doctor should wait for K9 to catch up. Just think, if this drive was on a slope, K9 could overtake him. Poor K9.
While investigating the house, the Doctor is attacked by standing stones (which are really Ogri, alien beings from Tau Ceti).
Sue: What the **** is that?
Me: What does it look like?
Sue: Giant popcorn?
Me: What has this story been about so far?
Sue: I don’t know… Crows?
Me: It’s the stones!
Sue: Walking stones? That’s a bit daft.
Meanwhile, in the Professor’s cottage, Emilia is making sausage sandwiches while Vivien flirts outrageously with Romana.
Sue: This reminds me of my nana’s house, only much nicer. I’d love a cottage like this in France.
Me: I’ll love a sausage sandwich.
Vivien continues to tweak Sue’s suspicions:
Sue: It’s definitely her, you know. She is definitely the Black Knight.
And then, a few minutes later.
Sue: They should have given Emilia and Vivien their own spin-off series where they solved crimes in their spare time.
Me: Even though you think she’s the baddie?
Sue: It might work on ITV4.
After his battle with the Ogri, K9 is totally ****ed. The Doctor turns him up upside down before pulling out a handful of guts.
Sue: Poor K9. I didn’t know that he doubled as a paper shredder.
The Doctor even considers putting his second best friend down.
Sue: (as the Doctor) Don’t worry, I’ve got loads spares in the TARDIS. I got a fantastic deal on Amazon. The Mark III is even quieter, you know.
In the circle, the Cailleach pours blood onto a standing stone.
Sue: It is so her.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and the Professor search De Vries house for clues.
Sue: This is a beautiful house. Where did they film this?
Me: Television Centre. Studio TC3, I believe; I’ve already told you this.
Sue: Why can’t they set every Doctor Who story in a house like this? I really like the feel of this one: it’s Hammer Horror meets Agatha Christie.
Back in the TARDIS, Romana attempts to repair K9.
Sue: Why is she using the G clamp as a screwdriver? She should be shot for that.
The Doctor and Emilia find a series of paintings that have been secreted away in the cellar.
Sue: It’s her.
The Doctor realises that these paintings, which span several centuries, are portraits of the same woman: Miss Vivien Fay.
Sue: I told you it was her.
Me: Congratulations on narrowing down that huge list of suspects.
Sue: It could have been Don’s wife.
Romana returns to the stone circle but she is intercepted by Vivien, who leads her towards a glowing, red light.
Sue: And now it’s turned into The Wicker Man. But with stones instead of wood.
Vivien points a staff at Romana and an energy wave makes the Time Lord vanish into thin air.
Sue: So far, so good. Now where’s that cake?
Me: Nicol has baked the cake but she can’t decorate it until tomorrow.
Sue: The tension is killing me.
The Doctor and Emilia are chased out of the house by two Ogri.
Sue: I’m surprised they were allowed to broadcast this episode. It’s so dark. Look, the camera operator just tripped over and they just kept going. They are rushing this. Something must have gone terribly wrong on location that day. Did they film any of this in daylight? It’s the murkiest episode of Doctor Who I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen recons.
The Ogri continue to advance.
Sue: It’s so much better when you can’t see them walking, and you just cut to them. They remind me of the Weeping Angels. A bit.
Emilia takes out her trusty truncheon.
Sue: Please let her be a companion. I’d love to see the Doctor travelling the universe with a dotty, old academic.
Me: Are you volunteering?
Wow. No cushion.
Sue: I don’t do cushions any more. It makes me sound like a petulant child. I’ll just spit in your tea instead.
The Ogri aren’t really doing it for Sue.
Sue: The director is shooting them as tight as he possibly can. It’s all he can do, really. I mean, what were they thinking? Walking stones? The idiots! They love to make it difficult for themselves, don’t they?
Doctor suggests that the Ogri are related to Magog.
Sue: Genesis wrote a song about Magog, I definitely remember that. Supper’s Ready. Great song. There’s nothing wrong with my memory.
The Doctor and Emilia discuss Einstein’s special theory of relativity.
Sue: Nicol would have enjoyed that. These two are wonderful together. Tom Baker’s face when she starts going off on one is priceless. The Doctor had better take her for a spin in his TARDIS when this is all over. Romana’s fixed it, so it should be okay.
Emilia asks the Doctor if he comes from outer space. He tells her that he comes from inner time.
Sue: That’s interesting.
Me: No it isn’t. It’s complete bollocks. Of course he comes from outer space. He’s taking the piss.
The Doctor assembles a device that will send him into hyperspace. He takes it to the stone circle with Emilia but when she switches it on… nothing happens.
Sue: That was very funny. All that build-up for nothing.
When the machine finally works, the Doctor is transported to a ship in hyperspace.
Sue: Oh no, it’s all gone a bit spacey now.
The Doctor finds Romana in a cell, and she is astounded when the Doctor tells her where she is.
Sue: How can hyperspace be a theoretical absurdity when Babylon 5 used it all the time? You told me that Babylon 5 was scientifically accurate.
With the Doctor gone, K9 tries to keep the Ogri at bay.
Sue: K9 is having a nightmare this week. And why does he have to be recharged so often? Does he run on Apple batteries?
Elsewhere, a man steps out of a tent and buttons up his trousers.
Sue: Not for kids.
His lover, Pat, follows him. The couple are surprised to find themselves surrounded by standing stones. Pat touches one and screams. Her hand turns to bone in front of our eyes. Her lover’s screams join with hers and the image fades to red.
Sue: NOT FOR KIDS! Bloody hell.
Back on the hyperspatial ship, the Doctor encounters a familiar face.
Nothing. Not a sausage (in a sandwich or otherwise) from Sue.
I rewind and pause.
Me: What’s that?
Sue: Why are there so many tests this week? I don’t know. It looks like an insect. Is it a Zarbi?
Me: It’s a Wirrn!
Me: A Wirrn! How can you not remember the Wirrn? The Ark in Space, woman! It was only three months ago. And there was a bloody Wirrn on the cover of the book I asked you to get the Moff to sign. You told me you were going to read his introduction on the train. How can you not know that what a Wirrn is?
Sue: It’s probably just the angle. I’m used to seeing them full-on. I do remember them now. Vaguely.
The Doctor unleashes the Megara justice machines from a sealed cupboard. They aren’t very happy about this.
Sue: I like the Megara. Simple, effective and easy to understand. Much better than walking rocks who don’t say anything.
When Sue sees Vivien under the studio lights, she starts singing ‘Silver Lady’ by David Soul under her breath. Just be thankful this isn’t a podcast.
Vivien is overjoyed, having successfully trapped the Doctor and Romana in hyperspace.
Sue: (As Vivien) And I will force you to watch bad movies forever!
Sue: It’s starting go downhill. I hope it doesn’t start to freewheel.
The Doctor is put on trial for his life.
Sue: This is basically an episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show. All these truth tests and lie detectors. There are fewer chairs, though.
An Ogri interrupts the proceedings, so the Megara vaporise it.
Sue: I wish Jeremy would do that when a cheating scumbag fails one of his tests.
As the trial unfolds, Sue falls silent. I naturally begin to worry.
Me: You’re not saying very much.
Sue: Shut up, I’m listening to this.
I had expected Sue to start disliking the Megara after a while, but I couldn’t be further from the truth.
Sue: I really like the electronic lawyers. It’s a nice idea which actually works for a change.
Back at Emilia’s cottage, Romana attempts to identify Vivien’s origins.
Sue: Romana’s great. You’ve basically got two Doctors in the programme when she’s around. It helps the plot move forward.
The Professor and Romana are attacked by the Ogri, one of which crashes through Emilia’s front door.
Sue: What a waste of a set.
The Ogri move in for the kill.
Sue: Just outrun them. That’s the problem with them: K9 could outrun them, even if he was going uphill.
The Doctor is sentenced to death, but at the last moment he touches Vivien’s pendant. An explosive discharge knocks Vivien unconscious and the Doctor persuades the Megara to scan her memory cells for signs of brain damage. They agree, but the scan reveals the truth: Vivien is really Cessair of Diplos, a notorious war criminal.
Sue: Why didn’t they just scan everybody’s memory right at the start? It would have saved a lot of time
She sounds like a script editor.
Megara: According to article three, subsection one three five of the legal code, we the Megara, are not permitted to read the memory cells of any beings, except when they are unable to present their evidence by reason of death, unconsciousness or natural stupidity.
Sue: Then why didn’t you just say that in the first place?
Cessair gets her just deserts but the Doctor snatches her pendant away before she is transported back into hyperspace.
Emilia accompanies the Doctor and Romana back to their TARDIS.
Sue: I can’t believe they haven’t invited her inside. She would be brilliant. Imagine her against the Daleks! I’m gutted. Poor thing. Maybe it’s because she wouldn’t wear a bra?
Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor transforms the pendant into the third segment of the Key to Time.
Sue: I really like these scenes. I like the story arc. It’s very subtly done but it holds everything together. I’m actually looking forward to the next one.
Right on cue, Nicol enters the room with a cake.
Nicol: Hurry up and make a wish – the candles are melting.
Sue: I wish this was the 150th story!
Nicol: It won’t come true because you said it out loud.
Me: Just slice the bloody thing open, I want to see if you made it with real blood.
Sue: I really enjoyed that. I wasn’t keen on the stones – that was a really stupid idea – but I can’t complain about anything else. I really liked the idea, and the direction was pretty good, but I’m going to dock another point for leaving Emilia behind at the end.