Me: This is our 100th story! Can you believe it?
Sue: Is that all? How many stories are left?
Me: Fifty… 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. Nicol is baking a celebratory cake for us, so it’s not all bad news.
The story begins with the Doctor assembling the first two segments of the Key to Time.
Sue: Good. It annoyed me when we didn’t see him pick it up at the end of the last story. Wait a minute… Wasn’t this a round on The Krypton Factor?
When the Doctor discovers where the next segment is located, he grins like a Cheshire cat.
Sue: It must be Earth, then.
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. Ooh, Stonehenge! The Box of Andromeda is buried under there.
Me: It isn’t Stonehenge, and it isn’t called the box of Andromeda. You’re thinking of the Pandorica.
Sue: 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 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. I bet the perfect Doctor Who story would involve mind-controlled Masons mining for minerals.
Me: On Mars.
Romana swaps her Abba outfit for 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: That means we must meet the Black Guardian this week. Why else would they mention him? I’ll keep my eyes peeled for him.
The Doctor brings Romana up to speed on the Guardians and what they represent.
Sue: Is there a Grey Guardian?
Me: Yes, he’s the Guardian of badly written slash fiction.
After some witty banter concerning tennis (which Sue adores), our heroes leave the TARDIS so they can retrieve the third segment. The Doctor is immediately drawn to some holes in the grass, and Romana uses her high heels to examine the ground’s density.
Sue: I love Romana. I hope she sticks around. These two have great chemistry. It’s a fun relationship. It’s River Song-esque.
The Time Lords encounter Professor Emilia Rumford in the middle of a stone circle. 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 we think it can’t get any funnier, Vivien Fay turns up.
Sue: She’s definitely the Black Guardian. Her pink suit is a diversion.
The Doctor leaves Romana with the two women while he investigates De Vries, the local Druid leader. Romana passes the time helping Vivien and Emilia measure the stone 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 several weeks now, we have been terrorised by a vicious crow which we’ve christened Bob. When he’s not standing in front of the kitchen window eviscerating dead mice like he’s posing for a Jeff Wayne album cover, he’s scaring the cats. Sue isn’t a big fan of crows.
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 glass of sherry.
Sue: He’s smoking a tab. That’s how you know he’s the bad guy.
De Vries knocks the Doctor unconscious before he can meet someone who’s come 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 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: (Grimacing) She’ll sting her feet on those nettles if she’s not careful. I can’t bear to watch this.
The episode concludes with Romana walking backwards off the edge of a cliff.
Sue: That was a cliff-faller instead of a cliffhanger. I don’t know what happened there but I think enjoyed the rest.
Sue: The cliffhanger was so bad, they’re too embarrassed to repeat it. At least they have the decency to admit that, I suppose.
The Doctor’s unconscious body is placed on a stone altar surrounded by druids. Luckily for him, Emilia interrupts the sacrifice and the druids leg it.
Sue: I can hear their cars starting up in the background. That’s very funny. I bet they drive Volvos. They should have stuck to dogging. It’s less dangerous, allegedly.
Romana is clinging to the side of a cliff, but Sue isn’t impressed.
Sue: Just drop onto that ledge you’re standing on, love. It’s massive.
Emilia decides to call it a night.
Sue: (As Emilia) I know, let’s go for a quick pint at The Slaughtered Lamb!
Now she’s 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 we 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 his companion back to the grass verge, they are suddenly surrounded by CSO.
Sue: Why didn’t they shoot this 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, pet. 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 she’s got arthritis, bless her. The Doctor should wait for K9 to catch up to him. Just think, if this drive was on a slope, K9 could probably overtake him. Poor K9.
As he investigates the house, the Doctor is attacked by standing stones, who are actually Ogri, alien beings from Tau Ceti.
Sue: What the **** is that?
Me: What the **** 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? Eh? 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 nicer. I’d love a cottage like this in France.
Me: I’ll love a sausage sandwich.
Vivien continues to arouse Sue’s suspicions.
Sue: It’s definitely her, you know. She’s definitely the Black Guardian.
And then, a few minutes later…
Sue: They should have given Emilia and Vivien their own 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. So the Doctor turns him upside down and pulls out a handful of artificial guts.
Sue: Poor K9. I didn’t know he doubled as a paper shredder.
The Doctor even considers putting his best friend down.
Sue: Don’t worry, he’s got loads of spares in the TARDIS, he grabbed a fantastic deal on Amazon. And the Mark III is even quieter!
Meanwhile, the Cailleach is pouring blood on a standing stone.
Sue: (Under her breath) It is so her…
The Doctor and the Professor search De Vries house for clues.
Sue: This place is beautiful. 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 tone of this one. It’s Hammer Horror meets Agatha Christie.
Romana tries to repair K9.
Sue: Why is she using a G-clamp as a screwdriver? She should be shot for that.
The Doctor and Emilia find a series of paintings hidden away in a cellar.
Sue: It’s her.
The Doctor realises these paintings, which span several centuries, are portraits of the same woman: Miss Vivien Fay.
Sue: I said it was her.
Me: Congratulations on narrowing down the huge list of suspects, Sue.
When Romana returns to the stone circle, 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 the Time Lord vanishes into thin air.
Sue: Okay. So far, so good.
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. The camera operator tripped over something and they just kept going. They’re rushing this. Something must have gone terribly wrong on location that day. I mean, did they film any of this in daylight? It’s the murkiest episode of Doctor Who I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen all the recons.
The Ogri continue to advance.
Sue: It’s better when you can’t see them walking, and you just cut to them standing still. 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 academic.
Me: Are you volunteering?
I expected a cushion in the face for that comment.
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? Idiots! They love to make life difficult for themselves, don’t they?
Doctor believes the Ogri could be related to Magog.
Sue: Genesis wrote a song about Magog, I definitely remember that. Supper’s Ready. Great song. See, there’s nothing wrong with my memory, Neil.
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 over. Romana’s fixed it now, so it should be fine.
Emilia asks the Doctor if he comes from outer space. He tells her 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. However, 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 hovering in hyperspace.
Sue: Oh no, it’s gone a bit spacey now.
The Doctor finds Romana in a cell, and she’s astonished when he tells her where they’ve ended up.
Sue: How can hyperspace be a theoretical absurdity when Babylon 5 used it all the time? You told me Babylon 5 was scientifically accurate, Neil.
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 discover that their camp site is surrounded by standing stones. Pat touches one and screams. Her hand turns to bone in front of her eyes, and then her lover’s screams mingle with hers as the image fades to red.
Sue: DEFINITELY NOT FOR KIDS! Bloody hell!
Back on the hyperspatial spaceship, the Doctor encounters a familiar face. But I get nothing from Sue. Not a sausage (in a sandwich or otherwise). So I rewind the scene and pause it.
Me: What’s that?
Sue: Why are there so many tests this week? I don’t know. It looks like an insect to me. 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!
Sue: It’s probably the angle. I’m used to seeing them full-on. I do remember them now. Vaguely.
The Doctor unleashes the Megara justice machines.
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 (just be grateful this isn’t a podcast). Cue credits.
Sue: It’s starting to go downhill. I hope it doesn’t start freewheeling at the end.
The Doctor is 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 tries to interrupt the proceedings, so the Megara vaporise it.
Sue: I wish Jeremy would do that when a cheating scumbag fails a lie detector test.
As the trial unfolds, Sue falls silent. Naturally, I begin to worry.
Me: You’re not saying very much, love.
Sue: Shut up, I’m listening to this.
I expected Sue to dislike the Megara after a while, but this 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 tries to identify Vivien’s origins.
Sue: Romana’s great, isn’t she? You’ve basically got two Doctors when she’s around, which really helps to move the plot forward.
An Ogri crashes through Emilia’s front door.
Sue: What a waste of a good set.
The stones move in for the kill.
Sue: Just outrun them. That’s the problem with these stupid things: even K9 could outrun them. Even if he was going uphill.
Although the Doctor has been sentenced to death, he manages to reach for 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 the notorious war criminal, Cessair of Diplos.
Sue: (Sighing) Why didn’t they scan everyone at the beginning? That would have saved a lot of time.
Cessair gets her just deserts and Emilia accompanies the Doctor and Romana back to the TARDIS.
Sue: I can’t believe they didn’t invite her inside. She would have been brilliant. Imagine her against the Daleks! I’m gutted. Poor thing. Maybe it’s because she wouldn’t wear a bra?
The Doctor transforms Vivien’s pendant into the third segment of the Key to Time.
Sue: I really like these scenes. I like the story arc. It’s subtly done but it holds everything together. I’m actually looking forward to the next one.
Right on cue, Nicol enters the living room, carrying a cake.
Nicol: Hurry up and make a wish – the candles are melting.
Sue: I wish this was the 150th story!
Nicol: That won’t come true now because you said it out loud.
Me: Just slice it 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.