David Fisher has never been thrilled with Terrance Dicks’ novel adaptation of the four-part Key to Time story, “The Stones of Blood.” And while the original adaptation by Dicks isn’t terrible, it’s certainly not one of Uncle Terrance’s stronger Doctor Who adaptations, reading as little more than a scene-by-scene retelling of the shooting script.
Years later, Fisher has been given the opportunity to correct this perceived wrong with the audio release of “Stones of Blood.” Having read and enjoyed Fisher’s adaptation of “The Leisure Hive” I admit I was both looking forward to and curious about the new version of “Stones.”
Let’s get the big question out of the way here–is it better than the Dicks version?
Yes and no.
Fisher isn’t slavishly devoted to the original script, moving some scenes around for narrative flow and changing dialogue so it works better on the printed page. Fisher also provides some deeper character moments and background to his story, including giving names and a backstory to the campers that are killed by the Ogri in the third episode.
And while these additions and minor changes work well, overall I can’t say this is a huge improvement over the original. Part of this is the limitations of the original script, which really started to drag in the third and fourth episodes. The Justice Machines seems like an interesting idea on paper, but they lose their appeal quickly and the later segments of the story can’t quite match the interest and hook of the early segments.
On the audio book side, Susan Engel who played Vivian Faye in the original television production, delivers a solid reading of the story.
As a curiosity, this works well. There are certainly some improvements on the Dicks novelization, but there are also some things that the original novelization did just as well, if not better.