The Doctor Who episode The Stones of Blood is part of the Key to Time series of episodes, and involves the Doctor and Romana visiting a circle of stones in the UK. There, Prof. Amelia Rumford recognizes the Doctor, having heard him lecture. That in itself is cool and would make great fodder for fan fiction. Is that this Doctor? The curator from the future? The Doctor when he has decided to stay on earth and lecture during the era when he is guarding the vault, and teaching Bill Potts as a student? Is asking those latter questions akin to asking about the Trinity in Genesis 1 – taking an unanswered question in an earlier text, and trying to answer it in terms that couldn’t have possibly been in view at the time the text was authored? Could such a comparison help students understand the difference between contextualizing Genesis (and other texts) as ancient Israelite literature, and reading Christian ideas into them?
The episode engages with the phenomenon of modern “Druids” and their lack of correspondence to the group that historically bore that name. (UPDATE: I was reminded that I neglected to specifically mention the quip by the Doctor that he thought John Aubrey invented Druidism in the 17th century as a joke.) The episode also mentions Gog and Magog from the Bible!
The climactic part of the episode features the most direct as well as implicit engagement with religion. The Megara are said to be “Justice Machines” which held the galactic empire that created them in contempt of court and destroyed the galaxy.
Vivian is turned into a standing stone, an eternal imprisonment, as punishment for impersonating a Celtic goddess. And so the message is a mixed one, as so often when Doctor Who explores religion. The term Calliach used in the episode reflects an authentic detail from Celtic superstition, being a term for a which or hag in Irish lore. Mythology and religion are once again depicted as deriving from aliens and advanced technology, but as always, this gives them more of a grain of truth to them than most skeptically-minded people today would be inclined to otherwise. And yet somehow the irreligious act of appropriating divine status meets withthe kind of judgment one would expect in a universe in which gods punish human hubris that encroaches on their prerogatives.
Being long overdue to return to blogging through the classic series, and finally completing my blog series that does so, I am delighted to return through an episode that features themes of religious so centrally.