Number : Season 13, serial 3 of 6.
Which One : Egyptian gods and mummies.
Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
Sarah-Jane : Liz Sladen
Sutekh : Gabriel Woolf
Professor Marcus Scarman : Bernard Archard
Laurence Scarman : Michael Sheard
Dr Warlock : Peter Copley
Collins : Michael Bilton
Erbie Clements : George Tovey
Namin : Peter Mayock
Ahmed : Vic Tablian
Written By : Robert Holmes & Lewis Griefer
Produced By : Philip Hinchcliffe
First Broadcast : 25 October – 15 November 1975.
Length : 4 x 25 minute episodes.
Plot : The Doctor attempts to re-visit 1970’s UNIT headquarters. The Tardis lands in an earlier time-period of 1911. The manor house is ran by a mysterious Egyptian man, called Ahmed; who has a bunch of lumbering robotic mummy servants.
Whats good : Sutekh. Scarman (both of them). The gothic horror tones. Games Of Mars. High production values. The mummies.
Whats bad : Nothing
Review With Spoilers : Pyramids Of Mars is the third serial of season 13 – and marked a period, when Doctor Who – was at it’s artistic peak.
Whilst Tom Baker was laying down, the most memorably definitive portrayal of the Doctor, on screen. Behind it, producer Phillip Hinchcliffe was pushing the show’s envelope; in new directions. Helped, by a hugely talented pool of writers.
When Hinchcliffe’s name is mentioned – in terms of Doctor Who. It usually follows; ‘the visionary who brought a healthy dose of gothic-horror to Who’. Whilst this is most definitely true, Pyramids Of Mars, probably best sums up the Hammer Horror and 1930’s and 40’s Karloff era Horror aspirations.
Pyramids Of Mars is a story dipped in Egyptian myth, of a fallen god-like Osirian – called Sutekh; with the duatinctive Who Sci-Fi motif.
Sutekh commands, an army of robotic mummies and re-animated corpses – to do hid bidding. Indeed, the sight of the mummies – slowly lumbering after the poor Gamekeeper, pay their dues to classic Horror cinema. Especially, said mummies novel way of disposing of the Gamekeeper; by belly-crushing him to death.
“[Alternative 1980 where Sutekh has laid waste to the Earth] 1980! Sarah! If you want to get off……” The Doctor
Both, Gabriel Woolf – as Sutekh and Who-regular; Bernard Archard – as Professor (Marcus) Scarman. Bring a menacing edge, to their characters and give Tom Baker’s huge personality; a run for it’s money.
Woolf in particular, bestows Sutekh with the kind of presence and depth, that a villain in Who – is usually not afforded. This makes Sutekh, a dangerously powerful – and memorable opponent for the Doctor.
Sutekh though, for all of the Egyptian imagery – is an alien. As such, Sutekh commands an army of robotic mummies, egyptian ‘force-field’ pots and Osirian war missiles. The latter of which, the Doctor destroys with blasting gelignite.
Some really nice touches, include; the Doctor taking Sarah forward in time, from the new alternate 1911 timeline – to 1980. To prove a point, about Sutekh’s evil. After a newly freed Sutekh has destroyed Earth. Which was very similar, to a scene from the much later Back To The Future 2, where the Doc and Marty travel forward in time – from an alternative past.
The puzzles and games on Mars – follow Sutekh’s attempt to destroy the Eye Of Horus; which imprisons him. Are more than reminiscent, of the Exillon City – in Death To The Daleks. Sarah-Jane even remarks this fact, to the Doctor (despite not having witnessed the Exillon Cities – tricks and traps – herself).
Tom Baker – especially, is right at the top of his game – as the Doctor. Having found his feet after a full season, with greatest companion; Sarah-Jane beside him and an inspired producer, behind the scenes; in Hinchcliffe.
Pyramids Of Mars marked a high point in the show – and the Tom Baker years. Thanks to a strong villain, supporting-cast and inspired production.
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