Pyramids Of Mars (1975 BBC)

It was really Tom Baker who epitomized the eccentricities, sharp-wit and extreme other-worldliness that one would expect from an extra-terrestrial master of  Time and Space who has inexplicably developed a keen interest (and insatiable curiosity) with regards to humanity. And in this story Tom Baker makes perhaps the most striking entrance in the show’s history, standing silently next to the Tardis’ control panel, head bowed, hands in pockets like a Western gunfighter before looking up to later utter the immortal lines: “The Earth isn’t my home, Sarah. I’m a Time Lord…I’m not a human being. I walk in eternity.”

It gives us a hint of the melancholy and simmering rage that will follow because, for all its fun and games, “Pyramids” reveals an often violent intensity we have not seen before in the Fourth Doctor. In some scenes he almost hisses his lines at Sarah and the other characters, as if they cannot comprehend the seriousness of the menace they’re facing. The story is nicely spooky and dark, while maintaining that Who sense of humour and pace that never has you checking to see how much of the story is left. For every special effect that is hokey or dated, there is another that is incredibly cool and creepy, as in the unforgettable cliffhanger at the end of Part One. The special features on the dvd are perhaps a bit lacking in number for a story of its stature, but what extras there are are of the usual high quality of the franchise, including a comedy piece one might expect to be cringe-worthy, but is really quite funny.

“Pyramids” opens with Professor Marcus Scarman blundering into an ancient Egyptian tomb and discovering something nasty and very much alive inside it. Cut to the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Sarah Jane Smith materializing at UNIT headquarters, a mansion in the London suburbs. But the Doctor has – as usual – screwed up his timing, materializing eighty years too early. Instead of the 1980s mansion occupied by the Brigadier, he’s appeared during the Edwardian Era, when it was owned by the Scarman family. The place is full of Egyptian relics, but instead of a Scarman running the household, it’s under the care of an arrogant Egyptian named Namin. Before you can say, “What the hell is in those sarcophagi?” the family butler has been found strangled, and family friend Dr. Warlock has been shot. Then Marcus Scarman appears, apparently under the influence of someone/something he calls “Sutekh the Destoyer”, and the real mayhem begins. Suffice to say that Sutekh, who has the powers of a god and the mind-set of a homicidal maniac, is not someone you want roaming free about the universe. But can the Doctor prevent him from escaping his ancient prison?

I could go much more deeply into the plot, but I don’t want to give too much away here, except to say that in Sutekh, played by Gabriel Woolf, we have one of the best Dr. Who villains of all time…and that is saying something. His coldly arrogant, whispery, psychopathic-sounding voice is both mesmerizing and terrifying. And his dialogue, written by Lewis Griefer and Robert Holmes, is nothing short of brilliant. The title of this entry is somewhat deceiving because ninety percent of the action transpires on a picturesque English estate: Stargroves in Hampshire, owned at the time of filming by Mick Jagger. It’s interesting to see how the budget was spent. Much of the story features location filming which means there’s a very small cast with speaking parts. It does make for a more claustrophobic vibe, quite literally as the manor house and surrounding countryside are cut off by a force–field with the robotic Mummies hunting down anyone who stands in their way. To sum up then, this is a wildly illogical yet entertaining ride for demanding and undemanding Dr Who fans.

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Comments

  1. Excellent review as always! A bit of trivia: I didn’t realise the top image was a GIF at first and got a little fright when the eyes turned green out of nowhere. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

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