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1911: Strange things happen at the estate of Egyptologist Marcus
Scarman (Bernard Archard), as a weird Egyptian called Namin (Peter
Maycock) runs the place in Scarman's stead & not only is violent
towards Scarman's brother Laurence (Michael Sheard) & friend Warlock
(Peter Copley), but he also reanimates some mummies (that eventually
turn out to be service-robots) to walk about the premises. Thank god
Doctor Who (Tom Baker) & his companion Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen)
arrive in their time machine TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In
Space) just in time to help out, & help is what the earth needs
since Sutekh the Destroyer (Gabriel Woolf), a most powerful evil alien
that has entered Egyptian mythology, is trying to build a missile to
destroy a pyramid on Mars that has been a holding device for his prison
for the last 3,000 years &, once free, destroy the earth.
the Doctor, Sarah Jane & Laurence Scarman team up to fight Sutekh
& his servant Namin, who is soon killed though by another of
Sutekh's emissary's on earth, noone else but Marcus Scarman, totally
mind-controlled by Sutekh.
& while Laurence is torn between their
mission to prevent Sutekh from breaking free & eventually destroy
the earth, & his brotherly love towards Marcus, & is eventually
killed by Marcus when the later wins out, the Doctor & Sarah Jane
actually manage to place explosives on the missile to destroy it on the
ground, but when they detonate it, Sutekh manages to contain the blast.
Doctor now changes strategy, &, via a dimensional gate, pays Sutekh
a surprise visit, making him break his concentration & no longer
being able to contain the explosion. But with the arrival of the Doctor,
Suteck has found a new way of breaking free - the Doctor's TARDIS. And
what do you know, by forcing the Doctor to cooperate, Sutekh succeeds
But all is not lost, since Sutekh chooses to return to earth by
the dimensional Gate, which works on radiowaves, which take about 3
minutes in getting from Mars to earth. The Doctor's TARDIS however has
no such delay, because it travels transdimensional (is anybody still
following me ? It's clearer in the show than IO am able to put into
words, believe me) & so the Doctor arrives on earth a full 3 minutes
ahead of Sutekh, enabling him to refiguring the exit of the dimensional
gate, which now won't open no more until eternity ...
large, the 3 seasons of the Doctor Who-tv-show produced by
Philip Hinchcliffe (season 12 to 14), which incidently were also the first three seasons
with Tom Baker in the lead) are considered the best of the
series, leaving the perpetual earth-invasion sci-fi formula behind (to a
point) instead steering more into Gothic territory (although always with
a sci-fi twist), relying strongly on atmosphere (as far as the cheap
studio settings would allow it), strong casts & a nicely maintained
balance between morbid & macabre elements & black humour. Of
course, the strong, eccentric performance of Tom Baker as the Doctor -
which was not yet as ham & parodistic yet as in later years - also
helped these stories immensely.
Pyramids of Mars - despite being
a fan favourite one of the lesser episodes of the era - does prove these
points quite vividly, as it contains a nice mix of Egyptian mythology,
mummy horror & sci-fi trappings like robots & an interstellar
missile in 1911, a
solid (if very small) supporting cast, & great period indoor & outdoor settings (the
estate was actually Stargroves Manor in East End, Hants, then owned by
Mick Jagger of Rolling Stones fame, but once owned by Lord Caernarvon,
who in 1926 helped in the excavation of King Tutankhamen's tomb).
What the story lacks though, is
any real over-the-top originality - which many other episodes of its
offer quite readily. Pyramids of Mars is, despite its best
efforts, a rather standard sci-fi-plot, & the idea of turning the
mummies into robots was, despite haviong hardly ever been used before, not as
out-of-the-way as the show would like to have us believe.