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Doctor Who - Pyramids of Mars

episode 82

UK 1975
produced by
Philip Hinchcliffe for BBC
directed by Paddy Russell
starring Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Bernard Archard, Gabriel Woolf, Michael Sheard, Peter Maycock, Peter Copley
written by Stephen Harris (= Robert Holmes, Lewis Griefer), script editor: Robert Holmes, music by Dudley Simpson

tv-series
Doctor Who, Doctor Who (Tom Baker), Doctor Who (classic series), Sarah Jane Smith

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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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.

Soon, 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.

The 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 ...

 

By and 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 time would 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.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...

 

Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!

 

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