Pyramids of Mars
is a thing of absolute beauty, how could anyone not
enjoy this story?
Egyptology traditionally lends itself very well to science fiction, and Robert Holmes beautifully crafted storyline takes full advantage of the genre. As with many Doctor Who stories of this kind, Pyramids
is all about transposing myths and legends into science, gods into aliens, magic into technology. But where this story triumphs over others is that it so utterly convincing. Shrewdly, Holmes conceived all his antagonists as human or humanoid, avoiding the need to put a convincing monster on the screen. This strategy lent the story greater credibility, you could show this to a sceptical non Doctor Who fan and they would almost certainly enjoy it.
Holmes second master stroke was his decision to base Pyramids of Mars
in the wonderful period setting of 1911. This is not only in keeping with the archaeological excavations of the 1900’s, but it’s also a brief that BBC designers excel at. Filming a costume drama against the beautiful backdrop of Stargroves manor gave the story a real edge, images of marauding mummies crashing relentlessly through the undergrowth is one of the most iconic images of this era of Doctor Who.
But of course it’s the characters that really bring the story to life, and there is plenty of acting talent on hand, the most captivating of which are Bernard Archard and Michael Sheard as the tragic Scarman brothers. Lawrence’s heart wrenching refusal to accept Marcus’s fate, leading to his own grisly demise at the hands of his brother underpins the whole mood of the story. But most shocking of all is the manner in which the Doctor casually rolls Lawrence’s body over and continues with his work, much to the resentment of Sarah. We never get to see Gabriel Wolf’s face, and trapped as his character is behind a force-field, he can’t even move very much, yet that voice, and the emphasis he places behind it makes Sutekh one of the greatest villains of all time.
It’s also Tom Baker’s coldest and most alien performance, but the Doctor’s apparent callousness is all strictly in context, and serves as a reminder of the gravity of the situation.
Aside from some curious plot imperfections, namely Sutekh’s remarkable resourcefulness considering his entombment, Pyramids of Mars
is an action packed thriller, worthy of it’s high status in fan circles.
Rating: 5 Tom's out of 5