Monday, 14 October 2013

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Pyramids of Mars

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Kneel before Zod! Sutekh!
Doctor Who - Season 13, Story Three - The Pyramids of Mars
Written between 26th and 27th May 2013

Hallelujah, calls the chorus of the Fandom. For how great in its majesty is the all-mighty Pyramids of Mars, which verily is the bestest story of them all. Or something. The level of love and devotion that the fandom gives to this story is ironic for the theme surrounding overzealous devotion. At times there was a certain Hype Backlash that threatened to turn me against this story, but I had warmed up to it by the end and I can certainly understand why so many people adore it.
     While trying to return to the Brigadier (with a grumpy Doc wanting to hand in his resignation), the TARDIS is pulled off course and arrives seventy years too early. In the priory that existed before the UNIT Headquarters were built, the two discover the machinations of the ancient Osiran Sutekh (aka Set) who, trapped inside a Pyramid in Egypt, has used his sheer mental powers to control archaeologist Professor Scarman into building a rocket to destroy the Martian power source that keeps him trapped. The Doctor realises that Sutekh would ravage the Solar System if he was released, and so plays a game of sabotage as he tries to defeat him.
     Gabriel Woolf's Sutekh is an impressive villain, with his iconic mummy-robot servants combining a simple design with a sly effectiveness. In true Hinchcliffe and Holmes style, the episode takes a lot of its cues from the horror of Gothic Classics, here especially evoking the Edwardian fascination with all things Egyptian. The final few moments, where Sutekh almost escapes but is trapped in a time bubble by The Doctor, is almost a cop-out, but the build-up in the rest of the episode is enjoyable enough to make up for that.
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Sarah Jane is a great shot.
      Although... it does take a bloody long time to get going. The first episode is filled with a great deal of tedium as we face negative stereotypes surrounding people from the Middle-East, especially with an Egyptian man playing the piano forebodingly and then cursing white people as unbelievers who need to be destroyed and chanting in Egyptian verse. Plus, there's the annoying factor of the Doctor's character, which seems to have been written with a Four who is as grouchy and grumpy as in the worst moments of his taciturn predecessor.
     I think the problem I'm having in adjusting to 70s Who is the lack of exploration of socio-political allegories (or bat-shit crazy production decisions). The Pyramids of Mars is a standard, very-well made adventure, and from the perspective of a child at the time watching, it's a story that channels a lot of cool Gothic themes and has a villain that make even The Doctor scared. After all the hype that surrounded this story throughout my childhood and entry into the fandom, it's certain that it wouldn't live up to expectations, but it was at least a story that came close.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Harry Sullivan and Benton make one last appearance. Or do they? Yes, they do. It's The Android Invasion

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