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Doctor Who: Pyramids of Mars (Story 82)
Doctor Who Pyramids of Mars
Story 82
Actors: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Gabriel Woolf
Director: Paddy Russell
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Cult Movies
NR     2004     1hr 37min

As the Doctor and Sarah attempt to return to UNIT HQ, the TARDIS is thrown off course and materializes in 1911 at an old priory owned by Egyptologist Marcus Scarman. While excavating a tomb, the archaeologist became posses...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Gabriel Woolf
Director: Paddy Russell
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Cult Movies
Sub-Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Science Fiction, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Studio: BBC Video / Warner Bros.
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 09/07/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 37min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 20
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

The very best DW ever!
Sarah Hadley | Murfreesboro, Tennessee USA | 07/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I'll make no pretense - this is my favorite Doctor Who adventure of all time. It is moody and intense, with brilliant performances by Tom Baker, Lis Sladen, and Gabriel Woolf. No other DW villain has really been so imposing - we never see Sutekh's face (unless that mask -is- Sutekh's face) or see his lips move, but his voice is so powerful and resonant it sends chills down the spine; more than a worthy adversary for the tall and deep-voiced Tom Baker.The story is nicely claustrophobic, mostly taking place in and around a mansion, with the marvelous sense of a horror movie. The script is another real gem by Robert Holmes (despite the writer's credit, he wrote almost all of what appeared onscreen), and no actor is off-par. The only downside about this video is that it was one of the first DW videos released, so the four 25-minute episodes have been truncated into a long 95-minute "movie". Still, in lieu of an unedited video or DVD release, this is a fine purchase and should be in anyone's Doctor Who collection."
Doctor Who with an Egyptian motif
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 01/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Some stories done during Dr. Who producer Phillip Hinchcliff's time has been known as the Gothic era of the show. He commissioned stories based on old horror and sci-fi. Pyramids of Mars is a tribute to Hammer Films' mummy movies, using a lot of Egyptology themes and names.After being mysteriously drawn off course to 1911 in an old priory where UNIT HQ would be built, the Doctor and Sarah become involved in the attempted return of Sutekh, an Osirian who was imprisoned by his brother Horus in a tomb recently uncovered by archaeologist Marcus Scarman. He returns to the priory, a zombified puppet of Sutekh, who with help of service robots disguised as mummies, create a deflection barrier around the priory and set about constructing a rocket to destroy the pyramids of Mars to free Sutekh.The Doctor and Sarah rescue Dr. Warlock, a friend of Marcus's who has been shot by an Egyptian, and enlist the aid of Laurence, Marcus's brother. Laurence is an affable fellow, but despite seeing the possessed Marcus, still thinks of Marcus as his brother and not a puppet of Sutekh. Laurence is played by Michael Sheard, a multiple Who alumni and Admiral Ozzel in The Empire Strikes Back. Bernard Archard (Marcus) is effectively terrifying, his evil-looking eyes, curved down lips, and paled face put to good use.How evil and how much Sutekh hates life is demonstrated in these lines: "The humans, animals, birds, fish, reptiles. All life is my enemy. All life shall perish under the reign of Sutekh the Destroyer." "Your evil is my good. ... Where I tread, I leave nothing but dust and darkness. I find that good!" Gabriel Woolf's sepulchral voice is put to good use here as Sutekh.Lots of Egyptology comes in, such as Horus's defeat of Sutekh with the help of 740 Osirians. Not so coincidentally, 740 gods were listed on the tomb of Thutmosis III. The answer to that is the wars of the gods (Osirians) entered into Egyptian mythology and the whole of Egyptian culture founded upon the Osirian pattern. The various sarcophagi and artifacts boost the story's theme.An interesting discussion takes place between Laurence Scarman, Marcus's brother, and the Doctor. He takes Sarah and Laurence to a future Earth, a desolate planet circling a dead sun, which is how Sutekh would leave it. "Every point in time has its alternative. You've looked into alternative time. ...The actions of the present fashion the future." When Laurence asks him if a man can change the course of history, the Doctor says "To a small extent. It takes a being of Sutekh's limitless power to destroy the future." The Doctor is thus a prisoner of moral obligation--until he stops Sutekh, he just can't up and leave.Funny lines from Tom Baker: "deactivating a generator loop without a correct key is like repairing a watch with a hammer and chisel. One false move and you'll never know the time again." And he panics at Sarah throwing him a box of gelignite, saying, "Sweaty gelignite is highly unstable. One good sneeze could set it off." When he asks the chastised Sarah for detonators or fuses, she can't find any, and mischievously says, "Maybe he sneezed," meaning the owner of the gelignite. We also learn here that he is 750 years old.A blaring booboo comes when Sarah claims she comes from 1980. UNIT stories generally take place the year the story is filmed. Also, as the Brigadier retired in 1976 (q.v. Mawdryn Undead, this is clearly inaccurate, as a future story in the same season has the Brigadier still working. So Sarah should've said she comes from 1975.Trivia: at the time of shooting, the property where this was shot belonged to no less a person than Mick Jagger, but before, the house in the story had belonged to Lord Carnarvon, the archaeologist who uncovered King Tut's tomb, so a coincidence there.Stylish and evenly-paced, with the Egyptology motif a good asset."
Pyramids of Greatness
John Liosatos | Crook County, IL United States | 12/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Many consider Pyramids of Mars to be all that is good about classic Doctor Who. And many would be very accurate in their evaluation! Pyramids certainly deserves to be ranked at or near the top of the entire Doctor Who run, let alone the Tom Baker era. It features perhaps the most evil villain ever to wreak havoc across the Universe, Sutekh, a representation of a Satan figure. Sutekh is the greatest vocal villain in the history of the program. For a villain who simply sits in a chair, unable to move through most of the program, he ably gets around using his calm but menacing, condescending vocal qualities, as well as a cadavor called "the body formerly known as professor Marcus Scarman". The first exposure to Sutekh voice, the cliffhanger to episode one as he chillingly states that he brings the gift of death to all humanity, brings a tingle down one's spine.

Pyramids is also the story in which the Doctor finally sets aside the UNIT era, telling Sarah that he doesn't consider Earth his home and that he has to find something better to do than to go chasing around after the Brigadier. This qualifies as a vast departure from the Third Doctor, who called Earth his home away from home, and, apart from his first season, willingly acted as UNIT's scientific advisor. For better or for worse, depending on perspective, the Doctor becomes a free agent again at this point.

More subtly, the writers touch upon a controversial topic, capital punishment. When Sarah asks the Doctor if Sutekh was so evil why didn't Horus and the rest of the Osirans simply kill him, the Doctor responds that it was against their code of honor. Killing him would mean they are no better than he was. Again this is a matter perspective, but in this case one perspective is incurably flawed. You can wrongly believe that since the Osirans were an honorable race, killing Sutekh indeed would make them no better that he was, flawed logic considering that Sutekh left a trail of death and destruction across the Universe, and executing him would ensure the survival of millions of souls across the Universe. They would simply be getting rid of a vicious killer. Or you can correctly believe that the Doctor condemned the Osirans for simply imprisoning Sutekh because this left open the possibility of escape to terrorize the Universe once more. In the end, the Doctor corrected the Osiran's mistake, "executing" Sutekh by sending him through the time tunnel far in the future so he aged to death.

All that said, you just gotta love a story in which the villain in episode one is an Egyptian named Ibrahim Namin, portrayed so eloquently by an Englishman named Peter Mayock. I can't see anyone getting away with that in today's politically correct society. Good thing we have stories like Pyramids of Mars to serve as reminders of a once not-so-sensitive world."
Two of the best!
JKO | New York, NY USA | 09/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Dragged from the BBC archives comes another pair of classic Doctor Who releases on DVD from two different eras of the show. "Pyramids of Mars" and "Earthshock" are only six years apart in broadcast terms, but seem much more distant when viewed back to back. They're cracking tales nonetheless.

"Pyramids of Mars," the earlier story, broadcast in March 1976, stars Tom Baker in the role of the fourth Doctor alongside his travelling companion Sarah-Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen. Arguably one of the most successful pairing's of actors in the long running show's history, the chemistry between the two leads is at its peak, helped along largely by the incredible production skills of Philip Hinchcliffe and the scripting of Robert Holmes. This story takes them back to Earth, but this time into the near distant past of Edwardian England for a period piece exploring Egyptian mythology with sci-fi overtones. It's not only a cracking yarn and splendidly acted by a very, very strong cast, but designed and plotted to the hilt. It also presents one of the most chilling opponents the Time Lord has ever faced, Sutekh, played wonderfully by Gabriel Woolf. There is very little to criticize here, although detractors will try, unlike the companion release "Earthshock."

Produced in1981 for Peter Davison's first season as the fifth Doctor, "Earthshock" had a huge impact on the viewing public at the time of it's broadcast due to the reappearance after a seven year absence of the Doctor's second most popular enemy: The Cybermen. Kept a secret from everyone outside of the production, with red herring's set aplenty by the producer John Nathan-Turner to make sure it remained so, their sudden appearance at the end of episode one was a true classic moment of great TV. It comes at the end of a very atmospheric and chilling first episode, but alas, the pace isn't maintained in the remaining three. Written by the show's script editor, Eric Saward, it is very indicative of his style and that of the production team as a whole that guest stars, special effects and lavish sets were promoted to the detriment of plot and scripting. The plot to this story has so many holes and inconsistencies it all unravels into something of a mess. But having said that, it still works and if you don't pay too close attention, it's very enjoyable romp. Marking the first long time companion of the Doctor to meet a grisly end, the story finishes on a muted note that had a profound impact on the show and indeed the ratings; more so even than the Cybermen's return to TV screens.

As always, it's the extras on the discs that make the entrance price worth every penny. The BBC always does a tremendous job with the picture quality, commentary tracks, the subtitles and production notes and all sorts of bonus material. The bonuses here include two absolute gems that had me in fits of laughter. "Pyramids of Mars" contains a mock documentary about the villain Sutekh's life after the story and "Earthshock" has an additional "episode 5." Terrific stuff. The commentaries are also wonderful. Elisabeth Sladen and Philip Hinchcliffe are joined by recurring guest actor Michael Sheard with occasional comments from director Paddy Russell for a truly interesting commentary on "Pyramids." The commentary for "Earthshock" is even more fun with the full regular cast (Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Matthew Waterhouse and Sarah Sutton) having a wonderful time coming together once more. Their on screen relationships were never very close or harmonious so it's great to hear that the four actors really were a very close team of pals.

Two terrific releases, despite weaknesses in the later story, which would be entertaining to non Doctor Who fans as well as the more seasoned viewer. Highly recommended."