Friday, June 5, 2015

TV Review: Doctor Who: Pyramids of Mars

 Doctor Who: Pyramids of Mars directed by Paddy Russell

Tom Baker is the first Doctor I ever saw, so naturally he is my favorite. Aside from my personal preference, he is also acknowledged as one of the best Doctors, embodying the comedic and dramatic elements of the character well. He's quick-witted, quirky, and captivating. His scarf is the most iconic element of the series aside from the TARDIS itself. Finding a DVD with a full adventure featuring Tom Baker in the library, I knew I had to get it.

The story starts in Egypt, where an archeologist breaks into a pyramid's burial chamber. He uncovers a wall on which an eye starts glowing. His Egyptian helpers leave in terror but the oh-so-smart British archeologist keeps going, where he gets blasted by some crazy light. Cut to the Doctor and Sarah Jane, who are coming back to Earth. They land at UNIT's headquarters, but they get there in 1911 before UNIT even exists. The priory is owned by, you guessed it, the archeologist, who is not there. But a wacky Egyptian servant is there and has legal papers that let him both store the tomb's finds and hide them from any visitors. The servant clearly believes in the Egyptian gods and that one of them, Sutekh the Destroyer, is about to rise again. Sutekh is actually one of the Osirians, an alien race with god-like powers. He was imprisoned in a pyramid on Earth because he was destroying every planet he came to. Naturally the Doctor does not want Sutekh released and does his best to stop Sutekh's servants.

This set of four episodes was originally broadcast in 1975 but it holds up surprisingly well. The performances and writing are top-notch, creating an exciting story. The monster henchmen (robot mummies) are effectively odd and menacing. The effects aren't super-wobbly like in other early Doctor Who shows, though some of them are very simple (the TARDIS flying in space and another object "floating" in the air are very obviously wire work).

Highly recommended if you want to dip your toes into earlier Doctor Who shows.

N.B. I watched this as part of the fiftieth anniversary "Doctors Revisited" set that includes an nice special feature talking about the Tom Baker years, including new interviews with Baker.

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