Sue: Is there anything I should know about Stephen Harris? I don’t remember seeing his name before.
Me: Only that he doesn’t exist. It’s a pseudonym for Robert Holmes. He had to completely rewrite another bloke’s script at the last-minute; the only thing he kept was the title.
Sue: Oh, well if it’s Robert Holmes, it’s bound to be good. That’s excellent news. Unless it’s rubbish and he took his name off it because he was ashamed. Oh, why does it have to be so complicated?
Our story begins in Egypt.
Sue: For a second there, I thought they’d gone abroad to film a Doctor Who, but that would be silly, wouldn’t it? Nice stock footage, though. It almost had me fooled.
A British archeologist, Professor Marcus Scarman, enters an ancient burial chamber.
Sue: It’s a very clean tomb. I would have expected a bit more dust than that.
The Professor is attacked by a mysterious green light and Sue agrees that we’re off to a good start.
Meanwhile, on the TARDIS.
Sue: That’s a very nice tracking shot. Very moody.
Sarah enters the console room in a white Victorian dress (which is really handy when you think about it), and the Doctor calls her Vicky by mistake.
Sue: Victoria never wore a dress like that. And the other Vicki definitely didn’t wear a dress like that. Now, a mini-skirt on the other hand.
Not only is the Doctor forgetful today, he’s a right moody arse as well.
Sue: Aww, the Doctor is having a mid-life crisis. Just like you, love.
Before I can argue with her, the TARDIS goes haywire and Sarah is spooked by a horrible head floating in mid-air.
Sue: Why does Sarah Jane always pick up on the weird shit before the Doctor does? What’s that all about? Is she supposed to be psychic or something?
The TARDIS makes an emergency landing and the Doctor immediately opens the door and rushes outside.
Sue: This Doctor is very cocky. He didn’t check to see if it was safe. Hartnell would never have done that – he’d have spent fifteen minutes checking the oxygen levels. One of these days, the Doctor will open that door and he’ll be killed straight away. That’ll teach him.
The Doctor and Sarah have arrived at UNIT’s HQ in 1911, when it used to be a priory. In another part of the house, someone is playing an organ with all the stops out.
Sue: Is it the Master in a fez?
Namin, for it is he, is interrupted by a man named Doctor Warlock and they get into an argument about Professor Scarman’s whereabouts. The Doctor and Sarah escape through a window so they can scout around the premises.
Me: This is Mick Jagger’s house.
Sue: Really? It needs a bit of work. It could with a good sandblasting for a start.
Me: He hasn’t moved in yet.
Sue: Well, he should get it sandblasted before he does. The window frames could do with some work, too. And that fascia doesn’t look very Victorian to me.
The argument between Namin and Warlock escalates and Namin pulls a gun. The Doctor and Sarah try to intervene but Warlock gets shot in the process.
Sue: That was a bit cack-handed. The Doctor must be having an off-day. If I were him, I’d go back to the TARDIS and start again. He’s in a foul mood.
The Doctor and Sarah carry the injured Warlock away from the priory.
Sue: Look at all that blood. You’d never see that much blood in the new series.
Namin opens an Egyptian sarcophagus to reveal an inert Mummy standing inside. Namin delivers a brief incantation and the Mummy steps out.
Sue: That’s a nice design. I like the concave chest a lot. They would have scared me as a kid.
Namin and his Mummies pursue the Doctor outside, but Namin is stopped in his tracks when the priory’s organ starts up again.
Sue: Somebody is playing with his organ without his permission. He isn’t very happy about it.
Me: Maybe Rick Wakeman has popped round for a cup of tea?
The Doctor and Sarah escape to a nearby lodge, where they meet Marcus’ brother, Laurence. And even though Laurence is clearly distressed, Sarah blithely tells him that she is a time traveller from the year 1980.
I pause the DVD. You can guess the rest.
Sue: I don’t really care, Neil. Maybe she was rounding up or showing off. Does it really matter?
I sigh and press Play.
As is becoming customary now, Sue falls under Tom Baker’s spell whenever he launches into one of his speeches.
Sue: Tom really sells the threat when he’s in a bad mood. He could make fairy cakes sound like the most terrifying thing on earth if he was pissed off at the time.
Back at the priory, Namin is worshipping at the feet of an Egyptian sarcophagus.
Sue: He’s set his organ to auto-pilot. Wouldn’t it be funny if it slipped into the bossa nova setting by mistake.
A figure dressed in black steps out of a multi-coloured tunnel that has formed around the sarcophagus. His feet leave a smoking trail behind him.
Sue: That’s a great special effect. That can’t have been easy. Hang on, is it an Ice Warrior? They’re from Mars, aren’t they?
Namin abases himself like an ant, but it’s to no avail.
Sue: What is it with Doctor Who villains and neck massages? They’re obsessed!
Namin receives Sutkeh’s gift of death.
Sue: I hope he kept the receipt.
This episode begins with a reprise of Namin’s death.
Me: The only problem I have with this scene is that I can’t watch it without thinking about boys having underage sex.
Sue spits her tea out.
Me: I’m talking about Queer As Folk. There’s a scene in the first episode where Russell T. Davies intercuts this cliffhanger with some red-hot rimming action. I have no idea why he choose this particular bit. It must be one of RTD’s favourite moments, I suppose.
Sue: Yeah, I don’t understand why a bloke in a S&M mask and a black latex suit would appeal to a gay man, either.
Me: Oh, yeah… Actually, doesn’t Gary have a thing about Egyptian men with beards? It all makes sense now.
Sue: There’s something for everyone in this show.
Meanwhile, back on Pyramids of Mars, a poacher stumbles across some Mummies on patrol.
Sue: They are even more scary in the dark. I really like the Mummy design – it’s simple but effective. Just don’t let them talk.
The poacher returns to the priory and he shoots a possessed Marcus Scarman in the back. The bullet passes straight through him but the process is mysteriously reversed and Scarman survives.
Sue: That was very nicely done but wasn’t the poacher jumping to conclusions? He didn’t actually see Scarman do anything evil and yet he tries to murder him. That’s a bit of a leap. Even if he is in the right.
But it’s not all bad news:
Sue: Mick Jagger’s parquet floor is very nice.
Me: This isn’t Mick’s house – this is BBC Television Centre. You only see the exterior of his house in the location scenes.
Sue: Really? I thought they took the cameras inside the house. Oh, in that case I’m really impressed with the sets this week. The carpentry is excellent.
Tom gravely spells out the threat posed by Sutekh.
Sue: Tom is really into this, isn’t he? The Doctor is scarier than the main villain.
When Laurence steps into the TARDIS, he is overcome with excitement.
Sue: Is he Harry’s replacement? He’d be a great assistant – very enthusiastic. Although that might get on your tits after a while.
Sarah isn’t worried – she’s from the year 1980 and everything was perfectly fine when she left (which, if you ask me, proves that she can’t be from 1980), so the Doctor takes her there for a quick visit.
Sue: Okay, okay, so the stories are definitely set in 1980. I get it. Let’s move on. Actually, I like this scene – sometimes you have to remind the audience the future can be changed. It would be boring if they did it every week, though.
Meanwhile, back in 1911, a poacher is beging chased by two Mummies.
Sue: They are pretty spry for dead guys.
The poacher is captured and the Mummies crush him to death between their ribcages.
Me: One of my more vivid memories from childhood involves me re-enacting scenes from this story in the school playground. I definitely remember being crushed between the chests of two girls pretending to be Mummies. Happy days.
Sue: You sick bastard.
Me: I was seven years old!
The episode concludes with the Mummies bursting into the lodge to attack the Doctor and Sarah.
Sue: That was a very intense cliffhanger. I’m enjoying this.
We are joined by Nicol, but only because this story manages to combine two of her favourite subjects – the Victorians and the Egyptians. She kicks herself when I tell her we are already halfway through.
Sue: Tom Baker would be a terrible Samaritan.
She’s referring to the Doctor’s brusque dismissal of Laurence’s mounting concern for his brother, but when we see Mummies building an Osiran war missile out in the courtyard, Nicol is thrilled to see another one of her favourite things:
Nicol: It’s the Louvre!
Me: You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Sue: Forget that, what’s a cytronic particle accelerator, Nic?
Nicol: A completely made-up thing? How am I supposed to know?
The Doctor and Sarah find the invisible force field surrounding the estate.
Nicol: That’s cheap.
Me: Don’t knock it. Stephen King managed to squeeze a 1000-page novel out of the same idea.
The Doctor attempts to disable the force field but when Sarah breaks his concentration, he snaps at her.
Sue: Oh dear. He’s turning back into Jon Pertwee. Why is he in such a bad mood today, and why is he taking it out on Sarah Jane?
Me: He’s very tense. He’s worried about Sutekh.
Sue: But he was being an arse before they arrived. I hope he isn’t like this from now on.
And then we get our first glimpse of a mysterious figure sitting on a chair somewhere.
Nicol: Is it the Master?
Me: Don’t you start.
It turns out that Sutekh wants to destroy all life.
Sue: So who will Sutekh talk to when everybody is dead? He definitely likes the sound of his own voice but there won’t be anyone left to gloat over if he kills everything. He hasn’t thought it through.
Sue decides its time to bring Nicol up to speed:
Sue: That’s Mick Jagger’s house, Nic.
Nicol: So is that Mick Jagger’s potting shed?
Sue: Yes. I wonder what he might end up growing in there (if you know what I mean).
Sutekh sends Marcus the co-ordinates for the pyramid on Mars in a metal container.
Sue: It’s a big thermos of tea. Go stick the kettle on, Nicol.
Nicol: I can’t. I’m watching this.
Back at the lodge, the Doctor and company unwrap a Mummy, revealing a robot skeleton beneath.
Sue: Oh, I like that. That’s very Doctor Who, isn’t it?
Nicol: It looks like an Antony Gormley sculpture.
Laurence finally confronts Marcus but it doesn’t end well for him.
Sue: That was very grim.
Me: It was very poignant.
The Doctor casually pushes Laurence’s body to one side.
Sue: Not it isn’t – it’s needlessly bleak. There aren’t many laughs in this one, are there? Maybe Robert Holmes was in a bad mood when he wrote it.
Sue admits that she is struggling with this story.
Sue: I have a problem with the plot. It feels a bit contrived to me. I can’t enjoy it if I can’t get a handle on it.
Sarah shoots the gelignite that the Doctor has secreted on the Osiran war missile.
Sue: I didn’t know that Sarah was a crack shot. When did they cover that at journalism school? Still, fair play to her.
Sutekh uses his willpower to stop the explosion from going off. The Doctor rushes back to the priory and he activates the transporter hidden in the sarcophagus.
Nicol: What the hell is that, and why do I have this sudden urge to eat a bag of Skittles?
Sue: It’s a time-space tunnel, love.
The Doctor steps into it.
Nicol: He’ll end up soaked in Hawking radiation, now. That’s nice.
The Doctor enters Sutekh’s lair.
Sue: Sutekh needs a better interior decorator. It looks like he’s been paint balling in there.
Sutekh just has to stare at the Doctor to pin him to a wall, and the episode concludes with the Doctor screaming in agony.
Sue: Robert Holmes always writes the best cliffhangers.
The episode begins with Sutekh completely dominating the Doctor.
Sue: That isn’t something you see every day.
Me: This scene completely ****ed me up when I was seven. It ****ing terrified me.
I don’t tell her that it still does.
Sutekh sends a hypnotised Doctor back to the priory, but when the Doctor takes Sarah and Scarman to Mars in his TARDIS, Sue is adamant that the Doctor is bluffing.
Sue: He’ll wink at Sarah Jane any minute now.
The TARDIS arrives on Mars and it turns out that the Doctor was under Sutekh’s command after all.
Sue: Bloody hell. That’s a bit scary.
A Mummy strangles the Doctor (“Technically a neck rub”) and Scarman leaves him for dead. But the Doctor was only pretending and he rushes off with Sarah to stop Scarman from freeing Sutekh.
Sue: What does tribophsyics mean, Nic?
Nicol: Something to do with friction, probably. It’s Doctor Who – it could mean practically anything.
The Doctor and Sarah are stopped in their tracks by a puzzle on a wall.
Sue: Hang on a minute… We’ve seen this episode before. And it was boring then.
Me: At least Robert Holmes draws attention to the fact that this is a rip-off of the Exillon city from Death to the Daleks.
Sue: Oh yeah, the Exillon city. It was on the tip of my tongue, honestly.
Nicol: What have you done with my mother, Neil?
The Doctor and Sarah continue their pursuit and even Nicol believes she’s seen it all before.
Nicol: It’s The Crystal Maze. Again!
Me: You and The Crystal bloody Maze. You are obsessed with it. Let it go – it’s never coming back.
Nicol: It’s not my fault. Every time I watch an episode of old Doctor Who it has this scene in it, or something very similar to it. Are they all like this?
Sarah is trapped in a large perspex cylinder.
Nicol: The Doctor will have to give up one of his crystals if he wants to let her out. It all depends on how much time he wants in the Dome.
Sue: Mars is a shit hole. I don’t think much of their interior designers at all.
Me: It’s supposed to be a prison, not a holiday camp.
Scarman reaches a room made entirely of CSO and he frees Sutekh. Sutekh rises from his throne. Nicol laughs her head off.
Sue: Okay, what did I miss?
Oh, I suppose she has a right to see it, so I rewind the DVD; it’s not as if we can follow the plot with Nicol howling like a drain.
If by some miracle you’ve never seen the scene in question, here you go:
Sue: Oh dear. That’s terrible. Why didn’t they paint that out for the DVD release?
Me: Because if they did, the DVD producers would have been hunted down and killed.
Sue: I know that feeling.
Me: Doctor Who fans like it warts and all.
Nicol: But it’s ridiculous. I can’t take this seriously any more.
And then Sutekh reveals his true form.
Sue: What the **** is that supposed to be? It looks like a horse on hunger strike.
Sue hasn’t got a clue what’s going at the end when the Doctor races back to 1911 to do something vitally important.
Sue: The solution sounds clever, but it’s very confusing. And it’s a bit of an anti-climax, too.
Nicol: I followed it. It’s silly but it makes sense. Just about.
Sue: I’m not convinced. It a lot of build-up for not very much at all.
The priory explodes.
Sue: Mick Jagger won’t be happy.
Sue: That was okay, I suppose. Tom Baker was very good, even if I don’t like his attitude. But it fell apart in the last episode. Don’t get me wrong – it looked great and the acting was great but the plot was all over the place. The bits on Mars were boring and they should have spent more time explaining what was going on at the end. Sutekh was completely wasted, although I did like the Mummies. But there’s definitely something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. I think I’d like a lot less gobbledygook and a lot more drama, please. I don’t know what to give it. A six, maybe? A seven at a push.
I grab that seven with both hands.
It’s official – Pyramids of Mars is just as good as The Mutants. I have battened down the hatches. Hey, at least she didn’t think it was racist. You know, this is just as difficult for me to hear as it is for you. It’s clearly a ****ing nine. I have therefore posted video clips of her appearance on Bullseye circa 1989 on our Facebook group as a punishment. Now let that be a lesson to her.