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 rewrite another bloke’s script at the last-minute. The only thing he kept was the title.
Sue: Well, if it’s Robert Holmes, it’s bound to be good. That’s excellent news. Unless it’s rubbish of course, and he took his name off because he was ashamed. Oh, why does it have to be so complicated?
Pyramids of Mars begins, naturally enough, in Egypt.
Sue: For a second there, I thought they’d gone abroad to film a Doctor Who, but that would be silly. Nice stock footage, though. They almost had me fooled.
A British archaeologist named Professor Marcus Scarman enters an ancient burial chamber.
Sue: It’s a very clean tomb. I’d have expected a bit more dust than that.
The Professor is attacked by a mysterious green light and Sue agrees the story’s off to cracking start. Meanwhile on the TARDIS…
Sue: Nice tracking shot. Very moody.
Sarah enters the console room in a white Victorian dress, 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 very forgetful today, he’s being 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 forced to deal with a non-corporeal floating head.
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 opens the door and rushes outside.
Sue: This Doctor is very cocky. He didn’t check to see whether it was safe or not. William Hartnell wouldn’t have done that; he’d have spent 15 minutes checking the oxygen levels were okay. One of these days, he’ll open that door and be killed straight away. That’ll teach him.
The Doctor and Sarah have arrived at UNIT’s HQ in 1911, back 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 Dr Warlock. Meanwhile the Doctor and Sarah have escaped through a window so they can explore the premises.
Me: This is Mick Jagger’s house.
Sue: Is it really? It needs a bit of work. It could do 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 use some work, too. And that fascia doesn’t look very Victorian to me.
An argument between Namin and Warlock escalates to the point where Namin draws a gun. The Doctor tries to intervene but Warlock is shot.
Sue: That was a bit cack-handed. The Doctor must be having another off-day. If I were him, I’d go back to the TARDIS and start again.
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 and a Mummy steps out.
Sue: That’s a nice design. I like the concave chest. They would have scared me as a kid.
Namin and his Mummies pursue the Doctor, but Namin stops in his tracks when the priory’s organ can suddenly be heard playing again.
Sue: Someone’s playing with his organ without his permission. And he isn’t very happy about it, either.
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. Even though he is clearly distressed, Sarah blithely tells him she’s a time traveller from the year 1980. I pause the DVD. You can probably guess the rest.
Sue: I don’t really care, Neil. Maybe she was rounding up or showing off. Does it matter?
As is becoming customary, Sue falls under Tom Baker’s spell as soon as 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 really wanted to.
Back at the priory, Namin is worshipping an Egyptian sarcophagus.
Sue: He’s set his organ to autopilot. Wouldn’t it be funny if it slipped into the bossa nova setting by mistake?
A figure dressed in black steps out of the sarcophagus, leaving a trail of smoke behind him.
Sue: That’s a great special effect. That can’t have been easy. Hang on… Is that an Ice Warrior? They’re from Mars, aren’t they?
Namin abases himself like an ant, but it’s too late.
Sue: What is it with Doctor Who villains and neck massages? They’re obsessed!
Namin receives Sutekh’s gift of death.
Sue: I hope he kept the receipt.
The 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 underage boys having sex.
Sue spits out her tea.
Me: I’m talking about Queer As Folk. There’s a scene in the first episode where Russell T Davies cuts from this cliffhanger to some red-hot rimming action. I have no idea why he chose this bit. It must be one of RTD’s favourite moments, I suppose.
Sue: Yeah, I don’t understand why a bloke in an S&M mask and a black latex suit would appeal to a gay man, either.
Meanwhile a poacher has stumbled across some Mummies out on patrol.
Sue: They are even scarier in the dark. I really like the Mummy’s design; it’s simple but effective. Just don’t let them talk.
The poacher returns to the priory and shoots Marcus Scarman in the back. The bullet passes through him, but the process is mysteriously reversed and Scarman survives.
Sue: That was nicely done, but wasn’t the poacher jumping to conclusions, there? He didn’t actually see Scarman do anything evil, and yet he still tried to murder him. It’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 during 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. The carpentry is excellent.
Tom gravely spells out the threat posed by Sutekh.
Sue: Tom’s really into this, isn’t he? The Doctor is scarier than the villain!
When Laurence steps into the TARDIS, he’s overcome with excitement.
Sue: Is he Harry’s replacement? He’d be a great assistant; very enthusiastic. Although it would probably get on your tits after a while.
Sarah isn’t worried about Sutekh. She’s from 1980 and everything was perfectly fine when she left (which, if you ask me, just proves she can’t be from 1980), so the Doctor takes her back.
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, in 1911, a poacher is being chased by two Mummies.
Sue: They’re pretty spry for a couple of dead guys.
The Mummies crush the poacher to death between their ribcages.
Me: One of my most vivid childhood memories 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 Mummies burst into the lodge to attack the Doctor and Sarah.
Sue: That was an intense cliffhanger. I’m really enjoying this.
We are joined by Nicol, mainly because this story combines three of her favourite subjects: the Victorians, the Egyptians, and the French.
Nicol: (Pointing at the Osiran war missile on the lawn) It’s the Louvre!
Me: You ain’t seen nothing yet, Nic. Come back in a couple of weeks.
Sue: Forget that, what’s a cytronic particle accelerator when it’s at home?
Nicol: A completely made-up thing? How am I supposed to know?
An invisible force field has been placed around the estate.
Nicol: That’s cheap.
Me: Don’t knock it. Stephen King managed to squeeze a 1,000-page novel out of the same idea.
The Doctor tries to disable the force field, and 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 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 glimpse a mysterious figure sitting on a chair.
Nicol: Is it the Master?
Me: Don’t you start, Nicol.
Sutekh wants to destroy all life.
Sue: So who will Sutekh talk to when everyone’s dead? He definitely likes the sound of his own voice, but there won’t be anyone left to gloat over. He hasn’t thought this through.
Sue tries to bring Nicol up to speed.
Sue: That’s Mick Jagger’s house, Nic.
Nicol: So is that Mick Jagger’s potting shed, then?
Sue: Yes. I wonder what he might end up growing in there – if you know what I mean.
The Mummies turn out to be robots.
Sue: Oh, I like that. That’s very Doctor Who, isn’t it?
Nicol: It looks like an Antony Gormley sculpture.
Laurence confronts Marcus. It doesn’t end well for him.
Sue: That’s grim.
Me: It’s very poignant.
The Doctor casually pushes Laurence’s body to one side.
Sue: No 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 she’s struggling with this story.
Sue: I have a problem with the plot. It’s too contrived for me. I don’t enjoy it if I can’t get a handle on it.
Sarah shoots some gelignite, which the Doctor has successfully secreted on an 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 sheer force of will to stop the explosion from going off, which provides the Doctor with the opportunity he needs to return to the priory and activate a 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. So that’s nice.
The Doctor enters Sutekh’s lair.
Sue: Sutekh needs a better interior decorator. It looks like he’s been paintballing in there.
Sutekh pins the Doctor to a wall, and the episode concludes with the Time Lord screaming in agony.
Sue: Robert Holmes always writes the best cliffhangers.
Sutekh dominates 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. Anyway, Sutekh hypnotises the Doctor into doing his biding, although Sue remains adamant the Time Lord is bluffing.
Sue: He’ll wink at Sarah Jane any minute now.
Sue: Bloody hell. That’s a bit scary.
A Mummy strangles the Doctor (“Technically, it’s another neck rub”) and Scarman leaves him for dead. But the Doctor was only pretending, and he rushes off to stop Scarman before he can free Sutekh.
Sue: What does tribophsyics mean, Nic?
Nicol: Something to do with friction, probably. This is Doctor Who so 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 this is a rip-off of the Exillon city from Death to the Daleks.
Sue: Oh yeah, the Exillon city. That was on the tip of my tongue, honest.
Nicol: What have you done with my mother, Neil?
Even Nicol thinks she’s seen this before.
Nicol: It’s The Crystal Maze. Again!
Me: You and The Crystal bloody Maze. You’re obsessed with it. Let it go, Nic, it’s never coming back.
Nicol: It’s not my fault. Every time I watch an old Doctor Who it has this scene in it, or something very similar to it.
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 Crystal Dome.
Sue: Mars is a shit hole. I don’t think much of their interior designers.
Me: It’s supposed to be a prison, Sue, not a holiday camp.
Sutekh rises from his throne. Nicol laughs her head off.
Sue: Okay, what did I miss?
I suppose she has a right to see it so I rewind the DVD. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I suggest you go back and watch it too.)
Sue: Oh dear. That’s terrible. Why didn’t they paint that out for the DVD release?
Me: Because if they did, the DVD’s producers would have been hunted down and killed.
Sue: I know the 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.
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.
The priory explodes.
Sue: Mick Jagger won’t be very happy.
Sue: It 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 amazing 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. 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.