Cool Things About “Pyramids of Mars”
(And 15 Stupid Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore
Celestial Toyroom Issue 384
1. The art on the tomb walls shows Osiris (twice), Isis, an unknown female figure, and a figure clearly intended to be Horus albeit with a rather unusual headdress.
2. Victoria never wore the white dress onscreen, it’s an Edwardian rather than a Victorian dress, and the Doctor never called her “Vicky” (presumably as he might confuse her with Vicki). Otherwise, the Doctor’s remarks are perfectly accurate.
3. Paddy Russell selected the image of Sutekh's face to use in episode 1 by the method of showing Elizabeth Sladen a lot of pictures of it, and the one that made her gasp, they used.
4. The Old Priory was burnt down and UNIT HQ was established on the site. At the end of the story, the Old Priory is burned down by the Doctor. Yet the Doctor shows Sarah that had they left the period, Earth would be a blasted wasteland. As this suggests that the Doctor’s defeating of Sutekh is part of recorded history, and yet that the Doctor has the choice of whether to defeat Sutekh or not, this has complicated implications for the series’ position on determinism.
5. Just to elaborate on this a little more: when the Doctor initially arrives in 1911, clearly events unfold such that the Doctor defeats Sutekh and the Old Priory burns down. However, at the point where the Doctor shows Sarah 1980, they are in fact in transit in the TARDIS and thus have the option of leaving. But it is the act of showing Sarah the new version of 1980 which prompts Sarah to agree to go back and let events take their course. Quantum experiments have been made of less.
6. Does it excuse the racism of having Namin played as an Arab stereotype by a fez-wearing European if the English characters are similarly portrayed as stiff-upper-lipped ethnic stereotypes? Our opinion is that it doesn’t, but feel free to debate it among yourselves.
7. Why does the servitor kill Collins in episode 1? It seems like a random act of violence, which isn’t what you expect from a robot. Presumably Sutekh is following the prophecy as written, that "the temple will be cleansed of all unbelievers" before he can come among us. Indeed, the fact this prophecy is not fulfilled, spells his doom.
8. The Servitors are really very good, in concept and in execution.
9. Paddy Russell, who had an interest in Egyptology, helped with the editing/rewriting of the script. Meaning the story actually has three writers: Lewis Greifer, Robert Holmes, and her.
10. Sarah Jane comes from 1980. Yes, we know that contradicts, and is also contradicted by, a number of other things in the series (to say nothing of suggesting that her fashion sense is six years behind the times). Deal with it.
11. Sarah Jane’s Egyptology is off; Sutekh/Set wasn’t killed by Horus, instead Horus defeated him in a series of challenges, following which Horus became ruler of all Egypt and Sutekh became ruler of the deserts and oases.
12. Horus isn’t the God of Light either.
13. The DVD infotext complains that although it’s night outside at the climax of episode 1, Namin has not lit any of the candles. Well, since the house clearly has electric light, he doesn’t really need to, does he?
14. The ending of episode 1 is one of the best, as well as the most sadistically violent, Doctor Who episode endings ever.
15. The Servant of Sutekh’s robe has a lovely oily sheen.
16. The scene with the poacher finding the mummy caught in the leg-trap is one of the spookiest in all of Hinchcliffe Doctor Who, which takes doing.
17. What sort of bastards are the Scarmans, putting out vicious leg-traps to catch the poacher? Particularly as the poacher seems to feel a certain loyalty to the Scarman family. And Lawrence seems like such a nice man too.
18. Lawrence even knows the poacher’s name. What a cold, cold man.
19. The casting of this serial is particularly good; since most of them were experienced horror film actors, the story would not be out of place as a Hammer feature.
20. Even with the science-fictiony premise, since films like Quatermass and the Pit and The Satanic Rites of Dracula indicate that they weren’t above a bit of genre-mixing.
21. It’s also a nice touch that Marcus Scarman is still wearing his white Egyptian desert jacket when he reappears in England.
22. Lewis Greifer’s earliest draft for this story killed off the Brigadier, seemingly starting a trend for Hinchcliffe-era writers trying to ice the poor old fellow. See “50 Things About 'Terror of the Zygons'”.
23. The look Sarah and the Doctor give Lawrence Scarman when he cheerily says “I say, this is like something by that novelist chap, Mr Wells!” suggests that they find this statement as unconscionable a cliché as everyone else (come on, it’s not like there weren’t other people writing science fiction at the time).
24. The TARDIS doors open directly onto the landscape, something they haven’t done since "Colony in Space".
25. The pyramid in the yard of the Old Priory looks suspiciously like the entrance to the Louvre.
26. The script actually specifies which public school Marcus Scarman went to (Winchester). Now that’s nerdy detail for you.
27. The Doctor says the servitors draw their energy from a cytronic particle accelerator, which must be in Sutekh’s tomb. Why would the Osirians imprison Sutekh with such an obvious means of escape? Perhaps they have a concept of “sporting chance”?
28. Earlier drafts by Greifer had Sebek, the crocodile-headed Egyptian god, as the main villain and the British Museum as a primary setting. By a strange coincidence, Season 3 of Primeval opens with a crocodile-headed creature rampaging about the British Museum.
29. “I have endured an eternity of darkness and impotence,” says Sutekh. Considering that the original Egyptian legend has Horus ripping off one of his testicles, that’s no surprise.
30. There is no actual rule in the Doctor Who office stating that any character played by Michael Sheard has to die before the end of the serial; however, somehow Lawrence’s fate is completely unsurprising.
31. The Doctor, when referring to the deaths so far in epsiode 3, leaves out the poacher’s. This is because it was added by Paddy Russell at a late date, but does make it look like everyone in the cast has it in for poor old Clemens.
32. “I shall mingle with the mummies, but I shan’t linger.”
33. It’s a serious omission on Scarman’s part not to notice the great big blue police box put in with the Egyptian antiquities, if only to wonder how it got there.
34. The sizzle as Scarman picks up the cylinder is meant to be the sound of his flesh blistering in contact with the hot metal. Forget anything the NVLA has to say about horror in Doctor Who-- that’s revolting.
35. Paddy Russell insisted Tom Baker be dressed in the mummy costume for the exterior sequences, which may have been aesthetically right, but was more than a little uncomfortable for him.
36. Although Scarman is the instrument of Sutekh, he still has to talk to Sutekh to get instructions, indicating that Sutekh’s control over him isn’t total-- otherwise he’d just do the will of Sutekh without having to find out what it is first.
37. Tom Baker was somewhat standoffish to Gabriel Woolf, who consequently rather enjoys watching back the scenes in episode 4 where he tortures him.
38. Sutekh’s data retrieval system looks suspiciously like a fruit machine. Now we know how he’s been passing the centuries.
39. Sutekh’s “Well, speak!” when Scarman contacts him while he’s torturing the Doctor is entertainingly irritated, like he’s been enjoying himself and doesn’t relish the interruption.
40. The idea that Sutekh sees all life as rivals is actually rather more from Greek mythology rather than Egyptian, referencing the Titan Kronus’ fear that he might be eclipsed by his own offspring, and thus consuming them.
41. Sutekh’s “your evil is my good” is also a paraphrase of Milton. For an Egyptian God, he’s awfully ecumenical.
42. Sutekh’s mask is partly in the shape of the crown of Upper Egypt, with which he was associated; however, it also contains the Eye of Horus, symbol of his rival, and a cobra, symbol of Geb, his father. Question is, is this some attempt by the other Osirians to humiliate Sutekh, or an ironic/challenging political decision on Sutekh’s part?
43. Holmes’ defense for why the Doctor says the TARDIS controls are isomorphic when they clearly aren’t is that he was lying. But since Sutekh can look into the Doctor’s mind and know when he’s lying to him, that’s a bit post hoc.
44. Episode 4 contains no less than three plot contrivances. The first is that the TARDIS controls are isomorphic, the second is that the Doctor has a respiratory bypass system, the third is that Time Lord and Osirian technology are compatible (in the use of the Time Control from the TARDIS to manipulate Sutekh’s time-space tunnel).
45. Although the oft-repeated idea that having Sutekh travel down the time-space tunnel to England rather than simply destroying the Earth straight away is a fourth plot contrivance, is a myth.The reason why Sutekh wants to travel to Scarman's estate is because that's where all his equipment had been transported. Once he had reached Scarman's living room, he could, outside the radius of the deflection barrier, blast the planet to a cinder, with full knowledge that he could then retune the space-time sarcophagus to take him somewhere else.
46. Sarah wouldn’t know what the City of the Exxilons was like, since of course she herself didn’t go there. Did the Doctor take some holiday photos?
47. Although Robert Holmes has vocally expressed his dislike for “Death to the Daleks,” when he runs out of ideas here and in “The Hand of Fear,” he goes back to it. Someone’s got issues.
48. The fact that the voice of Horus was also played by Gabriel Woolf raises some interesting questions about the nature of Osirians and their relationships.
49. The hand. No other comments, just: The hand.
50. At the end of the story, the Doctor hints that he was responsible for causing the Great Fire of London in 1666. Since he won’t do that for another incarnation, he’s obviously been chatting with the Fifth Doctor during one of these anniversary get-together stories.