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5.0 out of 5 stars Pyramid Power, 10 Jun 2013
This review is from: Doctor Who - Pyramids Of Mars [1975] [DVD] [1963] (DVD)
It took me a little while to notice just how episodic this is: 1, set up the idea: 2, try the ring idea; 3, try the gelignite idea; 4, go to the pyramid and solve puzzles. Taken like that it looks like a speed-written stop gap, produced at the last minute to fill a gap left by a departing Lewis Griefer. Robert - I Don't Like Historicals - Holmes pens a peerless historical, again.

While his slightly later Talons really won the plaudits for its juicy use of period twang, this episode of late Edwardian has just the same perfect pitch, and I'm bound to wonder if it was this essay into territory that is as much Sherlock Holmes as it is Hammer that led that other Holmes to the Palace Theatre and Rundell Buildings...

This does have that Conan Doyle tang to it; a mystery in an English country house, a missing archaeologist, a mysterious Egyptian, a suspicious butler, an outraged friend and a baffled younger brother, all waiting for the sleuth, and behind it all the shadow of another writer, whose works the Time Machine and War of the Worlds had been with Dr Who from the very beginning - HG Wells.

It's often easy to miss with Pyramids, because there is so much in there that is good, that the script has both of its feet firmly planted in ground it knows very well indeed, which is probably one reason it's so damn frightening.

The cast is not young - Peter Copley celebrated his 60th birthday while filming this - and one thing that can be expected of older actors is experience; there is a very enjoyable sense of good actors telling a good story well-written, and with great period weight, this world of 1911 takes itself very seriously - like Birling Snr in An Inspector Calls.

So when the impossible starts to happen, when mummies start to walk and kill, and the estate becomes embounded with an invisible barrier, it all makes terrible sense. The mummies, incidentally, are beautifully designed, almost faceless, and they keep coming absolutely inexorably, and when they catch the poor poacher they crush him to death between them. The scenes of early C20 certainty destroyed by the power of Sutekh - particularly the deaths of Dr Warlock and Laurence Scarman - are particularly chilling.

Hammer Horror has been cited as a source of much of this, but I'm not sure that Hammer often got this good - the death of Namin at the end of Ep 1 is rather classier than a lot of Hammer - and my only quibble (and I share it with Phillip Hinchcliffe) is that Sutekh doesn't look very scary with his mask off, but by the time we get to see him, the story is going so well that it hardly matters.

Gabriel Woolf, I should add, is wonderful; a radio actor, cast for his voice, he provides a very fine performance of infinite, divine malevolence; there's no doubt at all of Sutekh's evil, it is very easy to believe Mr Woolf.

This is one of the very best stories ever told on Dr Who, but at the end I am still bound to agree with Elizabeth Sladen over Paddy Russell - I don't believe that Sarah was really such a crack shot with a rifle
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