An ancient Egyptian tomb, a possessed human professor, killer Mummies, a deranged, evil alien god and menacing organ music – what more could you want? This is Doctor Who doing gothic horror as never before, nor since, and Pyramids of Mars walks its way through eternity into our #24 spot with its mythology, gruesome plot and disturbing atmosphere.
Within classic Who, the essential Doctor/Companion relationship is never better depicted than in Pyramids, with some sparkling and unforgettable dialogue between the Fourth Doctor and Sarah; sometimes witty and sometimes profound. We see a wonderful chemistry between them, teasing each other at times, but also expressing their moods and emotions to a degree which highlights a stark contrast between her compassionate human reactions and his more pragmatic and alien responses to the horrors unfolding around them.
What makes Pyramids stand out for me is the intriguing way that some of the more mysterious and unearthly qualities of the Doctor’s character are brought out by his battle with the might of Sutekh. Gabriel Woolf’s famous vocal performance is utterly chilling and leaves an enduring impression of the imprisoned maniacal Osirian and the power of destruction that he threatens to unleash on the universe.
Pyramids of Mars is the jewel of season 13 and one of the highlights of the Fourth Doctor’s era. It brings together all the elements needed to make great Doctor Who – a haunting story steeped in atmosphere, tension, horror, and morals; excellent casting; top notch writing, direction and performances; impressive visuals; strong cliffhangers; creepy music; and one of the most villainous adversaries in the show’s history. Tom Baker has never been more compelling or charismatic and Pyramids is a perfect vehicle for Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes to drill down into those fascinatingly complex, intense and alien aspects of the Doctor’s moody fourth incarnation. — Alan
The unstoppable, inevitable force which is the 50 for 50 Countdown stares down #23 next week.