Pyramids of Mars

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PRODUCTION INFO

Name

Pryamids of Mars

Serial Code

4G

First Transmitted

25 October 1975

Final Ratings

11.70m

DVD RELEASE

DVD

VHS RELEASE

VHS

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CAST

Regular Cast

Tom Baker (Doctor Who), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith)

Guest Cast

Bernard Archard (Marcus Scarman), Michael Sheard (Laurence Scarman) [1-3], Peter Copley (Dr. Warlock) [1-2], Peter Mayock (Ibrahim Namin) [1-2], Michael Bilton (Collins) [1], Vik Tablian (Ahmed) [1], Nick Burnell, Melvyn Bedford, Kevin Selway (Mummies), George Tovey (Ernie Clements) [2], Gabriel Woolf (Sutekh) [3-4]

CREW

Written by Stephen Harris
Directed by Paddy Russell
Produced by Philip Hinchcliffe

sypnosis

Returning to UNIT HQ on Earth, TARDIS is thrown violently about by a mysterious force and Sarah and Doctor arrive instead at an old priory in year 1911. owner, Marcus Scarman, has been excavating ancient tombs and is possessed by spirit of Sutekh, bringer of ‘gift of death to all mankind’.

Sutekh has lain for thousands of years in his pyramid prison and Scarman and his robot mummies plan to release this ancient and evil power. Will Sutekh all-powerful be freed from his bonds and destroy world, or will Doctor manage to bring about his destruction?

ratings

1 “Part One” 25:22 25 October 1975 10.5m
2 “Part Two” 23:53 1 November 1975 11.3m
3 “Part Three” 24:32 8 November 1975 9.4m
4 “Part Four” 24:52 15 November 1975 11.7m

plot

PART ONE

Egypt, 1911: Marcus Scarman, Fellow and Professor of Archaeology at All Souls College, Oxford University, is excavating a blind pyramid. He finds the door to the burial chamber is inscribed with the Eye of Horus. The Egyptian assistants flee at the sight of the glowing hieroglyph, leaving the Professor to enter the chamber alone. As he holds a light to see the undisturbed tomb, he is blasted by a green ray that emanates from a seated and cowled figure.
The Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith are still on their way back to UNIT headquarters in the TARDIS. Sarah Jane comes in with a dress on and tells The Doctor he should be glad to be going home. The Doctor replies Earth isn’t his home, and it is time he finds something better to do than run around after the Brigadier. Sarah Jane attributes this state of mind to The Doctor going through something of a mid-life crisis. at the moment the tomb is disturbed, the TARDIS is forced out of its flight path. Sarah Jane sees an apparition of an alien, jackal-like face in the console room. The Doctor comments that a mental projection that could have this effect on the TARDIS would be powerful beyond imagination. He follows the energy source back to its point of origin and lands the TARDIS in the Scarman family home, a former priory somewhere in England, occupying the future site of UNIT HQ.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane explore the priory and find what appear to be Egyptian artefacts in the storeroom in which the TARDIS materialised. Discovered by Collins, they are told that the house has been taken over by a mysterious Egyptian gentleman by the name of Ibrahim Namin. Collins urges them to leave. As he turns to inspect the room after The Doctor and Sarah’s departure via the window, a sarcophagus lid begins to move.

In another part of the priory, Namin is confronted by Dr Warlock, an old friend of Professor Scarman, but their heated debate is interrupted by a scream. Warlock and Namin find that the scream came from Collins, who has been strangled in the storeroom. Namin shoots Warlock to prevent him from going for help. The Doctor, who has witnessed the argument and heard the scream, prevents the shot from being immediately fatal by using his scarf to pull the gun in Namin’s hand. The three make their escape onto the grounds of the estate. Instead of following, Namin removes the lid of another sarcophagus to reveal a mummy. Holding up his ring, he commands the mummy to activate and orders it to pursue them.
The Doctor, Sarah and Warlock hide in the woods until the pursuing mummies are called off the hunt by Namin, who is summoned to the central room of the house by a blast of organ music. The three fugitives make their way to a hunting lodge on the grounds used by Laurence Scarman, Professor Scarman’s brother, as his home. Laurence is an amateur scientist whose latest invention is the Marconiscope, which The Doctor recognises as a primitive form of radio telescope; Lawrence is surprised The Doctor knows what it is. The Doctor asks Lawrence to demonstrate the Marconiscope, which he does. However, Laurence then finds he cannot switch the Marconiscope off, and it goes faster and faster before exploding with a flash and a puff of smoke. Having asked Laurence where the Marconiscope’s aerial was aimed, Laurence says it was Mars. The Doctor works out that the Marconiscope intercepted a signal from Mars, and uses a more portable device to decode the signal – using the part occurring most frequently as”E”, the most common letter in the English alphabet. The signal reads”Beware Sutekh”.

The Doctor returns to the house in order to formulate a plan to stop Sutekh, followed by Sarah and Laurence Scarman.
Namin and the mummies – really service robots – greet the arrival of “Sutekh”, who travels to the priory via a lodestone, the portal of which is disguised as an upright sarcophagus. However it is the Servant of Sutekh who emerges from the portal, appearing as a dark-helmeted humanoid figure dressed in black. Upon realising this, Namin pleads for his life, declaring he is a loyal servant of Sutekh’s. But the Servant ignores this, declaring that Sutekh needs no other servant, and kills Namin. He then announces”I bring Sutekh’s gift of death to all humans”.

PART TWO

After killing Namin, the Servant transforms into Marcus Scarman, although he appears to be an animated corpse. Scarman uses the space-time tunnel to communicate with Sutekh, immobile in his pyramid, who orders Scarman to secure the perimeter of the estate and to construct an Osiran war missile. After Scarman and the robots leave to execute their orders, The Doctor, Sarah and Laurence enter the main room. The Doctor explains that Sutekh is the last of a powerful alien race called the Osirans, a paranoid megalomaniac who came to believe that all life was his enemy. He locates the space-time tunnel but accidentally activates it and is nearly dragged through. He disrupts the tunnel with the TARDIS key and is knocked unconscious by the energy discharge. Laurence hides the three of them in a priest hole, fearing discovery by his brother.

In another part of the estate, a poacher, Ernie Clements, finds a mummy trapped by one of his snares. He retreats but is prevented from escaping the estate by the deflection barrier Sutekh has ordered to be generated to secure the perimeter. Once Scarman has finished placing the generators, he finds Warlock and questions him about the other people within the barrier. Clements hears Warlock’s death scream and tracks Scarman to the house.
While in hiding, The Doctor realises that he will be able to stop Sutekh controlling his Servant and the mummies by using Namin’s ring and Laurence’s scientific apparatus. Scarman is prevented from finding them by the sudden appearance of Clements. Clements fires his shotgun at Scarman’s back and is amazed to see the explosion reverse and all damage healed. Clements panics and retreats, pursued by the robots.
The Doctor locates Namin’s corpse and retrieves the ring. He, Sarah, and Laurence proceed into the TARDIS to avoid detection. Laurence is amazed by the dimensionally transcendental nature of the TARDIS. Sarah suggests they should just leave in the TARDIS, because they know that the world did not end in 1911. The Doctor demonstrates otherwise by moving the TARDIS forward in time to 1980. There, the TARDIS doors open to reveal a blasted wilderness, with thunder, rain and lightning hammering down on to ash fields. Sarah understands that they have no choice but to return to 1911 and stop Sutekh, or the future will be lost.
The TARDIS returns to 1911, and the three retreat to the hunting lodge in order to jury-rig a jamming unit to prevent Sutekh controlling his servants. Laurence finds it too hard to deal with The Doctor’s assertion that his brother is dead and that the being with his appearance is just a puppet. Laurence overhears The Doctor telling Sarah that, when the jamming device is activated, all of Sutekh’s servants will stop, Marcus Scarman included.
at the crucial moment when the device is activated, Laurence attempts to stop it from happening. The robots overrun the hunting lodge after finding and killing Clements. They knock Laurence out and throw The Doctor to the floor. One reaches out to kill Sarah…

PART THREE

One of the robots attacks the jamming device and is disabled by a sudden discharge of power. Sarah is threatened by a robot, but The Doctor tells Sarah to grab the ring that they took from Namin and order the robots to return to Control. Sarah does so, and the robots obey.
Surveying the ruined equipment, The Doctor decides that the only thing that he can do is to blow up the partially-assembled rocket in the stable courtyard of the priory. Laurence suggests using blasting gelignite, a supply of which Clements kept in his hut on the estate. The Doctor and Sarah leave to locate the gelignite, ordering Laurence to strip the bindings from the now deactivated robot left in the hunting lodge.
The Doctor finds the energy barrier and, with Sarah’s help, deactivates a generator loop in order to get through; taking an integral piece with him to prevent it from being reactivated. The deactivation is detected by Sutekh, who orders Marcus Scarman to investigate. Marcus finds Laurence in the hunting lodge. Laurence tries to make Marcus remember his childhood in order to revive his humanity but fails, and Marcus tortures Laurence in order to find out more about The Doctor.

The Doctor and Sarah find the gelignite. The Doctor says Sutekh was pursued across the galaxy by his brother Horus and was finally defeated on Earth by the combined might of 740 Osirans. The Doctor and Sarah hide the gelignite near the rocket before returning to the lodge. There they find Laurence in a rocking chair, strangled, and a robot stripped of its bindings. The Doctor asks Sarah to disguise him in the bindings in order for him to place the gelignite on the rocket without being detected. He successfully does so but then Scarman orders him to place a key component inside the missile and he doesn’t immediately respond, making Scarman suspicious.
After Scarman leaves, Sarah shoots the gelignite with Clements’ hunting rifle in order to detonate it. However, they see the explosion pause, then retreat back upon itself. The Doctor realises that Sutekh is holding back the detonation using mental power alone and that the only way to destroy the missile is to travel to Sutekh’s prison using the space-time tunnel and distract him.
The Doctor enters Sutekh’s chamber and calls out his name, disrupting Sutekh’s concentration. On Earth, the explosion consumes the rocket. Angered, Sutekh paralyses The Doctor with a blast of mental force.

PART FOUR

Sutekh decides not to kill The Doctor and instead interrogates him; discovering that he is a Time Lord from Gallifrey. He then locates the TARDIS and decides to use it to transport Scarman to the pyramid of Mars in order to deactivate the Eye of Horus, the force that is trapping him. The Doctor avoids being killed by claiming that the TARDIS controls are isomorphic, meaning they respond to him alone. Sutekh subjects The Doctor to mind control and returns him to the priory as another of his servants. He then orders Scarman to bring a robot and Sarah into the TARDIS to travel to Mars.
On Mars, Sutekh orders Scarman to dispose of the Doctor, and the robot strangles him. Scarman and the robot then find the way out of the first chamber beneath the pyramid and leave Sarah weeping over The Doctor. The Doctor then wakes up, revealing that his respiratory bypass system allowed him to avoid death, and they then set off in search of Scarman.
The Eye of Horus is located at the end of a corridor beneath the pyramid. The corridor is divided into a series of chambers, and progress through the chambers is dependent upon solving logical and philosophical problems. Sutekh navigates Scarman and the robot through each problem with no deliberation, but The Doctor and Sarah are slower. at the last puzzle, a transparent cylinder materialises around Sarah. The voice of Horus tells The Doctor that the chamber has two switches (“one means instant freedom, the other instant death”) and that he is allowed to ask one question of one Guardian of Horus. The Guardians materialise at the same moment as the Crucible and are mummy robots swathed in gold bindings. One robot always tells the truth and the other always lies, but which is which?
Since the Guardians are contra-programmed so that one will always give a false answer, The Doctor asks one Guardian, if he were to ask the other Guardian the question, which switch would he indicate? The Doctor reasons that if the Guardian he asks tells the truth then it must indicate the death switch; if it is the liar, then it would still indicate the death switch. The Doctor presses the other switch and the chamber and Guardians disappear, freeing Sarah.
Scarman and the robot reach the chamber containing the Eye of Horus. Another Guardian of Horus appears and does battle with Sutekh’s robot. Sutekh realises that he is moments away from freedom and channels all of his power through Scarman in order to destroy the Eye of Horus. Scarman momentarily transforms into the jackal creature Sarah saw earlier in the TARDIS and destroys the Eye before falling to the floor and decaying to dust in an instant. Arriving too late, The Doctor looks back and sees the bulkhead doors open one by one, revealing the TARDIS at the end of the corridor. He realises that the time factor can still save them.
Back in the priory, The Doctor exits the TARDIS at a run, holding a piece of the TARDIS console. He runs to the main room of the priory and attaches the device to the space-time tunnel. Sutekh appears in the tunnel, travelling towards the exit, but he cannot seem to reach it. He pleads with The Doctor to release him, offering to spare the Earth as a plaything for The Doctor, but The Doctor simply turns the dial and Sutekh recedes screaming. The Doctor declares that Sutekh lived for about 7000 years. He then explains that the time control from the TARDIS shifted the mouth of the space-time tunnel into the far future, which Sutekh could never hope to reach. They had two minutes to return to Earth from Mars and set the trap because this is the amount of time that it takes for radio waves to propagate between the two planets.
As The Doctor and Sarah pack up and prepare to leave, a thermal imbalance in the time tunnel causes it to catch fire. The Doctor remembers that the UNIT headquarters was built on the remains of a burnt priory and the two decide to leave, not wanting to be blamed for starting a fire, re-entering the TARDIS and dematerialising. Outside, the priory is consumed by flames.

NOTES

  • This story was originally written by Lewis Greifer, but was considered unworkable. As Greifer was unavailable to do rewrites, scripts were completely rewritten by Robert Holmes. pseudonym used on transmission was Stephen Harris. Exterior scenes were shot on Stargroves estate in Hampshire, which was owned by Mick Jagger at time. same location would be used during filming of Image of Fendahl.
  • Sarah refers to puzzles being similar to that of Exxilon City in Death to Daleks, although she personally never entered City.
  • The Fourth Doctor notes that Osirians had “dome-shaped heads, and cerebrums like spiral staircases”. unmasked Sutekh at end of serial (resembling Set animal) does not have a domed head.
  • Pyramids of Mars contributes to one of biggest and most widely discussed contradictions in Doctor Who universe: “UNIT dating controversy.”
  • Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen improvised a number of moments in this story, most notably a scene in Part Four where Doctor and Sarah start to walk out of their hiding place and then when they see a mummy, quickly dart back into it. Baker based scene on a Marx Brothers routine.
  • The new TARDIS console which debuted in preceding story Planet of Evil does not appear again until The Invisible Enemy. Owing to cost of setting up TARDIS console room for filming of only a handful of scenes, a new console set was designed for following season.
  • Several scenes were deleted from final broadcast. A model shot of TARDIS landing in landscape of a barren, alternative 1980 Earth was to be used in Part Two, but director Paddy Russell decided viewers would feel more impact if first scene of new Earth was Sarah’s reaction as TARDIS doors opened. Three scenes of effects such as doors opening and Doctor materializing from sarchopagus were removed from final of Part Four because Russell felt mixes were not good enough. These scenes were included on DVD, along with an alternate version of poacher being hunted down in Part Two, and a full version of Osirian rocket explosion.
  • Although name of Sutekh’s race is pronounced”Osiran” throughout serial, scripts and publicity material spell it as”Osirian” in some places and as”Osiran” in others.[4] Many fans use”Osirian” spelling, as do some reference works such as Battles in Time collectable card game and Virgin Missing Adventures sequel novel Sands of Time. Another member of Osirian race also appears in Big Finish Productions audio drama Bride of Peladon.
  • Gabriel Woolf reprised his role as Sutekh in Faction Paradox audio dramas Coming to Dust (2005), Ship of a Billion Years (2006), Body Politic (2008), Words from Nine Divinities (2008), Ozymandias (2009) and Judgment of Sutekh (2009, forthcoming), from Magic Bullet Productions, he reprised the role in The New Adventures Of Bernice Summerfield; The Triumph Of Sutekh. He was also the Beast in The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit.
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