Review By Paul Mount, 4 out of 5 Me, contrary? I?e been grizzling for months about the BBC? peculiar choice of titles for their impressive range of DOCTOR WHO DVD releases. I mean, come on??esurrection of the Daleks? ?he Two Doctors?? ?he Curse of Fenric????Too much of this detritus from DOCTOR WHO? dying days has been spruced up and flung onto a disinterested public and served as a handy reminder of quite how shockingly unessential the show became in its final years. ?here are the classics??I grumbled; those legendary stories which were the stuff of nightmare, stories still fondly remembered by viewers who have long since moved on and become occasional STARGATE admirers. So lo and behold here comes a bona fide DOCTOR WHO classic, the serial ?ost wanted on DVD?by voters in some recent fan poll or other. I hate to come over all LITTLE BRITAIN but?ell, I don? like it.
Let me put this into perspective. It? not that I don? like ?yramids of Mars?as such; it? a perfectly serviceable horror yarn, a nice example of the so-called Gothic period of the show so typical of producer Phillip Hinchcliffe? tenure. My problems with this particular serial are bound up with my reaction to it at the time (yes, that? right, I? so old I remember watching this one first time around! Imagine that!). You see, this was Tom Baker? second year in the role. I was still in a Jon Pertwee frame of mind; I was still used to the cheap spectacle of the third Doctor? colourful battles with six-man armies of rubber-suited aliens, UNIT soldiers running around firing cap guns, Katy Manning? fiersomely bad acting. I wasn? used to this level of sophistication in DOCTOR WHO storytelling and I didn? know what to make of it. Of course it? a classic, I recognise that now – and have for some years. It? just that the bitter taste of slight disappointment left by seeing this low-key adventure back in 1975 just won? go away and has affected my enjoyment of it ever since.
It? 1911 and the TARDIS arrives in a storage room in an old country house. The house belongs to noted archaeologist Marcus Scarman (Archard) who has recently unearthed a long-lost Egyptian tomb and suffered a horrible fate as a consequence. The house has been filled with Egyptian memorabilia – including a number of sarcophagi. The Doctor quickly realises that unearthly forces are at work and the ancient evil of Sutekh (Woolf) imprisoned in a martian pyramid (stick with me on this one) is about to be unleashed. Cue lots of creepy robotic mummies, chases through crackling English countryside, grisly murders and sci-fi shenanigans. A fine, economic script by Robert Holmes (writing as Stephen Harris), tight direction by Paddy Russell, convincing performances by both leads and guest stars combined with decent production values and a real sense of dramatic urgency create one of the few DOCTOR WHO stories which can still hold its four-part head up high even today. More Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee please, Mr BBC, and less of those tiresome pretenders who followed them.
THE DISC: The Restoration Team have done another marvellous job in making ?yramids of Mars?look so shiny and new it might have been made yesterday. They?e also assembled a genuinely-enjoyable batch of extras which really examine the serial and its making in some depth. A twenty-odd minute featurette looks at the making of the show with contributions from most of the cast and the producer and various designers (no Tom Baker though, boo hoo), an engrossing longer feature looks at the ground-breaking work of producer Hinchcliffe on the show (and if the new series can be half as good as many of his serials we?l be on to a winner), there are one or two deleted/extended scenes (including an impressive TARDIS model shot excised for narrative reasons), an amusing cxomedy item entitled ?h Mummy?where Gabriel Woolf returns as Sutekh to explain to his fans what became of him when the cameras stopped rolling, photo galleries, on-screen information and a nice, warm commentary by the producer, Sladen and Sheard with the odd comment from Russell dropped in here and there. A really comprehensive disc and one I? recommend for fans and casual admirers alike. Shame about the story, though. (Only joking)?