Pyramids of Mars is one of the most well-remembered, frequently-watched episodes of the original Doctor Who. Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen are both at the top of their games, and seldom work better as characters or display better chemistry than they did with that story. Oddly, it was one that was never followed-up on in the series; neither on TV nor in audio form. At least not until now.
Here we have a set of four connected stories chronicling the return of Sutekh, and the efforts of the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Bernice Summerfield to put a stop to him. It’s something of a mixed bag, and though not bad at any point, it does drag a bit in parts. Let’s have a closer look.
1) The Pyramid of Sutekh by Guy Adams
Professor Bernice Summerfield, archaeologist and adventurer, has discovered a Pyramid on Mars. Inside she finds her old friend the Doctor is fighting a battle with the Osiran God Sutekh. One he is losing.
2) The Vaults of Osiris by Justin Richards
Egypt in 2015 is an unsettled place. The trade in stolen antiquities is a murky one, and it’s about to get a whole lot worse, as an ancient and terrible force enters the market.
3) The Eye of Horus by James Goss
Ancient Egypt is enjoying a golden age – peace, prosperity and a powerful Pharaoh. But something is moving through the sands. A forgotten god requests an invite to the feast.
4) The Tears of Isis by Una McCormack
Russell Courtland prophesied the world would end on Tuesday. No-one was more surprised than he was when it did.
Written By: Guy Adams, Justin Richards, James Goss, Una McCormack
Directed By: Scott Handcock
Lisa Bowerman (Professor Bernice Summerfield), Sylvester McCoy (the Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Gabriel Woolf (Sutekh the Destroyer), Diveen Henry (Alozza), Nicholas Briggs (Vasha), Sakuntala Ramanee (Hatshepsut), Matthew J Morgan (Tutmosis), Dan Bottomley (Kamos), Matthew Bates (Courtland), Rachel Atkins (Susannah), Naomi McDonald (Alyx), Guy Adams (Cultist)
Producer and Script Editor James Goss
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
The first story, The Pyramid of Sutekh, has Bernice stuck in a tomb on Mars, with the Doctor unable to help her as she navigates a maze with a robot that’s using the voice of her former husband. It’s a bit of an odd tale, and not as strong as it could be; at least in part because the Doctor doesn’t do much and Ace doesn’t pop up until the very end. Plus the use of Jason Kane was a little odd, though it worked for the most part.
In The Vaults of Osiris, we have Ace and Benny on Earth trying to track down the Eye of Horus. They encounter a character who should have been voiced by Sydney Greenstreet (see YouTube, youngsters), and deal with all sorts of excitement with guns and chases and boats and stuff. It’s an okay story, but I can’t help but think it was a little unfocused and felt like it was kind of all over the place.
The Eye of Horus was the most entertaining. The Doctor… more or less… and Bernice in ancient Egypt. This installment has a very good guest cast, and just enough oddness to keep the story going, particularly with the Doctor building a bunch of obelisks and having memory issues. Also the tension between the Queen (or is it King?) and her son was really wonderfully handled, with some great acting from the guest cast. It was the best of the three, and I very much liked it.
The finale, The Tears of Isis, was also gripping, and a close second to being the best. Basically… Sutekh wins. The world is destroyed. How this happens and how it gets resolved is not something I’d dream of revealing here, but it was extremely satisfying and done without any timey-wimey nonsense. Moffat take note.
Basically… Sutekh wins. The world is destroyed.
The cast were all their usual wonderful selves, and particular attention needs to go to Gabriel Woolf, who took a minor role from 40 years ago and brought amazing new life to it. Sutekh’s gift of acting, perhaps. It’s also worth noting that unlike Big Finish’s recently-released, heavily-hyped return of Omega, in this case Woolf played a very large role and was “on screen” in all the stories.
Overall this is a very well produced, thoroughly enjoyable set of stories, that leaves the listener satisfied. I do hope Big Finish continues with the New Adventures line, because the first two volumes have been just fantastic. If you haven’t already, you can order your copy of The Triumph of Sutekh from Big Finish on CD (£30) and digital download (£25).