Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Reviews – Volume 4.3
The adventures of the most bat-shit crazy Doctor and Sarah Jane continue…
The Pyramids of Mars
Whilst on their way back to Earth Sarah Jane sees an apparition of a jackal. Following the source of the signal The Doctor lands the TARDIS in England 1911 where the house of archeologist Marcus Scarman has been taken over by a mysterious Egyptian man named Namin. When Dr. Warlock, a friend of Scarman, and The Doctor confront Namin they are set upon by Egyptian mummies that are under Namin’s control. Together with Laurence Scarman, brother to Marcus, they begin to investigate these happenings, leading them to a signal from Mars that, once decoded, reads ‘beware Sutekh’. Sutekh is the last of a powerful race of aliens called the Osrians. Sutekh has been chased through the galaxy by his brother Horus and was finally defeated on Earth by the combined strength of hundreds of Osirans, and has been contained by paralysis.
Having opened a tomb in Egypt Marcus Scarman has put into motion Sutekh’s escape. The mummies are in reality service droids wrapped in materials to prevent them from corroding over the centuries, and Sutekh is controlling Marcus Scarman’s re-animated corpse in order to carry out his plan. The Doctor, Sarah Jane, Laurence Scarman and Dr. Warlock race to solve puzzles and manipulate time to stop Sutekh from returning and destroying Earth.
Alien involvement in Ancient Egypt is a popular science fiction concept, and this is an early example of it in the mainstream media. It’s a well paced couple of episodes that are driven by bursts of action and mystery, all linked together by an overhanging threat. Sutekh certainly makes for a worthy foe for The Doctor even when unable to move being as powerful and manipulative as he is. Fans of imaginative science fiction will find plenty to enjoy in this adventure.
The Android Invasion
Sarah Jane and The Doctor bring the TARDIS back to Earth but find that things are amiss. After witnesses a soldier walking casually off a cliff, several masked men in the woods and high levels of radiation. When they arrive in town they discover more oddities – all the coins are from the same year, calenders only show one date and the place is deserted. Sarah recognizes the the town as Devesham, having visited it for a story a year before. Eventually they witness the masked men and ‘dead’ soldier arrive in town along with a truck of the villages who are then distributed throughout the town where they begin carrying out their routines.
After some investigating, chases and escapes they eventually discover that they are not on Earth but a replica created by an alien race called the Kraals. They’ve built an army of androids that perfectly mimic their human targets with the intention of of launching an invasion. Their plan involves landing of Earth with the androids and replacing key figures in order to spread a virus among the human population. Eventually The Doctor and Sarah Jane find their way to the real Earth but may be to late to prevent the Kraal invasion.
Clearly working with a spin on the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this serial puts a different perspective on the notion of people being replaced by an alien force. The Doctor and Sarah Jane learn of the replicas of people before they arrive on Earth, changing the goals of the characters quite drastically. The story builds a good sense of mystery as they unravel what is happening on the strange version of Earth that they find themselves and the action is well worked into the story. When they arrive on Earth they are confronted with an android clone of The Doctor, leading to some well worked scenes that come to a head with a clever reveal that only The Doctor could have concocted. A great set of episodes.
The Brain of Morbius
When the TARDIS is pulling down to an unfamiliar planet by outside forces The Doctor is unwilling to play along with whoever is trying to manipulate him, sitting down on the ground a proceeding to sulk. Sarah Jane instead goes exploring and discovers a valley full of derelict spaceships. They’ve arrived on the planet Karn, home to two different factions. Solon is an exile and an expert on micro-surgical techniques and tissue transplants and has been crashing ships and abducting survivors as he needs heads for an experiment. There’s also the Sisterhood of Karn who keep and protect the Flame of Life which produces the Elixir of Life.
The Sisterhood are familiar with Time Lords and believe that The Doctor has arrived on the planet to steal the Elixir, and seek to burn him at stake in order to prevent this. Solon on the other hand is a member of the Cult of Morbius, a person The Doctor describes as the most despicably criminally minded Time Lord who ever lived. Morbius has been reduced to a brain in a jar and Solon is building him a new body, hoping to use The Doctor’s head to finish the project. Before long Morbius is reborn as a deranged mind in a patchwork Frankenstein-esque body and goes on the rampage.
Trapped between the two foes The Doctor and Sarah Jane find themselves in a conflict without allies. With so much going on it is a fast paced story with plenty at stake. Being given greater insight into the history of the Time Lords is always a welcome treat, and the writers always do a good job of making things interesting. Although with with set-up at the beginning it may have been possible that Morbius may have taken the place of The Master in a new nemesis for The Doctor but the story had a few other twists and turns in mind. Regardless it’s a great stand-alone serial.
Finally, we can’t possibly discuss The Pyramids of Mars without including this picture…