Recap / Doctor Who S13 E3 "Pyramids of Mars"

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"Deactivating a generator loop without the correct key is like repairing a watch with a hammer and chisel. One false move and you'll never know the time again."
The Doctor

The one where the Red Hood steams a man to death.

The Doctor is having a bit of a midlife crisis, which isn't helped much when Sarah decides to raid the TARDIS wardrobe and show up in one of previous companion Victoria's old dresses. She also suddenly sees a demonic goat head floating around in the TARDIS. ... What?

As the TARDIS lands in 1911 England, the Doctor gets involved in a plot that wouldn't have been too out of place 20 years later on Stargate SG-1.

Egyptologist Marcus Scarman has been possessed by Sutekh, last survivor of the ancient Osiran race who appeared to the Ancient Egyptians as gods. Sutekh is trapped in an Egyptian pyramid, his prison maintained by a signal from another pyramid on Mars. Sutekh has Scarman build service robots, (badly) disguised as Egyptian mummies, then with their help he builds a rocket to destroy the Martian pyramid.

Sarah Jane is all ready to leave and vworp back to 1980, but the Doctor shows her the view of 1980 Earth (a desolate wasteland) and explains that this is one historical event they are going to have to meddle in, for a change.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane destroy the rocket, but the Doctor is soon forced to admit that Sutekh literally has god-like powers when he falls under Sutekh's control himself. After a Curb-Stomp Battle in Sutekh's favour, some thorough Mind Rape, the Doctor is made to transport Scarman to Mars in the TARDIS to disconnect the signal trapping Sutekh.

That done, Sutekh's hold on the Doctor is released. The Doctor realises there will be a delay before it has an effect on Earth, and makes it back in the TARDIS just in time to use the TARDIS' time controls to push the exit to Sutekh's time/space tunnel far into the future. Sutekh dies of old age before he ever reaches it.


Tropes

  • Adam Westing: Gabriel Woolf reprises his role as Sutekh in a mockumentary on the DVD release titled Oh, Mummy. Hordes of well-deserved Nightmare Retardant ensues.
    • Sutekh shows us he's just a nice guy who likes raising rabbits.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The novelisation has a prologue detailing Sutekh's imprisonment and an epilogue with Sarah on Earth researching the events of the story in a newspaper cutting, set after her departure.
  • Alan Smithee: Lewis Greifer was so unhappy with Robert Holmes' re-writes that he took his name off the story. Hence Stephen Harris.
  • Alternate History: Sarah Jane asks why they don't just leave to avoid getting killed since they know Sutekh didn't destroy earth in the 19th century since she is from 20th century Earth. The Doctor explains that now that they are involved in events alternate histories are inevitable and her Earth may never exist if they don't stop him. He even takes her to her "present" and shows her a blasted wasteland that will result if they don't go back and fix things.
  • Always Someone Better: Sutekh is so powerful that if he gets loose, not even the full power of the Time Lords will be able to stop him. It took the combined efforts of seven hundred and forty one of his fellow Phaester Osirians to imprison him the first time - Sutekh is that powerful.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The Osirians, who inspired Ancient Egyptian mythology.
  • Ancient Evil: Sutekh, Last of the Osirans. At the time, the Doctor describes him as the worst threat he has ever faced, the greatest time of peril in the history of the Earth, and given his awakening would have rendered the planet a barren wasteland before he spread across the universe to kill everything, his concern was very much justified.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname / Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Dr. Warlock. Who isn't half as cool as his name leads one to assume.
  • Badass Boast: One from the Doctor:
    "I am a Time Lord. I am not a human being. I walk in eternity."
  • Bad Future / The End of the World as We Know It: Sarah Jane asks the Doctor if they can simply leave and return to 1981 without fighting Sutekh, since she's from a future that wasn't destroyed then Sutekh must have failed, after all. The Doctor complies and takes her to 1981. He shows her the desolate lifeless wasteland orbiting a dead sun that the Earth will become if they don't stop Sutekh from freeing himself. An homage to this scene was planned for "The Unquiet Dead", surviving several early drafts before it became clear that it wouldn't flow.
  • Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad: How Sutekh sees things.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: The mummy robots do look pretty silly, with their slow gait and their apparent lack of intelligence. Then they go and crush the poacher's head.
  • Big Bad: Sutekh the Destroyer.
  • Big "NO!": Sutekh lets one of these rip before his death.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Gallifreyan respiratory bypass system makes its first appearance here.
  • Black Comedy: Sarah Jane on the Doctor's mummy costume: "It must have been a nasty accident!" Also, the Doctor: "I shall mingle with the mummies, but I shan't linger."
  • Brick Joke: Sarah Jane tells the Doctor if he's unhappy at UNIT he can always just resign. The Tenth Doctor Era, reveals he never did, so he's still on UNIT's payroll.
  • Build Like an Egyptian: The clue's in the title.
  • Cain and Abel: Lawrence is killed by his possessed brother Marcus when trying to break the control. Sutekh associates the connection with Horus being brother of Sutekh. (He is known as Horus' Evil Uncle, although apparently the youngest brother of Sutekh was an aspect of Horus.)
  • Call Back: Sarah Jane remarks on the similarity of the successive puzzle rooms to the ones encountered in the city of the Exxilons.
    • The Doctor absent-mindedly calls Sarah Jane "Vicky" when she enters the Control Room wearing one of Victoria's old dresses.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: The Doctor, in a particularly broody mood at the beginning, mentions he's a Time Lord. Sarah-Jane, who isn't having any of it, just responds "I know you're a Time Lord" like she's heard this a thousand times before.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: "Your evil is my good. I am the Sutekh the Destroyer. Where I tread I leave nothing but dust and darkness. I find that good."
  • Changed My Jumper / Contrived Coincidence: Sarah just happens to change into Vicky's dress before walking around in the 1910's.
  • The Charmer: The Doctor manipulates Lawrence Scarman into helping him out just by smiling and touching him on the arm, despite having spent all of the preceding conversation constantly insulting him.
  • Chromosome Casting: Sarah is the only female character in the story.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture / Agony Beam: Done to the Doctor, courtesy of Sutekh.
  • Creepy Monotone: Sutekh's servant at the end of part 1.
    Servant: Die. I bring Sutekh's gift of death to the world.
  • Cry into Chest: When the Doctor is apparently killed, Sarah sobs into his chest, causing the Not Quite Dead Doctor to wake up and complain that she's "soaking his shirt".
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: The Doctor (severely ticked and horrified by Sutekh's hatred for all life) thoroughly and formally curses Sutekh 'in the name of all nature.' This goes over about as well as you would expect. Fortunately, Sutekh still needs the Doctor.
  • Diegetic Switch: Even after Namin stops playing the organ, the music continues.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: The Doctor is offered a rifle, but refuses, stating that he never carries firearms.
  • Doomed by Canon: A subtle one: Laurence Scarman has invented the radio telescope a few decades early. Seeing as no one knows about this, of course he has to die, so the radio telescope can be invented at the right time.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: The Doctor strips the bandages and outer casing from a Mummy Robot and dons them in order to sneak explosives into the Osirian ship.
  • Dying as Yourself: Marcus at least gets to do this.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The Doctor tells Sarah that unless they stop Sutekh, this is what will happen, showing her an apocalyptic future as proof.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Only the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith survive among the characters with lines. (There are a couple of non-speaking servants with Marcus when he enters the tomb at the start who might have got away alive.). The novelisation makes it clear that this will be the fate of the entire universe if they fail as not even the Time Lords are powerful enough to stop a free Sutekh.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: If Sutekh's last stab at bargaining with the Doctor is any indication — he offers to spare the planet Earth (just Earth) and give it to him as "a plaything".
  • Fatal Flaw: Poor Laurence Scarman is just incapable of accepting that his brother is dead.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Sutekh comments that he has endured an eternity of "darkness and impotence". This is innocent enough, until you remember that one of Sutekh's tortures at the hands of Horus in the original myth was to have his testicles ripped off.
  • Good Is Not Nice: A subtle example. Although Horus imprisoned Sutekh rather than kill him for fear becoming just as bad as him, his Mecha-Mook mummies guarding the Martian pyramid are programmed to kill intruders if they guess the riddle incorrectly. However, considering what's at stake if Sutekh gets free, one could argue Horus was justified.
  • Hair-Trigger Explosive: The Doctor and Sarah Jane hatch a plan to blow up Sutekh's rocket-pyramid. They come upon a store of blasting gelignite (not a variant of dynamite note ) in Ernie's stores, leading to one of the best Doctor/Companion exchanges in the show's history:
    Sarah Jane finds the nitro, and throws it to the Doctor
    Doctor: Sweaty. Gelignite. Is. Highly Unstable. One good sneeze could set it off... (he puts it down) Did you find any fuses?
    Sarah Jane: No. Perhaps he sneezed.
    The Doctor gives her the Death Glare to end all Death Glares.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Laurence Scarman tries to do this for Marcus when he shows up at his house. It doesn't work, and he ends up paying the ultimate price for it.
    • On the commentary, Michael Sheard remembered that Bernard Archard (Marcus) asked for a second take of that scene. There's the faintest glimmer that he might break through Sutekh's possession, and Archard didn't think he "got it" on the first take. Remember that retakes are almost unheard-of in Classic Who—this should give you some idea of just how powerful the scene was.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Elisabeth Sladen thought so, anyway. She wasn't wild about the scene with Sarah shooting the explosives because she didn't think it had ever been established that Sarah had such abilities.
  • Invisible Means Undodgeable: Sutekh's magic.
  • Jerkass: Marcus Scarman makes a racist remark about his Egyptian guides when they flee Sutekh's temple.
  • Kill 'em All: Outside the Doctor and Sarah, no-one else makes it out of the serial alive. Except a bit-part and he only survives because he's in Egypt while the action takes place in England. The novelisation states that this character is killed off-screen by cultist henchmen later.
  • Kill the God: The Doctor kills Sutekh the Destroyer, last of the Godlike Osirians who inspired the Egyptian Gods.
  • Kneel Before Sutekh: Repeat after me: KNEEL! KNEEL BEFORE THE MIGHT OF SUTEKH!
  • Knight of Cerebus: Sutekh is bad enough to make the Fourth Doctor scared.
  • Knights and Knaves: This is one of several puzzles the Doctor had to solve to enter the titular structure. This incident is an example of solution #2, asking the one guard about what the other guard would have said. Why an ancient Martian pyramid imprisoning a Sufficiently Advanced Alien was protected only by logic puzzles is unknown. The Doctor, being the clever bastard that he is, figures it out in about 15 seconds. According to the DVD production notes subtitles, Phillip Hinchcliffe got it from Franz Kafka's The Castle, although this cannot be confirmed.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The Scarman household just happens to have a priest hole in it, despite being Victorian. The Doctor grumbles about this.
    The Doctor: Where are we?
    Laurence: A priest hole.
    The Doctor: In a Victorian gothic folly? Nonsense!
    Sarah Jane: He's so pedantic sometimes!
  • Last of His Kind: Sutekh, last of the Osirans. He blew up his home planet, leaving a few hundred survivors who chased him down and imprisoned him. What happened to the rest isn't clear, but by the eighteen-hundreds they're lone gone. And then Sutekh gets sent to the end of time.
  • Left the Background Music On: Namin's organ-playing.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The mummies or "servicers" as Sutekh refers to them, are just robots wrapped in bandages. Good versions in the employ of Horus appear on Mars.
  • Mind over Matter: Sutekh uses telekinesis throughout the story to counter his own paralysis; at one point, he even uses his mind to contain the blast from a gelignite explosive. Doubly impressive considering the explosion is occurring in England and Sutekh's pyramid is in Egypt!
  • Mind Rape: The Doctor gets subjected to this by Sutekh. The Doctor is clearly in excruciating pain trying to resist, and yet he forces the Doctor to kneel before him, worship him and 'debase himself' without even moving in his seat. What's more, Sutekh is clearly doing it for sport, thoroughly enjoying hurting and humiliating him, and was going to 'shred his mind' before realising he could take the Doctor's TARDIS key instead. One of the more scary and disturbing moments from the show's most scary and disturbing period.
  • Nepharious Pharaoh: Sutekh, a Sufficiently Advanced Alien with an Egyptian theme and Mooks disguised as Mummies.
  • No Such Thing as Space Jesus: Sutekh's personality and history heavily resembles the same god from Egyptian mythology and he possesses very god-like powers (said by the Doctor to be "near-limitless"). It is not clarified whether this is another alien encounter or something completely different. Sutekh is specifically said to be an Osirian, and that he was imprisoned on Mars by the leadership of his planet.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Played by Namin.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Sutekh the Destroyer was a Sufficiently Advanced Alien with these tendencies to preclude the possibility that something that could challenge him might evolve.
    Sutekh: "The alien who dares to intrude, the humans, animals, birds, fish, reptiles...all life is my enemy. All life shall perish under the reign of Sutekh the Destroyer!"
  • Only Smart People May Pass: The Doctor notes that the Osirans were famous for their puzzle-based death-traps during the travel through the Pyramid.
  • Organ Dodge: The Doctor's previously unrevealed "respiratory bypass system".
  • Outside-Context Problem: Sutekh has such awesome power that, as the Doctor says, that if unleashed, even the Time Lords couldn't stand against him.
  • Palette Swap: Horus' servant droids are the same design as Sutekh's, but they've got stylin' gold armour on them.
  • Physical God: Sutekh has incredible mental powers, telekinesis even when paralyzed, and it is shown if he escaped he would be capable of destroying entire worlds. Not even the Time Lords could stop him.
  • Pyramid Power: There's a pyramid in Egypt, one on Mars and the rocket is a pyramid too.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Sutekh is really 7000 years old.
  • San Dimas Time: Justified when the Doctor has only a narrow window of opportunity to trap Sutekh in the spacetime tunnel. Even if he were to use the TARDIS to return to Earth at a point hours or weeks earlier, he'd only wind up waiting around for the few minutes when Sutekh is in the tunnel, and can therefore be trapped. The fact that he rushes to get it done immediately is more an indication of his excitement-level than fear of wasting precious San Dimas Time.
  • Screw Destiny: The Doctor and Sarah encounter the wrathful god Sutekh in the 1910s. Sarah argues that they don't have to stop him since they already know the world wasn't destroyed back then. The Doctor takes her into the future and shows the world has been utterly obliterated, proving time is in flux and they're the only ones who can stop Sutekh.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Sutekh was imprisoned in a pyramid in Egypt.
  • Series Continuity Error: The plot hinges on the idea that the TARDIS' controls are "isomorphic" and can only be manipulated by the Doctor, despite characters like Susan, Jo and Harry having piloted it in previous stories. Robert Holmes later offered the explanation that it was because the Doctor was lying, though Sutekh's ability to read the Doctor's mind makes this unpopular.
  • Sickly Green Glow: Sutekh's Agony Beam.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Sutekh starts off as this. Frankly, it's a relief when he breaks out the ham.
  • Smart Ball: Sarah Jane suddenly gains a lot of knowledge on how to fire a rifle and on Egyptian mythology.
  • The Social Darwinist: Sutekh despite already being one of the most powerful beings in the Universe takes this to extremes, wanting to destroy all life to prevent something that could kill him evolving.
  • Stable Time Loop: The TARDIS materializes in Scarman's house in 1911 because it is at the same location that UNIT Headquarters will be in the future (since the Doctor was aiming for Unit HQ but was pulled off course by several decades). The Doctor then gets involved in events that culminate in the Scarman house burning down, which we were earlier told is what enabled UNIT Headquarters to be constructed at that location in the first place.
  • Stock Puzzle: In the story's defence, the ol' Knights and Knaves stumper might have been new when Sutekh's prison was made. 7000 years ago.
  • Suddenly Always Knew That: Sarah Jane is a crack shot with a rifle, apparently...
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The Osirans.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Bamboo Technology: All the Osiran technology looks like ancient Egyptian paraphernalia, but includes robots and teleporters that work between Earth and Mars.
  • Time Abyss: Sutekh was imprisoned thousands of years ago, the war inspiring Egyptian mythology, and was active for thousands of years before that.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: The Doctor show Sarah Jane how time has its alternatives. Even though Sarah Jane is from 1980 and knows the world wasn't destroyed in 1911 by Sutekh, the Doctor takes her to 1980 and shows Earth has been destroyed as they didn't stop Sutekh escaping. This is partly accounted for, the Doctor says individuals can shape the future but only powerful beings like Sutekh can destroy it.
  • Tranquil Fury: Sutekh is this, creepily and effectively whispering every word, even when torturing The Doctor. Until he's freed, when predictable characterization developments occur.
  • Wayback Trip: Sarah-Jane argues that she knows the Earth wasn't destroyed in 1915, given she's from 1980. The Doctor responds by taking her to 1980, which is now a wasteland.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Marcus has three servant droids before going to Mars. Once there, he only has two. Of course, the out of universe reason is because the third was repurposed as Horus' servant.
  • What Is Evil?
    Sutekh: "Evil"? Your evil is my good. I am Sutekh the Destroyer. Where I tread, I leave nothing but dust and darkness. I find that good.
  • What Year Is This?: The Doctor asks Laurence this, much to his bewilderment:
    Laurence: What year?
    Doctor: It's a simple enough question, surely.
    Laurence: Are you telling me you don't know what—
    Doctor: If I knew I wouldn't ask. Don't be obtuse, man.
  • Whole Plot Reference: To the Hammer Horror Blood from the Mummy's Tomb.
  • The X of Y
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: When the possessed Marcus Scarman arrives on the scene, the first thing he does is dispose of the minion who did all the preliminary work.
    Namin: Master, spare me. Spare me. I am a true servant of the great Sutekh.
    Scarman: I am the servant of Sutekh. He needs no other. [kills him]
    • After the Doctor transported everybody to Mars, Sutekh orders his mummies to kill him, since none of them intend to leave the Pyramid anyway.
    • When the Eye of Horus is destroyed the re-animated Marcus Scarman is released, collapses like a puppet with its strings cut and disintgrates.
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