Chapter 27. Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars (1976)

Synopsis: A vision of a monstrous face in the time vortex leads the Doctor and Sarah to the home of Marcus Scarman, an Egyptologist. Scarman has disappeared and his brother has come to the house looking for answers. But Marcus Scarman is dead, his body now used like some cruel toy by an ancient evil – the god of Death known as Sutekh.

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. The Terror is Unleashed
  • 2. The Mummy Awakes
  • 3. The Servents of Sutekh
  • 4. The Return of Marcus Scarman
  • 5. The World Destroyed…
  • 6. The Mummies Attack
  • 7. The Doctor Fights Back
  • 8. ‘I am Sutekh!’
  • 9. In the Power of Sutekh
  • 10. A Journey to Mars
  • 11. The Guardians of Horus
  • 12. The Weapon of the Time Lords
  • Epilogue

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from a 1975 serial attributed to Stephen Harris, but which was rewritten by Robert Holmes from an original submission by Lewis Greifer.

Notes: Yes! A prologue that lays out the history of Sutekh’s battle with 740 Osirians (not Osirans) and his imprisonment for thousands of years. Marcus Scarman’s discovery of Sutekh’s tomb is also a little more detailed (when Ahmed flees the tomb, Scarman dismisses him as a ‘Superstitious savage’!).  Ibrahim Namin is the High Priest of the Cult of the Black Pyramid and his knowledge of the great writings of his people, which warn that the Great Pyramid must never be opened, but when he finds the pyramid desecrated by Scarman, Namin encounters Sutekh, who convinces him that it is part of the plan. We’re then presented with Namin’s journey to England and the reactions of the locals, including Dr Warlock and Scarman’s brother, to his arrival at the manor house.

The Doctor remembers Victoria and Dicks provides a little context there, as we’re given a potted history of the Doctor’s involvement with UNIT and Sarah’s recognition that he’s had other companions before her. Later on, Sarah tells Lawrence Scarman that she’s from ‘the future’ – so none of the ‘1980’ stuff that’s caused nightmares for fans and Peter Grimwade ever since. As Sarah sees the image of Sutekh, it’s accompanied by ‘a deep discordant organ-note’ – foreshadowing Namin’s playing in the next scene. How cool is that? Sarah can hear Dudley Simpson’s music just as clearly as we can!

The epilogue reveals that Sarah (presumably after she has left the TARDIS for the last time) has managed to find a local newspaper report of the blaze that destroyed the priory. The article details the huge loss of life, simultaneously explaining away the coincidence of the Scarman brothers, their friend Dr Warlock, the local poacher and Ibrahim Namin, a guest at the house, together in one place. The report concludes that Lawrence Scarman’s many technological devices installed throughout the house may have been the cause of the fire. Sarah recognises that somehow a natural explanation was found to explain away the disaster, but that the sacrifices of so many people there had ensured that she could be safe in her own time, at the end of the Twentieth Century.

Cover: A fairly simple Achilleos cover for the first edition, featuring portraits of the Doctor and a fierce-looking Sarah (wielding a rifle) as a servo-Mummy fills the centre of the frame. Andrew Skilleter’s 1982 cover shows three Mummies in front of an enlarged generic Egyptian death mask. Alister Pearson’s 1993 cover is the best of the lot as the Doctor is framed within a triangle, flanked by the black-garbed servant of Sutekh and a Mummy, while Sutekh himself dominates the lower half of the cover, all against a background of Mars emanating some weird slit-scan-like rays.

Final Analysis: A very tidy adaptation as Dicks adds minimal details at the beginning and end to help things along. One particular neat addition is that he explains Sarah’s unnerving ability to recall details that the Doctor (and the audience) might need to know; in this case, she researched an article on Egyptology some years before and some of the details have stayed with her. Thanks, Terrance!

2 thoughts on “Chapter 27. Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars (1976)

  1. Ah! I blame this novel for me referring to the Osirians for many years thinking I was wrong.

    The epilogue is a gorgeous touch. Now, I have this novel on my bookshelf, preceded by The Pescatons. Is that a good place?

    Liked by 2 people

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