As a young boy, I vividly remember some of the shows I used to watch late on a Saturday night. Saturday nights were the one night during the week that I was able to stay up late. Sometimes I would watch WWF wrestling with my dad and other times we would watch the Three Stooges on the local tv station. My dad never cared for sci-fi. He grew up with Westerns and my siblings and I all grew up with a very deep appreciation of that genre. For Dad, sci-fi was the opposite of the Western. He didn't like them. However, he knew that I did and every once in awhile he would stay up with me on a Saturday night and we would watch DOCTOR WHO on PBS. I didn't know it until recently, but the Doctor who I saw those few times as a kid was Tom Baker. It was the early 1980s and our local affiliate had just started showing DOCTOR WHO episodes. Of those few DOCTOR WHO episodes that I saw with my Dad, DOCTOR WHO PRYAMIDS OF MARS is the only one I remember seeing. The opening episode of that story gave me nightmares for weeks. The Doctor and Sarah Jane are planning on returning to Earth when the TARDIS is thrown of course and a giant floating head of a jackal projects itself into the machine. The Doctor and Sarah arrive on Earth, but are unsure as to what exact time they are. It turns out to be 1911 at an old priory owned by an archaeologist named Marcus Scarman. Marcus has been to Egypt and while there he uncovered a tomb that really wasn't a tomb, but a prison for the last and most evil of the Osirans, Sutekh. This jackal-headed entity has been waiting for thousands of years for release. Sutekh considers all life, besides his own, his enemy. The fate of the universe is at stake as the Doctor attempts to outwit Sutekh and prevent him from escaping. Like many of the episodes in the era of DOCTOR WHO under the production of Peter Hinchcliffe, the writing in "Pyramids of Mars" is exceptional. Stephen Harris received the writing credit, but it's known that Robert Holmes wrote most everything that appeared on screen. The acting in the episode is also superb and there are some real fine performances here. Over twenty-five-years later, "Pyramids of Mars" is the only DOCTOR WHO story from my childhood that I remember watching. After recently watching this DVD, I still got shudders when the disembodied head of Sutekh suddenly appears on TARDIS. When a television episode still has an effect like that over two decades after first seeing it, you know it must be good. This DVD is loaded with extra features. There's a commentary with Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah), Micahel Sheard, and Philip Hinchcliffe and occasional comments from director Paddy Russell. There are several deleted/extended scenes. There's a documentary entitled "Osiran Gothic" about the unusual set design of this story which combined elements of Egyptian architecture with Victorian Gothic. There's another short featurette entitled "Now and Then" which shows what Stargrove manor looked like when DOCTOR WHO filmed there and what it looks like now (through this I learned that Stargrove was once owned by Mick Jagger). Also included is a fairly long featurette entitled "Serial Thrillers" which focuses on the DOCTOR WHO stories of Philip Hinchcliffe's era. There's a short comedic featurette featuring Sutekh talking about his post-"Pyramids of Mars" acting career. There are some production notes, a photo gallery, and an easter egg of audio trailers and promos.
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The popularity of this Tom Baker-eraDoctor Whoserial among fans led directly to its release on DVD (it ranked first in aDoctor Whomagazine poll about stories to be released on disc), and once again, the WB/BBC DVD doesn't disappoint with a sparkling presentation and a wealth of supplemental features. The third serial in the thirteenth season (1975-1976) finds the Doctor and Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) on Earth in 1911, where an Egyptologist has come under the power of Sutekh, a powerful alien bent on unleashing worldwide destruction. The much-discussed "Gothic" sensibilities that producer Phillip Hinchcliffe and writer Robert Holmes brought to the series during this season are largely in effect here--mummies and sinister henchmen mix freely with robots and alien invaders--as are the quality of writing and acting that helpedDoctor Whospike some of its highest ratings to date during this season. One of the series' strongest and most entertaining stories,Pyramids of Marsis undoubtedly a must-have for Baker andWhofans.--Paul Gaita