Mar 11

Time Reconsidered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Who Eps: #14 THE PYRAMIDS OF MARS

FT12 comments • 1,603 views

or “Robot mummies vs sweating gelignite

… being a show-by-show TARDIS-esque (ie in effect random) exploration of Doctor Who Soup to Nuts, begun at LJ’s diggerdydum community, and crossposted at FT.

Lovecraft meets Von Daniken in the (ok quite long) shadow of the 1972 King Tut show at the British Museum (which my family went to London to see, but didn’t bcz the queue was so long): in an isolated Victorian folly in 1911, surrounded by excavated Egyptian relics, a MITEY and EEVIL ELDER GOD WHO HATES ALL MORTAL LIFE (viz SUTEKH aka SET aka SATAN aka the TYPHONIAN BEAST) has been semi-unleashed, and is attempting via minions to complete the process: only 4 aka BB and SJS can save the universe. Will they succeed? Now read on…

i: i believe this is the first follow-on adventure — on the way back to 1980 from the far distant and the planet of evil, the inteprid pair are hijacked by radiopulses from the Edwardian era and have to stop ANOTHER all-powerful alien escaping its prison; a meme-repetition that perhaps explains why they are so tetchy with one another — BB is in a foully sarcastic mood throughout, nearly as contemptuous of sentimental human frailty as Sutekh, and SJS twitchily goads him and snipes: since this means NO JELLYBABERY this is a plus; actively and deliberately dislikeable BB is an improvement on the DR SuPERTWEE of relentless memory…
ii: as in the later Fang Rock, the planet/universe may be saved, but none of the locals are. Egyptologist Marcus Scarman is an animated corpse from the very first moments, when we see him open a tomb and encounter some AWFUL; also unsaved are his butler; his befezzed organplaying sidekick; his friend Dr Warlock; his boffinish brother Lawrence; a local poacher; and the house itself.
iii: Lawrence is an excellent and unusually sympathetic character, by turns stunned by events, excited by future technology and time-travel, and confused and unhappy at what’s become of his brother, which he refuses quite to believe (creating at one point an unused set-up: he gets his zombie brother briefly to recall who he was before he died; you assume when BB is later mesmerised — tho not killed — by Sutekh that he will be reminded of his true self by SJS… which doesn’t happen
iv: nice moments = mostly relating to the poacher, really — he has to watch out for mantraps and stores unstable gelignite in his shed!; the sonic screwdriver is FOR ONCE used non-magically, to unlock a forcefield by overriding an ultrasonic signal; there’s a brief slightly hurried appearance of the “truthtelling guard, lying guard” logic puzzle when they arrive in the martian pyramid (singular not plural, despite storytitle) — nice if goofy idea that the Osirians would leave the health of the future universe guarded only by a sequence of Crystal Maze-esque puzzles…
v: for the thousandth time we learn the hard-won easly-lost wisdom that MINIONS AREN’T THAT BRIGHT! Sutekh himself is held in some time-locked pyramid chamber in egypt, controlled by a radiopulse from mars. He has a certain amount of mindpower — can control zombies and suppress bomb explosions — but essentially they bumble around failing to get anything done right. This is why democracy is better than tyranny DO YOU SEE. (Actually it is and since Sutekh has been stuck in a companionless hole for millennia without television, it’s maybe fair enough that HE hasn’t discovered this…)
vi: And so to Sutekh, who is rather terrific, courtesy (a) the mask and (b) Gabriel Woolf’s voice-performance, all quiet-spoken casually sadistic malice and suppressed rage. Terrific as long as he doesn’t take his mask off — the Osirians may have cerebra in the shape of spiral starcases, but they are not a daunting race to look at :(
vii: Besides well-worn horror-tropes, S has forgotten anything he knew about physical form, apparently — possibly because thought-control isn’t relativistic, timewise, where radiowaves and just plain walking are. BB nips across space to convert the short timetunnel into a fatally long one; Sutekh will die before he gets to the exit. In a way, this is as deflating, after the epic techno-mythic nonsense, as Wells’s Martians being defeated by germs — but it too is a long-established TV/Who notion: that it’s the small things that count.

Plot-wise, the victory of the forces of good is a matter of luck — the TARDIS was deflected to the scene; the poacher has SWEATY GELIGNITE — as much as strategy, but when this is combined with the edgy bad temper of our heroes, it’s a weirdly potent mix. It’s scrappy, inelegantly structured, cliched, and not exactly profound. But I did enjoy it.


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    (Apologies for length of lay-off: sadly I had to attend to a multitude of grown-up matters recently, some interesting, some not so much…)

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    lonepilgrim on 10 Mar 2011 #

    This seems an appropriate place to post a link to this mindbending visualisation of the history of Science Fiction: http://scimaps.org/submissions/7-digital_libraries/maps/thumbs/024_LG.jpg

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    LP that’s terrific, I might pop it into a full FT post later, if that’s OK?

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    Tom on 11 Mar 2011 #

    Another great write up, it has made me realise I can remember nothing of PoM really except Woolf’s silky tones and the horrible squeezed-by-mummy death.

    Oh and the “this is what happens if we don’t beat Sutekh” scene which set the scene for a thousand awful UNIT dating debates.

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    “a thousand awful UNIT dating debates” <-- don't follow? The scene in question being a BLASTED FUTURE EARTH that the duo plus likeable Lawrence Scarman peek out at. (haha Scarman says "It's just like a novel by that chap Wells!" -- WHICH IS EXACTLY TRUE SINCE IT IS AN IDEA LIFTED FROM THE TIME MACHINE) And yes, the death of the poacher is particularly grim, somehow.

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    Tom on 11 Mar 2011 #

    UNIT dating controv in one fell comment:

    PoM puts the UNIT stories in the near-future – Sarah Jane says “but I come from 1980” or some such, so this is when the Pertwee era must have ‘happened’.

    BUT in Mawdryn Undead a few years later the Brigadier is revealed to have spent 1977-1983 as an amnesiac teaching in a public school. So the UNIT stories CAN’T have happened then.

    Cue arguments!

    I hope you weren’t expecting a more exciting meaning of ‘dating’.

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    I was! I was imagining Jo and Sgt Benton going on naughty TARDIS awaydays to the SURFACE OF A DYING SUN

    torchwood agenda get thee hence :(

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    thefatgit on 11 Mar 2011 #

    @2, that’s a great map, but somehow the cursory nod to Space Invaders needs to be expandded into a fully-grown gaming tentacle.

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    Looking at the mask, and the shape of his head, Sutekh’s ears must have been uncomfortably pressed against his Osirian skull for thousands of years! NO WONDER HE’S SUCH A RATBAG!

    ps by follow-on adventure I meant this is the first time I’ve got to review a story that exactly follows on from one I already reviewed. So it’s perhaps fitting that it’s one that introduces a tricky consistency error!

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    Billy Smart on 12 Mar 2011 #

    The seventh and final part of my attempt to trace a literary antecedent for every Doctor Who story;


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    lonepilgrim on 28 Mar 2011 #

    re 3 I look forward to reading more – in the meantime I’ve tracked down more background about the diagram here: http://bigthink.com/ideas/31662

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    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 28 Mar 2011 #

    Thx for reminding me, I will try and remember this week.

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