Thursday, April 15, 2010

Random Classic Doctor Who Review

It's been awhile since I watched any Doctor Who, so I thought I would come back to this with one of the more critically acclaimed serials, Pyramids of Mars.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith arrive on Earth, in the UNIT building, but in the wrong time. It's 1911, and it seems some weird Egyptian is living in the house, owned by a missing egyptologist. The weird Egyptian guy manages to make some mummies walk around, and they let loose the Servant of Sutekh, imprisoned in the pyramids of Mars. The Servant and his mummies are building a rocket to destroy the prison and let loose the most terrible ancient god in the history of the galaxy, and only the Doctor and Sarah can stop them.

This is a fine serial worthy of the Fourth Doctor's era, filled with all the hallmarks of the time: the ridiculous scarf, Baker's aloof portrayal, the dodgy special effects, the inane pseudo-scientific jargon ("reversing the polarities should be child's play"), and of course, the stilted overacting from the British bit-players.

I jest, of course. I wouldn't watch these old Doctor Whos if those things bothered me in the slightest. Instead, it lends this serial a bit of charm. What does detract from my enjoyment is the bizarre pacing.

The first part of the serial is fairly quick, setting characters and plot up very briskly, putting our protagonists in increasing danger. It's in the second and first section of the third part where things deteriorate. The pace slows to a crawl as the mummies wander the grounds searching for humans to kill, and the Doctor and Sarah run from point to point with no apparent motivation other than running from mummies.

Until the Doctor tries a different, more ballsy tactic, the serial bogs down in chase scene after chase scene, and let me tell you, these chase scenes are boring and lifeless.

However, in the second half of the third part, and the fourth part, we resume a quick trot and the stakes get raised. It's supreme Doctor Who fun at its best. Without going into spoilers, the fourth part of the serial adds an Indiana Jones sort of aspect to it, as the Doctor navigates a series of puzzles and obstacles through the pyramid on Mars itself. Quite gripping.

All in all, I enjoyed Pyramids of Mars. Barring the crawling pace of the middle, this is an entertaining and often captivating classic Doctor Who. While the Fourth Doctor will never be my favourite, I still like Tom Baker's iconic portrayal. For fans of Doctor Who, I recommend this serial.

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