Pyramids Of Mars
Working Title: Pyramid Of Mars.
Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith).
It is 1911, and the TARDIS lands in the home of sibling scientists Laurence and Marcus Scarman. Laurence desperately needs the Doctor's help, since his brother has been behaving very oddly ever since returning from an archaeological dig in Egypt. To confuse matters further, Laurence has begun detecting strange radio signals from the surface of Mars. The Doctor discovers that Marcus has become the avatar on Earth of Sutekh, a powerful alien Osiran imprisoned centuries earlier by his people for his terrible crimes. Now Sutekh is using Marcus to regain his freedom, and herald the end of the world.
It was script editor Robert Holmes who came up with the idea of a Doctor Who story combining science-fiction with the trappings of Egyptian mythology and old mummy horror films. Holmes was acquainted with Lewis Griefer, a veteran writer with interest in both subjects, and in the fall of 1974, Griefer was commissioned to write Pyramid Of Mars. Griefer's story was about a group of people in the early part of the twentieth century using ancient grains to seed Mars for profit. But his work was delayed by two months due to a bout with prostate cancer, and upon receiving the scripts in late December, Holmes and producer Philip Hinchcliffe decided they were not what they had hoped for. To make matters worse, Griefer had by this time gone to teach at the University of Tel Aviv.
Because of all these difficulties, it was decided to let Holmes rewrite the adventure from scratch, something he had also had to do during the previous production block for The Ark In Space. (Permission was subsequently granted by Head of Serials Graeme McDonald for Holmes to write up to two serials a season during his time with the programme, an unusual ability for a script editor.) Holmes discarded virtually all of Griefer's material except the setting and the title (although even the latter was modified to pluralise 'Pyramid'). The story when broadcast was credited to "Stephen Harris", a pseudonym Griefer requested.
Because of its large location component, Pyramids Of Mars was chosen to be made first in the thirteenth recording block. Since the first story of Season Thirteen (Terror Of The Zygons, held over from the previous production block) was also an Earth-based story with a lot of filming, however, it was decided to slot the story third in the season's running order.
Pyramids Of Mars started location filming on April 29th, 1975. Most of the action took place on the grounds of the Stargroves mansion. At the time, the estate was owned by Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, but even more curious is the fact -- unknown by the production team at the time -- that a previous occupant was Lord Caernarvon. Caernarvon had been part of the team which discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamen in 1926, and had been one of the victims of Tut's alleged curse, having died under mysterious circumstances. Work then shifted back to the studio from May 19th. As had been largely the case for the previous several years, taping occurred fortnightly on Mondays and Tuesdays. The director for Pyramids Of Mars was Paddy Russell, whose last work on the programme had been on Invasion Of The Dinosaurs a year and a half earlier.