For creating and maintaining an atmosphere, Pyramids of Mars is an exemplary Doctor Who serial. Nicely invoking film adaptations of The Mummy, it also distinguishes itself in a genre of Edwardian antiquarian supernatural horror. It has it all--anxious, learned gentlemen in tweed and linen, a gradually established threat from arcane artefacts, and weird brain washed zealots. And it has the visuals to back it up--I love how well Marcus Scarman's brain washed makeup goes with his outfit.
That's Bernard Archard, who'd appeared as another character in the Second Doctor serial Power of the Daleks. Here his long grim features are put to better effect. Adding to the atmosphere also is his nervous brother Laurence (Michael Sheard) and his crude invention that delights the Doctor.
I love when Tom Baker wears that brown felt hat. It's so much better than the plush green one he wears later that seems to have a hard time staying on his head. Of course he takes the brown one off at every opportunity--it's great how it partially conceals his face sometimes but also it's bad because it partially conceals his face sometimes.
This serial's known for Elisabeth Sladen and Tom Baker improvising a lot which I mostly like. Certainly it's an improvement for Sarah Jane who'd been written as a whiny sack of potatoes for most of Tom Baker's first season. They never seem as close as Four and Romana but there's a nice, mildly fractious chemistry between the two.
It's like she's daring him to take the paternal tone Pertwee would take at times. Baker matches her perfectly with his fundamentally more easy going temperament--he seems really charmed.
Pyramids of Mars also marks one of the few occasions when a villain thinks to take the TARDIS key. The Doctor really feels like he's in extraordinary trouble in this one which goes to show the improv only adds to and never breaks the spell.
Twitter Sonnet #1115
A luscious loop awaits on cherry furs.
The breakfast of the evening glimmers through.
A careful step in pines was ever hers.
But velvet blinds revert a silent clue.
An ostrich eye embellished inky robes.
A shiny road traversed the carpet hill.
At night a parking light now gently strobes.
A star illuminates the sleeping bill.
The air was whistling dumbly though the town.
The fraying edge of wooden signs relay.
A needle picks a rut and makes a sound.
The tangled line becomes a tarry stay.
A smoke contorts the muscles for the rain.
A floral knot constricts about the brain.