Written by: Mark Wright (from a story by Amber Scott), Directed by John Ainsworth
In which our heroes have journeyed deep into the Osirian desert in search of the Sightless Sphinx, a hidden monument where they hope to find the sarcophagus of Chisisek (architect of the Forgotten Pharaoh’s Sky Pyramid). But it turns out that the Sightless Sphinx houses two warring groups – the Cult of the Forgotten Pharaoh, and a demon-worshipping sect that claims the site as their holy ground. In this case, will the enemy of one’s enemies turn out to be one’s friend…?
This time around, the two-CD running time seems to work against Secrets of the Sphinx, which starts with lengthy sequences of the four protagonists wandering the featureless Parched Dunes; getting on each other’s nerves; and commenting on the apparent futility of their quest. Only once they split up does the plot finally kick in, along with some welcome character moments. Valeros exhibits some carefully-hidden sentimentality towards a monstrous humanoid’s corpse after slaying the desert predator responsible for its partially-eaten state. Merisiel has some surprising opinions about the lifestyles of a friendly tribe of nomads she and Valeros befriend. And Harsk and Ezren resume their arguments over the Mask of the Forgotten Pharaoh, each having donned the artefact and sampled its powers. Does the wizard genuinely want the Mask back to glean more knowledge of its magical properties, or is there a darker purpose behind his repeated entreaties?
Meanwhile, within the Sightless Sphinx, the leaders of the two opposing cults are busy boasting and kvetching at their minions, yearning for the day when the power stalemate will break, and only one of them will reign supreme. Will it be the Forgotten Pharaoh’s manifestation, or the Chosen One of Areshkagal? With the amount of scenery these two chew, it’s a wonder the Sightless Sphinx hasn’t collapsed on top of them…
Longtime fans of Doctor Who remember (often with a certain amount of dread) how many older stories consisted of six episodes which contained maybe four episodes’ worth of plot and liberal amounts of padding. Secrets of the Sphinx feels like the fourth episode of this type of Doctor Who story – replete with actors giving it their all (with some definitely over-egging the pudding) but ultimately advancing the plot very little; it will be interesting to listen to the next installment of Mummy’s Mask and judge whether or not this chapter is as wholly extraneous as it feels.
Verdict: Well-crafted and well-acted filler, but filler just the same. 5/10
John S. Hall