He’s back, bringing his gift of death to all humanity… and only Bernice Summerfield, Ace and the Doctor stand in his way…
Push comes to shove, Pyramids of Mars is my all-time favourite Doctor Who story, its combination of wit, drama, horror and quality acting making it eminently watchable and rewatchable. It’s got Tom Baker and Lis Sladen at their finest and a brilliant performance from Gabriel Woolf as Sutekh the Destroyer.
Which gives this box set a bit of a high target to aim at. I’m glad to say that on the whole it succeeds in being a worthy successor, with some suitably devious plans on the part of both the Doctor and Sutekh, and plenty for both Benny and Ace to do. It’s very much of the New Adventures mould (although this is the Big Finish Ace, rather than the militaristic version the NAs devised) but melded with the best sides of the solo Benny adventures: it builds from her archaeological roots (something that has been forgotten far too often over the years), it’s got her wisecracking in the face of danger, but also refusing to give up even when things are at their bleakest, and it travels widely in space and time.
Guy Adams’ The Pyramid of Sutekh throws us into the middle of the adventure with Benny discovering the hard way that Sutekh has a new servant – who rolls his r’s and has a Scottish accent. That leads into Justin Richards’ The Vaults of Osiris, set in a contemporary Egypt that brings some of Pyramids of Mars’ confrontations into the present-day. James Goss’ The Eye of Horus is a marked shift in tone and pace, as the action switches to a long-gone past and gives Woolf probably his best material to work with, as Sutekh manifests himself in an unlikely guise… All of which culminates in Una McCormack’s The Tears of Isis, that wraps things neatly with some deft character work and decisions that initially feel wrong but you realise are absolutely right.
Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor is more present in this set than the first volume, but it still feels more like a Benny set than a Doctor Who one: part of that is the NA mythos being preserved, where you don’t go inside the Doctor’s head and realise what he is thinking (or at least not too often). Woolf is suitably sibilant and creepy as Sutekh while director (and sceptical news reporter) Scott Handcock and producer Goss have assembled a good supporting cast, including some surprising touches. Take the advice and don’t look at the castlists before you listen if you don’t want those surprises ruined… unlike The Secret History, where a critical surprise is blown on the back cover of the CD!
I’ll be intrigued to see who Goss and Handcock pit this team against next; this has certainly given the Benny range a new lease of life.
Verdict: Another highly enjoyable box set. 9/10