The Doctor and Peri arrive in Egypt, 1400 BC, a time of
social unrest. The only heir to the throne is a woman, Erimem,
but female pharaohs are rare and controversial. Curiously,
the Doctor cannot recall there ever having been a pharaoh
the Doctor Who television series never produced an
adventure that was set entirely in ancient Egypt. The First
Doctor's visit to Egypt in the epic Daleks' Master Plan
was little more than a brief excursion for a couple of episodes,
while the Fourth Doctor spent only a few minutes there during
Pyramids of Mars, which was set in 1911.
Iain McLaughlin has sought to redress the balance with this
drama, although it has to be said that the setting has little
direct bearing upon the structure of the plot. Aside from
a pivotal visit to the Sphinx during the final episode, this
tale of political turmoil being manipulated by an outside
influence could have been set on practically any planet in
any time period. Had he been writing for television, McLaughlin
might have got away with it, because then at least we would
have been able to see the sand dunes, the pyramids and the
Nile, but here we only hear about them. That said, the oddly
organised activities of scorpions and flies tie in nicely
with the appeal of the recent blockbuster Mummy movies.
his credit, McLaughlin does touch upon certain aspects of
ancient Egyptian culture that the television show would probably
have been forced to shy away from. Topless exotic dancers
and royal concubines would, of course, have been impossible
to depict in a family show in a visual medium, even though
their inclusion here represents some good historical realism.
Similarly, the routine practice of incestuous marriage may
seem shocking to our own moral outlook - as it does to Peri
(Nicola Bryant) - but at the time this was seen as the norm
for the supposedly divine pharaohs.
an interesting stylistic flashback to the show's '60s serials,
the Doctor (Peter Davison) is totally absent from episode
two, leaving Peri with plenty of opportunity to interact with
Erimem (Caroline Morris) and discuss their differing views.
It almost goes without saying that the subject of female emancipation
is raised - Sarah Jane Smith would have been proud! Morris
is enthusiastic and endearing as Erimem, although her character,
with her belief in the possibility of the Earth being round
and orbiting the sun, does seem a little too far ahead of
its time to be entirely believable.
performances range from good to very good, with the unfortunate
exception of Harry Myers as the villainous warlord, Yanis,
who overacts dreadfully.
is a decent enough adventure, although it doesn't deliver
everything I might have expected from such an alluring setting.