Written by Terrance Dicks

Read by Tom Baker

BBC Audio CD review by Ceri Laing


BBC Audio have been releasing readings of Doctor Who Target adaptations of broadcast stories for a little while now with Pyramids of Mars being one of the latest readings.

Widely regarded as one of best stories during Tom Baker’s time during Doctor Who (if not one of the best of the entire series), Pyramids of Mars was broadcast partway through the fourth Doctor’s second series, in 1975. This series was the first that producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes fully developed together, and this story is a prime example of what they were trying to achieve through a fusion of gothic horror and science fiction (in this case ancient Egypt, mummies and all-powerful world-destroying aliens). The success of Homes and Hinchcliffe's approach, combined with Tom Baker’s talent, was reflected in the show's continued popularity and the ratings it garnered during their time on the series.

The story is set in 1911 and sees the Doctor and assistant Sarah Jane Smith facing the might of Sutekh, last of the Osirians, and his robot mummies in and around an English priory and eventually the planet Mars.

The broadcast story was written by Robert Holmes, using the pseudonym Stephen Harris, from an idea by Lewis Greifer (one of the handful of writers who had contributed to Patrick McGoohan's masterpiece, The Prisoner).  Terrance Dicks’ novelisation was published a year after the broadcast. Dicks holds the honour of novelising most of the stories. Towards the end of the 70s he was knocking them out at a fair pace, which meant there was little chance to enhance the original material. His novelisation of Pyramids of Mars falls at a time before this began and whilst there isn’t as much enhancement as compared to novelizations from earlier in the Target range there is quite a bit. There is a new material in the form of a prologue, epilogue and the fleshing out of certain aspects of story and characters; all very much making it a worthwhile adaptation to appreciate the story in a different form.

Tom Baker has done the readings of a number of his stories in this range and this is the best that I have heard. When I was a child there were a number of readings of novels by Baker that I heard that had a great impact through the quality of his reading and his instantly recognisable voice (once described like treacle on gravel). Previous readings in this BBC Audio range by Baker failed to live up to the memories of these older releases. For whatever reason he seemed to have very little engagement with the material and it was all lifeless and flat, but for Pyramids of Mars either he has fonder memories of the story or now he has got a couple under his belt he is back into his stride; whatever the reason his reading is much better and goes a long way to matching the quality of the releases I remember from my childhood.

As with the previous releases in this range extensive sound effects and newly created music are used to enhance the reading. For me this has had varying success in the past – from achieving their goal to being downright irritating and getting in the way of the reading – but for this release (and for the reading of The Daemons, released at the same time as Pyramids of Mars) the effects and the music may be extensive, but do their job on the whole effectively with everything generally coming together rather than working against each other.


The reading runs to approximately three and a quarter hours, spread over four discs. Disc one runs to 50mins 14secs, Disc two runs to 47mins 37secs, Disc three 44mins 46secs and Disc four 53mins 28secs.

The sound is clear and fine, with the mixing working well (in some of the previous releases in the range I have found the mixing not to be as effective as it could be). I’m also guess the reading reflects the content of the novel accurately, but cannot be 100% certain as it is well over twenty years since I last read it!


There have been a number of releases in this range of Target Classic Novels readings from BBC Audio, some I have found successful, some not. There could be a number of different reasons for lack of success, from the range needing to find its feet, to the quality of the original material or simply the reading itself. However, this release of Pyramids of Mars, and its release stable-mate The Daemons are excellent releases.

Since the idea of this range was tentatively formed (with William Russell readings of the three 1960s Doctor Who novelizations) this is definitely a range I wanted to see flourish. There were some brilliant novelizations published by Target and employing the many different superb actors who have appeared in the series is a very attractive way of rediscovering the books (for long-term fans) or discovering them (for new fans). Most attractive of all is having Tom Baker read the stories from his time as the Doctor and as I’ve said he really steps up to the mark for this release and makes the reading really come alive (which is after all what you want). Tom Baker is certainly a bankable name in terms of marketing and selling this release – known to fans of the series and the general public alike; but, that said, it is perhaps a shame that established radio actor Gabriel Woolf, who played Sutekh in the original television story, didn’t do this particular reading. As this is the only story Woolf appeared in, and he has such a fine voice, he would’ve made an ideal choice and I would’ve been very interested to hear his reading. However, Baker is excellent in his reading and we do get to hear his interpretation of the voice of Sutekh, which significantly differs from Woolf’s, and that is a definite plus point.

So then, to summarise, this is a cracking release and well worth investing in for any Doctor Who fan or anyone who enjoys novel readings. If you’ve not heard any of the Target Classic Novels readings before this is brilliant example in which to sample the range and then try out the rest. The next set of releases is readings of Jon Pertwee stories, but so far there haven’t been any of Patrick Troughton’s stories picked for release. The likes of Frazer Hines or Geoffrey Beevers would make great readers (some of the voices Beevers has used in other titles in the range are similar to Troughton). I’d love to hear The Cybermen, The Abominable Snowmen, The Ice Warriors and Fury from the Deep; here’s hoping it isn’t too long before they make an appearance in the range!

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