Doctor Who’s New Villain Explained

Whether that name means anything to you depends on how familiar you are with classic Who (or Egyptian mythology, though the similarities between the TV character and its historical inspirations are pretty surface level). Unlike previous returning foes like the Daleks, the Cybermen or even the Master, Sutekh is by no means a household name – but when it comes to the show’s lore, that name carries mythic weight.

Pyramids of Mars

Sutekh’s history has become more expansive, complex and convoluted through various audio dramas, comics and other spin-off media, but the character has only made one appearance in televised Doctor Who before now: the 1975 Tom Baker-starring serial “Pyramids of Mars”. An iconic story of the era, it finds the Fourth Doctor and his companion Sarah Jane Smith (the much-missed Elisabeth Sladen) investing creepy goings-on in a gothic mansion in England in 1911, battling mummies, robots, cultists and eventually Sutekh himself.

Notably, the character is already known to the Doctor, and when our hero realises who he’s dealing with, his reaction is uncharacteristically fearful. Tom Baker was generally a fairly unflappable incarnation of the Doctor, so when he was afraid, you knew you were up against something worth fearing.

Sutekh is the last survivor of the Osirans, an ancient alien race with unfathomable power. Imprisoned by his brother Horus in a pyramid on Earth seven thousand years ago, the serial establishes the conflicts and machinations of these centuries-old aliens as an entertaining (if not entirely culturally sensitive) alternate origin for Egyptian mythology. It’s also a handy way of having mummies in the show without actually having mummies.

Sutekh’s aim in the serial is to destroy the Eye of Horus, a device left in a pyramid on Mars by his now-extinct species that projects a forcefield which suppresses his true form and power. The alien, whose psychic abilities are still fearsome, is able to manipulate various weak-minded humans into retrieving his sarcophagus from Egypt and bringing it to England, and even succeeds in destroying the Eye. But, unluckily for him, the Fourth Doctor – having intercepted a signal from Mars saying “Beware of Sutekh” – manages to intercede before Sutekh can be fully resurrected, trapping him in a time tunnel that effectively ages him to death.

Interestingly, the BBC recently announced a new instalment of Tales of the TARDIS, which will presumably focus on “Pyramids of Mars”, so be sure to check that out as well as the original serial if you want to know more about the character.  


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