Sunday, January 3, 2021

Season 15, Episode 10

Episode 10: The Dark Pyramid

4124 AD. Professor Svenka Lewis has just made the greatest archaeological find of her life: an authentic Osirian pyramid, lost on a cold and lonely planetoid. Will her friend Lady Penelope and the Count of Saint-Germain arrive in time to prevent the reawakening of Amekh the Devourer, acolyte of Sutekh and Eater of Eternity?


This was the “Osirian tomb” scenario I’d been wanting to run for quite some time now – but I never seemed to find the right moment to weave it in the ongoing continuity of our series. Basically, it was a “mummy’s curse” story – with a terrifying, life-devouring Osirian as the Monster whose sleep should NOT have been disturbed… 

I was a bit uncertain about how it would actually unfold in actual play… Would the horror movie clichés work in play or would they just feel hollow?  Would I manage to maintain dramatic tension throughout the story, albeit its somewhat über-classic and predictable plotline?  I wanted it to be an ordeal for our heroine – as well as to give her the opportunity to show grace under pressure, save lives and use her own unique assets to defeat the dreadful entity (which she did – but more on this later). 

I had ensured that the emotional / personal side of things would be pretty strong right from the start by involving NPCs with whom Penelope had strong ties or, at least, history: as a connoisseur of all things mystical, the Count of Saint-Germain was the one who absolutely insisted that they explored the Osirian pyramid (a curiosity for which he paid a very heavy prize – see below). As for the archaeological team, it was entirely composed of familiar NPCs: professor Svenka Lewis (whom Penelope first met back in season 7…) and three members of the Anderson family (father, mother, daughter) whom Penelope herself had rescued and brought to New Byzantium in the previous season (see episodes 11-12). This lineup really made the stakes personal for Penelope – not just like rescuing some NPCs you meet for the first time and will never see again afterwards…

So how did it work in actual play?  Well, we had a blast. Right from the start, Penelope’s extreme reluctance to disturb anything Osirian created a very strong tension in the dialogue scenes with Saint-Germain and (once they had go to the accursed planetoid) with professor Lewis. Penelope warned them of the danger in very strong terms but she also understood the necessity to uncover a mystery which could well prove even more dangerous if left uninvestigated… And when all hell broke loose, thanks to her presence of mind, she managed to save all of them from the regenerated Amekh – even the poor Saint-Germain, whose life-energy got heavily drained in the process. The Count eventually regenerated (after only a couple of episodes in his first Time Lord incarnation!), having lost two of his future regenerations in the process. This traumatic experience made him far less adventurous – in fact, he has decided to stop travelling and spend his days in his beloved Braxiatel Collection - “travelling” through books and artefacts exclusively.

Thanks to her resourcefulness and a little help from her TARDIS’ resident ghost-in-the-machine, Penelope defeated the horror (using a cleverly inverted version of the Elixir of Life from the Karn Sisterhood) and trapped its disembodied Ka in her fob watch, before bringing it back to the Doctor, who stored it into yet-another-inescapable dimensional cube.

In the end, our Time Lady (who very wisely refrained from yelling “I told you so!” at the others, even though she had been Right All Along) decided to take the whole Anderson family to the safety of Avalon, where they will live with all the other (but mostly Victorian or Edwardian) temporal refugees. As for professor Svenka Lewis, she brought her back to her native 42nd century, after some pretty harsh words (“I never want to see you again!”), followed by a less hostile farewell (“Who knows?  Perhaps our paths will cross again…”).

I was really happy at the way things turned out. We had a very dark, dramatic episode full of tension, tough choices and danger – but which also highlighted Penelope’s increasing wisdom (a noticeable trademark of her current regeneration…) and gave her the opportunity to make some unexpected, season-affecting decisions – bringing the Andersons to Avalon. Next episode: Lady Penelope takes the two Anderson kids to 21st century Earth, to show them how life was on the old planet before mankind took to the stars…

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