‘THE BRAIN OF MORBIUS’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Doctor and Sarah Jane vs. Morbius
This is a ‘Doctor Who’ take on ‘Frankenstein’!
‘The Brain of Morbius’ is another typical story of the gothic period during Tom Baker’s era of ‘Doctor Who’ by producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes! It is also regarded as one of the classic stories ever made from the show’s history and is rated pretty highly by the ‘Doctor Who’ fans.
Many memorable things can be taken from seeing this story. The story includes a haunted castle on an alien planet called Karn, a mad scientist called Solon, a mutilated body compiled together out of spare parts, a torch-bearing sisterhood and a brain without a head. It’s where it gets gruesome! Ugh!
This four-part story was originally conceived by Terrance Dicks, who was once the script-editor of ‘Doctor Who’ during the Jon Pertwee era in the early 1970s. The current script-editor of ‘Doctor Who’, Robert Holmes, commissioned Terrance to write another ‘Doctor Who’ story for Season 13.
The original premise of ‘The Brain of Morbius’ by Terrance Dicks was different to what it became. The story was supposed to be about Morbius, a renegade Time Lord, who crashes on Karn and has a robot to help him. The robot finds and builds a body for his master and it ends up horrible and nasty.
However producer Philip Hinchcliffe wasn’t happy with the scripts given by Terrance Dicks, especially concerning the robot. So he asked Robert Holmes to rewrite them. Thus Holmes rewrote the scripts by replacing the robot with the human character of Solon. But Terrance Dicks wasn’t very happy either.
Robert Holmes explained the circumstances to Terrance about why he rewrote the scripts according to Philip Hinchcliffe’s instructions. Terrance didn’t cause trouble, but asked to take his name off the story and replace it with a ‘bland pseudonym’. That is why ‘The Brain of Morbius’ is by ‘Robin Bland’.
Despite the disagreements behind-the-scenes on the story, the resulting story is pretty good by both Robert Holmes and Terrance Dicks. Whilst I’m not a devotee on the gothic era of ‘Doctor Who’, I do enjoy seeing these stories and ‘The Brain of Morbius’ is a fine example of gripping entertainment.
It’s also a fun story as fans can get to see what a ‘Frankenstein’ story could look like in a ‘Doctor Who’ world. Whilst I’ve not read Mary Shelley’s novel, I am familiar with the story of ‘Frankenstein’. It was also fun to see how the Doctor and Sarah Jane get involved with the events during this story.
Tom Baker delivers a sterling performance as the Doctor in this adventure. He does well with the dialogue he’s given. He manages to overcome dangerous situations with quick one-liners and decent shreds of bravery. I was amazed when he braved his sacrificial ceremony by the Sisterhood of Karn.
I liked it when the Doctor interacts with Solon and chides him for his experiments. I also liked it when the Doctor interacts with Sarah Jane and how he’s concerned for her when she’s blind. The Doctor really doesn’t like it when he thinks he’s being moved about in his TARDIS by the Time Lords.
Elisabeth Sladen delivers a great performance as Sarah Jane Smith in this adventure. I always enjoy seeing Sarah Jane in ‘Doctor Who’ and to see her in these classic adventures before her return to the new series. It was shocking when Sarah Jane got blinded in rescuing the Doctor from the Sisterhood.
I was impressed by Lis Sladen’s acting in this adventure, since she’s playing Sarah Jane who’s blinded which must have been a real challenge for her to do. I was worried for Sarah Jane and wondered whether she’d get her eye-sight back at all. Thankfully she does, although when touched by Morbius.
The guest cast includes Philip Madoc as Solon, the mad scientist who works on creating a new body for Morbius. For me, Philip Madoc is well-known as the U-Boat captain from the ‘Dad’s Army’ episode ‘The Deadly Attachment’. It was a joy to see Philip Madoc as another ‘Doctor Who’ baddie.
Solon is supposed to be the greatest surgeon in the galaxy. Although, and Terrance Dicks makes this valid point quite clear, why can’t he provide a decent body for Morbius to walk about him. What went into Solon’s mind to build a mashed-up ugly-looking body for Morbius to walk in, I’ve no idea!
There’s also Colin Fay as Condo, Solon’s right-hand man. Condo is a large man with a hook for a hand put together by his master. He’s like a talking Frankenstein and wants to have his real hand back. But Solon will only give the real hand back to Condon after he finishes helping him with his experiments.
The main star of the story is of course Morbius. First he’s in the shape of a headless brain, then he’s a brain in an ugly body. Morbius is voiced by Michael Spice, who would go on to play Magnus Greel in ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’. Morbius is a renegade Time Lord and he’s a really angry one at that.
There’s also the Sisterhood of Karn who are a strange bunch, led by Cynthia Grenville as Maren with Gilly Brown as Ohica. They worship a sacred flame and have a bad history with the Time Lords. They saw Morbius executed for his crimes on Karn and are in the belief the Doctor was sent by his people.
There’s an interesting mind-bending sequence between the Doctor and Morbius at the end of the story when they wrestled out with each other. In the sequence, we see images of past incarnations of the Doctor. But there are also images of people that appear like members of the production team.
These images include Robert Holmes, Terrance Dicks, Philip Hinchcliffe, director Christopher Barry (who directed this story), etc. Beforehand, many assumed these faces were past versions of the Doctor. But I’m inclined to believe that they are past versions of Morbius from a very long time ago.
‘The Brain of Morbius’ received heavy criticism especially from Mary Whitehouse at the time, for its images of violence and scary scenes. I can see where this comes from as there are images that are pretty gruesome like the Morbius’ brain plopping out from the table onto the floor which was nasty.
It’s difficult to decide what makes a really good ‘Doctor Who’ story with a good balance of scary elements, humour and drama thrown into the mix. Although I feel that the classic series and the RTD eras of new series ‘Doctor Who’ work better compared to how the TV series is shown at the time of this review.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the ‘Getting a Head’ making-of documentary with cast and crew interviews and a ‘Designs on Karn’ interview with designer Barry Newbery. There’s a CGI ‘set tour’ of ‘The Brain of Morbius’, a photo gallery of the story and a sketch gallery of the story.
There’s a commentary with Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Philip Madoc, producer Philip Hinchcliffe and director Christopher Barry and there’s an info-text commentary option to enjoy! There’s also a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story and and an exciting ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ with Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Bonnie Langford. There’s also an Easter Egg to look out for on the first special features menu of this DVD.
‘The Brain of Morbius’ is regarded as a classic story in the TV series of ‘Doctor Who’. It’s not one of my personal favourites, but I enjoyed seeing it again especially for this review. It has a certain style to it and I enjoyed the ‘Frankenstein’ element to it, especially with the Doctor and Sarah Jane in this.
‘The Brain of Morbius’ rating – 8/10
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