Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Sunday, 17 January 2016

420 The Brain of Morbius: Part Three

EPISODE: The Brain of Morbius: Part Three
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 420
STORY NUMBER: 084
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 17 January 1976
WRITER: Robin Bland (pseudonym for Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes)
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 10.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Brain Of Morbius

"I think of nothing else! Trapped like this, like a sponge beneath the sea. Yet even a sponge has more life than I. Can you understand a thousandth of my agony? I, Morbius, who once led the High Council of the Time Lords and dreamed the greatest dreams in history, now reduced to this, to a condition where I envy a vegetable!"

Morbius' voice summons Solon who throws Sarah out the lab as Morbius raves at him, wanting a new body. Sarah overhears that the Doctor has been sent into a trap and shuts the door on Solon, locking him in. Maran uses the last of the elixir to feed five of the sisterhood to keep them alive. They receive the message from Solon and plan to trap the Doctor. The still blind Sarah stumbles through the rocks as the Doctor enters the sanctuary and is captured. Condo returns to the castle and frees Solon. Maran tells the Doctor that Sarah's sight will return and that Solon lied to the Doctor. The Doctor suggests Morbius is on Karn hiding his mind from the sisterhood and offers to help Maran. Condo finds Sarah and takes her back to the castle. The Doctor examines the flame and, using a "little demon" firework, cleans the shaft from it's coating of soot allowing the flame to burn brightly again earning the Sisterhood's trust. Solon binds Sarah, bur Condo insists he doesn't hurt her. Solon lets slip to Morbius that the Doctor is a Time Lord inciting Morbius' suspicions that the Time Lords have tracked him down and are coming to destroy him. Condo overhears Morbius suggesting using Sarah's head to complete the body so he can escape from Karn. Morbius then orders Solon to use an artificial brain case which he has developed. Solon begins preparing for the operation. Condo discovers his missing arm on the Morbius creature and filled with rage he attacks Solon, knocking Morbius' brain to the floor. Solon shoots him and retrieves the brain, placing it in the artificial case, concerned it may be damaged. Solon frees Sarah to act as his assistant to operate a pump. As Solon finishes the operation he is called to the castle doors as the sisterhood deliver the Doctor's body to the castle. Sarah, her sight recovering is menaced by the completed and awakening Morbius monster!

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Fabulous again, great stuff. Really enjoying this story, it's working well.

There's two distinct threads to this episode and, unlike last episode where there was a lot of moving back and forth between the castle and the sisterhood, here they remain separate.

First we have Solon & the disembodied head of Morbius who's quite talkative this week:

SOLON: The Doctor and the girl have only been here a few hours. Morbius, his head is perfect for the purpose. Once I have it, we can begin our final operation.
MORBIUS: If the head is suitable, why haven't you already started?
SOLON: I think he suspects
MORBIUS: There are two of you! Your servant, Condo, has the strength of a giant.
SOLON: There might be a struggle, and the brain could suffer irreparable damage. It must be in perfect condition!
MORBIUS: Do you think I care about my ultimate appearance? Just to walk again, to feel, to see!
SOLON: Naturally, that is how you think now, my lord, but when you are once more a physical entity, imagine how you will see yourself then. Think how it will be then.
MORBIUS: Solon, I think of nothing else! Trapped like this, like a sponge beneath the sea. Yet even a sponge has more life than I. Can you understand a thousandth of my agony? I, Morbius, who once led the High Council of the Time Lords and dreamed the greatest dreams in history, now reduced to this, to a condition where I envy a vegetable.
SOLON: You must endure for only a little while longer. I swear it. I have sent the Doctor into a trap.
So Morbius is a Time Lord? Yet another addition to our now list of Renegade Timelords which already includes the Doctor himself, the Meddling Monk and the Master.

Unfortunately Solon has left out one crucial detail...

MORBIUS: Is it time, Solon?
SOLON: I do not yet have the Time Lord's head, master.
MORBIUS: What do you mean, Time Lord?
SOLON: The Doctor.
MORBIUS: The Doctor is a Time Lord?
SOLON: That is why his head is so perfect. From one of your own race, from one of those who turned up on you and tried to destroy you, you get a new head for Morbius. The crowning irony.
MORBIUS: Fool!
SOLON: I'm sorry, the pun was irresistible.
MORBIUS: You fool, Solon. Don't you see what this means? The Time Lords have tracked me down.
SOLON: No, you're wrong.
MORBIUS: I am not wrong. I know the Time Lords. Pallid, devious worms. You had the Doctor here and you let him go. You were tricked!
SOLON: You mean Maren and the Doctor plotted together?
MORBIUS: Of course they did! And now the Time Lords will return in force to finish their work. Find me helpless, defenceless. They'll destroy me, Solon. Because of you, they'll destroy me! All my suffering will have been for nothing.
SOLON: And all my work. All that terrible, lonely isolation. What can I do? How can I stop them?
MORBIUS: We have only one chance. You must get me away from here before they arrive.
SOLON: I can't. The support cell can't be moved, and without it your brain would die.
MORBIUS: The body can be my support system. You must get me into it, Solon.
SOLON: That is impossible. Without a head it cannot be done.
MORBIUS : You have the girl. Use her head.
SOLON : The female braincase is too small. If I were to attempt it, you would die as surely as at the hands of the Time Lords. MORBIUS: I have to get out of this tank! Solon, you spoke once of constructing an artificial braincase.
SOLON: I abandoned that a long time ago.
MORBIUS: Why?
SOLON: Because there were too many problems. Formidable problems. There was no way of eliminating the build-up of static electricity within the cranial cavity. Periodically it would have earthed through the brain, upsetting the delicate equilibrium, dislocating the neural centres.
MORBIUS: But you made a braincase.
SOLON: Yes! It's here somewhere..... No, it can't be done, Morbius. There would be severe pain, there would be seizures, perhaps even madness.
MORBIUS: Whatever the risks are, I will take them rather than surrender to the Time Lords. There is no choice left to me, Solon.
SOLON: I will do my utmost, my lord, with all the skill I have.
MORBIUS: Prepare me for the operation.
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Central to this story's success is our old friend Philip Madoc, playing Solon. He was previously in two of the stories that David Maloney directed in the sixth season, Patrick Troughton's last. He was in The Krotons as Eelek then The War Games as the War Lord and will return in The Power of Kroll as Fenner. Before his Doctor Who TV appearances he was in the second 1960s Dalek Movie: Dalek Invasion of Earth 2164ad as Brockley.

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Voicing Morbius is Michael Spice who'll be back as Magnus Greel in The Talons of Weng-Chiang as well as providing a voice in the final episode of Blake's 7 second season, Star One, as the ill fated Nova Queen Pilot. Inside the Morbius Monster now it's up on it's feet is another familiar name: Stuart Fell who was Alpha Centauri in The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon, a tramp in Planet of the Spiders, a Wirrn in The Ark in Space and a Kraal in the previous story The Android Invasion. He'll be back as an entertainer in The Masque of Mandragora, a Sontaran in The Invasion of Time and Roga in State of Decay. In earlier episodes, recorded during the first recording block for the serial, the headless Morbius is played by Alan Crisp. This is his only Doctor Who but he too has Blake's 7's to his name appearing as a Prisoner in The Way Back, Space Fall & Cygnus Alpha, the first three episodes of the series.

The other thread of the story is the Doctor's visit to the Sisterhood.

OHICA: Why have you returned?
DOCTOR: I need some of your Elixir.
MAREN: At last you confess.
DOCTOR: No, not for myself. Sarah was blinded by the ray from your ring. I need the Elixir to restore her sight.
MAREN: This is what Solon said?
DOCTOR: Yes.
MAREN: But he knows the effect of the ray is not permanent.
OHICA: The girl will recover.
DOCTOR: I see. A wasted journey. Well, thank you, ladies. That's really all I called about.
So why did the Solon send the Doctor to them? If he wants the Doctor's head for himself surely it must be easier to hold him captive in the castle or have Condo overpower him? And, come to think of it, why just the head? Would it not be easier to transplant Morbius' head into the Doctor's body? Which then leads us to the Morbius body itself.... why construct one from parts when you could wait for a whole one to come along. Why not use Condo's instead of taking the arm off? It looks to me like Solon's gone down some mad track of thought and not bothered to think it through properly!.

Of course this aspect is taken from the Frankenstein's Monster tale. Terrance Dicks had it explained in his original version by a malfunctioning robot attempting to rebuild the body but this aspect was changed by and Robert Holmes in his rewrite becoming a major hole in the story and one of the main things Terrance objected to leading to him taking his name off it!

MAREN: You have been condemned to die.
DOCTOR: We're not going through all that again. If I wanted to steal from you, would I come in through the front door?
MAREN: Then why did you come to Karn if not to steal?
DOCTOR: I can't answer that question, Maren, until I know what Solon intends, but I have a feeling something incredibly evil is brewing.
OHICA: Nothing happens on Karn without our knowledge.
DOCTOR: A Time Lord could live on Karn without your knowledge. He could place a barrier around his mind.
MAREN: What are you suggesting?
DOCTOR: Morbius was a Time Lord.
MAREN: Oh, that name again. I tell you, I saw his execution. I saw his body placed in the dispersal chamber. Nothing of Morbius, not the smallest atom, still exists.
DOCTOR: Was Solon living on Karn at the time?
MAREN: I believe so.
So Morbius' execution is a relatively recent event: we know Solon is human from an earlier episode.
MAREN: There were many on Karn then. They came from all across the galaxy to attend the trial of Morbius.
DOCTOR: A war criminal. A ruthless dictator, but with millions of fanatical followers and admirers.
MAREN: Riff-raff and mercenaries. The army he brought to Karn was the scum of the galaxy.
OHICA: He promised them the Elixir of Life and immortality.
MAREN: Morbius betrayed our secret. Until then, only the Time Lords knew of the Elixir. Now we have to remain constantly on guard against the entire cosmos.
DOCTOR: Yes, well, that's something else I want to mention. You really can't go on dragging innocent space travellers to their deaths.
MAREN: Innocent?
DOCTOR: Until proved guilty. Those spaceships might just be passing. No, if I'm going to help you, I must insist upon one thing.
MAREN: What?
DOCTOR: Wrecking of spaceships has got to stop. Agreed?
Ah! The origin of the Sisterhood's paranoia stands revealed!
MAREN: Your arrogance is limitless, Doctor. I've only to raise my finger for you to be put to death.
DOCTOR: But I'd be no use to you dead, Maren, and you do have a problem.
MAREN: The Flame of Life.
The Doctor discovered the problem with the flame during his visit in episode 2:
MAREN: The Time Lords acted then as they do now, from self-interest. They too feared Morbius. They too depended on the Elixir of Life for their survival.
OHICA: And now the Elixir no longer forms, you Time Lords want for yourselves the little that remains.
DOCTOR: What do you mean, the Elixir no longer forms?
OHICA: The Sacred Flame dies.
DOCTOR: How can it? That flame is the product of gases forcing up along a geological fault from deep in the molten heart of the planet. It will burn for millions of years.
MAREN: It dies.
DOCTOR: Unless some subterranean movement. Have you noticed any tremors recently?
Now he gets the chance to solve the problem....
DOCTOR: No Flame, no Elixir. No Elixir, pretty soon no Sisterhood.
MAREN: When the Flame dies, our Sisterhood dies. It is ordained.
DOCTOR: There's nothing mystical about that flame, Maren. It's a perfectly natural phenomenon. If it's dying, there must be a reason. A scientific, physical reason.
MAREN: I have served the Flame for centuries. There is nothing to be done.
DOCTOR: Then you have nothing to lose by letting me see it.
OHICA: He is right, Maren. What harm is there?
MAREN: Send the guards to the outer chamber.
DOCTOR: Thank you.
MAREN: No eyes outside the Sisterhood have ever looked upon the Flame of Life.
OHICA: It is even lower!
DOCTOR: Is it always this colour?
MAREN: Always.
DOCTOR: Fascinating. And the heat from the flame causes oxidation of the chemicals in the rocks, and then, no doubt, a chemical reaction with rising superheated gases and you have your Elixir. The impossible dream of a thousand alchemists dripping like tea from an urn.
MAREN: Do not try to understand mysteries beyond the reach of the mind.
DOCTOR: Oh, I wouldn't think they're beyond a decent spectrograph, Maren. One could probably synthesise that stuff by the gallon, though the consequences would be appalling.
OHICA: What do you mean?
DOCTOR: What? Everyone trying to live forever? No. Death is the price we pay for progress, you know.
MAREN: You speak in riddles, Doctor.
Terrance Dicks returns to the theme of immortality being a curse in The Five Doctors.
MAREN: The Time Lords were glad enough of the Elixir.
DOCTOR: Only in rare cases. When, for instance, there's some difficulty in regenerating a body. We don't take it regularly like you, otherwise we'd fall into the same trap.
MAREN: And what trap are we in?
DOCTOR: Immortality. You must have been old when the Elixir was discovered. How many centuries have passed while you have remained unchanged. How long since anything here changed?
MAREN: Nothing here ever changes.
DOCTOR: Exactly my point. No progress. Please, stand back.
MAREN: What is that?
DOCTOR: A little demon.
MAREN: Stop! He must not touch
OHICA: The Flame is dead.
MAREN: Take him. Guards! You have defiled the magic of the mountain. Now you must die!
OHICA: The Sacred Flame! We are saved, High One!
DOCTOR: Soot, that's all. There'll be no charge. Of course, you won't get any Elixir for quite a while yet. This rock's got to warm right through.
MAREN: And so now, Doctor, you expect us to show gratitude?
The conversation ends on this sinister note and when we next see The Doctor he's lying on a stretcher being carried towards the castle by the Sisterhood. The insinuation is clear: despite what he's done the Doctor has been killed by the sisterhood who have acceded to Solon's request for his body but I wonder how many people watching it would really have thought that the Doctor had been killed by them?

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The two leading members of the Sisterhood are Cynthia Grenville, playing their leader Maren, and
Gillian Brown, who is Ohica. Neither appear to have made any other significant appearances in anything science fiction that I've seen. The one member of the Sisterhood who has is Sue Bishop, and don't ask me to point out which of the sisterhood she is! She was in in Blake's 7: Pressure Point as a Mutoid and Traitor as a Helot.

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