Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Sunday, 24 January 2016

421 The Brain of Morbius: Part Four

EPISODE: The Brain of Morbius: Part Four
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 421
STORY NUMBER: 084
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 24 January 1976
WRITER: Robin Bland (pseudonym for Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes)
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 10.2 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Brain Of Morbius

"How far, Doctor? How long have you lived? Your puny mind is powerless against the strength of Morbius. Back. To. The. Beginning!"

Sarah sees the Monster and screams, accidentally setting it on fire with a flaming torch. She finds the Doctor's body and is shocked when he wakes up. Solon tries to calm the Morbius monster but it attacks him. Morbius then strikes the Doctor down and grabs Sarah but he is then attacked by the injured Condo who he kills. Morbius rampages through the rocks of Karn killing weakened members of the Sisterhood. The recovered Solon sedates his creation and, locking the Doctor and Sarah in a room, adjusts it allowing Morbius' brain to gain full control. The Doctor generates cyanide gas from Solon's chemical store to release into the air system to kill the monster, but all he succeeds in doing is killing Solon, the Monster survives due to his lungs having a methane filter. The Doctor confronts Morbius and challenges him to a dual in a mind bending contest. Morbius regresses the Doctor through his past lives all but killing him when the apparatus explodes. The Monster, damaged by the electrical discharge, goes on the rampage and is driven off a cliff by the Sisterhood destroying it. Maran uses what little elixir had been generated to restore the Doctor before sacrificing herself to the sacred flame. The Doctor leaves the Sisterhood some more fireworks in case they have more trouble with the flame and leaves in the Tardis.

Fab, that works wonderfully as a story. We get two rounds of "Hunt the Monster" in this episode first with the Doctor & Solon, which results in the Monster being carried back to the lab for dismantling, which reunites the Doctor with Sarah:

SARAH: Oh, I just had the most terrible dream.
DOCTOR: What?
SARAH: First of all, I was blinded. Then I was attacked by a great claw thing looked like it was made from butcher's leftovers. And then I was
DOCTOR: Knocked down a flight of stairs.
SARAH: How did you know?
DOCTOR: I was there.
SARAH: You were? What happened to Mister Allsorts?
DOCTOR: Solon's dismantling him.
SARAH: That's a switch.
DOCTOR: Force majeure. We're lucky he botched the operation. The brain of Morbius and that body makes a terrifying combination. For the sake of the future of the universe, I had to make him destroy his handiwork.
SARAH: Was he really that dangerous?
DOCTOR: Who, Morbius?
SARAH: Uh huh.
DOCTOR: There was a civilisation here once. Now look at it. And there are other planets like it, all destroyed by Morbius. Nothing but ashes.
However the Doctor has underestimated their host who has locked them in!
DOCTOR: Damn! I should have stayed with him.
SARAH: Sonic screwdriver.
DOCTOR: It's in the Tardis.
SARAH: Oh.
The Doctor's solution to the problem, producing cyanide gas from the Hydrogen cyanide Solon has, is a little bloodthirsty and harsh for the Doctor: he knows what it's effects will be and is trying to kill both his host and the monster. This just feels wrong for the Doctor. They'll be some similar out of step actions in the next story too.

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However the Doctor doesn't know exactly what Solon has built his monster out of:

MORBIUS: An ingenious idea, Doctor, but ineffectual. Your poison affected only Solon. I have the lungs of a birastropthe.
DOCTOR: With a methane filter. What does it feel like to be the biggest mongrel in the universe?
MORBIUS: Solon designed this body for efficiency, not for its appearance. To be free again is all that matters.
DOCTOR: Free to cause more havoc, more destruction?
MORBIUS: The Time Lords will not oppose me again, nor the Sisterhood. When it is learnt that I, Morbius, have returned from the grave, my followers will rise in their millions.
DOCTOR: You really can't go on calling yourself Morbius. There's very little of Morbius left. Why don't you think of another name? Potpourri would be appropriate.
SARAH: How about Chop Suey?
MORBIUS: What!
DOCTOR: Chop Suey, the galactic emperor.
MORBIUS: You will be the first to die.
This then leads to a classic confrontation between the Doctor and Morbius:
DOCTOR: Brain getting a little overheated, is it? Careful, not as strong as it was.
MORBIUS: My brain functions perfectly.
DOCTOR: I doubt it, Morbius. All that time in a tank, it's gone soft. Do you dare put it to the test?
MORBIUS: What test?
DOCTOR: We have all the apparatus here. I challenge you to a mind-bending contest.
MORBIUS: I am a Time Lord of the first rank. What are you?
DOCTOR: Oh, nothing, nothing. A mere nobody, but I don't think you're in the first rank any more.
MORBIUS: Very well, Doctor. If that is how you want to die, I accept your challenge.
DOCTOR: There's sporting gentleman.
SARAH: What's mind-bending?
DOCTOR: Time Lord wrestling. It's usually a game but it can end in death lock.
MORBIUS: It will, Doctor. I, Morbius, do not play games.
DOCTOR: Neither do I. Are you ready?
DOCTOR: En garde, Morbius.
MORBIUS: Is your mind, Doctor, going?
SARAH: Doctor.
MORBIUS: How far, Doctor? How long have you lived? Your puny mind is powerless against the strength of Morbius. Back. To. The. Beginning!

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The duel sequence is rather interesting as their past incarnations are projected onto a screen. Morbius is represented by his current fish bowl head and the statue we see earlier in the story:

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We then switch to the current Doctor and start to see his past selves....

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Jon Pertwee, being shown on screen for the first time since he left in Planet of Spiders, and Patrick Troughton both have their images taken from a photo for the 10th anniversary special, The Three Doctors, while William Hartnell, who died the previous year to this story's broadcast, is represented by a publicity picture for The Space Museum.

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Then there's a succession of other faces! I think we're pretty certain that the first Doctor we saw on screen is the actual first incarnation of the Doctor so they're unlikely to be the Doctor. I suppose they could be either an attempt by the Doctor to fool Morbius or are they possibly earlier incarnations of Morbius? The general interpretation of this scene is that Morbius wins but it could be the Doctor winning and his victory causes the explosion that occurs on Morbius' side of the game machinery, which turns him into the mindless brute we see rampaging at the end of the story.

In case you're wondering the faces actually belong to members of the Doctor Who production staff and the teams working on this and the next story! Firstly Production Unit Manager for Seeds of Doom, and later producer of Miss Marple, George Gallacio and script editor Robert Holmes.

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They are followed by Graeme Harper, Production Assistant of the Seeds of Doom and later director of Caves of Andozani & Revelation of the Daleks, and Seeds Of Doom director Douglas Camfield.

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Then we have Doctor Who producer Philip Hinchcliffe and Christopher Baker, another Production Assistant on Seeds of Doom.

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Finally we have the Seeds Of Doom writer Robert Banks-Stewart Brain of Morbius director Christopher Barry

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Following the battle we get our second round of "Hunt The Monster" this time carried out by the sisterhood, who in classic horror movie style style, drive it off the cliff while wielding flaming torches!

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The injured Doctor is then taken to the Sisterhood's temple where he's saved by what little of the Elixir of Life has been produced since the Doctor dealt with it's problems in the last episode. A little more Chekov's Gun in play there, with the effects of the the Elixir being mentioned all story. Unfortunately that means the end for Maren and she sacrifices herself to the flame, being transformed into a younger version of herself in the first place.

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Since I last blogged about the story the Sisterhood of Karn have reappeared in Doctor Who, featuring in The Night of the Doctor, an online mini episode featuring a return to the role of the Doctor for Paul McGann. In that episode they're led by a sister called Ohila, any relation to the Ohica seen here?

The all female cult in this story has been immortalised in Fandom by giving their name to The Sisterhood of Karn, a London-based gay science fiction fan club. Morbius hasn't reappeared on screen but has popped up in various novels and audio adventures.

Brain of Morbius was repeated as a 60-minute compilation on Saturday 4 December 1976, a week after a similar compilation of Pyramids of Mars. Brain of Morbius was novelised by Terrance Dicks in 1977 using the modified storyline as seen on TV. It was adapted as the second and final Junior Doctor who novel in 1980 which I did actually see for sale. Once. In 1984 it was released on video as a compilation with a running time of less than an hour. I've never seen either version but I'm told this is not the same cut as the repeat compilation and, oddly, both include material which the other omits! The same compilation was released on Laserdisc in the same year. It was re-released on video in episodic format in July 1990, alongside a complete version of the Five Doctors which had also been butchered for it's original Video release, the first of the early Doctor Who stories on video to be re-released in their original length. Doctor Who - The Brain Of Morbius was released on DVD on 21st July 2008.

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