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Doctor Who: The Brain Of Morbius

01/02/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Doctor Who: The Brain Of Morbius in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: The Brain Of Morbius in the UK

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region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBSDVD 1816. Price: about GBP 5.00 (UK) if you know where to look. 1 DVD 99 minutes 4 episodes with extras). stars: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Philip Madoc and Cynthia Grenville.

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With the Philip Hitchcliffe producer years, there was more borrowing from other sources and trying to shake up the monster of the week. ‘The Brain Of Morbius’ tends to be contradictory to this as it borrows off the Universal film version of ‘Frankenstein’ and even has a monster. This is actually a new body for the supposedly dead Time Lord Morbius, a former leader. I didn’t realise that was his actual original rank and seems to show that those who rule Gallifrey have a tendency for egomaniac desires to rule. No wonder the Doctor declined that office when it was offered to him. The Sisterhood of The Sacred Flame are probably the substitute for the local villagers although they do have their own problems and are formidable in their own right and are actually an affiliate of the Time Lords as Gallifrey is only some million miles away.

When the Doctor (actor Tom Baker) and his companion, Sarah Jane Smith (actress Elisabeth Sladen), arrive on Karn, the Time Lord isn’t impressed because he’s sure his people have manoeuvred his TARDIS for him to do their dirty work again. They first visit the castle Solon (actor Philip Madoc) possesses who sees the Doctor’s head as the final piece required to restore Morbius to corporal form. At a meal, they are drugged, although Sarah avoids drinking and fakes unconsciousness, and he is delivered to the Sisterhood who fear the Doctor is there to steal their elixir of life and want to burn him to death. Sarah rescues him but is blinded and they flee back to the castle as they need Solon to examine her eyes. The Doctor is told that the Sisterhood’s elixir would restore her sight so he returns to them alone and realising he’d been fooled convinces them that he can restore their flame and get their elixir produced again. Doing that, he then gets them involved in his plan to stop Solon. A bit late there, as Solon is convinced by the brain of Morbius to house it in a temporary dome on a makeshift body only it gets dropped on the floor along the way. Things go from bad to worse.

My favourite line from the story is when asked about the problems of immortality, the Doctor explains that ‘death is the price of progress’.

The audio commentary between producer Philip Hinchcliffe, director Christopher Barry and actors Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and Philip Madoc becomes more of a party with some serious elements. They discuss both the show in that story and the then David Tennant seasons being shown when this was recorded. Madoc’s description of how things would be done differently today gave it some very dry humour before giving an acting lesson and a discussion on story pace often being too fast these days. Between them, they also point out the odd ab-libs and the script complexity of just who wrote what between Terrance Dicks and script editor Robert Holmes which is why it ended up being given the Robin Bland credit. There is very much a joviality with this commentary with everyone contributing that you come away with a nice feelgood factor about it.

The extras focus on the design of Karn and the sets with explanations by designer Barry Newbery and for anyone interested in this side of stage sets can give valuable lessons as to the level of detail given as the imagery is fleshed out. The main half hour documentary touches on this and also how the actors, specifically Philip Madoc, Cynthia Grenville (who would have thought she was so young when she did the original performance), Gillian Brown and Colin Fey portrayed their parts. I find all these extras of historical significance with all the Who DVDs and always look forward to watching them. The only thing no one seems to dwell on is why didn’t Solon stop at just wanting the Doctor’s head when it would have been attached to a perfectly good body. Morbius’ original actions must have been extraordinary bad to make the Master’s, shall we call them, indiscretions look mild in comparison.

‘The Brain Of Morbius’ main plot might not have been the most original in the world but it is served well with the Sisterhood and gives some odd background detail about the Time Lords along the way. What else would you need?

GF Willmetts

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