CONDO SAY RELAX
Sue: Who’s Robin Bland, then?
Me: Robin Bland doesn’t exist.
Sue: Not again. So what happened this time?
Me: Robert Holmes rewrote a Terrance Dicks script and Terry told him to take his name off. He told him to replace his credit with “a bland pseudonym” instead.
Sue: So it’s a bad one, then? Was Terry ashamed of it? Is it really bland?
Me: Don’t worry, this is anything but bland…
On the planet Karn, an alien creature crawls through the wreckage of a spacecraft.
Me: Do you recognise that?
Sue: Yes, but don’t ask me what it’s called.
Me: It’s a mutant from The Mutants.
Sue: Is this a sequel? I liked The Mutants.
The poor mutt is intercepted by a man with a hook for a hand. He decapitates the creature and he takes its head to his master, Solon.
Sue: So, cannibals, decapitations and mad scientists, eh? It’s not for kids, is it? It sounds like the synopsis for a video nasty.
Me: Do you recognise the mad scientist?
Sue: His voice is familiar. Was he in The Mutants?
Me: No, it’s Philip Madoc.
Sue: Is he related to Ruth Madoc from Hi-De-Hi?
Me: Ex-wife. Now can we please get back to The Brain of Morbius? Or should I switch the DVD’s production subtitles on for you? I’m sure they must cover it. They’ll probably include details of the divorce settlement in Part Four.
Sue: No, you’re alright. I’ll live.
The TARDIS arrives on Karn; the Doctor is furious with the Time Lords for dragging him there.
Sue: He’s a very arsey James Bond. He can be very petulant when he wants to be. I really like the set, though. You can tell it’s a set but it’s been lit well and it’s very atmospheric. I like the lightning effects. And it means we won’t be skipping between video and film all the time. I actually prefer it when they do it like this.
It starts to rain and the Doctor and Sarah decide to investigate a nearby castle.
Sue: Have they turned on the studio’s sprinkler system?
Me: No, the rain has been superimposed over the image.
Sue: I knew that.
Elsewhere on Karn, a Sisterhood is worshipping a sacred flame (sacred fire).
Sue: I like their costumes. This looks like a believable culture for a change. Like Peru crossed with Bulgaria.
When their leader, Maren, starts talking about silent gas dirigibles, Sue is shocked.
Sue: Oh, I thought it was a man. So is this a lesbian sect?
Meanwhile, Solon is giving Condo a hard time. It turns out that Solon cut off Condo’s arm, and he won’t sew it back on again until their work is finished.
Sue: Condo would work a lot better if he had two arms. Solon didn’t think it through. He should have cut something else off instead.
The Doctor and Sarah arrive at the castle and Solon is very pleased to see them.
Sue: What a magnificent head! That’s brilliant. How did he manage to say that line with a straight face? I bet that took a few takes.
Condo serves up some refreshments.
Sue: It’s Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques.
The Doctor recognises Solon as a famous surgeon who left Earth under a cloud. Solon claims that his colleagues were jealous of him and they drove him away.
Sue: Bloody academics.
The Doctor quaffs his drink, but it has been poisoned and he falls unconscious. Thankfully, Sarah didn’t drink a drop and she only pretends to be drugged.
Sue: Sarah Jane is great. She’s the perfect companion. She’s always rescuing the Doctor. Always. This is why the Doctor doesn’t travel alone – he’d run out of regenerations within a week if he did.
Solon inspects the Doctor’s magnificent head.
Sue: Is he going to cut it off with a plastic knife? He’ll be there all day.
The Doctor is spirited away by the Sisterhood and the episode concludes with Sarah encountering a horrific creature that doesn’t have a head.
Me: Didn’t that do anything for you?
Sue: Not really. It was all a bit -
Sue does a passable impression of a headless monster with its arms flailing around like an idiot.
Sue: Do you know what I mean?
Me: Not really, no.
Sue: I liked the episode, though. It’s a good start. Frankenstein in Space. It’s fine.top
Sue: Why does Sarah casually stroll away when she’s confronted by a headless monster? Shouldn’t she be half a mile away by now?
Condo tells Solon that the Doctor has disappeared.
Sue: Condo looks like the lead singer of Showaddywaddy. If there’d been a zombie apocalypse, I mean.
Me: You always think the bad guy looks like the leader singer of Showaddywaddy. What has Dave Bartram ever done to you?
Solon describes Condo as a “chicken-brained biological disaster”.
Sue: Never get into a slanging match with Robert Holmes. He’ll wipe the floor with you. Where does he get this stuff?
She’s practically rolling in the aisles when Solon calls Maren a “palsied harridan” and in the next scene, the Doctor finds himself surrounded by her “squalid brood of harpies”.
Sue: The Doctor thinks he’s woken up in a brothel. No wonder he’s got a smile on his face.
The Sisterhood are convinced that the Doctor has been sent by the Time Lords to steal their elixir of life. The Doctor protests his innocence but Maren sentences him to death.
Sue: “You are the weakest link, goodbye”.
They tie the Doctor to stake and they build a pyre around him.
Sue: He’s going to be Joan of Arc in Space.
Me: Very funny.
Sue: Come on! I’d never have made a joke like that a few months ago. You should be happy.
The Sisterhood dance around the Doctor with burning torches.
Sue: It’s The Wicker Man, now. (pause) You know, I bet Kate Bush loved this episode. I can imagine Kate Bush wearing one of the Sisterhoods’ costumes.
The dance goes on.
Sue: Did they offer the Doctor some sleeping powder earlier so he could skip all the boring dancing? He could have jumped straight to his fiery death.
Solon arrives to interrupt the ceremony.
Sue: He wants to borrow a cup of sugar.
Solon lets it slip that he wants the Doctor’s head.
Sue: Don’t burn the head! Ha! Oh, it looks like the Sisterhood know about Solon’s head fetish. They just shrug it off. How bizarre.
Solon leaves empty-handed and the Sisterhood set fire to the Doctor. Sue is impressed with the effect (which almost killed Tom Baker if you believe Cynthia Grenville).
Sue: Sometimes lax Health and Safety regulations can work in your favour.
Thankfully, Sarah disguises herself as one of the Sisterhood, and she rescues the Doctor from the sacred flame (sacred fire).
Sue: How many times does the Doctor owe her his life, now?
But as they make their escape, the light from Maren’s ring blinds Sarah. Sue starts to sing Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s ‘Blinded by the Light’ (which was a hit record in 1976, pop-pickers).
Back at the castle, Condo isn’t very happy about Solon offering him up to the Sisterhood as a replacement sacrifice.
Sue: I feel a bit sorry for Condo, even if he is a cannibal who cuts the heads of plane crash survivors. But I do have a bit of a problem with this. It’s not a good message to send to children that people with learning difficulties or missing limbs are going to be a weird serial killing cannibals. It’s not a good message.
Solon is surprised to find the Doctor and Sarah seated in his living room.
Solon tricks the Doctor into believing that Sarah can only regain her sight if he returns to the Sisterhood to retrieve some elixir of life.
The episode concludes with Sarah blindly walking in on Morbius, who, it turns out, is an excitable brain in a jar.
Sue: Great cliffhanger. That was fun.top
Sue: I like the way Morbius does a little brain fart when he finishes talking.
Morbius makes it abundantly clear that he is an enemy of the Time Lords.
Sue: Why do all the bad Time Lords have names that start with the letter M? Is that significant?
Sue: You know, Master, Monk, Morbius. I am naturally suspicious of people whose names begin with the letter M, now. Thanks for that.
And then Sue stumbles into a rather large plot hole…
Sue: Why doesn’t Solon just stick the brain in Condo’s head? Why would you want to walk around looking like a dog’s dinner when you could be a hunchbacked version of the lead singer from Showaddywaddy? I know it’s not ideal, but you take what you can get.
Me: You are missing an even more obvious flaw: why is Morbius obsessed with sticking the Doctor’s head on that mess of a body when he could use the Doctor’s body as well? Eh?
Sue: Oh yeah, that is a bit silly. Is this the reason Terry took his name off?
Sarah escapes from the lab and she manages to lock a very complicated door behind her.
Sue: Even blind, Sarah Jane is better than Dodo.
Sadly, Sarah is intercepted by Condo.
Sue: I don’t like the rapist subtext, here. We haven’t had that since the sixties.
When Morbius discovers that the Doctor is a Time Lord, he panics. He suggests that he make do with a plastic helmet, that will give him terrible headaches, so he can leg it. Solon agrees. If the Time Lords turn up, all those years of isolation will be for nothing.
Sue: Yeah, all those years of isolation on a planet populated by hot women. It must have been awful for you.
Solon drains the liquid from Morbius’ tank.
Sue: He could have put it over a sink first!
Solon and Condo carry the brain to the lab. Solon yells at Condo to be more careful.
Sue: If you put his bloody arm back on, you wouldn’t have this problem.
Condo discovers that the arm on the Morbius creature is actually his. He doesn’t take the news well and Solon has to shoot him in the stomach. Blood and guts fly everywhere. Morbius’ brain falls onto the floor with a sickening squelch.
Sue: Bloody hell. There was no need for that.
I pause the DVD.
Sue: I can’t believe they got away with that.
Me: There were complaints.
Sue: I’m not surprised.
Me: So, did Mary Whitehouse have a point?
Sue: Don’t put words into my mouth.
Me: Would you let a six year-old child watch that at 6pm?
Sue: Probably not.
And this is coming from a woman who let Nicol watch John Hughes films from the age of six.
Sue: But you can’t win, can you? If you don’t make it realistic, people will criticise it, and if you make it too realistic people will complain. They probably went a little too far there, though.
When Sue gets a good look at the Morbius’ new body, she tries to identify its body parts…
Sue: I see that Chewbacca must have swung through here once. And he has a hand of Manos.
Sue: You know, the hand of Manos.
Me: I think you mean the claw of a Macra.
Sue: Yes, that’s it. It’s a complete mess.
The episode concludes with Sarah staggering around blindly as Morbius creeps up behind her.
Sue: Nice cliffhanger. Scary.
As the credits roll, Sue notices something important.
Sue: There are a lot of Barry’s in Doctor Who, aren’t there? Barry Letts, Christopher Barry, Barry Newbery (very nice design by the way, Barry). Why so many Barrys?top
Sue: It’s an unforgettable monster. The design is, er, unique.
She doesn’t notice the zipper. Phew.
Me: Morbius gave me nightmares.
Sue: I bet.
Me: No, this really gave me nightmares. I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming my head off. My mum threatened to ban Doctor Who completely if I didn’t pull myself together. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to see the next story, which traumatised me even more; I had to move to New Zealand in 1979 to see it (but I’m getting ahead of myself).
Morbius goes apeshit. Condo arrives to save the day.
Sue: How long does it take for this guy to die? He’s already been shot in the stomach four times.
Condo and Morbius wrestle to the death.
Sue: He’s still going!
Condo eventually dies.
Me: Poor Condo.
Sue: Yeah, he was quite nice, for a dim-witted, decapitating cannibal.
Me: I love Condo.
Sue: Steady on.
Me: There’s a great audio spin-off that features him. We should listen to it one day.
The Doctor and Solon hunt for Morbius with a tranquilliser gun. Morbius almost rips the Doctor’s head off when Solon shoots him -
Sue: Right in the arse!
The Doctor carries the unconscious Morbius back to the castle.
Sue: I bet they did that scene in one take. Morbius must weigh a ton.
The Doctor leaves Solon alone to dismantle his creation.
Sue: What is he doing? You can’t leave him! The Doctor has just done to Solon what the baddies always do to him. He should know better.
Sue’s right of course; Solon locks Sarah and the Doctor in the basement. Worse than that, the Doctor is without his trusty sonic screwdriver.
Sue: Since when does the Doctor leave the TARDIS without the sonic? It’s all gone a bit ridiculous now.
Me: You can hear the gears crunching a bit, but stick with it.
Meanwhile, Ohica suggests to Maren that they help the Doctor.
Sue: Is that Josie Lawrence from EastEnders?
Sue: Her performance is a bit strange. It’s her eyes, I think. Every time she widens them, she looks like she’s being sarcastic.
The Doctor rustles up some cyanide gas which knocks Solon out cold. In fact, given this is the last we ever see of Solon, the Doctor probably killed him.
Sue: Hang on a minute – how is this supposed to get them out of there? He’s just killed his only means of escape.
Ohica leads her Sisterhood to the castle.
Sue: It’s a tribal council on Survivor. They should vote Josie Lawrence off the planet.
Morbius is unaffected by the cyanide (he has the lungs of a Birastrop, you see) and he lumbers downstairs to face the Doctor. Our hero challenges the evil Time Lord to a mind-bending contest…
Sue: Oh look, they have a mind-bending machine just sitting there as well. That’s handy.
The contest begins.
Sue: Oh look, ex-Doctors. I like it when you see the ex-Doctors.
Sue: Who the hell is that?
Sue: Is it Kenneth Branagh?
Morbius wins the contest and the Doctor collapses to the floor.
I pause the DVD.
Me: Right, so what just happened?
Sue: Well, if Morbius won the contest they have to be the Doctor’s faces. So does that mean William Hartnell wasn’t the first Doctor?
Me: That was the original intention, I believe. But it contradicts everything that comes later.
Sue: Yeah, but that hasn’t happened yet, so this is correct right now, which means Matt Smith is the 17th Doctor, or something. That’s interesting.
Me: Only if you are completely insane.
Sue: Of course, they could be Morbius’ faces…
Me: Yes, let’s go with that theory instead.
Sue: I’m not really bothered either way. But someone should probably get Kenneth Branagh on the phone to discuss a prequel film with him.
The Sisterhood battle Morbius on the rocks and they push him off a cliff. He falls straight into the camera but Sue choses to ignore this.
Sue: The Doctor didn’t save the day in this one. In fact, he made a right pig’s ear of it. He did persuade an old woman to die, though, so it wasn’t a completely wasted journey. But it definitely wasn’t his finest hour and I’d be very surprised if the Time Lords sent him on another mission. Or maybe that was the Doctor’s plan all along?top
The Final Score
Sue: I liked that. Some of the dialogue was priceless. The performances were really strong and I loved the sets, too. The plot is a bit mad in places, and the direction could have been better, but it didn’t outstay its welcome and I enjoyed the atmosphere a lot.
Me: Go on, give it a nine.
Me: Please? It’s The Brain of Morbius.
Sue: It isn’t worth a nine. I’m sorry. The plot lets it down. Maybe Terry was right to take his name off it. Now shut up before I change my mind and give it a seven.
The experiment continues…top
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