Sue: Who’s Robin Bland?
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 it. He told him to replace his credit with a bland pseudonym.
Sue: So this is 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 is crawling through some spacecraft wreckage.
Me: Do you recognise that thing?
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 Mutt is intercepted by a man with a hook for a hand. He decapitates the creature and delivers its head to his master.
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 very 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, actually. Now, can we please get back to The Brain of Morbius? Or should I switch the DVD’s production subtitles on? I’m sure they’ll cover it. They’ll probably include details of the divorce settlement in Part Four.
Sue: No, it’s all right. I’ll live.
The Doctor is furious with the Time Lords for dragging him to Karn.
Sue: He’s basically an arsey James Bond. He can be very petulant when he wants. I like the set, though. You can tell it’s a set, but it’s been nicely lit, so it’s very atmospheric. 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.
When it starts to rain, the Doctor and Sarah seek shelter at 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, really. I’m not stupid.
Meanwhile the Sisterhood of Karn are worshipping a sacred flame (sacred fire).
Sue: I love their costumes. This looks like a believable culture for a change. Like Peru crossed with Bulgaria.
Their leader, Maren, starts talking about silent gas dirigibles.
Sue: Oh! I thought she was a man. So is this a lesbian sect or what?
We learn that Solon cut Condo’s arm off, and he won’t sew it back on again until their work on Karn is finished.
Sue: Condo would work a hell of a lot faster if he had two arms. Solon didn’t think this through. He should have cut off something else instead.
When the Doctor and Sarah arrive at Solon’s castle, he’s extremely pleased to see them.
Sue: Ha! “What a magnificent head!” That’s brilliant. How did he say that line with a straight face? I bet that took a few takes.
Condo serves the refreshments.
Me: It’s Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques.
Solon was a famous surgeon who left Earth under a cloud. He claims his colleagues were jealous and drove him away.
Sue: Bloody academics.
The Doctor’s drink has been poisoned and he slips into unconsciousness. Sarah, on the other hand, 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.
Solon inspects the Doctor’s magnificent head.
Sue: Is he going to cut it off with a plastic knife? He’ll be there all night.
The Doctor is spirited away by the Sisterhood, and the episode concludes with Sarah encountering a creature without 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. Frankenstein in Space. It’s fine.
Condo tells Solon that the Doctor has disappeared.
Sue: Condo looks like the lead singer of Showaddywaddy. If Showaddywaddy were in 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 refers to Condo as a “chicken-brained biological disaster”.
Sue: Never get into a slanging match with Robert Holmes. He’ll wipe the floor with you. How does he come up with this stuff?
The Doctor wakes up to find himself surrounded by women.
Sue: The Doctor thinks he’s woken in a brothel. No wonder he’s got a big smile on his face.
The Sisterhood are convinced the Time Lords have sent him to steal their precious elixir of life, so Maren sentences him to death. They tie the Doctor to a stake and build a pyre around him.
Sue: He’s going to be Joan of Arc in Space.
Me: Very funny.
Sue: Come on! I never would have made a joke like that a few months ago. You should be happy, Neil.
The Sisterhood dance around the Doctor.
Sue: It’s turned into The Wicker Man. You know, I bet Kate Bush loved this episode. I could imagine Kate Bush in one of the Sisterhood’s costumes.
But Solon interrupts the ceremony.
Sue: He wants to borrow a cup of sugar.
Solon lets it slip he wants the Doctor’s head.
Sue: Don’t burn the head! Ha! Oh, it looks like the Sisterhood already know about Solon’s head fetish and they’ve shrugged it off. How bizarre.
Solon leaves empty-handed and the Sisterhood set fire to the Doctor (Sue loves the special effect, which almost killed Tom Baker, if you can believe Cynthia Grenville).
Sue: Sometimes a lax attitude to Health and Safety can actually work in your favour.
Sarah disguises herself as one of the Sisterhood, so she can rescue the Doctor from the sacred flame (sacred fire).
Sue: How many times does the Doctor owe Sarah his life, now?
However, as they make their escape, the light from Maren’s ring blinds Sarah. Sue reacts to this by singing Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s ‘Blinded by the Light’ (which was a hit record in 1976, pop-pickers).
Sue: I feel sorry for Condo, even if he is a cannibal who goes around decapitating plane crash survivors. But I do have a problem with the idea that people with learning difficulties, or missing limbs, are automatically serial-killing psychopaths. It’s not a good message for the kids.
Solon is taken aback when he finds the Doctor and Sarah waiting for him in his living room.
Solon tricks the Doctor into believing Sarah will only regain her sight if he returns to the Sisterhood and retrieves the elixir of life. And then the episode concludes with Sarah blindly walking in on Morbius, who, it turns out, is just an excitable brain in a jar.
Sue: Great cliffhanger. That was fun.
Sue: I like the way Morbius does a little brain fart when he stops talking.
Morbius 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’m naturally suspicious of anyone whose name begins 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 have take what you can get.
Me: You’re 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 why Terry took his name off the credits?
Not only does Sarah successfully escape from Solon’s laboratory, she even manages to lock the door behind her.
Sue: Even when she’s blind, Sarah Jane is still better than Dodo.
However, Sarah is intercepted by Condo.
Sue: I don’t like the rapist subtext very much. We haven’t had much of that since the 1960s.
When Morbius discovers the Doctor is a Time Lord, he panics. In fact, he panics so much he agrees to wear a plastic helmet if it means he can leg it. Solon agrees, because if the Time Lords turn up, then all those years of isolation will have been for nothing.
Sue: All those years of isolation on a planet populated by hot women. Yeah, 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, urging him to be more careful.
Sue: If you’d sown his bloody arm back on, you wouldn’t be having this problem. Just saying.
Condo discovers the human arm that’s been sown onto Morbius is actually his own. He doesn’t take the news well and Solon has to shoot him in the stomach. Blood and guts fly everywhere, and Morbius’ brain hits 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 a few complaints.
Sue: I’m not surprised.
Me: So, Mary Whitehouse had a point, then?
Sue: Don’t put words into my mouth.
Me: Would you let a six-year-old child watch that at 6pm?
Sue: Probably not. No.
And this is coming from a woman who let her daughter watch The Breakfast Club when she was five.
Sue: You can’t win. If you don’t make it realistic, people will criticise it, and if you make it too realistic people still complain. They probably went a bit too far this time, though.
Sue tries to identify Morbius’ body parts.
Sue: Chewbacca must have swung through here, once. And he has the hand of Manos, too.
Sue: You know, the hand of Manos.
Me: I think you’ll find that it’s the claw of a Macra.
Sue: Yes, that’s what it is. It’s a complete mess.
Sarah staggers around blindly as Morbius creeps up behind her.
Sue: Nice cliffhanger. Scary.
As the credits roll, Sue notices something.
Sue: There are a lot of Barrys in Doctor Who. Barry Letts, Christopher Barry, Barry Newbery (very nice design by the way, Barry). Why are there so many Barrys?
Sue: It’s an unforgettable monster. The design is… unique.
She didn’t notice the zipper. Phew.
Me: Morbius gave me nightmares.
Sue: I bet.
Me: I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming my head off. Mum threatened to ban Doctor Who 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 that.
Morbius goes apeshit, but 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 drops dead.
Me: Poor Condo.
Sue: Yeah, he was nice, for a dim-witted, decapitating cannibal.
Me: There’s a great audio spin-off that features him. We should listen to it one day.
Solon pacifies Morbius with a tranquilliser dart…
Sue: Right in the arse!
The Doctor leaves Solon in peace so he can dismantle his creation.
Sue: What’s he doing? You can’t leave him! The Doctor’s just done to Solon what the baddies always do to him. He really should know better.
Sue’s right, of course, and Solon locks Sarah and the Doctor in the basement. If only the Doctor had his trusty sonic screwdriver with him.
Sue: Since when does the Doctor leave the TARDIS without his sonic? It’s all gone a bit ridiculous now.
Me: You can hear the gears crunching a bit, but stick with it, love.
Ohica offers to 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 and knocks Solon out cold.
Sue: Hang on a minute… How is this supposed to get them out of there? He just killed his only means of escape.
Morbius is unaffected by the cyanide (he has the lungs of a Birastrop, you see) and he challenges the Doctor to a mind-bending contest.
Sue: And they just happen to have a mind-bending machine. That’s handy.
The contest begins.
Sue: Oh look, ex-Doctors. I like it when you see ex-Doctors.
Sue: Who the hell is that?
Sue: Is it Kenneth Branagh?
Morbius wins the contest and the Doctor collapses. I pause the DVD.
Me: So what just happened?
Sue: Well, if Morbius won the contest, they must have been the Doctor’s faces. So does this mean William Hartnell wasn’t the first Doctor?
Me: That was the intention, I believe. But it also 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 like that. So that’s interesting.
Me: Only if you’re completely insane.
Sue: Of course, they could be Morbius’ faces, I suppose.
Me: Yes, let’s go with that theory instead.
Sue: I’m not really bothered either way, to be honest. But someone should probably get Kenneth Branagh on the phone to discuss a prequel.
The Sisterhood throw Morbius off a cliff. He falls straight into the camera, but Sue decides to ignore this.
Sue: The Doctor didn’t save the day. 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 surprised if the Time Lords sent him on another mission after that. Maybe that was the Doctor’s plan all along?
Sue: I liked that. Some of the dialogue was priceless. The performances were really strong, too, and I loved the sets. The plot was a bit mad in places, and the direction could have been a lot better, but it didn’t outstay its welcome and I enjoyed the story’s atmosphere.
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, Neil. The plot let 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.