The Brain of Morbius (1976)

The Brain of Morbius is regarded as one of the best Doctor Who stories ever. The original story was written by Terrance Dicks but due to ‘creative differences’ Dicks’ name was taken off it and replaced with Robin Bland. The era of taking themes from the world of horror has been used again with the idea of Frankenstein. The story is set on Karn where the Doctor encounters Doctor Solon who is secretly working on bringing back Morbius who is currently without a head. Morbius is a fellow Timelord who seems to have been wronged by the Timelords which does sound familiar. We learn that Morbius was executed by the Timelords and as a result he is only a brain in a jar (like Lister in Red Dwarf). However unlike Omega, Morbius relies on Solon to help him. However being on a primitive planet Solon has been resorted to scrabbling around for anything he can find with the help of Condo. Condo is Eagor in all but name. He has lost his hand and is treated badly by Solon.

The character of Solon is very good and its made even better by Philip Madoc who could quite frankly appear in anything and would make it 100% better. In the past he has been in the Krotons as Eelek (1968-69) and as the War Lord in ‘The War Games’ (1969). Solon is someone who is loyal to Morbius and despite not being appreciated by Morbius, he is still striving to complete his task. This story does have one of the oddest sequences for quite sometime when the Doctor and Morbius have a mind fighting sequence. We get the previous three Doctor’s and then various images (including Philip Hinchcliffe, Robert Holmes and Christopher Barry). Now some people seem to think that it implies that Hartnell’s incarnation wasn’t the first but they seem to forget that Morbius is in the scene so its obvious that they are his previous incarnations.

The only thing I wasn’t so keen on was the Sisterhood. For me it slowed the story down too much and I find myself getting restless when they are on screen. The stuff with the elixir was quite fun but apart from that it seemed to be stuck in to give the Doctor and Sarah somewhere to go apart from Solon’s lab. The idea that they are powerful people is believeable but apart from that there’s not much I like about them.

The Brain of Morbius is a typically good story that is helped by superb acting from Madoc and Baker. Of course there are other good performances. Sadly Elisabeth Sladen does very little apart from stumble around Solon’s lab blind and running away from Morbius and Solon. Colin Fay is very good as Condo and does well in the loveable but badly appreciated sidekick. The voice of Morbius is a curious one because I think that Michael Spice did a good job as the exiled Timelord but I wonder if it would have been better with Roy Skelton or Michael Wisher.

The Brain of Morbius is one of the best stories of the thirteenth series. The sets and the general feel of the whole story helps make this story one of the best pitched in terms of quality of story that the show had produced at this time. I don’t know how much of Terrance Dicks’ original idea made it into the this story but it’s not really his story and as such is one of the Robert Holmes Classics with Christopher Barry cementing his place as one of the best directors in Classic Who.


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