Doctor Who - The Brain of Morbius [DVD] 
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Another classic episode from Tom Baker's much-loved stint as Doctor Who. The planet Karn is home to a mystic black-robed Sisterhood, whose sacred flame produces an elixir of life. But it's also home to Solon, a fanatical scientist who is using the remnants of spaceship crash victims to put together a new body for the still-living brain of the executed Time Lord criminal Morbius. When the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) arrive on the planet, Solon decides that the Doctor's head might just be what he needs to complete his dastardly work.
Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen join forces for this latest classic Doctor Who release. And in The Brain Of Morbius, the pair find themselves on the planet Karn, where they encounter not only the mysterious Sisterhood, but also a scientist by the name of Solon.
Solon, it turns out, is a bit of a problem, as hes busy trying to find the parts, Frankenstein-style, to put together a new body for Morbius. Morbius--you still following this?--is a once-executed criminal Time Lord, who now only exists in brain form. Hence, as you probably put together, The Brain Of Morbius, a story that digs into the Time Lords a little, and also makes for an entertaining four episodes.
The adventure is best taken in the spirit of old-style Doctor Who, as its a lot of fun, with the odd logic gap that you need to cut it a little bit of slack for. And, to be fair, some of the sequences really make the most of the comparably tiny budget, to very good effect.
Backed by an excellent supporting cast, The Brain Of Morbius is a welcome Doctor Who release, and an ambitious, engaging story from the mid-1970s. Coupled with good extra features, its well worth your time, whether old Who fan or new. --Jon Foster
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`The Brain of Morbius' is the crown of the `gothic' stories from the Robert Holmes / Philip Hinchcliffe period of `Doctor Who', widely considered the best three years in the show's 50 year history. Robert Holmes' superb script began with a story by Terrance Dicks, then seems to have surgically attached ideas from the horror classics of Mary Shelley and H.G. Wells, nourished it with the elixir of eternal life, grafted on some Time Lord history and - "It's alive!" - a monstrous masterpiece stands before us.
Tom Baker and Elizabeth Sladen have one of their best stories together. The Doctor is by turns sulky, flippant, comedic, scientific, deadly serious, ruthless, heroic and victorious in a virtuoso performance by Tom Baker at his very best. Elizabeth Sladen brings great confidence to Sarah Jane Smith at her pluckiest, as Sarah copes with a personally terrifying, isolating experience and that grisly monster with only one, entirely justified scream. Philip Madoc gives a magnificent performance as the obsessed, brilliant surgeon Solon. He brings total belief to the role; we never doubt that in his own mind, Solon is a hero working in a noble cause to restore his revered leader Morbius (a splendid voice performance by Michael Spice). Solon's massive servant Condo (Colin Fay) is a curiously vulnerable character. He is ready to carry out the most brutal acts to serve his master, but only under constant duress. Opposing Solon, yet in some ways strangely similar is Maren, leader of the Sisterhood (Cynthia Grenville). She and Solon are both pursuing immortality by different means and are both totally dedicated to their missions.
Christopher Barry's direction takes full advantage of Barry Newbery's superb set design and brings Karn to life. The massive main hall of Solon's `castle' takes top spot, with its weird sloping architecture and jumble of old and new equipment salvaged from wrecked spacecraft. A close second is the cave of the Sisterhood, which, like the Sisters themselves, is splendidly dressed in red and gold. The twirling, swirling, chanting Sisters of the Flame wouldn't look out of place on the stage of the grandest operas. Creating an alien landscape in the studio is more difficult, but the volcanic basalt pillars of Karn look great, especially in the night scenes as the thunder rolls.
There is a lot of darkness on Karn, but `The Brain of Morbius' is illuminated by flashes of humour; Solon's gleaming-eyed obsession that becomes ridiculous to everyone but him, the Doctor being cheerfully flippant in the face of danger (with what sound like some brilliant ad-libs from Tom Baker). There are also lines of dialogue which, while perfectly placed in the script and seemingly serious, must surely have been designed to raise a laugh.
But horror is the underlying theme and if you put yourself in the characters' place, parts of the story are truly horrific and can still give a jolt of surprise. When the shows of this era were first broadcast, the BBC did receive complaints about `horror' and `violence', but those complaining people mostly weren't the target audience. Back in 1975 I was at secondary school and we thought `The Brain of Morbius' was great! And so did many millions more who have enjoyed `Doctor Who' for decades, making it the show that wouldn't die, that seems to have drunk the elixir of eternal life - "Sa-cred fiiiire... sa-cred flaaame..."!
A brilliant commentary (by Tom Baker, Elizabeth Sladen, Philip Madoc, Philip Hinchcliffe and Christopher Barry), the best I've heard yet. It's entertaining, informative, actually talks about the story moment-by-moment (unlike some commentaries) and Tom Baker throws in some hilarious contributions you won't forget!
`Getting a Head' looks back at the making of the show with great CGI backgrounds recreating the sets. The excellent design work on this show gets extra coverage in `Designs on Karn' and there's a short but interesting CGI fly-through of the reconstructed sets as they were originally built in the studio.
Two short `Easter eggs', both well worth hunting for.
It's very good, pretty much at every level. A superb cast, headed by Phillip Madoc and Cynthia Grenville, both on very fine form, with excellent support from a horrifically lumbering Colin Fay, and a fiery Gilly Brown at the head of some very finely choreographed sisters. There's a huge sense of fun in the performances. It looks to have been a hoot to make.
The sets are first class; Solon's residence is a highly plausible gasworks turned castle, and the planet surface a lovely obstacle course of rocks - just what a newly-blinded journalist needs.
It's nice to see a Mutt again (how *have* they got space flight together?), and Michael Spice is happily chewing the furniture as the voice of the eponymous brain. Hmmm...
It has it's flaws. One being that the headless body, being as it is, headless, lacks a certain focal point - aside from the hand and claw, it's just hair and muscle, and not much definition to that. A headless body is more frightening when it's a recognisable body - it's good once it's got that goldfish bowl on with the brain inside - no arguments there.
And I'm not sure about the size of that brain - maybe it has swelled up in the tank, but it's a bit big - not just for Kriz's cranium, but for Mr Baker's too - I mean - look at the size of the goldfish bowl.
And the weapons. Sure, Solon's gun does the business, but Condo's knife looks a bit - well - fay (the pun was irresistible), and what are those flame shaped knives the Sisters are brandishing? You're going to do what with it? I don't think you are.
And burning a person alive? Come off it - there's a lot of Tom Baker to burn, and with that measly pile of brushwood? Even if they get him going, there won't be enough oxygen to feed the fire, and the Sisters will all die of smoke inhalation. And they're the Sisterhood of the Flame - they are supposed to know all this stuff.
Such quibbles aside, this is a very good piece of drama; the failing of Brain of Morbius is a lack of scale. The story demands a bigger set than the BBC could provide; vast skies, louring long shots, towering crags, what we have is just a bit too little; too much to and fro between shrine and castle (it feels a little bit like padding), too much in little spaces.
The Making Of is a good watch; the stories of Colin Fay and Cynthia Grenville getting the parts made me smile.
I wonder that the Morbius story hasn't been revisited in Time Lord lore. I wonder what he did that was so dreadful.
The parade of faces of past Doctors was not the brightest idea, especially since the Twelve Regenerations notion was just waiting in the wings (or in the back of Mr Holmes's mind, if you prefer).
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