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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Doctor Who - The Brain of Morbius [DVD] [1976]
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on 25 July 2017
Great DVD
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on 5 May 2017
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on 30 September 2004
All the best aspects of the Baker era Who: expansive, well executed sets; superbly over the top acted characters; science based 'facts', and borrow the plot of a well known story, in this case Shelleys 'Frankenstein'.
Brain.. is a superb story, Baker in full SERIOUS pomp, Sarah at her dizzy, heroic best and editing and effects to match.
Watch out for the Doctors 'Mind Bending' match with the villain of the hour, the sequence reveals that Hartnell's version of Who is not the first of the Doctors lives, and many of the crew are featured as past lives, lookout for Phillip Hinchcliffe in particular! A great who collection addition.
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Karn resurfaced in the prequel to the 50th anniversary special, and in the opening scenes of the The Magician's Apprentice, autumn 2015. Anyone wondering what it is, why it is so sinister, and what the importance is owes it to themselves to watch this classic Who which brings out the Hammer Horror heritage, pays homage to Frankenstein, and introduces its own terrifying and compelling enemy, Morbius. Like many classic Who episodes, it turns on real science, in this case the chemistry of Hydrogen Cyanide.

Most TV series and many films would have settled for just the Sisterhood of Karn, or Solon, or Morbius, but this meshes the three motifs perfectly, enabling a real shift of gear in the final quarter, which was the original fourth episode.

This was terrifying the first time round, and its slightly steam-punk retro look stands up extremely well more than a quarter of a century later.
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VINE VOICEon 19 July 2008
32 years old, always threatening to topple headlong into absurdity, a grand-guignol homage to the Universal FRANKENSTEIN films of the 1930's, 1976's THE BRAIN OF MORBIUS really has no right to be as good as it is. It's drenched in over-ripe dialogue, has gaping plot holes and cheap-looking studio sets swathed in dry ice doubling for the surface of an alien planet. It is, when you spend a few moments thinking about it, fairly silly.

The fact remains that it is DR WHO at the very top of its game. It treads a very fine line between self-aware humour and no holds barred seriousness, but does it so well that you'll barely notice. Robert Holmes' rewrite of Terrance Dicks' original script (under the pseudonym Robin Bland) is an engaging, well-paced piece full of interesting, clearly motivated characters and tense, scarey set pieces. However, the production is further blessed by having an exceptional cast who treat this nonsense as if it's Shakespeare. That's really the essence of ...MORBIUS - it's a stage play on television. But to say this might almost devalue the overall effect or make it sound a lot duller and flatter than it actually is. The performances and direction are as good as DR WHO on television ever managed in its first 26 years. Classically trained actors like Philip Madoc and Cynthia Grenville bring an intensity and richness to their parts that make their every scene crackle and snap as fiercely as the fire that nearly polishes off Tom Baker. Speaking of whom, he and Elizabeth Sladen are also going for it with aplomb, though by the sounds of the commentary, Sladen is less than happy with her acting "blind" in the middle segments.

I've already mentioned the less than convincing rocky tundra sets, but somehow this doesn't matter. It even adds a certain claustrophobic something to proceedings. This can also be forgiven considering how detailed Barry Newbury's sets are for Solon's castle and the shrine of the Sisterhood. Even though it's entirely studio-based, the show manages to be visually arresting - the bright reds of the shrine (the design based on those of Buddhist temples) and the subdued lighting of Solon's crumbling laboratory and entrance hall manage to imbue the drama with an evocative ambience. Christopher Barry uses the sets to full effect, shooting every moment with an energy and intent that makes me wonder if this really was the same man who was responsible for directing 1972's woeful Pertwee serial: THE MUTANTS. Only the repeat use of the "Mutt" costume in episode 1 gives any hint that this was the case. Adding the final lustre to this gem is Dudley Simpson's incidental score, using french horns and a cello, it's magisterial in its effect and tone.

This is a must-see not only for DR WHO fans but for anyone who enjoys the best TV drama from this period, and fans of the James Whale/Karloff movies of the '30's may also find much to interest them - one shot of the Doctor and Sarah walking into Solon's hall shot through the flames of the fireplace is a direct (but effective) steal from 1932's THE OLD DARK HOUSE.

The extras are, as has become standard for the WHO releases, excellent. The Making of.. documentary GETTING A HEAD is especially welcome because it appears that every supporting cast member is still alive and kicking. Cynthia Grenville is marvellously enthusiastic and manages to look younger now than she did in 1976 (though she's sadly no longer wearing a cake on her head). The unexpected CGI work in this piece is impressive too, and personally I could have done with at least another 2 minutes of the CGI studio tour which comprises another extra on the disc. The commentary (Hinchcliffe, Barry, Baker, Sladen, Madoc) is good humoured and celebratory in tone, with Tom Baker's contributions particularly amusing. Thanks to him, I cannot hear the Sisterhood's chanting now, without thinking of the phrase: "panting crumpet".
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on 1 July 2017
It doesn't take a brain-surgeon (okay, sue me), to see that the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era is arguably one of the most classic. This story is another classic of the period. Not only does this feature one of my favourite Doctor Who guest actors in Philip Madoc, but we get a Hammer-style Science Fiction plot. The planet Karn is only a few billion light years from the Doctor's place of birth, The Sisterhood Of Karn are not only familiar with Timelords, they're the reason they have the power of regeneration in the first place, with their elixier. of life, not to mention, they're a match for most other races bar the Timelords. I love the design of the planet Karn despite criticism, & the thunderstorm complete with "Bermuda Triangle" space-ship grave yard is very effective.

Sarah-Jane is very effective here when she is blinded, & gives us a very effective performance, worthy of the 1981 version of Day Of The Triffids! Tom Baker is his usual, funny, genius, self & tells the Sisterhood how "stagnant" they are. Condo is the cliché egor servant, but, my favourite is Philip Madoc as Dr Solon. We barely get a mention of his Earth origins, & can only imagine what it must be like in his Century! I mean, he literally is as mad as a hatter, neurotic, insane, you name it! He wants power & will sacrifice isolation on a desolate planet to get it by resurrecting renegade Timelord Morbius!

Morbius was executed, yet, somehow, his brain remains for Dr Solon to create a new body out of the spare part remains of other Alien races (of course we all know what this was based on!). I LOVE the cliff-hanger scene with Sarah & the headless monster, the scene in the Sisterhood's lair where Dr Solon "pleads" for the Doctor's life/head is hilarious! As for the duel scene, it doesn't bother me, as that could just as easily be Morbius' former regenerations, seeing as Morbius is not up to his usual standards, as the Doctor mentions.

I seriously recommend this story to the newbie Whovians out there just for the Sisterhood, & Elisabeth Sladens dancing abilities alone!
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on 27 November 2014
The Tom Baker Era of Doctor Who features some of the best serials in the history of the show and The Brain of Morbius is no exception. Along with extremely popular companion Sara Jane Smith, the Fourth Doctor finds himself entangled in a plot to revive a deceased Time Lord. Brain of Morbius stands as one of the darkest serial's of the classic era and certainly doesn't disappoint.
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VINE VOICEon 23 July 2008
Barcode: 5014503181628

From the opening shots of Karn, eerily dark and swathed in thick swirling fog, you know you're in for a real classic hiding behind-sofa-ride with this serial. In the very first episode you get a gruesome beheading, a crippled servant with a hook for an arm, later delights coming in the form of a brain in a jar of green goo, the Doctor almost being burnt at the stake and a monster cobbled together from various body parts.

It's scary stuff with some real-edge-of-your seat moments, one of the most surprising being when Solon shoots his assistant Condo, literally ripping a hole in his chest, spurting blood. It's not something you'd see in the revived series and in many ways, this raw, untamed feel just adds to the dark overtones of this story. It raises questions on the ethics of what true life is in relation to Condo's subservience to Solon and Morbius's half-life as a brain trapped in a transparent case, a slave to base instinct.

The true star of this serial has to be Philip Madoc as Solon, his performance is deliciously sinister, his perseverance through all the odds to try and revive Morbius admirable, despite the gravity of what this entails. The scene where Condo knocks Morbius' brain onto the floor to Solon's dismay is particularly poignant as he cries of `such intellect, wasted on a stone floor by a mindless brute'. This is a man that has devoted himself to a cause and has lost all compassion for others, from the way he continually deceives poor Condo to his underhand poisoning of the Doctor and Sarah, his true intentions masked wonderfully behind a façade of a nice, well-spoken academic.

Villains like Solon are always a joy to watch, the battle of intellects between them and the Doctor is what the show was made for. Tom Baker puts in a great show too in this episode, really shining in the scenes with the Sisterhood as he tries to convince them of his pure intentions. Liz Sladen gets some nice moments too, her feistiness sparking brilliantly off the Doctor, and poor girl, she goes through a lot in this serial! Poisoned, tied up to a table, blinded and then chased and beaten up by Morbius - and speaking of her blindness, I think she acted this really well. Yes, the whirling arms might look a little overstated compared to today's more conservative styles of acting but if you put yourself in her shoes, if you had just lost your sight you'd be absolutely terrified and Liz really conveys this in her voice.

When this serial was first broadcast it got between 9-10 million viewers per episode. This was Doctor Who in its element, Tom Baker taking the series through the peak of its success and from serials like this you can see how so many elements of it have gone on to influence further Who episodes. It is these linkages - this episode obviously taking root from the story of Frankenstein and his monster - that weave their through history, the tension and the theme of science pushed to its most terrifying. Even the imagery lives on, the Sybilline Sisterhood of recent episode `The Fires Of Pompeii being almost a carbon copy of the Sisterhood of Karn in this episode.

Brilliantly acted, dark brooding sets and a super-tense plot + a really good behind the scenes documentary `Getting A Head' which has some fab interviews with the cast and crew - this is yet another fantastic release in the Doctor Who DVD range.
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on 13 January 2010
I have been a 'Doctor Who' fan since I was about 9, although I got into the series just as it was coming to the end of its original 26 year run. In those days, the ropey old VHS releases were too expensive for me to afford as a kid, but I was familiar with the Doctor's adventures from the many tie-in books released, and picked up the odd second-hand VHS and very early DVD releases later on.
With the arrival of modern 'Doctor Who' in 2005, I still had an interest in the vintage series, but didn't get around to watching any old episodes for a few years.

Eventally, I got a yearning to watch some of the classic adventures, to judge for myself if they really were as good as people remember. I started by picking out this story from what many consider to be the peak of the original show's run. And I wasn't disappointed.

The four-part story is much slower than the modern 'Who' (which mostly sees a single plot condensed into the fifty minute run time), but I actually really like this slower pace - it gives much more depth and background, and still has a decent momentum, unlike some of the sluggish early black and white stories.

The storyline is obviously influenced by 'Frankenstein', with a mad scientist on the planet Karn searching the bodies from wrecked spacecrafts to build a body to support the 'Brain of Morbius' of the title. I love the tale's dark, gothic feel, and while the sets and effects are obviously are primitive by today's standards, I found myself so engrossed in the story that it didn't really matter at all. For the lack of effects, the production has an engaging atmosphere that many modern 'Who' stories can only yearn for.

Watching this episode just a couple of days after the broadcast of 'The End of Time' the effects-laden final episode of David Tennant's run, and after being away from the original series for a few years, I was curious how vintage 'Who' would hold up. I was pleasantly surprised that it more than held its own. In fact, in terms of story, I actually prefer it over some of modern 'Who's offerings - especially when they feel need to camp it up.

Tom Baker is on fine form as the Doctor, and it's easy to see why he is often regarded as the most popular Doctor from the original run. Elisabeth Sladen is also very good as Sarah Jane.
The picture and sound, which have been remastered, are of a very good quality considering their age.
I found the post-production editing a little choppy, particularly in Part One, but nothing severe enough to mar the overall story.

As with most of the DVD releases, there are a number of extras. My personal favourite is the in-vision trivia track that can be played along with the episode - although I did find that with this particular title, many of them were only up on screen for a brief moment, and I needed to freeze frame a number to read them properly.
Other regular features include commentary, with contributors including Baker and Sladen themselves, which I haven't listened to in full yet but seems quite good, and the standard 'making of / retrospective' of the story, which is reasonable, but at thirty minutes, may not all be of interest to the more casual viewer.

All-in-all, I found this an excellent story to get reacquainted with 'Classic Who', and I enjoyed it enough to order a number of other vintage 'Who' DVDs. Reviews of some of them coming soon...
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on 4 February 2009
This is a great Dr Who Story combining elements of horror (a key feature of Philip Hinchliffe's time as producer on the show) and science fiction effectively. Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen have an excellent rapport. The monster featured in the story reflects the budget consraints of the time but this does not detract from the overall enjoyment of the story. Thoroughly recommended.
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