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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 March 2014
When I unexpectedly crash-landed on Karn for the second time, watching 2013's `Night of the Doctor', my interest in the classic series regenerated almost as dramatically as Paul McGann did. I could remember this from 1975 ... with Tom Baker ... and `Sarah Jane' ... and the sacred flame ... and *that* monster ... So I ordered a few DVDs from the classic era - obviously, one of them had to be `The Brain of Morbius'. But it had been almost 40 years - would the story live up to my memories? Definitely Yes!

`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..."!

5*

DVD Features:
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.
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on 17 August 2013
I can only sympathise with Terrence Dicks; writing a jolly romp about a robot Jeeves building a body, and then that reprehensible Robert Homes turns it into a hair raising pastiche of the old Universal Frankenstein. That said...

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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on 18 July 2012
Although many of us had first heard about Doctor Who as one of the all-time-greatest science fiction shows, these episodes, marking the combination of the genius of Robert Holmes in writing and Tom Baker (AND the simply perfect Elizabeth Sladen as his companion) in acting, had achieved everything that the very best of horror shows can aspire of achieving, that too on a consistent basis. They combined all the elements of the gothic horror novel (in this particular case: Frankenstein), and then combined them with the best of scientific fantasies of the time, resulting in an astonishing show that continues to make people ga-ga even after so many years (and despite the Americanisation of Television, thus reducing the average IQ of the viewer to an appreciable extent). Highly recommended, and if you are not watching it thinking that it's just an OLD 70'S SHOW, that's entirely your loss.
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I always loved Dr Who eversince I watched the first series. Nowadays it may appear oldfashioned, but back then it was fun and exciting. Tom Baker was the best doctor... in my opinion!
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on 12 August 2013
The reference to Frankenstein is obvious and isn't a problem because the set designs are good and Tom Baker's performance is top notch however for me what let's this down fully is the lack of motivation behind Solon and the character of Morbius himself. For someone supposed to be so evil, Morbius feels rather bland and he and the Doctor don't have the meaty confrontations the like of which he enjoyed with say Davros in Genesis of the Daleks. I think this is a rather overrated story.
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on 6 January 2018
Nothing else to say but great story and introduces the sisters of khan who pop up for Paul McGanns brief return before he changes into the War Doctor.
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on 13 October 2016
Goodness, all these years and it still gives the creeps! Fantastic story, and always a pleasure to view Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen on screen together in their amazing chemistry! Great special features and picture/sound quality. The only knit-pick is that the on-screen production notes feature, while interesting, had some garish spelling and grammar errors.

Product arrived way ahead of predicted delivery date excellently packaged!
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on 12 February 2011
This story is one of the best of the Hinchcliff/ Holmes era Doctor Who. Riffing of Hammer horror's frankenstein , it actually started life as a Terrance Dicks story. Holmes was responsible for re-writing it and breathing life into the story , so to speak.
Tom Bakers performance is excellent and he is ably supported by an incredible supporting cast.Phillip Madoc especially as Solon, turns in a fantastic under-stated performance.The story is top notch as well, with the time lords supposedly interfering with the TARDIS to make the doctor land on the planet Karn.Once there Solon is delighted, as he finally has a decent head to transplant the brain of Morbius into.Add into this mix the sisterhood of karn and the fact that Morbius is a renegade time lord and you have one of the best stories of this ers.
The extras don't disappoint either with a superb making of documentary, a commentary and a couple of mini-docs thrown in for good measure.Definitely one to buy.
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on 1 January 2017
Bought this for my mother-in-law. She is a big Tom Baker as Dr Who fan. We are slowly buying all of them for her. She loves it.
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on 19 August 2008
The Brain of Morbius is a good all round Doctor Who, even though it takes place in the studio. It is well paced, and keeps you on your toes most of the time.

In this era of Who this is one of the best ones made mainly because it makes you think as you go along "What's going to happen next?"

So for these things i would recommend you watch it all the way through if you have a couple of hours to spare.
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