"The Brain of Morbius". Doctor Who, Serial 84. The Tom Baker Years.
The first time, in years, where I sat down and watched bits of "the old Doctor" was this on DVD with my wife. I wanted to show off some Tom Baker so bad that I went to a store and bought it at random. I did not realize that I had bought what is considered to be one of the more ground-breaking ones. I just picked it out. It sounded fun.
The set-up is simple. The TARDIS is jerked off course and lands on the planet Karn, straight from a Hammer studios induced nightmare. It is all crags and rocks and stormy night with strange cults in the wood (well, rocks) and old craggy castles up above. The Doctor immediately blames the Time Lords for this, and initally refuses to get involved (lasts about nine seconds) before he and Sarah Jane Smith dig deeper and come across Doctor Solon, a genius brain surgeon with his—already exposed as murderous—sidekick Condo. The Doctor seems to have walked into a trap! Soon he escapes right into the Sisterhood of Karn's lair, ancient keepers of the flame as they are, and gets trapped there. There are some more traps. And some traps. Bam! Classic Tom Baker "let's escape and oops, I'm captured again" stuff.
Your standard review of this storyline reads something like "...and then I touched God!" It really is an awesome story; and an awesomely broken one. First, though, the good. The gothic atmosphere works well with the series, and the melding of speculative and horror fiction is a nice touch. A really nice touch. Amazing, really. Now, the bad: several of the main plot-points makes so little sense that you end up having to have faith for them to work.
Solon, genius doctor, cobbles together pieces of scrap flesh to rebuild Morbius? Why not just take a Sister and get off the planet, or just use Condo? Morbius was disintegrated and spread to the four corners of the Universe, but his brain was found by the same man who is no piecing together scraps? Condo is looking for his arm which is [SPOILER ALERT, HIGHLIGHT TO REVEAL] obviously attached to the beast that his master is working on, and presumably Condo has helped with [END SPOILER]. The Sisters are presumably the same Sisters that have been working with the Time Lords for years, but now suspect the Time Lords, and apparently have no rational power outside of staring at a flame? When a certain character is blinded later s/he goes stumbling around, and walks towards the angry, creepy voice? The "other lives" bit at the end, that makes no sense in continuity (unless Time Lords go through some uber-regeneration).
You make it past a lot of the plot-sillies and you do find a well watchable story. It mostly just demonstrates what happens when you have some sudden rewrites towards the end. If you can get it on DVD, watch the "making of" featurette. It explains a lot. Most of the nit-picks did not really even occur to me until the end. Ah well. I still dig it for the atmosphere.
Despite all that, it's a Good episode and does much well.
Si Vales, Valeo
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