The Brain of Morbius: Part 3
Broadcast on January 17th 1976 @ 5.45pm (10.10m viewers)
The Brain of Morbius is a very popular story and is often cited as the epitome of the Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes era of the programme, defined as ‘Gothic Horror’. It featured a memorable monster, introduced the Sisterhood of Karn, who have since returned to the modern version of the show, and starred the iconic duo of Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen as Doctor and companion. Some of the imagery is spectacularly memorable, a graveyard of spaceships, flaming torches and a ranting brain in a jar, all of which would remain in the minds of viewers for a long time.
Credited as being written by Robin Bland the script began as the work of prolific Doctor Who contributor Terrance Dicks and initially included a robot constructing a body for his master. Faced with the prospect of having a robot which may have been difficult to realise convincingly producer Philip Hinchcliffe asked script editor Robert Holmes to rework the script. Irritated by the rewrites Dicks removed his name from the story and instructed Holmes to put it out under some “bland pseudonym”, resulting in Robin Bland’s only contribution to Doctor Who. The story is of course, heavily inspired by the Frankenstein story written by Mary Shelley and specifically influenced by the Boris Karloff movie of 1931. Solon is Frankenstein, Condo is Igor (actually called Fritz in the original movie) and the Morbius monster is Frankenstein’s monster but it is in no way a rip-off or homage but a captivating story featuring these influences.
The cast is particularly strong with Cynthia Grenville recognisable from her appearances in Poldark as Maren, Gilly Brown as Ohica and Colin Fay as Condo. Philip Madoc is also a star turn as Mehendri Solon, in his third appearance in Doctor Who on television, as the talented surgeon tasked with restoring the Time Lord Morbius to life once again. All of these characters are well-rounded individuals and elevate the story far beyond a simple Frankenstein parody.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler warning)
Towards the end of the episode Solon attempts to restore Morbius to life again. It is a dramatic conclusion with some violent imagery and gruesome spectacle. Condo is shot in the stomach, graphically shown with a spurt of blood, and Morbius’ brain is knocked on the floor leaving a grim image that incensed Mary Whitehouse and the Viewers and Listeners Association. Finally, the episode concludes as we see the creature rise from the table; Morbius is alive once again. Whilst the episode quite rightly came in for criticism at the time for the violent themes presented, it pales in comparison to modern offerings from the horror genre and was only awarded a PG (Parental Guidance) rating for Video and DVD releases. It is an exciting drama that fails to be truly horrific or gratuitous and, as should often be the tradition, features a cliffhanger centered on the companion in peril from a hideous monster, exactly what makes Doctor Who so brilliant.
Watch as Morbius is furious to hear that the Doctor is a Time Lord.
Also first aired On This Day…
- Spearhead from Space: Episode 3
- Warriors Gate: Part 3