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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
"Morbius's brain... on the floor!"Nov. 15 2008
Jason A. Miller
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I out-and-out love this story. I've taken the typical "Doctor Who" fan's path to this point of view, however. I was riveted at age 11, embarrassed at age 16, and now celebrate it in all its campy glory. When the disembodied brain of Morbius fell onto the floor with an audible "splat!" late in Part Three, I actually cheered.
What's most impressive about the DVD release is the Restoration Team's attitude to the story. Now that the classic series DVDs have been coming out for almost ten years, and the greatest of the great stories have long since been released, and the available remaining stories come from deep in the third tier (and now, with the imminent release of Doctor Who: Four to Doomsday (Episode 118), the fourth tier), it is hard to predict what editorial slant the DVD extra features will take. I've been surprised, for example, by the coldness toward Doctor Who - Black Orchid (Episode 121), and I nodded along to the wistful revelation that Doctor Who: The Invisible Enemy/K9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend just hasn't aged that well at all.
Fortunately, the DVD producers appear to love Morbius, and for roughly the same reasons that I do. They're perhaps a little too enamored of Philip Madoc's Shatner-esque turn as this story's Dr. Frankenstein stand-in, Solon. But everyone loves the dimly heroic Condo, the one-armed manservant standing in for Igor. Even Terrance Dicks, who took his name off the final version of the story, seems to have warmed up to it considerably -- and we know from many other past DVD releases that Uncle Terry isn't shy about picking a fight with a 35 year-old bit of TV history.
All in all, "Brain of Morbius" blends two elements of "Doctor Who" greatness. First, a terrific script by Robert Holmes, full of memorable insults ("That palsied harridan!") and throw-away world building (the lone reference to "the silent gas dirigibles of the Hoothi", which 15 years later was resurrected for Love and War (The New Doctor Who Adventures). And second, there's that fearless 1970's mentality that "We're going to get away with putting a rubber brain in a fishbowl and mounting that on an ill-fitting costume with chicken feathers and an enormous lobster claw".
The only curiosity is that, while the text commentary accurately describes Terrance Dicks' novel-writing career as including the Past Doctor Adventure Warmonger (Doctor Who), the writer curiously fails to mention that it was in fact a prequel to this story. Just as well, however. Unlike this DVD, you might want to give that book a miss.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Another gothic horror classic from the Doctor's golden ageMarch 15 2012
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Producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes made gothic horror a signature theme of Doctor Who in the mid-1970s and attracted some of the largest television audiences in the show's history. Their riff on the Frankenstein story, "The Brain of Morbius," topped 10 million viewers every week at a time when the U.K.'s population was 56 million.
The Doctor and Sarah land on the desolate planet Karn where an arcane sisterhood keeps vigil over a dying flame that produces an elixir of life which their order relies on to survive. Elsewhere on the planet, a brilliant but deranged neurosurgeon named Solon pieces together body parts from crash victims into a patchwork creature to contain the disembodied brain of Morbius, a rebel Time Lord long believed dead. When the Doctor arrives at his mountaintop castle, Solon believes he has found the perfect head for Morbius' brain and drugs the Doctor in hopes of surgically removing it. Meanwhile, the Sisterhood of Karn thinks the Doctor has been sent by the Time Lords to steal their dwindling supply of elixir and tries to burn him at the stake.
Among many other fine actors, "Morbius" showcases the work of veteran character actor Philip Madoc as the mad scientist Solon, a role the show's producers had considered offering to Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. Madoc delivers a performance neither of these actors could have topped. The Welsh actor appeared in three other Doctor Who stories between 1968 and 1979, including "The War Games" in which he played the villainous War Lord. To give you some idea of Madoc's range, he also played the evil Huron Indian chief Magua in the 1971 BBC adaptation of "The Last of the Mohicans," later featured on U.S. public television as part of the Masterpiece Theatre series. Madoc appears in the making-of documentary included with this DVD but passed away in March 2012.
The plot of "Morbius" has one major flaw, however: why would Solon cut off the Doctor's head and attach it to the monstrous patchwork body he's created when he could more easily transplant Morbius' brain directly into the Doctor's normal body? This gap in the story's logic grew out of the way the original script, written by series veteran Terrance Dicks, was edited by Holmes to eliminate a robot character that would have been too expensive and technically difficult to bring to the screen. Instead, the robot is replaced by Solon and his Igor-like assistant, Condo. Dicks was so outraged by Holmes' extensive rewrite that he asked to have his name removed from the project, and the script was credited to a pseudonym.
The dark, brooding tone of "The Brain of Morbius" as well as its heightened gore and violence made it one of the show's most memorable stories, but these elements also contained the seeds of Hinchcliffe's downfall as producer. The blood exploding from Condo's chest when he's shot by Solon and the sight of Morbius' brain splatting on the laboratory floor first attracted the censure of right-wing television activist Mary Whitehouse of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, who viewed Doctor Who narrowly as a program for children. Hinchcliffe wanted to broaden Doctor Who's appeal to teenagers and adults, but Whitehouse's continued scolding, particularly of a drowning scene in "The Deadly Assassin," led to Hinchcliffe's eventual replacement as producer with instructions from the BBC to his successor to tone down the show's horror content.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
What else can be said?Dec 4 2008
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Oddly memorable, perhaps not the best or worst of the Hinchcliffe-Holmes era, but filled with all the hallmarks that made Who such fun to watch.
I always enjoy the extras, having seen these episodes for decades. The restoration team/production team have been spicing up the extras on all DVDs very nicely. When Hinchcliffe, Baker and Sladen are on commentary it is always a treat. Philip Madoc also appears on the commentary, having made such a memorable performance.
"Getting A Head" is a nice little extra to illustrate all the ideas and work that went in behind the scenes. Poor Terrance Dicks describes his original idea which was put through the delectable Holmes sausage grinder. His original idea was actually quite solid, but too expensive or difficult to make, then rewritten by Holmes and labels as written by Robin Bland. Hearing all the main actors describe their experiences is many times quite humorous.
For $[...] this is a gem for anyone that enjoys the series, or anyone looking for a matinee entertainment. On Saturday afternoon PBS in the 80's it fell into a cultural null for any non-sports fan. These days it might look dated and clunky, but the writing of "Morbius" is still stronger than most TV in current broadcast, and it is more fun than most modern cinema since effects were limited and the actors and situations blazed forward.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
"The impossible dream of a thousand alchemists, dripping like tea from an urn."Oct. 21 2008
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It doesn't take long until the viewer realizes that "The Brain of Morbius" is an unlikely concoction, a hodgepodge homage to any number of classics and not-so-classics, the chief ingredient being of course one of the key progenitors of the science fiction genre, Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"--with a dash of late 20th-century paranoia, "They Saved Hitler's Brain" tossed into the brew for good measure. The risks taken here by the show's writers and producers, namely that the story collapse into a muddied incoherent mess or else come off as a stitched together patchwork of rip-offs, were significant but well worth it. What we have instead is a brilliant specimen of Doctor Who that draws on several interesting sources in good measure and synthesizes them into something highly original, thrillingly riveting, immensely entertaining, and uniquely characteristic of the show.
Who else, after all, could get away with a story so morbidly gruesome and yet so hilarious? "The Brain of Morbius" gets about as rough and gory as Saturday evening BBC TV in the 70's would allow, with a chilling premise underlining it all: an ingenious but twisted surgeon working to construct a body from spare parts for the preserved brain of his master, a Time Lord dictator presumed executed and long dead (All he needs is a good humanoid cranium, when who should show up at his castle door but the Doctor and Sarah Jane?). And yet moments of clever wit and cerebral comedy punctuate the story without defusing the horror in the least, nor does the overall horrific and moody atmosphere render the humor any less funny. Again, an unlikely combination of mutually conflicting elements somehow sublimates into a wonderful compound greater than the sum of its parts within the crucible of these four episodes. Indeed, this is a vividly memorable tale from early in Tom Baker's tenure as the fourth Doctor, one beloved by a vast majority of the show's fans--myself definitely included.
And what a fine release for October, just in time for Halloween!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Oh What Fun!Sept. 3 2008
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Always loved this episode. Always will. Pure Doctor Who, this one will have your kids hiding under their beds, and rightfully so. Sacred Fire....Sacred Flame!!!! I can still hear that in my sleep. This one is well acted, well conceived and well received by the fans despite being a hodgepodge of many a story and a set. Baker, brilliant as always engages in a very curious battle of the minds with the villain. Is this Doctir really the 4th? Have there been more? The darkness in this episode works to great effect, but Baker's charm and wit never lets it get too scary. Pure fun!!!!