TV Club: Doctor Who, “The Brain of Morbius”

“The Brain Of Morbius” (season 13, episodes 17-20. Originally aired Jan. 3-Jan. 24, 1976)

The first thing we see in “The Brain Of Morbius” is a monster. That’s not exactly unusual on Doctor Who. It’s a man-sized insect, crawling out of the wreckage of its crashed spaceship and obviously wounded or even dying, across a rocky, fog-shrouded landscape. (Longtime viewers will recognize it as a Mutt from the Jon Pertwee-era serial “The Mutants,” which is also a clue that this creature, grotesque as it looks, isn’t the villain of the piece.) The thing that tells us we’re getting into some darker territory than usual is that this monster is being stalked by another monster. A hulking, hook-handed ogre looms out of the shadows and brutally murders the poor creature with a wicked-looking blade. The scream is horrible.

So where have we landed this time? Well, the planet itself is Karn, a desolate place near the Doctor’s homeworld of Gallifrey, and thus tied to his personal history in a way rarely seen on the show up to this point. We’ve also landed, in terms of our trip back and forth through the ages of Doctor Who, right in the middle of the early Fourth Doctor era, the time of the remarkable three-year partnership of producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes—what I like to think of as the “Sci-Fi Gothic” era, and for my money, the high point of Doctor Who. “The Brain Of Morbius,” credited to the pseudonym “Robin Bland” but written largely by Holmes (drastically revising Terrance Dicks’ original idea), is a gloriously lurid gem, and maybe the quintessential story of the Hinchcliffe era. And despite some plot holes, it’s also my single favorite Who story.

Originally published Aug. 21, 2011 on Read the complete article.

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