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The Brain of Morbius

The Brain of Morbius was the fifth story in season thirteen of Doctor Who. It referred to the Doctor’s past and had a scene featuring mindbending that introduced contentious elements to the shows’ mythos. The story was influenced by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

An interesting controversy was born when this story’s climax aired. It showed the Fourth Doctor having a mental battle with Morbius, and faces of the Doctor’s past incarnations were adjoined with a brand new set of unfamiliar faces. At face value, it was an easter egg that allowed eight members of the DW production team to cameo in a single episode. However, others interpreted these uncharted faces in a different way, and suspected the Doctor had incarnations dating even further back than the First Doctor. Later developments in the series refuted this speculation by confirming the First Doctor was indeed the first incarnation of the Doctor to exist, and suggested these faces belonged to Morbius’s incarnations or other unknown Time Lords.


Episode 1

On a dark and stormy night on a rocky and remote planet, an injured alien crawls from the wreckage of a space capsule. He doesn’t get far. A brutish killer with a hook for a hand emerges from behind a rock and raises his knife. The hook-handed murderer, Condo, brings the severed head to his master, Mehendri Solon, who finds it unsuitable for his purpose.

The TARDIS materializes nearby and the Doctor emerges in a rage, certain some external influence – most likely the Time Lords – has made them land here. He eventually realizes from the stars that they are within “a couple billion miles” of Gallifrey.

Resentful at being expected to do the Time Lords’ dirty work, the Doctor sulks while Sarah Jane explores. She sees a vast plain strewn with the wreckage of dozens of spaceships. They find the decapitated corpse of the crash victim, which the Doctor identifies as a Mutt.

Their presence is observed by a red-robed woman, Ohica of the Sisterhood of Karn. She reports to their High Priestess, Maren, who suspects their arrival is connected to their Sacred Flame. A product of super heated gas, the Flame produces the Elixir of Life that makes them immortal. However, the Flame has been dying. Without the Elixir the Sisterhood is doomed.

The Doctor and Sarah arrive at Solon’s castle. Solon greets them awkwardly, remarking on the Doctor’s “magnificent head.” He orders Condo to bring wine. The Doctor recognizes Solon as a distinguished scientist, a genius in the field of organ and tissue transplantation. His reputation was wrecked by his rumored connection to the followers of Morbius, a notorious Time Lord criminal.

Solon dismisses the idea as mere professional jealousy that nevertheless prompted him to relocate to the planet Karn. A burst of wind forces the front door open and blows the cover off a clay bust. The Doctor suspects the Sisterhood’s involvement, and in the aftermath recognizes the bust as Morbius only to succumb to wine drugged by Solon’s servant. Sarah, who has not drunk, feigns unconsciousness. Solon tells Condo to prepare. They carry the Doctor to the lab. Meanwhile, the Sisterhood form a circle of meditation and focus on the TARDIS, which they teleport into their chamber. They identify it as Time Lord technology. They are convinced the Time Lords are plotting to steal the last drops of the Elixir of Life.

Solon and Condo go to repair the generators before the operation. While they are away, the Doctor’s form glows and disappears, teleported by the Sisterhood. Sarah Jane sneaks into the lab looking for him. She opens a curtain and is confronted by a monstrous creature, a patchwork of sewn-together alien body parts, missing only a head…

Episode 2

Returning to find the Doctor gone, Solon realizes he has been captured by the Sisterhood and goes with Condo to fetch him back. Sarah follows secretly to the Sisterhood’s lair. The Doctor awakens to Maren’s accusation: he is a Time Lord agent sent to steal the Elixir. The Sisterhood once willingly shared the Elixir with Time Lords suffering post-regenerative trauma. Now, protecting the last few drops, the Sisterhood use their collective psychokinetic energy to crash any passing spaceships, which Solon then scavenges for body parts. The Doctor’s denial isn’t believed, and he is sentenced to burn at the stake. During the rite, Solon and Condo burst in. Maren, furious at the intrusion, refuses Solon’s requests, first to preserve the Doctor’s head, then to accept Condo in the Doctor’s place. They exit sheepishly and the ceremony continues. Sarah frees the Doctor before the flames reach him. A flash of power from Maren’s ring, however, blinds her as they escape.

Condo angrily confronts his master about being offered in the Doctor’s place. Solon begs for his life, promising to replace Condo’s hook with a real hand. This calms the hulking servant for the moment. The Doctor arrives with Sarah for a consultation. Solon informs them the Elixir is the only remedy for her blindness. The Doctor resolves to return to the Sisterhood to obtain it. Solon sends Condo with a message to the Sisterhood, again asking for the Doctor’s head. Solon, in a secret lab, talks to an unseen voice who berates him for the delay in finishing the body. Solon persuades the voice, whom he calls Morbius, for more time. As Solon exits, Sarah hears the voice and follows it into the lab. She cannot see that the voice of Morbius emanates from a disembodied brain in a large vat. The brain accuses her of being an agent of the Sisterhood sent to destroy him.

Episode 3

Solon finds Sarah and rushes her out of the lab. From outside, she overhears their plan. Once he has the Doctor’s head, he will transplant Morbius’s brain into the body of spare parts he is creating, freeing him to again wage galactic war. She locks in Solon, then stumbles out to find the Doctor.

The Doctor is captured and brought again to Maren. He realizes he’s been duped by Solon; Sarah’s blindness is only temporary. He persuades Maren to let him examine the Sacred Flame, convinced there must be a natural reason for its failing. He drops a firecracker down the shaft. It dislodges a buildup of soot and the Flame is restored to its full height.

Condo unlocks the lab door and Solon sends him to retrieve Sarah. Condo finds her. He is ready to dispatch her, but takes pity on her blindness and returns her to Solon’s castle. When Solon mentions the Doctor is also a Time Lord, Morbius panics, certain the Time Lords have tracked him down. Desperate, he compels Solon to operate at once, using an artificial brain case in place of the Doctor’s head. As Solon prepares to operate, Condo recognizes one of the creature’s arms as his own. In a blind rage, he attacks Solon. In the struggle, he knocks over the tank and Morbius’ brain falls to the floor with a splat. Solon pulls a gun and shoots Condo several times. He drafts the unwilling Sarah into helping him operate, not knowing the extent of the brain’s damage.

During a break in the operation, Solon finds the Doctor’s apparently lifeless body left by the Sisterhood. He reflects bitterly on the irony. Meanwhile in the lab, Sarah’s eyesight returns as Morbius rises behind her…

Episode 4

The operation has restored Morbius’s motor functions, but his higher cerebral functions have yet to be connected. The result is a savage monster. Solon is attacked and knocked out, Sarah is saved only by the wounded Condo’s self-sacrifice, and Morbius storms out into the night.

The Doctor awakens. He convinces Solon the creature must be hunted down. Together they find and tranquilize the creature, but not before it kills one of the Sisterhood. Solon convinces the Doctor he’s going to dismantle the creature. Instead, he locks the Doctor out of the lab, leaving him free to complete the operation. The Doctor injects cyanide gas into the lab, killing Solon, but not before Morbius arises, fully sentient. Morbius confronts the Doctor. He says he now has the lungs of a birastrop, rendering him immune to the cyanide. He boasts that despite his monstrous appearance, his followers will rise to join him once more.

The Doctor challenges Morbius to a potentially deadly mind bending contest. It overloads after a fierce contest of wills. The Doctor falls, inert. Morbius reverts to his earlier savagery. The Sisterhood, armed with torches, corner Morbius and drive him over a cliff to his death. The Doctor’s life is restored with a fresh draught of Elixir produced by Maren’s self-sacrifice to the Sacred Flame. The Doctor gives Ohica a pack of firecrackers in case they have any more trouble. He departs with Sarah in the TARDIS.


The Fourth Doctor
Sarah Jane Smith