Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Sunday, 31 January 2016

422 The Seeds of Doom: Part One

EPISODE: The Seeds of Doom: Part One
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 422
STORY NUMBER: 085
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 31 January 1976
WRITER: Robert Banks-Stewart
DIRECTOR: Douglas Camfield
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 11.6 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Seeds of Doom

"Mister Stevenson, what you have done could result in the total destruction of all life on this planet!"

An expedition team in the Antarctic finds a round object buried in Ice. Examining it at their base they think it's a seed pod of some sort. Pictures are sent to the world ecology bureau in London where Dunbar shows them to the Doctor, called in from UNIT, who is worried it's dangerous. The Antarctic team find the pod is growing. Dunbar visits noted plant collector Harrison Chase and shows him the photos. Chase is intrigued and dispatches Scorby & Keeler to retrieve it. While one of the team, Winlett, guards the pod it opens and spits out a tendril striking him. When he's found be Stevenson & Moberley he has started to turn green. The Doctor & Sarah are delivered to the Antarctic by helicopter. When the Doctor arrives he finds Winlett's body transforming into a plant like structure. The Doctor discovers a second pod in the ice next to where the team found the first, which they store in the freezer. The Doctor tells Sarah that Keeler is becoming a Krynoid, an animal consuming plant. Scorby & Keeler arrive posing as the medical team. The Doctor proposes amputating the arm where the infection first occurred. Moberley prepares to perform the operation but the creature Winlett is becoming clambers to it's feet and murders him.....

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The Seeds of DOOM! Do not confuse with: The Seeds of DEATH

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Hurrah! Some snow and ice! I've loved snow & ice as a back drop ever since I saw the Hoth scenes in Empire Strikes Back. It's a few years too early to be homaging Empire though.... No essentially these first few episodes are The Thing From Another World, a 1951 movie about Arctic scientists digging something plant based up in the Arctic.

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It was remade in 1982 by John Carpenter as The Thing and the 1993 X-Files episode Ice, one of my favourites, owes a considerable debt to it as well. Apart from the monster being a tad gruesome I can't fault this episode at all. It comes as no surprise to find it's been produced by the same writer/director team, Robert Banks-Stewart and Douglas Camfield, that gave us Terror of the Zygons at the start of the season. And if Camfield's here then Dudley Simpson isn't providing the music so we get a second score from Geoffrey Burgon who also worked on Terror of the Zygons giving us another link to that story.

vlcsnap-2015-06-02-10h54m07s140Note that the Doctor and Sarah arrive at the Antarctic base by helicopter. This will cause a problem MUCH later on in this story and is one of a number of elements that makes you think the script, especially in the later part of the story, could do with a bit more time and another pass by the script editor.

Two of the base crew have prior form in Doctor Who: Hubert Rees, as John Stevenson, was Chief Engineer in Fury from the Deep and Captain Ransom in The War Games. I've found him also in Thou Shalt Not Kill, one of director Douglas Camfield's episodes of The Sweeney.

While watching this I was struck quite how much he looks like Toby Hadoke of Doctor Who commentary moderation and Who's Round fame!

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John Gleeson, the ill fated Charles Winlett, was a Thal Solider in Genesis of the Daleks. He's been in the Sweeney too, but his episode I Want That Man, wasn't directed by Camfield!

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But Michael McStay, who plays Derek Moberley the third member of the base, was in Cover Story, another of Douglas Camfield's Sweeney episodes. We'll come to the rest of the cast later and there's at least one Camfield regular yet to appear. It's notable that all three of the base personnel have their first names revealed on screen, a rarity for Doctor Who!

I'll get to the casting "elephant in the house" later in the story. But for now it will be suffice to say that Yes, that is Boycie & Camp Freddie!

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The master video tape of this episode went missing in the week prior to transmission but was fortunately found just in time!

vlcsnap-2015-06-02-10h31m41s237It's amazing the things that catch your eye that you've not seen before: When the Doctor has his feet up on the desk there's round holes visible in the soles of his shoes! He's wearing Football boots or similar sporting shoes!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

421 The Brain of Morbius: Part Four

EPISODE: The Brain of Morbius: Part Four
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 421
STORY NUMBER: 084
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 24 January 1976
WRITER: Robin Bland (pseudonym for Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes)
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 10.2 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Brain Of Morbius

"How far, Doctor? How long have you lived? Your puny mind is powerless against the strength of Morbius. Back. To. The. Beginning!"

Sarah sees the Monster and screams, accidentally setting it on fire with a flaming torch. She finds the Doctor's body and is shocked when he wakes up. Solon tries to calm the Morbius monster but it attacks him. Morbius then strikes the Doctor down and grabs Sarah but he is then attacked by the injured Condo who he kills. Morbius rampages through the rocks of Karn killing weakened members of the Sisterhood. The recovered Solon sedates his creation and, locking the Doctor and Sarah in a room, adjusts it allowing Morbius' brain to gain full control. The Doctor generates cyanide gas from Solon's chemical store to release into the air system to kill the monster, but all he succeeds in doing is killing Solon, the Monster survives due to his lungs having a methane filter. The Doctor confronts Morbius and challenges him to a dual in a mind bending contest. Morbius regresses the Doctor through his past lives all but killing him when the apparatus explodes. The Monster, damaged by the electrical discharge, goes on the rampage and is driven off a cliff by the Sisterhood destroying it. Maran uses what little elixir had been generated to restore the Doctor before sacrificing herself to the sacred flame. The Doctor leaves the Sisterhood some more fireworks in case they have more trouble with the flame and leaves in the Tardis.

Fab, that works wonderfully as a story. We get two rounds of "Hunt the Monster" in this episode first with the Doctor & Solon, which results in the Monster being carried back to the lab for dismantling, which reunites the Doctor with Sarah:

SARAH: Oh, I just had the most terrible dream.
DOCTOR: What?
SARAH: First of all, I was blinded. Then I was attacked by a great claw thing looked like it was made from butcher's leftovers. And then I was
DOCTOR: Knocked down a flight of stairs.
SARAH: How did you know?
DOCTOR: I was there.
SARAH: You were? What happened to Mister Allsorts?
DOCTOR: Solon's dismantling him.
SARAH: That's a switch.
DOCTOR: Force majeure. We're lucky he botched the operation. The brain of Morbius and that body makes a terrifying combination. For the sake of the future of the universe, I had to make him destroy his handiwork.
SARAH: Was he really that dangerous?
DOCTOR: Who, Morbius?
SARAH: Uh huh.
DOCTOR: There was a civilisation here once. Now look at it. And there are other planets like it, all destroyed by Morbius. Nothing but ashes.
However the Doctor has underestimated their host who has locked them in!
DOCTOR: Damn! I should have stayed with him.
SARAH: Sonic screwdriver.
DOCTOR: It's in the Tardis.
SARAH: Oh.
The Doctor's solution to the problem, producing cyanide gas from the Hydrogen cyanide Solon has, is a little bloodthirsty and harsh for the Doctor: he knows what it's effects will be and is trying to kill both his host and the monster. This just feels wrong for the Doctor. They'll be some similar out of step actions in the next story too.

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However the Doctor doesn't know exactly what Solon has built his monster out of:

MORBIUS: An ingenious idea, Doctor, but ineffectual. Your poison affected only Solon. I have the lungs of a birastropthe.
DOCTOR: With a methane filter. What does it feel like to be the biggest mongrel in the universe?
MORBIUS: Solon designed this body for efficiency, not for its appearance. To be free again is all that matters.
DOCTOR: Free to cause more havoc, more destruction?
MORBIUS: The Time Lords will not oppose me again, nor the Sisterhood. When it is learnt that I, Morbius, have returned from the grave, my followers will rise in their millions.
DOCTOR: You really can't go on calling yourself Morbius. There's very little of Morbius left. Why don't you think of another name? Potpourri would be appropriate.
SARAH: How about Chop Suey?
MORBIUS: What!
DOCTOR: Chop Suey, the galactic emperor.
MORBIUS: You will be the first to die.
This then leads to a classic confrontation between the Doctor and Morbius:
DOCTOR: Brain getting a little overheated, is it? Careful, not as strong as it was.
MORBIUS: My brain functions perfectly.
DOCTOR: I doubt it, Morbius. All that time in a tank, it's gone soft. Do you dare put it to the test?
MORBIUS: What test?
DOCTOR: We have all the apparatus here. I challenge you to a mind-bending contest.
MORBIUS: I am a Time Lord of the first rank. What are you?
DOCTOR: Oh, nothing, nothing. A mere nobody, but I don't think you're in the first rank any more.
MORBIUS: Very well, Doctor. If that is how you want to die, I accept your challenge.
DOCTOR: There's sporting gentleman.
SARAH: What's mind-bending?
DOCTOR: Time Lord wrestling. It's usually a game but it can end in death lock.
MORBIUS: It will, Doctor. I, Morbius, do not play games.
DOCTOR: Neither do I. Are you ready?
DOCTOR: En garde, Morbius.
MORBIUS: Is your mind, Doctor, going?
SARAH: Doctor.
MORBIUS: How far, Doctor? How long have you lived? Your puny mind is powerless against the strength of Morbius. Back. To. The. Beginning!

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The duel sequence is rather interesting as their past incarnations are projected onto a screen. Morbius is represented by his current fish bowl head and the statue we see earlier in the story:

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We then switch to the current Doctor and start to see his past selves....

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Jon Pertwee, being shown on screen for the first time since he left in Planet of Spiders, and Patrick Troughton both have their images taken from a photo for the 10th anniversary special, The Three Doctors, while William Hartnell, who died the previous year to this story's broadcast, is represented by a publicity picture for The Space Museum.

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Then there's a succession of other faces! I think we're pretty certain that the first Doctor we saw on screen is the actual first incarnation of the Doctor so they're unlikely to be the Doctor. I suppose they could be either an attempt by the Doctor to fool Morbius or are they possibly earlier incarnations of Morbius? The general interpretation of this scene is that Morbius wins but it could be the Doctor winning and his victory causes the explosion that occurs on Morbius' side of the game machinery, which turns him into the mindless brute we see rampaging at the end of the story.

In case you're wondering the faces actually belong to members of the Doctor Who production staff and the teams working on this and the next story! Firstly Production Unit Manager for Seeds of Doom, and later producer of Miss Marple, George Gallacio and script editor Robert Holmes.

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They are followed by Graeme Harper, Production Assistant of the Seeds of Doom and later director of Caves of Andozani & Revelation of the Daleks, and Seeds Of Doom director Douglas Camfield.

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Then we have Doctor Who producer Philip Hinchcliffe and Christopher Baker, another Production Assistant on Seeds of Doom.

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Finally we have the Seeds Of Doom writer Robert Banks-Stewart Brain of Morbius director Christopher Barry

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Following the battle we get our second round of "Hunt The Monster" this time carried out by the sisterhood, who in classic horror movie style style, drive it off the cliff while wielding flaming torches!

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The injured Doctor is then taken to the Sisterhood's temple where he's saved by what little of the Elixir of Life has been produced since the Doctor dealt with it's problems in the last episode. A little more Chekov's Gun in play there, with the effects of the the Elixir being mentioned all story. Unfortunately that means the end for Maren and she sacrifices herself to the flame, being transformed into a younger version of herself in the first place.

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Since I last blogged about the story the Sisterhood of Karn have reappeared in Doctor Who, featuring in The Night of the Doctor, an online mini episode featuring a return to the role of the Doctor for Paul McGann. In that episode they're led by a sister called Ohila, any relation to the Ohica seen here?

The all female cult in this story has been immortalised in Fandom by giving their name to The Sisterhood of Karn, a London-based gay science fiction fan club. Morbius hasn't reappeared on screen but has popped up in various novels and audio adventures.

Brain of Morbius was repeated as a 60-minute compilation on Saturday 4 December 1976, a week after a similar compilation of Pyramids of Mars. Brain of Morbius was novelised by Terrance Dicks in 1977 using the modified storyline as seen on TV. It was adapted as the second and final Junior Doctor who novel in 1980 which I did actually see for sale. Once. In 1984 it was released on video as a compilation with a running time of less than an hour. I've never seen either version but I'm told this is not the same cut as the repeat compilation and, oddly, both include material which the other omits! The same compilation was released on Laserdisc in the same year. It was re-released on video in episodic format in July 1990, alongside a complete version of the Five Doctors which had also been butchered for it's original Video release, the first of the early Doctor Who stories on video to be re-released in their original length. Doctor Who - The Brain Of Morbius was released on DVD on 21st July 2008.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

420 The Brain of Morbius: Part Three

EPISODE: The Brain of Morbius: Part Three
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 420
STORY NUMBER: 084
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 17 January 1976
WRITER: Robin Bland (pseudonym for Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes)
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 10.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Brain Of Morbius

"I think of nothing else! Trapped like this, like a sponge beneath the sea. Yet even a sponge has more life than I. Can you understand a thousandth of my agony? I, Morbius, who once led the High Council of the Time Lords and dreamed the greatest dreams in history, now reduced to this, to a condition where I envy a vegetable!"

Morbius' voice summons Solon who throws Sarah out the lab as Morbius raves at him, wanting a new body. Sarah overhears that the Doctor has been sent into a trap and shuts the door on Solon, locking him in. Maran uses the last of the elixir to feed five of the sisterhood to keep them alive. They receive the message from Solon and plan to trap the Doctor. The still blind Sarah stumbles through the rocks as the Doctor enters the sanctuary and is captured. Condo returns to the castle and frees Solon. Maran tells the Doctor that Sarah's sight will return and that Solon lied to the Doctor. The Doctor suggests Morbius is on Karn hiding his mind from the sisterhood and offers to help Maran. Condo finds Sarah and takes her back to the castle. The Doctor examines the flame and, using a "little demon" firework, cleans the shaft from it's coating of soot allowing the flame to burn brightly again earning the Sisterhood's trust. Solon binds Sarah, bur Condo insists he doesn't hurt her. Solon lets slip to Morbius that the Doctor is a Time Lord inciting Morbius' suspicions that the Time Lords have tracked him down and are coming to destroy him. Condo overhears Morbius suggesting using Sarah's head to complete the body so he can escape from Karn. Morbius then orders Solon to use an artificial brain case which he has developed. Solon begins preparing for the operation. Condo discovers his missing arm on the Morbius creature and filled with rage he attacks Solon, knocking Morbius' brain to the floor. Solon shoots him and retrieves the brain, placing it in the artificial case, concerned it may be damaged. Solon frees Sarah to act as his assistant to operate a pump. As Solon finishes the operation he is called to the castle doors as the sisterhood deliver the Doctor's body to the castle. Sarah, her sight recovering is menaced by the completed and awakening Morbius monster!

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Fabulous again, great stuff. Really enjoying this story, it's working well.

There's two distinct threads to this episode and, unlike last episode where there was a lot of moving back and forth between the castle and the sisterhood, here they remain separate.

First we have Solon & the disembodied head of Morbius who's quite talkative this week:

SOLON: The Doctor and the girl have only been here a few hours. Morbius, his head is perfect for the purpose. Once I have it, we can begin our final operation.
MORBIUS: If the head is suitable, why haven't you already started?
SOLON: I think he suspects
MORBIUS: There are two of you! Your servant, Condo, has the strength of a giant.
SOLON: There might be a struggle, and the brain could suffer irreparable damage. It must be in perfect condition!
MORBIUS: Do you think I care about my ultimate appearance? Just to walk again, to feel, to see!
SOLON: Naturally, that is how you think now, my lord, but when you are once more a physical entity, imagine how you will see yourself then. Think how it will be then.
MORBIUS: Solon, I think of nothing else! Trapped like this, like a sponge beneath the sea. Yet even a sponge has more life than I. Can you understand a thousandth of my agony? I, Morbius, who once led the High Council of the Time Lords and dreamed the greatest dreams in history, now reduced to this, to a condition where I envy a vegetable.
SOLON: You must endure for only a little while longer. I swear it. I have sent the Doctor into a trap.
So Morbius is a Time Lord? Yet another addition to our now list of Renegade Timelords which already includes the Doctor himself, the Meddling Monk and the Master.

Unfortunately Solon has left out one crucial detail...

MORBIUS: Is it time, Solon?
SOLON: I do not yet have the Time Lord's head, master.
MORBIUS: What do you mean, Time Lord?
SOLON: The Doctor.
MORBIUS: The Doctor is a Time Lord?
SOLON: That is why his head is so perfect. From one of your own race, from one of those who turned up on you and tried to destroy you, you get a new head for Morbius. The crowning irony.
MORBIUS: Fool!
SOLON: I'm sorry, the pun was irresistible.
MORBIUS: You fool, Solon. Don't you see what this means? The Time Lords have tracked me down.
SOLON: No, you're wrong.
MORBIUS: I am not wrong. I know the Time Lords. Pallid, devious worms. You had the Doctor here and you let him go. You were tricked!
SOLON: You mean Maren and the Doctor plotted together?
MORBIUS: Of course they did! And now the Time Lords will return in force to finish their work. Find me helpless, defenceless. They'll destroy me, Solon. Because of you, they'll destroy me! All my suffering will have been for nothing.
SOLON: And all my work. All that terrible, lonely isolation. What can I do? How can I stop them?
MORBIUS: We have only one chance. You must get me away from here before they arrive.
SOLON: I can't. The support cell can't be moved, and without it your brain would die.
MORBIUS: The body can be my support system. You must get me into it, Solon.
SOLON: That is impossible. Without a head it cannot be done.
MORBIUS : You have the girl. Use her head.
SOLON : The female braincase is too small. If I were to attempt it, you would die as surely as at the hands of the Time Lords. MORBIUS: I have to get out of this tank! Solon, you spoke once of constructing an artificial braincase.
SOLON: I abandoned that a long time ago.
MORBIUS: Why?
SOLON: Because there were too many problems. Formidable problems. There was no way of eliminating the build-up of static electricity within the cranial cavity. Periodically it would have earthed through the brain, upsetting the delicate equilibrium, dislocating the neural centres.
MORBIUS: But you made a braincase.
SOLON: Yes! It's here somewhere..... No, it can't be done, Morbius. There would be severe pain, there would be seizures, perhaps even madness.
MORBIUS: Whatever the risks are, I will take them rather than surrender to the Time Lords. There is no choice left to me, Solon.
SOLON: I will do my utmost, my lord, with all the skill I have.
MORBIUS: Prepare me for the operation.
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Central to this story's success is our old friend Philip Madoc, playing Solon. He was previously in two of the stories that David Maloney directed in the sixth season, Patrick Troughton's last. He was in The Krotons as Eelek then The War Games as the War Lord and will return in The Power of Kroll as Fenner. Before his Doctor Who TV appearances he was in the second 1960s Dalek Movie: Dalek Invasion of Earth 2164ad as Brockley.

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Voicing Morbius is Michael Spice who'll be back as Magnus Greel in The Talons of Weng-Chiang as well as providing a voice in the final episode of Blake's 7 second season, Star One, as the ill fated Nova Queen Pilot. Inside the Morbius Monster now it's up on it's feet is another familiar name: Stuart Fell who was Alpha Centauri in The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon, a tramp in Planet of the Spiders, a Wirrn in The Ark in Space and a Kraal in the previous story The Android Invasion. He'll be back as an entertainer in The Masque of Mandragora, a Sontaran in The Invasion of Time and Roga in State of Decay. In earlier episodes, recorded during the first recording block for the serial, the headless Morbius is played by Alan Crisp. This is his only Doctor Who but he too has Blake's 7's to his name appearing as a Prisoner in The Way Back, Space Fall & Cygnus Alpha, the first three episodes of the series.

The other thread of the story is the Doctor's visit to the Sisterhood.

OHICA: Why have you returned?
DOCTOR: I need some of your Elixir.
MAREN: At last you confess.
DOCTOR: No, not for myself. Sarah was blinded by the ray from your ring. I need the Elixir to restore her sight.
MAREN: This is what Solon said?
DOCTOR: Yes.
MAREN: But he knows the effect of the ray is not permanent.
OHICA: The girl will recover.
DOCTOR: I see. A wasted journey. Well, thank you, ladies. That's really all I called about.
So why did the Solon send the Doctor to them? If he wants the Doctor's head for himself surely it must be easier to hold him captive in the castle or have Condo overpower him? And, come to think of it, why just the head? Would it not be easier to transplant Morbius' head into the Doctor's body? Which then leads us to the Morbius body itself.... why construct one from parts when you could wait for a whole one to come along. Why not use Condo's instead of taking the arm off? It looks to me like Solon's gone down some mad track of thought and not bothered to think it through properly!.

Of course this aspect is taken from the Frankenstein's Monster tale. Terrance Dicks had it explained in his original version by a malfunctioning robot attempting to rebuild the body but this aspect was changed by and Robert Holmes in his rewrite becoming a major hole in the story and one of the main things Terrance objected to leading to him taking his name off it!

MAREN: You have been condemned to die.
DOCTOR: We're not going through all that again. If I wanted to steal from you, would I come in through the front door?
MAREN: Then why did you come to Karn if not to steal?
DOCTOR: I can't answer that question, Maren, until I know what Solon intends, but I have a feeling something incredibly evil is brewing.
OHICA: Nothing happens on Karn without our knowledge.
DOCTOR: A Time Lord could live on Karn without your knowledge. He could place a barrier around his mind.
MAREN: What are you suggesting?
DOCTOR: Morbius was a Time Lord.
MAREN: Oh, that name again. I tell you, I saw his execution. I saw his body placed in the dispersal chamber. Nothing of Morbius, not the smallest atom, still exists.
DOCTOR: Was Solon living on Karn at the time?
MAREN: I believe so.
So Morbius' execution is a relatively recent event: we know Solon is human from an earlier episode.
MAREN: There were many on Karn then. They came from all across the galaxy to attend the trial of Morbius.
DOCTOR: A war criminal. A ruthless dictator, but with millions of fanatical followers and admirers.
MAREN: Riff-raff and mercenaries. The army he brought to Karn was the scum of the galaxy.
OHICA: He promised them the Elixir of Life and immortality.
MAREN: Morbius betrayed our secret. Until then, only the Time Lords knew of the Elixir. Now we have to remain constantly on guard against the entire cosmos.
DOCTOR: Yes, well, that's something else I want to mention. You really can't go on dragging innocent space travellers to their deaths.
MAREN: Innocent?
DOCTOR: Until proved guilty. Those spaceships might just be passing. No, if I'm going to help you, I must insist upon one thing.
MAREN: What?
DOCTOR: Wrecking of spaceships has got to stop. Agreed?
Ah! The origin of the Sisterhood's paranoia stands revealed!
MAREN: Your arrogance is limitless, Doctor. I've only to raise my finger for you to be put to death.
DOCTOR: But I'd be no use to you dead, Maren, and you do have a problem.
MAREN: The Flame of Life.
The Doctor discovered the problem with the flame during his visit in episode 2:
MAREN: The Time Lords acted then as they do now, from self-interest. They too feared Morbius. They too depended on the Elixir of Life for their survival.
OHICA: And now the Elixir no longer forms, you Time Lords want for yourselves the little that remains.
DOCTOR: What do you mean, the Elixir no longer forms?
OHICA: The Sacred Flame dies.
DOCTOR: How can it? That flame is the product of gases forcing up along a geological fault from deep in the molten heart of the planet. It will burn for millions of years.
MAREN: It dies.
DOCTOR: Unless some subterranean movement. Have you noticed any tremors recently?
Now he gets the chance to solve the problem....
DOCTOR: No Flame, no Elixir. No Elixir, pretty soon no Sisterhood.
MAREN: When the Flame dies, our Sisterhood dies. It is ordained.
DOCTOR: There's nothing mystical about that flame, Maren. It's a perfectly natural phenomenon. If it's dying, there must be a reason. A scientific, physical reason.
MAREN: I have served the Flame for centuries. There is nothing to be done.
DOCTOR: Then you have nothing to lose by letting me see it.
OHICA: He is right, Maren. What harm is there?
MAREN: Send the guards to the outer chamber.
DOCTOR: Thank you.
MAREN: No eyes outside the Sisterhood have ever looked upon the Flame of Life.
OHICA: It is even lower!
DOCTOR: Is it always this colour?
MAREN: Always.
DOCTOR: Fascinating. And the heat from the flame causes oxidation of the chemicals in the rocks, and then, no doubt, a chemical reaction with rising superheated gases and you have your Elixir. The impossible dream of a thousand alchemists dripping like tea from an urn.
MAREN: Do not try to understand mysteries beyond the reach of the mind.
DOCTOR: Oh, I wouldn't think they're beyond a decent spectrograph, Maren. One could probably synthesise that stuff by the gallon, though the consequences would be appalling.
OHICA: What do you mean?
DOCTOR: What? Everyone trying to live forever? No. Death is the price we pay for progress, you know.
MAREN: You speak in riddles, Doctor.
Terrance Dicks returns to the theme of immortality being a curse in The Five Doctors.
MAREN: The Time Lords were glad enough of the Elixir.
DOCTOR: Only in rare cases. When, for instance, there's some difficulty in regenerating a body. We don't take it regularly like you, otherwise we'd fall into the same trap.
MAREN: And what trap are we in?
DOCTOR: Immortality. You must have been old when the Elixir was discovered. How many centuries have passed while you have remained unchanged. How long since anything here changed?
MAREN: Nothing here ever changes.
DOCTOR: Exactly my point. No progress. Please, stand back.
MAREN: What is that?
DOCTOR: A little demon.
MAREN: Stop! He must not touch
OHICA: The Flame is dead.
MAREN: Take him. Guards! You have defiled the magic of the mountain. Now you must die!
OHICA: The Sacred Flame! We are saved, High One!
DOCTOR: Soot, that's all. There'll be no charge. Of course, you won't get any Elixir for quite a while yet. This rock's got to warm right through.
MAREN: And so now, Doctor, you expect us to show gratitude?
The conversation ends on this sinister note and when we next see The Doctor he's lying on a stretcher being carried towards the castle by the Sisterhood. The insinuation is clear: despite what he's done the Doctor has been killed by the sisterhood who have acceded to Solon's request for his body but I wonder how many people watching it would really have thought that the Doctor had been killed by them?

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The two leading members of the Sisterhood are Cynthia Grenville, playing their leader Maren, and
Gillian Brown, who is Ohica. Neither appear to have made any other significant appearances in anything science fiction that I've seen. The one member of the Sisterhood who has is Sue Bishop, and don't ask me to point out which of the sisterhood she is! She was in in Blake's 7: Pressure Point as a Mutoid and Traitor as a Helot.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

419 The Brain of Morbius: Part Two

EPISODE: The Brain of Morbius: Part Two
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 419
STORY NUMBER: 084
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 10 January 1976
WRITER: Robin Bland (pseudonym for Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes)
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 9.3 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Brain Of Morbius

"Confess that you were sent here to steal the Elixir of Life, and your death will be made easy!"

Solon returns to the laboratory so Sarah hides. Solon & Condo & hunting the Doctor and conclude Maran, the head of the sisterhood has taken him. The Doctor wakes in the sisterhood's sanctuary and they accuse him of being sent to steel the elixir. They tell him of Morbius' crimes on Karn and his execution but the Doctor insists he felt the presence of his mind. Sarah follows Solon & Condo as they go to the sanctuary, interrupting the Doctor's being sacrificed to the flame to bargain for his life and Solon offers his servant's life for the Doctor's. While Solon debates with Maran a disguised Sarah loosens the Doctor's bonds allowing him to escape when the fire is lit. Maran fires an energy blast at them from her ring which blinds Sarah. Condo argues with Solon, upset that his master would offer him for sacrifice. Solon promises to reattach his arm. The Doctor brings Sarah to Solon to get him to look at her eyes. In the depths of the castle Solon confers with an unseen colleague that he addresses as Morbius but is summoned away by Condo when the Doctor & Sarah return. Solon examines Sarah but while he is doing so the Doctor catches sight of the Monster. Condo escorts Sarah from the lab as Solon tells the Doctor Sarah's sight is nearly completely destroyed and only the elixir of life can save it. The Doctor leaves to obtain some. Stumbling around the castle Sarah hears a voice calling for Solon and descends the stairs to the basement. Condo is sent with a message to the sisterhood and urged to get there before the Doctor. Sarah comes into the basement lab where Morbius' brain is housed in a jar.

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Just tops. Fabulous. A little bit "to and fro between the castle and the sanctuary" in places but each move is justified by the plot. The end reveal of the titular Brain of Morbius, after seeing the body and hearing the voice earlier is great! Lovely piece of special effects/prop work as it sits there bubbling in a jar.

The sisterhood seem very keen to kill The Doctor:

DOCTOR: Have I been ill long, nurse?
MAREN: I am leader of the Sisters.
DOCTOR: Hmm? Sorry, matron.
MAREN: Maren.
DOCTOR: No, thank you. I had a little drink about an hour ago. Events have moved along while I was asleep.
MAREN: You feign ignorance, Time Lord?
DOCTOR: Please, just call me Doctor. I hate all this bowing and scraping.
MAREN: Do you wish to confess?
DOCTOR: Confess? To what?
MAREN: That you were sent here by the High Council of the Time Lords.
DOCTOR: Well, I have to confess
MAREN: Good.
DOCTOR: That I don't really know. The calibrators have been on the blink recently. How did you get her here, by the way?
OHICA: The power of the Sisterhood.
DOCTOR: Really? What, you mean you still practise teleportation? How quaint. Now, if you got yourself a decent forklift truck
MAREN: Doctor, you have but a little time left. Will you waste it prattling nonsense or confess your guilt.
DOCTOR: What do you mean, I have but a little time left?
MAREN: Before you die.
DOCTOR: But I'm only seven hundred and forty nine. Life doesn't begin until seven hundred and
MAREN: At the next sun. That is agreed.
DOCTOR: Not by me, it isn't. I haven't even been consulted.
MAREN: Confess that you were sent here to steal the Elixir of Life, and your death will be made easy.
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Second time in two stories that the Doctor's been tied up round a pole: Stygrron tied him to the memorial in Adroid Invasion part 3.

Yet we know there's been a close association between the Sisterhood and the Time Lords in the past. They've shared the elixir with them:

MAREN: As you know, Ohica, the secret of the Life Elixir is known only to our sisterhood and the High Council of the Time Lords. Since the time of the stones we have shared the Elixir with them. Now there is none to share.
Maren was even present at the execution of their enemy Morbius, who as yet we know little about.
DOCTOR: I haven't the vaguest notion of what you're talking about. The last thing I remember, I was taking a glass of wine with Solon and Morbius.
MAREN: Morbius is dead.
DOCTOR: That's right. Morbius is dead.
DOCTOR: How did I get that impression?
MAREN: The Time Lords destroyed Morbius for his crimes here on Karn.
DOCTOR: Solon had a clay model of his head. But it was more than that. A living mental contact. I felt the mind of Morbius.
OHICA: Morbius was executed for leading the rebellion. His body was placed in a dispersal chamber and atomised to the nine corners of the universe.
DOCTOR: I know that. But I tell you, Maren. Just for a second, before I passed out, his mind touched mine. I felt his burning hatred and anguish. Morbius is alive.
MAREN: I suppose you think raising these old fears can somehow help you, but I was present at his execution. Morbius is dead, Doctor, and you will join him very shortly.
Indeed the Time Lords' and the Sisterhood's home planets, Gallifrey and Karn, would appear to be close together:
DOCTOR: I thought I recognised the stars.
SARAH: You've been here before?
DOCTOR: I was born in these parts.
SARAH: Near here?
DOCTOR: Well, within a couple of billion miles, yes.
Maren knows enough about Time Lord Technology to recognise The Tardis, even in it's disguised form as an Earth Police Box:
MAREN: I was right, Ohica. It is a time machine.
OHICA: Of the kind
MAREN: A Tardis. Only the Time Lords know the secret of such machines.
OHICA: Then the one I saw is a Time Lord.
MAREN: Sent here to steal the Elixir.
OHICA: Maren, what can we do? Alone among all the races in our galaxy, the Time Lords are our equals in mind power.
MAREN: That is true, Ohica. Other races we can destroy from within. We can place death in the centre of their beings, send them mad with false visions. But with this one such powers would have no effect. He would close his mind to us.
OHICA: Then we are lost!
It's quite interesting that Maren uses here ring to blind Sarah. Once upon a time the Doctor owned a ring which seemed to have extraordinary powers:

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Both The Meddling Monk and The Master have also been seen to be wearing rings as a symbol of power in the past, so it's quite possible that as well as the Elixir being shared with the Timelords they have shared some of their technology with the sisterhood.

Yes the sisterhood have problems with their flame

OHICA: The Flame of Life! Maren, what is wrong? Why is it so low?
MAREN: The Flame dies, Ohica. Every month, every day, it sinks lower.
But why be so quick to turn on their once allies?
MAREN: As you know, Ohica, the secret of the Life Elixir is known only to our sisterhood and the High Council of the Time Lords. Since the time of the stones we have shared the Elixir with them. Now there is none to share.
MAREN: The few phials that are left I have kept for ourselves. But for months I have felt the Time Lords would come to rob us of these last precious drops.
OHICA: You think the two I saw have been sent to steal the Elixir?
MAREN: If that is so, we must deal with them.
I think the answer is found elsewhere in the episode
MAREN: What is the favour, Solon?
SOLON: In all the years I've been here on Karn, I've never asked or sought anything of the Sisterhood before. I've helped you, I've treated many of the Sisterhood.
MAREN: All this is true.
Solon's had contact with the Sisterhood. He must know of the problems they've got with the flame: Why else would he be treating one of their members if the Elixir has healing properties, as he tells the Doctor?
DOCTOR: Can't you operate?
SOLON: The retina's almost completely destroyed. There's nothing I can do for her.
DOCTOR: Nothing?
SOLON: Well, there's a faint chance.
DOCTOR: A chance?
SOLON: No, it's impossible.
DOCTOR: What chance?
SOLON: The Elixir of Life. As you know, it regenerates tissues. But the Sisterhood control its only source. You're not going to get any from there.
I suspect that Solon has been speaking to Maren and the sisterhood and dripping sweet but poisonous words into their ears about their allies.

That doesn't mean to say he hasn't got plans for the Sisterhood too:

SOLON: Then he must still be unconscious. He can't have moved. That squalid brood of harpies, the Sisterhood. That accursed hag Maren found I was holding a Time Lord and rescued him. May her stinking bones rot! I'll see her die, Condo. I'll see that palsied harridan scream for death before Morbius and I are finished with her.
Frankenstein isn't the only story "borrowed" from for this serial: The name Morbius is a steal from the film Forbidden Planet, previously homaged in Planet of Evil. The planet name Karn is taken from author Terrance Dicks' own Doctor Who stage play The Seven Keys to Doomsday. The brain in a jar we see at the end is a horror staple, but a living brain? well there's two anitcendants that I can think of: Doctor Who's own The Keys of Marinus which has the Brains of Morphotron in the second episode but more importantly the Roald Dahl short story William & Mary where a man's brain is preserved living after his death. I saw it dramatised in Tales of the Unexpected (The episode guide says it first aired 1979 so I'm guessing that it's a repeat I caught in the mid eighties) and it lodged in my mind so much that when Liz turned a radio adaptation on in the car the other month I recognised it immediately! It's available on DVD in Tales Of The Unexpected - The Complete First Series and Tales Of The Unexpected - The Complete Series