Tuesday, October 27, 2009

4K4 - The Brain of Morbius 4

Picture in your mind these three scenes in Doctor Who history: a shocking scene that contains blood, another which sees The Doctor callously mocking a disfigured rival, and a third scene that sees The Doctor killing his enemy with cyanide. You can find these three scenes in two separate instances in Doctor Who history. One, over the course of Season 22, Colin Baker's first full season as The Doctor. The second, throughout the four episodes of The Brain of Morbius.

What a difference nine years make. Such violence is seen as dark, edgy and brilliant in 1976's The Brain of Morbius. The same approach was one of the main reasons Doctor Who was nearly canceled for good in 1985. Why is there such a disparate reaction between the two eras in Doctor Who history? Is it because the Philip Hinchliffe era is perceived to actually good, a public perception not often granted to the Colin Baker era?

My opinions on the Sixth Doctor era will have to wait for another day, but the main reason why The Brain of Morbius is so good is because it pushes the boundaries of decency to their absolute limits, possibly at the risk of crossing the lines a few times (which it does in spades). There is no point in producing anything - be it television, film, radio, or even something as mundane as spreadsheets or gardening utensils - if the people responsible for its creation aren't going to give it their all, despite what possible limitations might stand in their way. The Brain of Morbius is the culmination of just such an attitude, with everyone turning it up to eleven to produce one of the most grim, shocking, and thoroughly entertaining stories in Doctor Who history.

That initial impression that was left on me when I was 12 years old is now shattered.


Robert Konigsberg said...

I've really enjoyed coming back to this story after watching Night of the Doctor. By and large you only need to watch the first ten minutes of episode one, if back-references is your goal, but this story is such a pleasure, for reasons you've already covered well, that the story flies by.

What's funny is that only when I saw Morbius come alive, and see the naked arm move did I realize it was just the actor's arm in the costume, rather than Condo's. That's just how drawn into the story I became.

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