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DVD Talk review of 'Doctor Who: The Brain of Morbius'

Old 10-16-08, 03:38 PM
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DVD Talk review of 'Doctor Who: The Brain of Morbius'

I read David Cornelius's DVD review of Doctor Who: The Brain of Morbius at http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=35082 and...

I've *always* interpreted the mental battle to reveal images of both participant's past regenerations. That is, as a participant "takes a hit" so to speak, he relies more and more upon the mental prowess that is the sum of all his previous regenerations. When you've exhausted all the mental resources you've obtained from all of your past selves, then you have run out of mental power, so to speak, and you lose -- and in this case a loss could mean death. So, when Morbius asks "how many regenerations have you had, Doctor?" he is pitting the combined mental might of his own history of regenerations against those of the Doctor. We see the Doctor go all the way back to his first self (i.e., William Hartnell) and things look dire -- the Doctor has no more to fall back on (i.e., he's now using the full sum of all his mental prowess) and appears to be on the verge of losing. But then we see previous incarnations of Morbius appear -- and we then know that the tide has turned and the Doctor is now winning the battle, forcing Morbius to fall back.

I've never heard anyone suggest that the other faces we see are not those of Morbius but of the Doctor.

At any rate, this is indeed a great episode and is easily one of my top five all-time favorites.
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Old 10-17-08, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by moonraker View Post
I've never heard anyone suggest that the other faces we see are not those of Morbius but of the Doctor.
Many people have. To quote Wikipedia:

"Those same faces have caused much debate among fans because they seemingly show past incarnations of the Doctor prior to the First Doctor, contradicting The Three Doctors (which refers to the First Doctor as the earliest incarnation)..."
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Old 10-17-08, 10:31 AM
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It even comes up in the DVD special features - as written, they're supposed to be past Doctors, a major slip for continuity even at that point.

Personally, I prefer Moonraker's theory, partly because it's tidy, continuity-wise, but I also care too little about that scene to have it matter much either way.
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Old 10-17-08, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by David Cornelius View Post
It even comes up in the DVD special features - as written, they're supposed to be past Doctors, a major slip for continuity even at that point.

Personally, I prefer Moonraker's theory, partly because it's tidy, continuity-wise, but I also care too little about that scene to have it matter much either way.

WOW. I will definitely be checking out the special features to see what is said about this (and by whom). Since author Robert Holmes is no longer with us, it might simply be conjecture if stated by someone else.

Nonetheless, having seen this episode many times (as its one of my all time very favorites), I have NEVER interpretated those other images to be of the Doctor. The context of the scene makes it clear, to me at least, that they are images of Morbius' past incarnations. Not to mention the fact that the other "theory" makes no sense given that we know Hartnell was the original incarnation of the Doctor. Hard to believe that such a blatant and significant continuity gaffe could go unnoticed by everyone involved in the production -- and moreoever that such a gaffe could have been written by veteran Who writer & script editor Robert Holmes (or veteran Who writer & script editor Terrence Dicks if this segment was from his original draft).

Finally, the timing of Morbius' loss makes much more sense with my interpretation: we see Morbius' past incarnations flying by and then he loses the battle. He has run out of mental ammunition (no more past regenerations to fall back on), hence his loss. If, on the other hand, those are images of the Doctor's past incarnations, then Morbius' sudden loss doesn't make as much sense -- he just randomly loses the battle at this moment? Doesn't make as much sense to me.

Very interesting, David & John! But I'm sticking with my original interpretation. Look forward, as always, to more of your Who reviews!

Mike

Last edited by moonraker; 10-17-08 at 12:30 PM.
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Old 10-17-08, 11:57 AM
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As a teen, I always believed those images were Morbius' past incarnations. I've had second thoughts since then. Some time in the late 90s (or maybe even the early 00s), before the Morbius DVD, Philip Hinchcliffe said that he and Robert Holmes were trying to imply that the Doctor had more lives than what we've seen. A strong example of this is the second console room introduced in The Masque of Mandragora. The Doctor states that it's "the old one" (or something to that effect).

There was an article in a Who fanzine (that was republished in the now OOP "License Denied: Rumblings from the Doctor Who Underground") that explored this idea and how it could fit into established Who continuity.

The special features on the Morbius DVD support this theory now. But much like the 70s UNIT stories supposedly taking place in the 1980s, it's all washed over now.
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Old 10-17-08, 02:46 PM
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I had always assumed that they were the Doctor's, which made it so surprising when Morbius lost. I like the idea that they were the other Time Lord's incarnations though.

As far as continuity goes, that's one of the problems with Doctor Who. Just look at how his age has changed over the years.
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Old 10-17-08, 04:13 PM
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From the info text subtitles:

"But what's this? More Doctors? Perhaps the William Hartnell Doctor wasn't the first after all. In order of appearance..." (a long list of names telling who's who - no pun intended) "...That's eight more Doctors prior to William Hartnell! At the time, this wasn't necessarily a problem, if slightly puzzling for the fans who thought that William Hartnell must have been the first Doctor - the only time the series confirmed this prior to 'The Brain of Morbius' was in 'The Three Doctors' (1973), when the Time Lord Chancellor asks to be shown the earliest Doctor, and William Hartnell's Doctor appears on screen."

The text then goes on to explain later continuity developments (the idea of limited regeneration, etc.) and offer some of the fan theories put forth to fix everything. (One idea: They're all younger and younger images of the first Doctor, who, after all, lived a long time.) The text finishes the scene by explaining why crew members, not actors, were chosen to "play" the other Doctors.

The making-of documentary is less clear about things, spending plenty of time discussing the hows but not much on the whys - Terrance Dicks jokes that he didn't really think much of it, and figures the fans can sort it out on their own.

Unrelated change of topic: Looking back on the disc, I'm dismayed that I didn't comment in my review how perfect this serial is for Halloween. Gothic castles, mad monsters, brains in jars! Trick or treat, indeed.
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Old 10-17-08, 04:23 PM
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Oh, and:

Originally Posted by moonraker View Post
But I'm sticking with my original interpretation.
Me too!
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Old 10-18-08, 05:08 AM
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To give a little perspective, I started watching Doctor Who in the early-mid 80s, probably around '83 or '84.

From thumbing through copies of Starlog at the grocery store and watching "Logopolis," I was aware that the Doctor regenerated and had been played by different actors, but I wasn't aware how many there were and what they looked like.

So I went into the Morbius/Doctor "mind duel" without knowing much.

I had assumed at the time that I was seeing a mix of previous Doctors and Morbiuses; the only previous Doctor I could pick out was Troughton because of the Moe haircut. I wasn't aware that the original intent was for the images to all have been The Doctor until I read it on Wikipedia a couple of years ago.
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Old 10-18-08, 05:25 AM
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Originally Posted by The Valeyard View Post
A strong example of this is the second console room introduced in The Masque of Mandragora. The Doctor states that it's "the old one" (or something to that effect).
Didn't Sarah Jane pick up the second Doctor's recorder in that scene? Seems to imply that Doctor #2 was using that control room.

There was an article in a Who fanzine (that was republished in the now OOP "License Denied: Rumblings from the Doctor Who Underground") that explored this idea and how it could fit into established Who continuity.

The special features on the Morbius DVD support this theory now. But much like the 70s UNIT stories supposedly taking place in the 1980s, it's all washed over now.
You're bound to end up with tons of continuity errors when you're dealing with time travel on a show like this.

Even in recent episodes, notice how, in the episode "Dalek," set in 2012, Harry van Stratten didn't now what a Dalek was despite the fact that they invaded Earth on massive global scale a few years before. ("Stolen Earth")

Or the way that the Cybermen become more sophisticated with each chronological appearance even though they're scattered throughout the timeline.

Last edited by Josh-da-man; 10-18-08 at 05:28 AM.
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Old 10-22-08, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Josh-da-man View Post
Didn't Sarah Jane pick up the second Doctor's recorder in that scene? Seems to imply that Doctor #2 was using that control room.
It does. If I remember correctly, they also found one of the Third Doctor's frilly shirts as well. Maybe the Doctor was just using it as a storage room?

Of course, if you're a reader of the Doctor Who novels - The Second Doctor could have used this room during Season 6B.


Originally Posted by Josh-da-man View Post
You're bound to end up with tons of continuity errors when you're dealing with time travel on a show like this.

Even in recent episodes, notice how, in the episode "Dalek," set in 2012, Harry van Stratten didn't now what a Dalek was despite the fact that they invaded Earth on massive global scale a few years before. ("Stolen Earth")

Or the way that the Cybermen become more sophisticated with each chronological appearance even though they're scattered throughout the timeline.
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Old 10-28-08, 11:52 PM
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Another factor to consider is that the twelve regeneration limit wasn't established until The Deadly Assassin, which aired in the season following The Brain of Morbius. It wouldn't have been a big deal to hint at some pre-Hartnell lives if Time Lords had unlimited regenerations. But because there was a limit established, we're worried that the "Morbius Doctors" would be cutting the good Doctor's life short if it's already half over.

I start to wonder how it's perceived that the first generation Doctor lasted 700+ years, then he burns through nine regenerations in just forty-five years. No wonder most of the other Time Lords just stay on Gallifrey.
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