As of this morning, I have now watched one half of all television episodes of Doctor Who that have ever been produced. That includes watching reconstructions of every single missing episode. I have been at this since the 20th of February, seven and a half months of viewing and treadmilling, and I have made it from November of 1963 up to January of 1976. Of course that doesn't mean I am halfway done in terms of time. Thus far I have been watching two twenty-five-minute episodes per day, and I will be continuing at that for a good long while yet. But there is a point during the Sixth Doctor's era where the episodes go to 45 minutes, so it will be one per day for those, and then the modern series episodes will all be one per day since they are full hour episodes. I haven't mapped out exactly when I will finish with the main series, but I expect it will be sometime next summer. After that I have Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Chronicles and the like. I am a good long way from being done. But today? I hit fifty percent on episodes, which is a pretty nifty milestone. Even better, when I weighed in this morning I was still more than fifty pounds lighter than when I started this project. How cool is that?
So anyway, today I started in on the Frankenstein pastiche. Let's talk about that.
The Brain of Morbius - Parts 1 & 2
(TARDIS Data Core recap)
I have to admit I was a little leery when I read the description of this one. If I have ever seen it before, I don't recall it at all. In a nutshell, there is a mad scientist with a very Igor-like servant, building a Creature for which only the head remains to be added. The Doctor and Sara arrive, and the mad scientist immediately decides that the Doctor has the perfect head to complete the job. What could have been a pretty weak story, though, turns out to be quite good. Although the inspiration for the story is quite plain, the deviations make it very watchable. Most notably, the presence of the Sisterhood of Karn makes for an engaging secondary conflict. It turns out that the Sisterhood has a long history with the Time Lords, and they fear that the Doctor is there on a nefarious mission to destroy them. As for the mad scientist, it turns out that he is not building just any Creature but in fact is building a new body to house the titular Brain of Morbius -- Morbius being a notorious outlaw Time Lord.
The first episode opens with a very creepy sequence featuring a Mutt (the creatures featured in the Third Doctor story The Mutants) being brutally killed and beheaded by the mad scientist's servant. Sure, the murder and decapitation happens out of frame, but the sound effects are particularly squishy. The sequence immediately sets the tone for the entire story, and is very effective.
Then there is the Sisterhood of Karn, with their hypnotic choreography and chanting. In fact, they are so well done that they wind up being dredged up and used in a couple of modern Doctor Who stories decades later. Their mysticism has it's own brand of creepiness, especially in the sequence where they decide to sacrifice the Doctor by burning him at the stake (he is promptly rescued by Sarah Jane before he event gets singed).
During the escape from the attempted sacrifice, Sarah becomes blinded by a flash of light from the leader of the Sisterhood. This in turn leads the Doctor to take Sarah Jane back to the mad scientist's castle to see if her eyes can be healed. All of which leads to the part two cliffhanger in which Sarah Jane comes face to face with Morbius' throbbing brain-in-a-jar. It sounds like cliche kind of stuff, but is really well executed.
Although the writing credit for this story goes to "Robin Bland", that is actually a pseudonym for Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes. Apparently the original script treatment by Dicks had issues related to budgetary constraints, so Holmes extensively re-wrote it to make the story filmable within budget. Dicks was not happy with the changes, and demanded that the writing credit be given to "some bland pseudonym". Thus, Robin Bland was born. The biggest change was that originally the mad scientist's servant was supposed to be a robot. which might have been interesting. That being said, I quite like the performance of the character as ultimately written. I think it was a good change, however annoyed Dicks may have been by it.
I am falling asleep at my desk, so I am going to wrap this up. Tomorrow is the second half of this story, and then Thursday I start one of may all-time favorite Tom Baker stories - The Seeds of Doom (not to be confused with The Seeds of Death, which is something entirely different.
This is shaping up to be an excellent week.
Companion(s): Sarah Jane Smith
Episode(s): The Brain of Morbius - Parts 1 & 2
Steps Walked: 7,171 today, 1,434,668 total
Distance Walked: 3.75 miles today, 712.45 miles total
Weight: 259.18 lbs (five day moving average), net change -48.12 lbs