Thursday, June 21, 2012


"I can't be stuck on a bad set with a crap bubble-headed monster
behind me..maybe if I close my eyes I'll be back in
Pyramids of Mars...that's it...I'm in Pyramids of Mars..."
"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."

1) Well, I guess when you devote large chunks of your tenure reworking classic horror tropes, sometimes you come up with Pyramids of Mars, and sometimes you come up with The Brain of Morbius....sigh.

What a piece of crap.

2) This commits the worst sin a serial can commit--even with its mishmosh of Frankenstein, Day of The Triffids and even bits of the H. Rider Haggard adaptations Hammer made in the 60's, it's an actively boring story. It's such a tired little plot (or to be more precise, a script that was hammered into a tired little plot since budget constraints prevented the building of an effective robotic villain), and all the different elements seemed thrown in to disguise the fact.

3) At least it's comforting to realize that even with the mess that this story became through Robert Holmes' rewrite of Terrence Dicks' script, the interplay between Sarah and The Doctor is still massively entertaining. Even when, for no apparent reason whatsover, Sarah gets blinded and starts wallowing in self pity, The Doctor makes a statement that's very serious yet has an element of humor to it. And there are a couple of moments where the water treading of the plot is carried solely by Baker and Sladen. It's not enough to save this horrid little story, but it's enough to take some of the sting out of it.

4) And another small thing--Hinchcliffe continues to find a way to acknowledge the rich history of the series in subtle ways. The choice to make the creature in the first episodes' teaser a Mutt from the Pertwee era serial The Mutants reinforces the coherence of the universe without drawing attention to itself (unlike, say, the unexplained cameo by The Macra in the 'Gridlock' episode of the new series), and the dialogue between the two contains several references to their history together. Even that dopey 'mindbending' scene contains slight namechecking of the other three Doctors before the production staff gets out of control and starts putting pictures of themselves in the machine's viewer.

5) I think this story could even be a little more tolerable--not salvageable, but tolerable--if the entire cast wasn't so scenery-chewing while being so earnest. Some of the performances, particularly Philip Madoc's Solon, is so borderline hysterical in its mood swings that it's hard to take seriously. And this kind of operatic style infects every single character unique to that serial, even minor ones like Gilly Brown's Ohica with her tendency to cross her hands over her chest before making every pronouncement. This sort of behavior doesn't give life to the serial; it sucks it of life.
Somehow, Tom Baker's bondage fantasy seems so much more
exciting in his head....

6) And since I namechecked Solon--this guy is the biggest goof ever. He's supposed to be one of the premiere surgeons in the universe, yet he seems to put no thought in building Morbius' body. He seems incapable of effectively concealing his motives in front of The Doctor, Maren or Susan. He actively teases and bullies Colin Fay's Condo, who is clearly capable of taking him apart in a second. Even when he is about to be hook-handed to death by Condo, he is unable to convince the man--who is portrayed as mentally challenged--to spare him unitil he bargains with him. Especially when compared to other Hinchcliffe masterminds like Sutekh, Davros and, later, Magnus Greel, Solon is an idiot.

7) I made reference to the 'mindbending' of the reasons I find this scene so stultifying is because the script has a near-mindless Morbius in his flying-saucer head and ridiculous patchwork body (a body that even Sarah gets to mock as 'Mr. All-Sorts' and Chop Suey at points) stomping around the rocks and smacking people around, then has him dragged back to Solon's home so he reattach Morbius' brain fully....juuuuust long enough for Morbius to burst in on The Doctor and engage in 'Gallifreyan wrestling' for a minute, at which point Morbius' brain is burnt out and he's right back to being near-mindless again. There's no reason for Solon to complete the operation save to have that moment--which is full of fan service and in-jokes.
"Looooooooove/all shiny and neeeeeeew...."

8) For someone that the script makes out to be the most terrible Time Lord ever, a personage who almost toppled the Council, Morbius comes off as a pratt. Granted, this doofus spent years as a brain in a jar, but all he does for the first three episodes is yell about how he hates it here and accusing Sarah of being a spy. And once he does get his patchwork body, all he does is laugh awkwardly save for that one moment with The Doctor. We're told that Morbius is bad news, but we're never shown it.

9) And then there's The Sisterhood of Karn, the mock-She cult that fails to impress for a number of reason. The budget doesn't help them, especially given how their flame-shaped blades look just like wooden lollipops. Their monotonous dancing and singing, which they seem to do at the drop of a hat, gets old fast. And there's a real whiff of school play to their interaction with each other. Since these women seem ineffectual, and Solon seems ineffectual, the whole serial appears to be The Doctor mediating a dispute between two small children playing super-hero.

10) Even though there are moments that are consistent with the portrayal of Sarah under Hinchcliffe, there are stretches where she does obtain the dreaded status of Girl School Screamer. This is especially obvious during the episode and change where she's blinded; her dialogue becomes just a series of shrieks, squeals and whines. This is Sarah at her worst, and it actually diminishes the character in the context of this serial.

Overall...the lowest point of this high point in the series' run. Avoid.

No comments:

Post a Comment