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The Brain of Morbius
Series: Doctor Who - TV Stories
Season Number: Season 13
Story Number: 84
Doctor: Fourth Doctor
Companions: Sarah Jane Smith
Enemy: Morbius
Setting: Karn
Writer: Robin Bland (pseudonym of Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes
Director: Christopher Barry
Broadcast: 3rd January - 24th January 1976
Format: 4 25-minute episodes
Previous Story: The Android Invasion
Following Story: The Seeds of Doom
"How far, Doctor? How long... have you lived?"



Mad scientist Mehendri Solon is building a body from spare parts to house the disembodied brain of the evil Time Lord Morbius, and fancies the Doctor's head as the final piece...



Episode One

On a dark, rocky, remote planet, an injured alien crawls from the wreckage of a space capsule. He doesn't get far, as a brutish killer with a hook in place of a hand emerges from behind a rock and raises his knife...

The Doctor emerges from the TARDIS in a rage. He is sure that some external influence, most likely the Time Lords, has caused them to land on this planet, which he recognizes as Karn, a planet not too far from Gallifrey. Resentful at being expected to do the Time Lords' dirty work, the Doctor sulks while Sarah Jane explores, and she discovers a vast plain where lay the wreckages of dozens of spaceships. Before long they find the decapitated corpse of the alien crash victim, which the Doctor Identifies as a Mutt.

The hook-handed murderer, Condo, brings the alien's head to his master, Mehendri Solon, who finds it unsuitable for his purposes. The presence of the Doctor and Sarah is observed by a red-robed woman, Ohica of the Sisterhood of Karn. She reports to their High Priestess Maren, who suspects that their arrival must be connected to their Sacred Flame. A product of superheated gas, the Flame produces the Elixir of Life that makes them immortal. However, the Flame has been steadily dying, and without the Elixir the Sisterhood is doomed.

The Doctor and Sarah arrive at Solon's castle. Solon greets them, awkwardly remarking on the Doctor's "magnificent head." He dispatches Condo to bring wine. The Doctor recognizes Solon as a distinguished scientist, and a genius in the field of organ and tissue transplantation before his reputation was destroyed by his rumored connection to the followers of Morbius, a tyrannical Time Lord executed for his crimes, which Solon dismisses as professional jealousy. A burst of wind blows open the front door, blowing the cover off a clay bust. The Doctor recognizes the face on the bust as that of Morbius, and senses the presence of Morbius' mind before suddenly passing out; Solon has drugged the wine. Sarah has not partaken of the wine, but feigns unconsciousness anyway. Solon urges Condo to prepare, and they carry the Doctor to the lab. Meanwhile, the Sisterhood form a circle of meditation and focus on the TARDIS, which they teleport into their chamber. They identify it as Time Lord technology, and are convinced that the Time Lords are plotting to steal the last of the Elixir of Life.

Solon and Condo go to repair the generators in advance of the operation, and while they are away, the Doctor disappears. Sarah Jane sneaks into the lab, looking for the Doctor. Opening a curtain she is confronted with a monstrous creature, a patchwork of sewn-together alien body parts, only missing a head...

Episode Two

Maren, matriarch of the Sisterhood of Karn.

Returning to find him gone, Solon realizes the Doctor has been captured by the Sisterhood, and go to fetch him back. Sarah secretly follows them to the lair of the Sisterhood. The Doctor awakens and is accused by Maren of conspiring to steal the Elixir. Jealously protecting the last few drops, the Sisterhood have used their collective psychic energy to crash any passing spaceships (which Solon then scavenges for body parts). His denial isn't believed, and he is sentenced to burn at the stake. During the ceremony, Solon and Condo burst in. Maren, furious at the intrusion, refuses Solon's request to preserve the Doctor's head, as well as refusing to accept Condo in the Doctor's place. They sheepishly exit, and the ceremony continues. Sarah Jane, however, has snuck into the lair and manages to free the Doctor before the flames reach him. A flash of power from Maren's ring, however, blinds Sarah Jane as they escape.

Condo confronts his master about being offered in the Doctor's place. Solon begs for his life, and offers to replace Condo's hook with his real hand. This calms the hulking servant, for the moment. The Doctor brings Sarah Jane to Solon for a consultation. Solon informs the Doctor that the only remedy for her is the Elixir of Life. The Doctor resolves to return to their lair to obtain it. Solon sends Condo with a message to the Sisterhood, again attempting to bargain for the Doctor's head. Solon, in an inner lab, talks to an unseen voice who berates him for the many delays in finishing the body. Solon persuades the voice, whom he refers to as Morbius, for more time, as he now only requires the Doctor's head... As Solon exits, Sarah Jane hears the voice from the inner lab. We see, though she doesn't, that the voice emanates from a disembodied brain kept alive in a large vat. The brain accuses her of being an agent of the Sisterhood sent to destroy him.

The disembodied brain of Morbius.

Episode Three

Solon finds Sarah Jane and rushes her out of the lab. From outside the door, she overhears their plan. Once he has the Doctor's head, he will transplant Morbius's brain into the body of spare parts he is creating, freeing him once more to wage galactic war. She locks Solon in the lab, and stumbles out to find the Doctor.

The Doctor is captured and brought to Maren again. He realises that he's been duped by Solon; Sarah Jane's blindness is only temporary. He persuades Maren to let him examine the Sacred Flame, convinced that there must be a natural reason for the Flame's dwindling. He drops a firecracker down the shaft which dislodges a buildup of soot, and the Flame is restored to its full height.

Once Condo unlocks the door, Solon dispatches him to retrieve Sarah Jane. When Solon mentions that the Doctor is also a Time Lord, Morbius is outraged. The Time Lords, he thinks, have tracked him down. Desperate, he convinces Solon to operate immediately, using an artificial brain case in place of the Doctor's head. As Solon prepares to operate, Condo recognizes one of the creature's arms as his own. He attacks Solon, and so doing he knocks over the tank, and Morbius' brain hits the floor with a splat. Enraged, Solon pulls a gun and shoots Condo several times. He drafts the unwilling Sarah Jane into helping him operate, not knowing the extent of the brain's damage.

During a break in the operation, Solon finds the Doctor's apparently lifeless body left by the Sisterhood, and reflects bitterly on the irony. Meanwhile in the lab, Sarah Jane's eyesight returns as Morbius rises behind her...

Episode Four

Sarah Jane, about to wish she was still blind.

The operation has restored Morbius's motor functions, but his upper intelligence was all but destroyed when his brain hit the ground, and the result is a savage monster. Solon is attacked, and Sarah Jane is saved only by the wounded Condo's self-sacrifice. The Doctor awakens and convinces Solon that they need to hunt the creature down. Solon tranquilizes the creature, but not before it kills one of the Sisterhood. Solon convinces the Doctor that he's going to dismantle the creature, but instead locks the Doctor out of the lab, leaving him free to perfect the operation. The Doctor injects cyanide gas into the lab, killing Solon, but not before he has repaired the damage to Morbius, making him fully sentient once more. Morbius confronts the Doctor and explains that he now has the lungs of a birastrop, rendering him immune to the cyanide. He boasts that despite his monstrous appearance, his followers will rise to join him once more. The Doctor challenges Morbius to a mindbending contest, which overloads after a fierce contest of wills. The Doctor falls to the ground near death, and Morbius reverts to his earlier savagery. The Sisterhood corner Morbius and drive him over a cliff, and he falls to his death. The Doctor's life is restored with the help of the Elixir, produced by Maren's self-sacrifice to the Sacred Flame. The Doctor gives Ohica a pack of firecrackers in case they have any more trouble.




  • The Sisterhood is located on Karn.
  • Gallifrey is within a few billion miles of Karn.
  • Morbius was once Lord President of the High Council on Gallifrey, he tried to steer the Time Lords down a path towards destruction and conquest. He promised eternal life to his fanatical followers, many of whom were mercenaries, and came to Karn to seize the Elixir of Life. The civilisation on Karn, as on many other planets, was destroyed by Morbius.
  • The Sisterhood of Karn took part in Morbius' trial.
  • Solon was living on Karn during Morbius' trial and stole his brain prior to execution.
  • The Doctor states that he had liked his head but has had several, the most recent being an older, grey-haired one which some people liked (prompting agreement from Sarah Jane that she did).
  • It is suggested that the Doctor is sent to Karn by the Time Lords.
  • The faces of the Doctor's first three incarnations appear during the mindbending contest.

Story Notes

  • Some fans have noted some stories which share similar ideas:
  • Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, in which a scientist attempts to create new life by joining together the organs of a number of deceased bodies.
  • Curt Siodmak's 1942 novel Donovan's Brain, in which a scientist tries to keep the disembodied brain of an evil billionaire alive.
  • H. P. Lovecraft's Herbert West - Reanimator, in which a chemist and his fearful assistant attempt to resurrect the dead.
  • At the end of Part Four the TARDIS dematerialises instantaneously, with a flash and a puff of smoke, rather than fading away gradually, and the dematerialisation sound is played at a higher speed than usual.
  • Colin Fay, who played Condo, was an opera singer.
  • Many of the faces in the mental battle between the Doctor and Morbius are members of the crew who worked on this story.


  • Part 1 - 9.5 million viewers
  • Part 2 - 9.3 million viewers
  • Part 3 - 10.1 million viewers
  • Part 4 - 10.2 million viewers


  • Episode 4 of this story is the source of the long running speculation that there are incarnations of the Doctor that precede the first. While the identity of the other faces in the mind battle are never explicitly stated, it's far more likely that they are other incarnations of Morbius, also a Time Lord. In fact during the Mind Bend, we see the present day faces of Morbius and the Doctor switching back and forth, giving further credibility to the idea that the unknown faces were incarnations of Morbius, not the Doctor. The myth persists to this day, despite The Five Doctors (also written by Terrance Dicks), Mawdryn Undead, the 1996 TV movie, The Next Doctor, and other episodes stating clearly that all of the Doctors' incarnations have been accounted for in the TV series.
MA: Cold Fusion suggests that one of these "Morbius Doctors" was the incarnation who was active at the time of Susan's birth. It is possible that the "Morbius Doctors" were a reincarnation of the Other before becoming the Doctor. However, NA: Lungbarrow further muddies the waters by claiming that Gallifreyans such as the Other weren't capable of regeneration, and that, while the Doctor was a sort of "second coming" of the Other generated by the Loom, he was not the same person. Of course, no reference to the Other, the Looms, or Lungbarrow has appeared onscreen, so Occam's Razor would disregard that entirely and simply conclude that the other faces in the mind battle are Morbius's prior incarnations.
  • Implying that the Doctor had earlier incarnations may have been the production team's intent, although this was never followed up on. The Cartmel Masterplan would not come until much later.
  • Barry Newbery's sets for this story were inspired by the work of the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. They weren't, although at director Christopher Barry's request Newbery did look at some of Gaudi's work during the course of his research.
  • Maren mentions a race called the Hoothi who travel in silent gas dirigibles. They are called the Muthi, according to Terrance Dicks's script, but Cynthia Grenville pronounces the name as "Hoot-eye". This is quite clear on the DVD. Author Paul Cornell featured the creatures in his original Doctor Who novel Love and War.
  • Sarah calls the Doctor "Tom" at one stage (during the mindbending sequence). She is actually stammering the word "Doctor".

Filming Locations

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • Morbius' globe head falls apart when he tumbles over the cliff edge, and the camera bounces. He's just been through a fight and is falling off a cliff. He's entitled to a structural defect after that. The camera bounce can simply be indicative of the dramatic nature of his falling.
  • Why doesn't Solon just put the brain into the Doctor's head? Because Solon wanted to give Morbius various other biological advantages in his new body. However, a simple transplant would have likely given Morbius the ability to regenerate again, so Solon's decision is still suspect. Solon does not know how many bodies the Doctor has left and he probably does not want to risk the possiblity that he is on his last. Furthermore, Solon is a deranged egotist with a perverse artistic streak, who expresses great pleasure at the notion of "creating" Morbius anew. Building a new, albeit hideous body, would be a far more effective way for him to demonstrate his full range of surgical expertise and (twisted) creativity.


  • NA: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible expands on who the Sisterhood are, how they came to be and their animosity with the Time Lords / Gallifrey.
  • PDA: Warmonger covers much of Morbius's reign before he was captured by the Time Lords.
  • The Hoothi, briefly mentioned in this story, play a significantly greater role in the novel, NA: Love and War.
  • In PDA: Verdigris Iris Wildthyme reveals she was one of part of the Sisterhood of Karn yelling "Death" at the Doctor.
  • The Doctor's killing of Solon marks one of the few occasions in series history (and possibly the first) in which the character is shown directly and deliberately killing another humanoid being. Other examples include the Fifth Doctor shooting the Cyberleader in Earthshock and the Sixth Doctor smothering Shockeye in The Two Doctors.
  • A Mutt appears. They first appeared in DW: The Mutants.

DVD and Video Releases

DVD releases

R2 Cover Art


Video Releases

Released as Doctor Who: The Brain of Morbius


As noted above, initial home-video releases of The Brain of Morbius used a heavily edited omnibus movie print, with a running time of less than an hour. This was apparently in an attempt to make the serial acceptable for young viewers (in the US it was released on Playhouse, a children's imprint of the CBS Fox label). This edit was heavily criticised and eventually an uncut version was released (though American viewers had to wait a decade). Similar edits were not released for other serials.


Main article: Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius

External Links

  • BBC - Doctor Who - The Classic Series - Episode Guide: The Brain of Morbius
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide - Detailed Synopsis - The Brain of Morbius
  • Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel) - A Brief History of Time (Travel): The Brain of Morbius
  • The Tardis Library: Video release information for The Brain of Morbius
  • The Tardis Library: Target book release information for The Brain of Morbius
Season 13
Terror of the Zygons  • Planet of Evil  • Pyramids of Mars  • The Android Invasion  • The Brain of Morbius  • The Seeds of Doom

This article uses material from the "The Brain of Morbius" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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