Recap / Doctor Who S13 E5 "The Brain of Morbius"
Yeah, in just a few seconds, Sarah's gonna wish she stayed blind...
"I am still here. I can see nothing, feel nothing. You have locked me into hell for eternity. If this is all there is, I would rather die now... Trapped like this, like a sponge beneath the sea. Yet even a sponge has more life than I. Can you understand a thousandth of my agony? I, Morbius, who once led the High Council of the Time Lords, reduced to this - to the condition where I envy a vegetable."

The Doctor and Sarah arrive on the planet Karn, home to the Sisterhood, who guard the sacred flame that produces the Elixir of Life. Elsewhere, scientist Mehendri Solon is attempting to build a new body for the living brain of Morbius - a criminal executed by the Time Lords.

Solon decides that the head of the Doctor will prove a fitting home for Morbius' brain, but before he can act, the Doctor is kidnapped by the Sisterhood, who fear that he has been sent by the Time Lords to steal the last of the Elixir of Life from the dying flame. The Doctor is to be burned at the stake, but he is rescued by Sarah, who goes temporarily blind in the process.

Solon convinces the Doctor that Sarah's condition is permanent, and the Doctor goes to the Sisterhood for help — convincing them of his good offices by using a firework to clear a blocked chimney and restore the flame. Returning to Solon, the Doctor and Sarah are trapped in the cellar. The Doctor releases cyanide gas and kills Solon, but Morbius' new body is working (sort of), with a plastic bowl as a temporary head. Stumbling about, Morbius accepts the Doctor's challenge of a battle of minds, and both are severely weakened by the ordeal. The sisterhood push the disoriented Morbius over a cliff and heal the Doctor with the Elixir.

Watch it here


  • Affectionate Parody: Tachyon TV used this episode as the basis for a spot-on Big Finish Doctor Who parody.
  • Alan Smithee: The script was altered so much that Terrance Dicks asked that it be credited to "some bland pseudonym". Robert Holmes (who wrote the finished version) complied spectacularly, by crediting the serial to "Robin Bland".
  • All There in the Manual: The novelisation gives extra characterization and background of Morbius' original attack on Karn is expanded upon. The Sisterhood betrayed them to Morbius and was punished by losing her elixir, causing her to age to death.
    • The Mutt is established as having nothing to do with Solos.
  • Anti-Climax: The whole 'Flame of Life is dying' plot seems like it's going to take a big part of the serial to solve... nope, the chimney just needs to be cleaned.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: The Sisterhood practice Psychic Powers, but refuse to believe that there's a way to bring back a deceased Time Lord, even after the Doctor says he felt his presence in his mind.
  • Bad Boss: Solon, who repeatedly abuses and mistreats his trusty assistant Condo.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: You can heap all the abuse you like on Condo, but if you offer him up for sacrifice in the place of your prized specimen, his reaction won't be pretty. He was even more upset when he found that Solon had taken his arm to use for Morbius' body.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Practically the first thing you see is Condo coming in with a severed head. It's the head of an insectoid alien, but still.
  • Body Horror: Morbius' Franken-Body.
  • Book Dumb: While Condo isn't the brightest bulb in the box, his simply-expressed insights are quite astute.
  • Brain in a Jar: Morbius' brain is being kept in a jar until Solon can get his hands on a more suitable long-term receptacle.
  • Brain Transplant: What Solon has planned once he finds a suitable head to transplant Morbius' brain into. The Doctor's will do nicely...
  • Creative Sterility: The Doctor accuses the Sisterhood of stagnation, because every one of them keeps doing things the way they always did.
  • Creator Cameo: Aside from the Doctors, the faces seen during the mind-bending contest are production unit manager George Gallaccio, Robert Holmes, production assistant Graeme Harper, director Douglas Camfield, producer Philip Hinchcliffe, production assistant Christopher Baker, writer Robert Banks Stewart, and director Christopher Barry.
  • Darker and Edgier: With the bleak, creepy atmosphere and graphic gore one can only wonder how this got rated PG and "The Unquiet Dead" got a 12.
  • Deadly Gas: How the Doctor kills off Solon.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Calling Morbius "Chop suey, the Galactic Emperor". He is not pleased.
  • Distressed Dude: Once again, the Doctor gets kidnapped. Twice, in the space of five minutes.
  • Exposition of Immortality: This episode contains a sequence in which the three previous incarnations of the Doctor are shown, and eight additional faces beyond that. This lead to suspicions that the Doctor had incarnations dating even further back than the First Doctor. Later developments in the series refuted this speculation by confirming the First Doctor was indeed the first incarnation of the Doctor to exist, plus, the scene is so trippy, that those could just as easily have been Morbius' old faces or just some random moustachio'd Time Lord (which are the most given explanations now). Morbius asks "How far back Doctor, how long have you lived?" — it seems that even by Time Lord standards, the Doctor has been around for a while.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Doctor blasts the Sisterhood of Karn for using an elixir to extend their lives because they've completely stagnated, and says that regeneration is preferable because it brings change. This attitude seems to be shared by other Time Lords, who use the same elixir as medicine, but not to prevent their final death.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: This episode is an obvious homage.
  • Gentle Giant: Condo, more or less.
  • Guile Hero: How Sarah Jane rescues the Doctor for the second time in two serials.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Maren gives the Doctor the last of the elixir of life, fully knowing that she'll die if she doesn't drink it herself.
  • Hook Hand: Condo.
  • Hulk Speak: Condo again.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "You murderous animal!" says Solon, right after blowing out Condo's guts on screen. Double as Black Comedy on account of the gore.
  • The Igor: Condo.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: When Solon is discussing getting a Time Lord's head for Morbius' new body:
    Solon: That is why his head is so perfect! From one of your own race! From one of those who turned upon you and tried to destroy you! You get a new head for Morbius... the crowning irony.
    Morbius: FOOL!
    Solon: ...I'm sorry, the pun was irresistible.
  • Large Ham:
    • Solon, oh so very much.
    • To say nothing of Morbius himself. For a guy who's nothing but a brain and vocal chords, he hams it up.
  • Made of Iron: Condo can take a lot. Even gunshots to the stomach only stun him for a few minutes. He isn't immune to strangulation, though.
  • Mad Scientist: Solon, with the requisite Mad Scientist Laboratory and They Called Me Mad! rant.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: Morbius's monster body, cobbled together from bits of various alien creatures, notoriously including Condo's hand and what looks to be a Macra's claw for appendages (plus the prospect of including the Doctor's head as a finishing touch).
  • My Brain Is Big: Morbius' brain would have a hard time fitting in a chest cavity, never mind a human (or Time Lord) braincase.
  • R-Rated Opening: The story opens with Condo decapitating an insect-stage Solonian. Although the actual severing happens off-screen, we get a lot of lingering close ups of the head later on.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Condo's Heroic Sacrifice to save Sarah from Morbius.
  • Refusal of the Call: When the Doctor first lands, he is not pleased by the fact that the Time Lords have dragged him into a situation they won't deal with themselves. Sarah guilts him out of this by marvelling at her surroundings and going off on her own anyway.
    The Doctor: There's something going on here, some dirty work that they won't touch with their lily-white hands. Well, I won't do it, DO YOU HEAR?!
  • Squib: Contains pretty much the only use of this in Doctor Who. The general level of violence in the story contributed to the end of Hinchliffe's tenure when the Moral Guardians got involved.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Sarah Jane gets tied down to an operating table by Solon. He wasn't going to operate on her, thank goodness, he was too busy trying to reanimate Morbius. Just needed to keep an eye on her as she kept running away and causing trouble.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The Sisterhood of Karn.
  • Temporary Blindness: Sarah Jane gets this after taking a flash from Maren's ring.
  • Time Travelers Are Spies: Everyone, even the Doctor himself, assumed the Doctor is there on behalf of the Time Lords and is there to steal their stuff/ruin their day. He doesn't even know where he is.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: The sisterhood of Karn chase the Morbius creature off a cliff, a la Frankenstein. There's also a vibe of this when they try to burn the Doctor.
  • Villainous Rescue: Solon saves the Doctor from the Sisterhood's sacrificial ritual long enough for Sarah to cut him loose.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The Doctor points out to the Sisterhood that their immortality leads to stagnation. In the end, their leader sacrifices her life to save the Doctor.
    The Doctor: Death is the price we pay for progress.
  • Working for a Body Upgrade: Condo.
  • The X of Y
  • You're Insane!: As Mehendri Solon is about to begin his gruesome experiment:
    Sarah Jane: You're insane, Solon, you're mad!