THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Brain of Morbius
Target novelisation
Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
Published 1977
ISBN 0 426 11674 7
First Edition Cover Mike Little

Back cover blurb: Why do so many spaceships crashland on Karn, a bleak, lonely and seemingly deserted planet? Are they doomed by the mysterious powers of the strange, black-robed Sisterhood, jealously guarding their secret of eternal life? Or does the mad Dr Solon, for some evil purpose of his own, need the bodies of the victims? And more especially, the body of DOCTOR WHO...


Reviews

Keeping the Bland story but predicting something novel... by Tim Roll-Pickering 20/2/04

The turbulant story of how The Brain of Morbius was changed by Robert Holmes from Terrance Dicks' original concept of an artificial entity creating life into a somewhat "Bland" more straightforward homage to Frankenstein movies is now well known amongst Doctor Who fans, though how many people outside the production team, and possibly the Doctor Who Appreciation Society as well, knew this back in 1977 when the novelisation first appeared is unknown. With Terrance Dicks producing the novelisation, this time under his own name (though "Robin Bland" is still credited as the television story's author), there was the possibility of adapting the original story and allowing it to see the light of day, but Dicks has instead opted to go down the route to adapt the televised version. However the page count for this book increases to 140 pages and Dicks has managed to work in many subtle enhancements to the story. Twenty-five years before he wrote Warmonger, Dicks produces a brief outline of how Morbius set about trying to dominate the universe and invading Karn before being repelled by an Time Lord initiated alliance of all civilisations. We also get a clear positioning of when the Morbius incident took place within the Doctor's personal timeline - he had fled Gallifrey but had heard about it due to the scale of the events (but unfortunately for those with philosophical queries about how the current affairs a time travelling society spill into linear time and reach a traveller roaming through eternity are not outlined, though this is perhaps wise given the need to actually tell the story). Those of you familiar with Warmonger may want to read this book to see how closely Dicks has followed the brief descriptions in his more recent novel.

Although following the course of the television story, Dicks pours a lot of effort into fleshing out the characters. We learn how Condo crashed on Karn and the exact nature of his relationship with Solon, how Maren was old when the Elixir of Life was discovered and has remained still ever since, what the homeworld of Kriz (the character killed by Condo at the start of the story) is like (and, according to this, it doesn't seem as though he originated on Solos), how Solon is managed to save Morbius' brain and just how fanatical his devotion to his master is, and how Sarah reacts to Condo's feelings for her and exploits them to her advantage. Of especial note are the scenes at the climax, where the televised version of two of them have generated heated argument amongst fans to this day. The Doctor's decision to use cyanide gas is openly questioned by Sarah and elicits the reply that unless Solon is stopped millions of lives will be in danger. From the description of the Doctor's tone and manner, it is clear that this is not a decision taken easily and so the basic moral precept of the series does not feel as violated here as it does on screen. Later the mind-bending game is explained clearly, making it absolutely clear that the images seen on the screen are that of the losing player, and although Sarah only sees a confusion of images pre Hartnell, it is clear that these originate from the Doctor whilst Morbius' explosion is due to his brain casing not being able to stand the pressures and not because he is losing the game. Whilst the wider implications may not be accepted by all, there is no ambiguity here as to what is happening or what is meant.

Otherwise the novel is a strong, well paced adventure, as with all the previous Dicks adaptations of Holmes. For television the story was realised completely within an electronic studio, but here in the book Dicks is able to enhance the descriptions so that Solon's castle seems even more decayed, the Sisterhood's shrine even more elaborate and the exterior of Karn even more darker and gloomy. The result is one of Terrance Dicks' strongest novelisations that really stands out and shows how the direct adaptations of the televised versions should be done. 10/10