This is one I saw last year and many times before; it’s one that I’ve always enjoyed.

Episode 1:

On a bleak planet, an insectoid creature staggers along. It seems to be injured, perhaps. A large humanoid man with brutish features and a hook for one hand stalks and attacks the creature.

A man in a castle studies a plaster bust of a man’s head. The savage man, named Condo, enters and carries something under his arm. The dweller asks him if there were any survivors, and Condo says, “One… an oxygen breather,” and presents the item under his arm, wrapped in cloth. The man takes it and is excited, but once he unwraps it, he says it won’t do – it’s an insect and isn’t the right sort of head. They need one of a warm blooded humanoid, so he can complete his work. Condo says that the “big heads” don’t come to Karn.

The TARDIS materialises on the blasted planet, and The Doctor comes storming out, yelling at the stormy sky, demanding that they “come out”. He seems to be yelling at the Time Lords for dragging his TARDIS off course and setting them here.

When Sarah asks who he’s shouting at, he confirms that it’s the Time Lords he’s yelling out. He rants about how they want him to do their dirty work and he won’t do it.

I’m just going to sit here and do nothing!” – The Doctor.

Sarah Jane wanders into the mist, finding the ejection bubble (space parachute) that the insectoid crawled out of. Sarah sees a bunch of crashed spaceships and tries to get The Doctor to come investigate, but he’s adamant about practicing his yoyoing.

As she wanders off, Sarah squeals and The Doctor goes running. He finds her standing near the headless form of the insectoid. The Doctor says it’s a “mutt” – a mutant insectoid species (and a nod to the Pertwee serial THE MUTANTS.)

Now that he’s paying attention, he realises that the stars look familiar – the planet isn’t terribly far (on a galactic standpoint, apparently) from Gallifrey.

As a storm begins, lightnighg flashes and they see a distant citadel. They head towards it, unaware they are being observed by a woman in strange garb.

In the citadel, the scientist experiments with the mutt’s head, running current through it, testing its motor reflexes. A lightning strike from the storm takes out the power generator and he lights a candle. Calling for Condo, he exits, seeking his primitive servant.

The woman who watched The Doctor and Sarah reports back to her matron about the visitors. The matron says it is impossible for them to have arrived undetected. Maren, the matron, tells the observer, Ohica, about a dream she has had about the “elixir of life” being taken from them.

Maren guides Ohica to an ornate door and opens it with a key. Inside is a rock wall and the “Flame of Life” burns weak. Ohica asks why it is so low. Maren says she feeds the flame before each ritual ceremony so the Sisterhood will not know it is burning low. She confesses that the Flame has not generated any elixir in a year.

Maren says that only the Sisterhood and the High Council of the Time Lords know of the existence of the elixir. Maren suggests that the new arrivals are agents of the Time Lords, come to steal the elixir. Maren orders Ohica to summon the others, so that they may form a circle.

The scientist finds Condo and demands to know where he has been. Condo lies, saying he’s been to get food, but the scientist knows he’s been looking for his arm. He tells Condo that if he wants his arm back, he’ll have to serve him and wait until the work is done.

The door bell chimes and Condo is instructed to answer it; the scientist hangs back, drawing out a pistol. It’s The Doctor and Sarah Jane and the scientist is thrilled to have human guests. He plays the cordial guest, taking their coats and hat. He finds The Doctor’s head to be quite impressive. There’s a clever bit where The Doctor says he’s had several, including a grey model that many liked (and Sarah Jane pipes in, “I certainly did,”), which seems to confuse the scientist.

After sending Condo to fetch refreshments, the scientist introduces himself as Mehendri Solon. The Doctor sees the plaster bust, and thinks he recognises the face, but Solon quickly covers it.

Solon explains that there is a belt of magnetic radiation that causes the ships to crash. When Condo brings food and wine, Solon chastises him for not opening the decanter of wine to allow it to breathe. He apologises to his guests and explains that he saved Condo’s life from one of the crashed ships and had to amputate his arm to keep him alive.

The Sisterhood gathers in a circle and using their chanting focus, Maren uses it to see the TARDIS and then to transport the timeship to their temple. Maren confirms that it is in fact a TARDIS. The Sisterhood ponders how to deal with the Time Lord – they have great mental powers but they know the Time Lord’s power is too much for their mental attacks.

Again, the Sisterhood forms a circle, so Maren can find the Time Lord.

The Doctor and Sarah eat and drink as they talk with Solon. The Doctor knows of Solon, having read a book he wrote on micro-surgery. The Doctor brings up a rumour that Solon was said to have joined the Cult of Morbius, but Solon dismisses it as jealousy.

The Sisterhood of Karn watches them dining and drinking. In Solon’s abode, the door bursts open and there’s a wind that knocks the cloth off the bust. Solon tries to pass it off as a squall, but The Doctor posits it could have been a “telekinetic visit” from the Sisterhood of Karn. The Doctor suddenly says he realises who the bust reminds him of, saying it was a Time Lord – Morbius.

The Doctor collapses, and Sarah Jane shortly after – it seems their wine was drugged. Condo pulls out his knife, asking if they should take the head now, but Solon says this will be an operation of historic importance.

Solon tells Condo to kill Sarah Jane, but then has him take The Doctor’s unconscious form to the laboratory. As they leave, Sarah Jane (who had poured out her wine earlier and been feigning unconsciousness) gets up and dashes out.

Solon confirms that The Doctor is a Time Lord, saying there will be no chance of tissue rejection. Before he can operate, they must repair the generators so he has proper instruments and lighting to operate by.

After they leave The Doctor in the laboratory, his body fades in a mist like effect, much the same as when the Sisterhood transported the TARDIS to their temple. Sarah Jane slips in after Condo and Solon pass by, but The Doctor is nowhere to be found. She sees a section cordoned off by curtain and approaches, thinking The Doctor might be within.

Inside she sees a monstrous body, humanoid, but possessing no head! She staggers back and it sits up… and the credits roll.

Oh, this is a wonderful serial. Much fun.


Episode 2:

Hearing Solon and Condo returning, Sarah hides. Solon realises that someone has been here and sees that The Doctor’s body is gone. After confirming that Condo put all the drug in the wine, Solon realises that the Sisterhood must have spirited him away. He tells Condo they must retrieve The Doctor, no matter what.

Sarah, overhearing all of this from her hiding place, slips out after them.

The Doctor wakes, finding himself tied up and under weapon by the Sisterhood. He is startled to see the TARDIS is there. Maren informs him that he must confess that he is there to steal the elixir if he wants to die an easy death on the sun rise.

The Doctor proclaims his innocence; he says, “the last thing I remember, I was having wine with Solon and Morbius…” and he stops, realising that Morbius is dead, had been executed by his fellow Time Lords. “How did I get that impression,” he wonders out loud as the Sisterhood says what he already knows.

The Doctor says that it wasn’t the clay model of his head, he felt some presence, some semblance of Morbius’ mind touching him as he passed out from the drug. He insists that Morbius is alive.

Maren says she was present at the execution and asserts that Morbius is dead.

Solon and Condo approach the temple but Solon says they must wait for The Doctor to leave. Condon hears something, not knowing that Sarah Jane is watching them from above in the rocky crag. They then see sisters carrying wood into the temple and wonder why.

Maren still tries to get The Doctor to confess that the Time Lords plot against the Sisterhood. The Doctor insists the Time Lords have never been anything but allies of the Sisterhood, but Maren is paranoid and will not accept his arguments.

It comes up that the flame is dying, and The Doctor finds this hard to believe. Before more can be said, the sun rises and they take him to sacrifice him. They tie him to a stake (an interesting parallel to the events of the previous serial, THE ANDROID INVASION) and begin to dance around, chanting (okay, no parallel here.)

Solon hears the chant of sacrifice and heads into the temple to investigate, fearing The Doctor might be sacrificed. Condo follows reluctantly, fearing the temple and the sisters. He charges into the temple, demanding they stop and the sisters stop.

Maren calls for their death and Condo leaps forward, but Maren blasts the brute with her ring. Solon pleads for The Doctor’s life, but Maren says no. He offers Condo instead, again Maren says no. He then begs for them to let him have his head, and once more Maren denies him. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane, dressed in robes of the Sisterhood, cuts The Doctor’s bonds.

Solon is given the chance to leave, for all the good he has done for the Sisterhood in the past (treating their injuries, never asking for compensation), but he must leave immediately if he wants to live; he and Condo do so, apologising.

The ritual begins again, and the Sisters plunge their torches into the wood, which bursts into flame. As Maren closes her eyes and the sisters dance, The Doctor slips away, grabbing Sarah Jane. The Sisters give chase.

Returning to his abode, Solon broods over the loss of The Doctor’s skull, but Condo is mad that he was offered as an exchange, and says he should kill Solon. Pleading for his life, Solon apologises, saying it was a joke. Trying to save his life, he offers Condo his arm back. Condo says if he gives him his arm back now, he won’t kill him and Solon agrees, sending the brute to prepare the laboratory.

The Doctor and Sarah hide in the craggy area. Sarah’s eyesight is impaired as a result of Maren’s ring-blast. The Doctor leads her as she tells him about the headless body Solon has in the lab.

In a basement, Solon confers with someone who speaks in a electronic voice; the voice is impatient, saying it is weary of Solon’s endless excuses and delays. Solon tells Morbius that he has worked incessantly at working for Morbius’ new life. Morbius is fed up with waiting, with this hell of an existence.

Condo calls for Solon, and the scientist leaves the basement level, leaving behind whatever remains of Morbius. Solon returns to the main level, to discover that The Doctor and Sarah Jane are seated at the table, waiting for him.

The Doctor turns down Solon’s facade of hospitality, saying Sarah’s been blinded and he needs Solon’s professional help.

The Sisterhood cannot find The Doctor; Maren says he cannot leave Karn without his TARDIS. Eventually, he will have to come back to them.

Solon examines Sarah’s eyes under the watchful gaze of The Doctor, who then begins to poke about the lab, seeing the mish-mash body. Solon tells The Doctor that her retina are almost completely destroyed – the only hope would be the elixir of life. The Doctor says he will fetch it, even at the risk to his life.

Condo guides Sarah back to the dining chamber, but once The Doctor leaves, Solon calls for him and the brute leaves Sarah in the dining chamber. She bumps into the table, knocking over a goblet.

The voice of Morbius calls out, hearing the commotion from below. Sarah hears and staggers off in the direction of the voice.

Solon sends Condo to the Sisterhood with a note to give them, urging him to hurry, that he must beat The Doctor there.

Sarah enters the basement level, calling out, asking what’s wrong. We see what is left of Morbius – no shocker, considering the title of the serial – a brain with wires attached in a container full of fluid. He thinks she’s a member of the Sisterhood sent to destroy him and Sarah argues that she’s not… and the credits roll.

Effective cliffhanger!

Episode 3:

Solon enters the basement, grabbing Sarah and shoving her out. From the staircase, Sarah overhears them arguing – Morbius is impatient to have a body, to move, to feel, to see. Morbius rants that he, who once led the High Council of the Time Lords, now envies a vegetable.

Solon assures him that his wait will not be much longer; The Doctor is walking into a trap with the Sisterhood. Sarah grabs the door to the basement and shuts it and locks it. She staggers up the stairs and out the front door, feeling her way out.

In the temple, five of the Sisterhood take ritual sips of the elixir (from the vials Maren has stored, it seems, as we know the flame produces no new elixir.) After the ritual, Maren says that was the last of the elixir.

Solon’s message has arrived, warning them of The Doctor’s impending arrival, and bargaining for his head. Maren tells Ohica to ready the guards.

Sarah staggers through the craggy rocks – okay, this is a bit of a stretch. She’d have to go on hands and knees to have any chance of not falling to her death.

The Doctor enters the temple and calls out, “Ding Dong,” and is captured by the Sisterhood. He is brought before Maren who says that Solon knows the effects of her ring are not permanent – Sarah’s sight will return in time. The Doctor again insists that Morbius survived somehow. Maren keeps insisting that she saw the execution and there is no way he could have survived. They begin talking of Morbius and his followers…

Okay, so the story just contradicted itself. In the first episode, the Sisterhood specifically state that only the Time Lords know of the elixir. Now, as they talk, Maren discusses Morbius having told his army of followers about and now they must stay ever vigilant against those who would try to steal it. So which is it?

The Doctor tells them if he is to help them, he insists they stop dragging down passing by ships to crash on Karn – apparently the graveyard of ships is a result of their doing, trying to protect the elixir from anyone that comes near.

Sarah tumbles and trips her way through the rocks. She ends up running into Condo who takes her by the hair and then lifts her and carries her back to Solon.

The Doctor says he can help with the Flame of Life. Maren says she has served the Flame for centuries and there is nothing to be done; he retorts that there is no harm in letting him see it. Surprisingly, Ohica agrees with him and argues for it. This sways Maren into allowing it, saying nobody outside of the Sisterhood have ever looked upon the Flame of Life.

There’s some philosophical debate – immortality comes at the price of no progress; death is the price of progress. Maren says nothing ever changes there, and The Doctor says that is his point exactly. He asks them all to stand back and lights a small firework, placing it in the mouth of the flame.

The Flame of Life splutters and dies and the Sisterhood readies to kill him, pulling him to the stake again. Suddenly, the Flame of Life roars to life, renewed.

Solon ties down Sarah Jane and Condo asks him not to hurt her; it seems the brute has a bit of a crush on her. Again, I find myself wondering what would have happened if they allowed Condo to join The Doctor and Sarah in their journeys. (I’ve recently learned about the DOCTOR WHO UNBOUND audio dramas – a series of What If? Stories set in the DW universe and this has me wondering all sorts of what ifs.)

Solon goes into a rant about being laughed at, for his geniuus. He is obviously a Dr Frankenstein character. In mid-rant, Solon realises that the sun has set and he feels Maren should have sent the head by now.

Solon goes down to talk to Morbius, and it comes out that The Doctor is a Time Lord. Morbius is irate, saying that the Time Lords have tracked him down. “I know the Time Lords! Pallid, devious worms!” He says Solon was tricked into letting The Doctor go, that he and Maren are working together against him. (Yes, Morbius is completely paranoid.)

Morbius insists that Solon put him in a body as soon as possible, and says to use the girl, but Solon says her brain case is too small. Morbius brings up an earlier idea Solon had, an artificial brain case. Solon says he abandoned that long ago, there were too many formidable problems.

Solon admits that he did make one, that it is still there. He finds it, saying it’s too dangerous – seizures, pain, perhaps even madness. (Think that last one is a bit too late to worry about.) Morbius says the risk is better than waiting for the Time Lords to arrive. Solon reluctantly agrees to it and begins to drain the fluid from the cannister.

The Doctor is carried by a group of the Sisterhood on a stretcher; Ohica asks Maren if this is right, and the matron says it is out of their hands now.

Solon and Condo bring Morbius’ brain into the laboratory, next to where Sarah Jane lies, tied up. When Condo goes over to the patchwork body (cobbled together from many creatures), he realises one of the arms is his own. He attacks Solon, who shoots him.

The brute grabs Solon and in the struggle, Morbius’ brain is knocked over and falls to the floor. Solon shoots Condo several more times and then picks up the brain. Sarah Jane calls out, still blind and confused as to what has happened. Solon frees her, saying he needs her assistance in the operation. He brings her to the patchwork body and makes her pump a handle every three seconds, telling her if Morbius dies, she dies with him.

The Sisterhood carry The Doctor on the stretcher through the rocky crags.

Solon has attached the artificial brain case to the body. He tests the reflexes and the body responds properly. Solon says they will wait to see if Morbius’ brain survived.

The door bell chimes and Solon goes to see who it is. Sarah staggers about blindly as Morbius begins to rise.

Solon arrives to the dining chamber, to see the Sisterhood departing, The Doctor left laying on a stretcher on the floor. He realises that Morbius was wrong in his suppositions and begins to laugh.

Sarah’s eyesight begins to return; she stands, blinking her eyes, trying to adjust. Behind her, Morbius approaches, claw extended. She turns and sees the monstrosity and screams. She runs from it and he gives chase. A lamp is overturned and a table catches on fire.

Morbius burns himself and starts screaming. Sarah runs up and sees Solon kneeling over The Doctor and tells him that his monster is on the loose. Solon says it is too soon and runs to the lab.

Sarah, once more, thinks The Doctor is dead, but he sits up and teases her for that very thing. They have a good laugh until Sarah tells him he’s too late, Solon has performed the experiment. He grabs his head, saying, “I can’t be!”

Morbius sees his reflection in a mirror, seeing a horrid monster. He smashes the mirror, roaring incoherently. Solon arrives and tries to talk him down, but Morbius grabs the scientist in a bear hug and then casts him aside.

Sarah explains to The Doctor what Solon has done. As they talk, Morbius approaches. The Doctor tries to talk to him, but Morbius attacks him, beating him down. Morbius pursues Sarah, who stumbles down a stairwell. Condo, hearing Sarah’s screams, staggers in and attacks Morbius. The two giants struggle, but Morbius finishes off Condo and leaves through the front door.

The Doctor recovers and searches about for Sarah, finding her and setting her down on the table Morbius’ brain had been kept.

In the lab, Solon has also recovered. He readies an injection and a rifle to deliver it. He runs into The Doctor and says the Time Lord must help him; Morbius’ brain is not working properly as the operation was not completed – he’s operating on animal instincts only and his hatred for the Sisterhood will compel him to attack. The two rush off into the night.

Morbius arrives at the temple, killing the guard at the entrance. The Doctor and Solon aren’t far behind and they find the corpse. They split up and The Doctor distracts Morbius, grappling with him, while Solon shoots Morbius with the tranq gun.

The Doctor picks up Morbius and carries him back for Solon, saying that Solon will detatch the brain so the Time Lords can deal with it. This does not make Solon a happy camper.

The dead Sister is brought before Maren and Ohica; the matron demands to know who killed her. Ohica says that a creature was spotted and The Doctor and Solon were seen hunting it. She reminds Maren what The Doctor kept warning them about – the return of Morbius!

The Doctorr and Solon argue over disconnecting Morbius’ brain. The Doctor wanders off, saying he has five minutes and leaves. (Yeah, right, that’s just exactly what he would do.)

The Doctor goes to check on Sarah Jane who thought everything was a dream. She quickly realises it was not. As they talk, Solon closes the door on them and locks it. With them secured, he returns to tinkering with Morbius’ brain.

Ohica argues with Maren; the matron still insists there is no proof that Morbius survived. Ohica says The Doctor’s theory explains much about Solon’s work. Maren says there is little they can do, Ohica argues they must do the little that they can do. She asks Maren to give the order for her to lead the Sisterhood out of the temple, as the matron says that she is too old and weak to leave the temple.

The Doctor realises that he has all the ingredients to make cyanogen in the basement lab. He sets a dish in a duct and pours the chemicals together, which begin to bubble and smoke.

Solon works on Morbius, not realising his lab is filling with smoke. He’s too busy gloating that he’s done it, that Morbius will live again. Finally, he begins to choke and collapses atop Morbius’ body. Moments later, Morbius rises, and identifies the cyanide gas coming through the vent.

Outside, the Sisterhood approaches Solon’s abode.

Morbius enters the basement. The Doctor tries to taunt him, asking him what it feels to be the universe’s biggest mongrel. He and Sarah Jane suggest he take a new name, since there is so little of Morbius left – Potpourri and Chop Suey The Galactic Emperor.

The Doctor challenges Morbius to a “mind bending contest”. Morbius laughs, saying he is a Time Lord of “the first rank,” and suggests The Doctor is nothing. The Doctor says he thinks Morbius has gone soft all those years in that tank. Morbius accepts and they set up the equipment for the contest, which The Doctor explains to Sarah is “Time Lord wrestling, usually a game, but it can end in death lock.”

They put their heads (or brain case, in Morbius’ case) against an apparatus. Inside the frame work, images appear – first Morbius’ brain case visage, then a humanoid form (presumably his original form) and then The Doctor’s. Then we see the previous incarnations of The Doctor – Pertwee, Troughton, Hartnell. We see other faces, obviously Morbius’ incarnations. His faces well outnumber The Doctor’s and the contest seems to be on Morbius’ side… but there’s a backlash of electricity and Morbius staggers back, crying out monstrously.

The Doctor collapses as Morbius departs. Sarah remains to tend to him.

The Sisterhood encounters Morbius above, pursuing him with their torches; it seems he’s reverted back to his animal nature as a result of the mind bending contest and they chase him off the side of the cliff.

The Sisterhood brings The Doctor back to the temple. Maren says The Doctor is dying and he needs the elixir. Ohica says there is none left. Maren opens the chamber of the Flame and finds that some elixir has formed – enough for The Doctor. Ohica argues, saying it should be for her, but she says perhaps The Doctor was right, she has lived too long.

The give The Doctor the elixir and he comes to. He points out Maren, who has joined with the Flame, sacrificing herself. We see a younger image of Maren burning in the flame and then it fades.

They tell The Doctor Morbius was destroyed and thank him for his help. He says no speeches of gratitude, he and Sarah have an engagement to make. He gives Ohica some flash paper to use to clean the soot out should it be a problem again and the heroes depart (with a flash of smoke and flame as the TARDIS dematerialises…)

A most excellent serial, I loved the Frankenstein influence and the deeping of the mythos of the Time Lords. Philip Madoc’s performance as Solon is fantastic (Madoc played in four DW serials including this one – previously two Troughton serials, THE KROTONS and THE WAR GAMES – the latter in which he played The War Lord, as well as another Tom Baker serial, THE POWER OF KROLL.)  

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