… being a show-by-show TARDIS-esque (ie in effect random) exploration of Doctor Who Soup to Nuts, begun at LJ’s diggerdydum community, and crossposted at FT.

Rider Haggard meets Mary Shelley this time, a well (and deservedly) loved tale from 1974– just two stories on from the last one I watched (LOVEfilm is letting them cluster somewhat). SJS and 4 aka BB battle to stop someone incomparably eeevilTM being fully embodied and wrecking the universe forevHANG ON this is the exact same story as this and this and this really and even kinda this… Except in this story there’s many-roled whospian and magnificent experimental surgeon/renanimator Philip Madoc, plus an all-female cult guarding 1 x Eternal Flame + 1 x Elixir of life. So can BB stop the reunification of Headless Salad of all the Galactic Bodyparts with SPACEHITLER’S SPACEBRAIN? NOW READ ON

i: Begin with the sidekick, named CONDO, presumably bcz he is built like an apartment block with a monobrow. Pretty much from the first time we hear him speak (always in two-word phrases: “Master promise?”/”Girl pretty!”/”HULK SMASH!“) we know where we’re going here. Condo will very belatedly realise his master despises and will casually betray him; will be sweet on SJS; will do useful battle with his now-former master; and will not survive to the end of the story. As does he not, BUT — despite being Morbius’s smarter minion’s dimmer minion — he does correctly rename BB: he refers to him as “BIG HEAD”, and so shall we.

ii: SJS doesn’t have much to do besides grimace, huff, puff, snipe, snark and squeak. She does save BIG HEAD’S bacon at one point — he’s got himself tied to a berni steak burning stake, by his usual method, of not explaining anything to anyone, and being huffy and rude when people ask him questions. As a result she is BLINDED — and so for an ep-and-a-half grimaces, huffs, puffs, snipes, snarks and squeaks with her hands stuck out in front of her like a mummy, till the blindness gets better ON ITS OWN. This is an excellent set-up for the funniest cliffhanger: “I can SEEEEE!” Turns and SEEEEEEES hideous and bizarre monster with ONE GIANT CLAW three feet away and closing…

iii: Oh oh I love Philip Madoc SO MUCH!! This role is his tribute to the YOUNG JOHN PEEL. Solon is a misunderstood genius who can achieve just about anything in a surgical theatre but can’t actually think on his feet. And plus Eeverything that goes wrong with his plans goes wrong because he’s so much more eager to shaft everyone around him than he is to let his masterscheme come to careful fruition — presumably this is because he LOVES MORBIUS AND WANTS HIM ALL FOR HIMSELF! (There *is* a bit of a Torchwood-agenda undertow to this tale: here’s a ruined planet with only two organisations operational on it; one ALL-MALE, one ALL-FEMALE… The arrival of BIG HEAD — who Solon clearly rather fancies, in a chop-his-bonce sort of a way — and SJS, who Condo falls for, screws up all the existing dynamics!)

iv: BIG HEAD spends a surprising amount of his time shuttling between the two main buildings actually unconscious. He cleans the sisterhood’s chimney — shut up mr freud! — and kindasorta does the exact opposite at Solon’s house, by turning a vent into a poison-deliverer. His schoolboy chemistry is handy enough, and he only actually cold-bloodedly murders one person — because it turns out that Morbius’s new body can breathe cyanogen. Interesting reveal: when he has a BRANE-BATTLE with Morbius, the screen shows a whole slew of pre-Hartnell doctors, dressed up all Edwardian and the like. (Though apparently fandom decided they must all be earlier Morbius-bodies, apparently terrified of the idea that 1 ? 1.)

Backstory sidenote: has anyone ever spotted the doctor reading a book? He claims he did once, in this story: Solon’s book. (Odd one to be the only one…)
This-story sidenote: why does Solo even have the BRANE-BATTLE app set up ready? Does he tussle with CONDO now and then to keep his lobes in?

v: The landscape — the mise en scene if you will — is claustophobic and schematic, and all the better for it: basically two buildings, one a semi-ruined place which doubles as Solon’s lab and flat, one an all-girl temple, and the no-extensive hilly and rubble-strewn pathway between them (complete with dozens of downed ships). We see a lot of it bcz abt 9/10ths of the action consists of BIG HEAD and SJS going from one bulding to the other, one often blind, the other dead to the world.

vi: MORBIUS is at least a three, although — and I smell a bit of a corporate rat here, courtesy Marvel — this name has no wikipedia disambiguation page. Executed and dispersed bodily for being SPACEHITLER — except for his brain, which Solon sneaked out of the building somehow — he ends up so hapless in this story that it’s hard not to feel sympathy with him. First: because “even a sponge has more life than I!” — a great line much-quoted. Second: because when Solon is persuaded to go back to the experimental plastic braincase he had rejected as flawed and too risky (correctly it turns out), we see him retrieving it FROM THE WASTE PAPER BIN! Third: anyone who cooks will recognise the agony of this one, when you drop the roast at a super-dicey moment — and it CRASHES onto the dusty floor and is visibly misshapen and bent when you pick it up and brush it off and hope yr guests didn’t notice. Pleased to see Chef Solon does not clean up the green goo the brane slurries all round; it’s left as a warm-meat-juice floor-hazard. Fourth: when Morb is his rubbish body and blundering around clicking his claw, he catches sight of himself in the mirror. There is genuine dramatic irony here — we the viewers have known for some time that he’s going to end up in this body. If the brain-damage wasn’t incurred at step four, the self-worth trauma at step four can’t have helped. Fifth: to be fair, he may have been SPACEHITLER, but Morb’s bodycount is only two, and would have been one if fellow timelord BIG HEAD hadn’t failed to poison him FAILED BY THE MEANS OF BLUNDERING. Last, when Morbs does peg it, it’s because he falls off a cliff — he isn’t really pushed even. (Certainly not telekineticised in any way: the sisterhood seem to have forgotten they can do this: they could eg have popped his brane out of its box and into the Eternal Flame, on gas mark 9…)

vii: forgetful or not the sisterhood are FAB; they look fab — actually in a carnaby street kind of way, all gold-red garb and face-paint — and they have all these tics and hand tremblings and and flickery camera effects and ritual gestures. The top sister, MAREN, wends an intriguingly pragmatic way between the LAWS and let’s-suck-it-and-see (for example over the execution of BIG HEAD: she’s hardline for convenience at the start, then happy to see what his actions will do for her). Her deputy/successor, OHICA, has terrific starey eyes — you don’t notice this straght away, bcz the make-up somehow obscures it. They’re a bit jumpy at the start — which BIG HEAD doesn’t help, in his usual wind-up way — but they are GOOD face-painted EGGS and eventually deliver accordingly.

I enjoyed this enormously. It’s standard twit-not-nature Gothic at one level, but the gendered segregated counterpoise of the Coded Male Domain — driven solitaries undone by their own asocial nerdiness — with the Coded Female Domain — temple of max-factored sirens grounded by shrewd political practicality — stands energetically away from its own potential swamp of stereotype.

ps also ahem MORE DISAMBIGUATION needed: