As well as being one of the first Who stories to be released on VHS, Morbius is only the second “good” story that I`ve tackled [the other was Robots of Death] and it would have been the easiest thing in the world to simply have joined all four episodes together, fix the Mind Bending Contest and leave it at that. But what would be the point? The whole idea is to do something different so the obvious thing to do instead was cut the Loop in the middle of the story.
The Doctor gets teleported to the Sisterhood, Sarah rescues him but gets blinded by Maren’s ring, so the Doctor goes back to the Sisterhood and convinces them Solon is up to no good. So why not just have the Doctor get teleported to the Sisterhood and convince them that Solon`s up to no good the first time round?
When I came to edit the story this way though, it just didn`t work. And what made it not work wasn’t Sarah effectively hiding in cupboard for 15 minutes or the discontinuity between the Doctor and Maren – one minute he`s got his shirt open and she`s got her hat on, the next he’s got his shirt done up and she’s taken her hat off – but the fact that the music makes it almost impossible to do without it being obvious.
As I`ve said before, Jon & Tom stories are the hardest of all to edit because of the lack of an isolated music track. Okay, so we’ve got that Heathcliffe Blair CD but on this occasion its use was a bit too obvious and in the end I didn’t use any of it. And so I was forced to go back to the beginning and start all over again.
When the story initially came out on VHS, it was in a 50 minute compilation that can only be described as a hatchet job. Whoever was responsible for it made it clear that there was material that had been cut. To my mind, the whole point is to hide that fact as best you can, so anyone watching the story can`t tell stuff has been cut out. My 71 Edit, removing the Loop, came out at about 53 minutes, but it didn’t work any better than the short BBC version, so I resolved to trim what I could where I could but leave the majority of the story intact. Apart from anything else, one reason for just doing a trim was that the late Lis Sladen does some of her best work as Sarah in this story. Acting blind isn’t easy but Lis is a truthful as ever in these scenes and she’s a joy to watch.
And as for the late Philip Madoc, his performance as Solon is fantastic and steals the show completely from Tom Baker. Solon is one of the most memorable villains in the show`s history and it`s a damn shame he gets bumped off. And the reason that`s a shame is Philip Madoc`s performance, which is a perfectly pitched masterclass in understatement. If only they`d cast him as The Master!
As for the story itself, well its flaws are already well documented but this is one of those occasions where a plot that doesn’t really make any sense is told in such an entertaining and engaging way that you don’t really care that it makes no sense that Condo’s arm is suitable but the rest of his body isn’t. Clearly Bob Holmes felt that the tropes of all those Universal movies – the castle, the deformed servant, the mad scientist, the monster being an actual monster as opposed to a bloke with a bucket head – had to be included even if their inclusion meant the story would no longer add up. And so narrative logic was jettisoned for the sake of a good story. But it’s a bloody good story so we can forgive him that.
And we forget that this text, like all Classic Who, was designed to be consumed in 25m chunks that were to be viewed a week apart. The fact that nobody watches it like that any more, as well as the opportunity for repeated viewing, something denied those of us who watched it as it went out [in my case on a Black & White portable in my Gran`s kitchen] means you are more likely to spot what you hitherto missed. The art of storytelling is to hide the structure, writers need to know it but the real craft is in hiding it from the audience. And, for all its flaws of storytelling logic, Morbius is light years ahead of anything that boring bastard Bidmead script edited. You can get away with a story that makes no sense if the emotional engagement of your audience is turned up to 11. And Bob Homes was a genius at that, and genius can get away with almost anything…
Looking back, I think it was a mistake to even think about doing a version of this in less than an hour. Fan Editing is simply about two things – telling stories quicker or slower than the original. And since we’re telling these stories more quickly, it’s important to remember that each story is different. By the time I`d made all my trims, I`d got it down to 1hr 20m 55s, which makes this our longest Classic Who Fan Edit to date.
One thing that I was always going to change, regardless of any other difficulties I encountered, was the Mind Bending Contest. Now, you may think it`s a nice gag but I think it was an uncharacteristic slip by Hinchcliffe and correcting it was the main inspiration behind this Fan Edit. In this version, when Morbius sends the Doctor back to his very beginning he only goes as far back as Bill.