Silent Morbius

Initial North American broadcasts of 'Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius, Part One' had no incidental music or sound effects, apart from opening and closing theme music.

Who knows why. Perhaps the tape was intended for a non-English-speaking country and instead of separating the dialogue track out from the music & effects, the tape reel was somehow prepared with only the dialogue track present. Or perhaps the American distributor, Time Life Television, selected the wrong track whilst dubbing travelling copies of the tape received from Britain.

The clip above comes from the latter portion of the episode. When I reviewed my VHS recording recently, I got a bit of a surprise: the first half of the episode had been edited for adverts.

Back in the day, Time Life offered Doctor Who serials to American broadcasters in three formats: A la carte as individual episodes, compiled into omnibus editions and thirdly, with fades to black and minor time snips for use on commercial television. It was only the first four seasons of Tom Baker's scarf-wearing Doctor Who that were adapted for adverts, though the other two options were still made available.

My local TV station, known as The Center*, thankfully refused the edited versions of the programme, airing one proper episode each weeknight and sometimes a full story's worth of them on Saturday afternoons. Except on one occasion, when a commercial edit was inadvertently broadcast. It happened to be this eerily-silent first episode of 'The Brain of Morbius' and it was that which initially entered my videotape collection.

Also thankfully, the unedited version of that episode made it back to The Center afterwards... but I was late tuning in for some reason. I can't remember exactly what happened but it's clear I hurriedly fast-forwarded the tape and began recording over the commercial edit with the good stuff, engaging record mode as close to the right point as possible.

Digitally adjusting my recording to remove the artefacts of advert breaks wasn't too much work and I'm looking into ways I can share the episode with those online, who've expressed interest in this obscure aural oddity. I'm already pushing the boundaries of 'fair use' of copyrighted material in my fan films, so I'm hesitant to lob an entire episode of BBC television onto some video-sharing site. Neither can I assume that a technically-incomplete Doctor Who audio track like this is of interest to the BBC, who've already properly released this entire serial. I guess I'll just have to invite you all round to tea, eh?

* The University of North Carolina Center for Public Television (The Center) is headquartered on that school's campus and is received in homes on several different TV channel numbers statewide. In its hometown of Chapel Hill it broadcasts on WUNC, channel 2. I recorded its programmes via WUNK, channel 25.

– Pete