'Doctor Who' Season 12 finale solves 44-year-old mystery and establishes the history of Morbius Doctors
The Morbius faces were first seen in the 1976 episode of 'Doctor Who' titled 'The Brain of Morbius' and Chris Chibnall just established that those faces were indeed the Doctor's
Spoiler Alert for 'Doctor Who' Season 12 Finale — 'The Timeless Children'
This week's episode and the final one of Season 12 of 'Doctor Who' answered a lot of questions, while bringing to us a lot more. However, one of the answers we got was whether a certain set of faces seen in Classic Who belonged to the Doctor or Morbius.
The Morbius faces were first and last seen (until now) in the 1976 episode of 'Doctor Who' — 'The Brain of Morbius' featuring Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. The episode was written by Terrence Dicks and Robert Holmes under the pseudonym, Robin Bland.
The four-part story featured a mad surgeon, Mehendri Solon, salvaging the still-active brain of the Time Lord war criminal Morbius. He creates a new body for him using parts of other creatures.
Once Morbius is resurrected, he is challenged by the Doctor to a "mind-bending contest", using Solon's lab equipment to engage in a literal battle of wits. As the Doctor has a face off with Morbius, the machine displays the Doctor's face and those of his previous incarnations (Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell). Then the machine displays eight more faces.
Fans had argued that these eight faces depicted Morbius' previous incarnations. This theory was lent more weight after a later episode released the same year titled 'The Deadly Assassin' established that the Time Lords had only 13 regenerations.
In another story, 'The Three Doctors', (this time from before the Morbius story) the Time Lords refer to Hartnell's Doctor as "the earliest Doctor". In 1983's 'The Five Doctors', the First Doctor (Richard Hurndall substituting for the late Hartnell) refers to himself as "the original". The same happens in 2017's 'The Doctor Falls' (played by David Bradley).
However, the then-producer of 'Doctor Who', Philip Hinchcliffe certainly intended the faces to be those of the Doctor himself. "It is true to say that I attempted to imply that William Hartnell was not the first Doctor," Hinchcliffe told Lance Parkin, author of 1996 reference book 'Doctor Who: A History of the Universe'. "We tried to get famous actors for the faces of the Doctor, but because no one would volunteer, we had to use backroom boys."
The eight faces actually belonged to script editor and 'Brain of Morbius' co-writer Robert Holmes, Doctor Who's production unit manager George Gallaccio, production assistant Graeme Harper, director Douglas Camfield, production assistant Christopher Baker, writer Robert Banks Stewart, director Christopher Barry and Hinchcliffe himself.
So there you have it. 'The Timeless Children' merely reestablishes a previous theory brought in by a Classic Who producer, though there are fans who would be disappointed with the way the current showrunner Chris Chibnall did it.