Doctor Who episode 744: The Lazarus Experiment (5/5/2007)
‘Lazarus: back from the dead. Should have known, really.’ The Doctor/Martha relationship starts going a bit sour here, for me, tipping from thoughtlessness (the bedroom scene in The Shakespeare Code) to downright oafishness on the Doctor’s part (waving Martha’s knickers at her as he turns her out of his TARDIS). I understand what this is driving at – the Doctor still misses Rose, he isn’t quite ready to move on (the production team are cautious about “replacing” Piper) – but taking her home and announcing ‘the end of the line… no place like it’ suggests he knows exactly what he’s doing to her, and it seems cruel. Fair enough, the episode ends with Martha getting some agency back by forcing the Doctor to extend a proper offer, but no other companion (barring possibly Mickey, which opens a – completely inadvertent – racial dimension to this) has had to go through such a protracted negotiation. I really don’t like it, it’s the one flaw in this series.
Elsewhere, this is good fun if not especially challenging. The new series hasn’t really done a comic book supervillain, and Lazarus fits the bill neatly, a man haunted by his wartime experiences, and condemned by his own vanity and hubris to become a monster. He’s even got a MCU villain name. Gatiss is great in the role, both as the old man lusting after younger flesh even as he struggles with ill-fitting false teeth, and the Dorian-ish younger version. All the scientists at the launch of his rejuvenation machine are young and attractive women, a neat casting choice that implies a lot about Lazarus’ appetites. The CGI monster version is more convincing than the (slightly cartoonish) Krillitanes, and moves with the horrifying speed that the Racnoss Empress lacked. It’s not perfect, but like so much else in Series Three it represents a step forward. And while the organ music is a bit of a dubious weakness, I enjoyed Lazarus’ American Werewolf style reversion at his death.
Bubbling under, the Harold Saxon plot and Fracine Jones’ role in it. I like that RTD has made the companion’s mother a genuine antagonist who seems ready to actively work against the Doctor, in a way Jackie never really was, and I’m a huge admirer of Adjoa Andoh’s performance (and the convincing whack she gives the Doctor – which given my earlier comments I heartily endorse). The Series Three “arc” is more thoroughly integrated, both in plot and themes, than either Bad Wolf or Torchwood. The Doctor’s offhand mention, ‘I have some experience of this kind of transformation’, and the involvement of Saxon in Lazarus’ experiments clue the audience in to the nature of the Doctor’s secret adversary.
Next Time: 42
I’m not a huge fan of this one, but I do think it’s one of Gatiss’s best performances in the series (he’s usually too mannered an actor to be convincing) and there’s streak of sadness about Lazarus that a transformation into a CGI centipede can’t entirely dissipate.