Doctor Doctor Who Guide


06 May 2007The Lazarus Experiment, by Frank Collins
06 May 2007The Lazarus Experiment, by Rob Stickler
06 May 2007The Lazarus Experiment, by Angus Gulliver
06 May 2007The Lazarus Experiment, by Vincent Vargas
06 May 2007The Lazarus Experiment, by Paul Clarke
06 May 2007The Lazarus Experiment, by Eddy Wolverson
06 May 2007The Lazarus Experiment, by A.D. Morrison
06 May 2007The Lazarus Experiment, by Billy Higgins

With the sixth episode we are plunged back into Martha's world. A world of DNA experiments and mysterious men in black. Stephen Greenhorn takes the standard comic book cliches, invoking 'Spiderman' and 'The Hulk', pays homage to the venerable Nigel Kneale's 'Quatermass' and SF B movies such as 'The Fly' and then plugs it into the main themes now beginning to run through the series - what does it mean to be a human, is there hope in a callous age and can those blessed with the gift of immortality have real faith?

Richard Clark again shows how good he is with visual composition here with lots of tracking and overhead shots, a particularly stunning revolving shot (an homage to the 'Alien' films) as the CGI monster climbs the ceiling of the corridor, and some lovely bits and pieces glimpsing characters through arches and doorways in the cathedral. He gets a great deal out of the laboratory setting too, using reflections and back-lighting to great atmospheric effect. Another very handsome looking episode.

Book-ending the episode are two scenes between the Doctor and Martha, one where the Doctor simply feels it is time to let go and one where he finally understands that Martha doesn't wish to be left behind. In between these two points, we have a narrative in which Martha plays a significant role - being resourceful, using her skills and finally going back into the conflict to face the consequences and ultimately to the cathedral where she offers herself as bait to lure Lazarus to his destiny. I don't think the relationship between the Doctor and Martha is a carbon copy of the one he had with Rose. This is more about being an equal, facing the odds with intelligence but perhaps with a pinch of unresolved sexual tension. More Martha Peel to Doctor Steed, I think.

Below the monster runaround there's also a great deal more going on.

Lazarus and his laboratory represent the scientific principle when it comes to extending life. To him it is a matter of DNA manipulation, patenting the idea and raking in the cash. The DNA manipulation machine is more or less Lazarus' electronic God. Aptly, when Lazarus takes his spin in the machine, he isn't resurrected and given new life but merely reduced to the function of the Grim Reaper itself, bringing death and destruction to himself, his wife and others. Rather than enhancing life, he subtracts and extinguishes it.

However, as Lazarus may see death as the end of the lane as far as the journey of life is concerned, the Doctor understands why the human span must end. Death to him is seen as a valuable experience for human-kind, one that he himself seems to crave here. He sees death as not just something the body must face but also as something the entire being must embrace. It's something he has been denied and where prolonged life is a curse jn which mortals he has dearly known wither and die. Immortality is regret, sorrow and loneliness.

Lazarus' transformation is an opening of Pandora's box in a literal sense when he uses the machine. 'Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be Orpheus in the Underworld' - cue dry ice and a personification of the circle of existence, the self-devouring worm muching up mankind.

The final showdown in Southwark cathedral, superbly played between Gatiss and Tennant, reverses the cold, analysis of the flesh as seen in Lazlabs for the echoing magnificence of faith's cradle. Where the lab maybe Alpha, the cathedral is Omega - a physical playing out of life's paradoxes, of beginning and ending - and the cathedral with its stained glass, vaulted roof and resonating sound is where Lazarus has a chance to empty himself of his ego, abandon hubris and rely on faith and hope to see him through to the end of his days. It's continuing a religious theme, centred on the transformation of mortal beings through ascension and faith, first intimated in 'Gridlock'.

So, kudos to The Mill once again for their CGI monster. Not bad at all, particularly in the scene where it's scuttling along the cathedral roof. This and Gatiss' very physical performance helped us to imagine the transformation scenes without actually having to spend lots of money showing them. The make up for Gatiss was exemplary and he found ways to work with it to create the character fully and to the extent that in the end we understood Lazarus' folly and sympathised with his failed desire in the sad coda of the death scene.

It was a good, slightly old fashioned monster romp, with even a 'reverse the polarity' nod thrown in to underline the Pertwee vibe, and it often veered into camp with Gatiss (very Julian Glover like) and Thelma Barlow deliciously crossing swords. Martha's family were fleshed out effectively and her mother Francine, played with seething suspicion by Adjoa Andoh, provided a pleasant flash back to the infamous Jackie Tyler slap and offered a tantalising glimpse of future betrayal perhaps. Tish Jones was effortlessly provided by Gugu Mbatha-Raw and I'd like to see more of Leo Jones played by the lovely Reggie Yates. They all provided the necessary grounding for the Martha character, an indication of future loyalties, without ending up being a re-hash of the Tyler clan.

Tennant and Agyeman were excellent, the interplay in Martha's flat a specific treat, knickers and all! And finally, Martha is welcomed as a fully paid-up crew member after a string of episodes that have drip-fed us the unresolved nature of their partnership. With more mentions of Saxon (Harold) here and an extended trailer for the second half of the series, I get the impression that events are going to move up a gear now.

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Despite the slight apathy I was feeling after last week's episode I had regained my Doctor Who excitement by mid-week, no doubt at least partly thanks to a shiny new issue of Doctor Who Magazine and a few sly episodes of Frontier in Space. Therefore all was right with the world again when I sat down to watch episode six of the third series; The Lazarus Experiment.

Fairly straight forward story but so well executed. The Doctor gets to be a proper science whiz and fiddle with wires and all that sort of boffin stuff, Gatiss was excellent as a baddie not so far from the Doctor's level of intelligence and I loved their scenes together. This episode makes Mark Gatiss only the third person to have written for and acted in Doctor Who since 1963. I bet he's pleased as punch (whatever that does mean). He must have been thrilled to be a part of an episode that homage's Nigel Kneale as much as this one does with all its science tapping into ancient horrors. Thelma Barlow was an unexpected boon in this story as I hadn't expected a great deal from her part. Lady Thaw was as much of a monster as Lazarus.

The monster was grotesque and well realised. Scrabbling along corridors and leaping across balconies. Very scary.

Mr Saxon's Evil Little Helper was a nice touch - really building him up aren't they. How long has he been watching the Doctor? Since Canary Wharf? Since the Sycorax invasion? Since the Slitheen? He must be very well prepared to take the Doctor on when he's good and ready. Whoever he is.

Not crazy about Martha's family but they serve their purpose. Considering her Mother seems to have an extra function as Mr Saxon's pawn I'm not thrilled with the acting so far; Adjoa Andoh seems to be a bit more Albert Square than the Powell Estate. Also it seems to me that Reggie off of radio one may as well not be in it so far. Why were they all invited to this experiment anyway?

Martha is brilliant and I much prefer her to Rose; and also that her relationship to the Doctor is very different. The Doctor manages to be rude or insulting to her at least once an episode - which I love. He's got a real edge to him now. She keeps making moon eyes at him though so I guess that'll be where it goes.

DT, free of the winking atavism of last weeks closing scenes, is splendid here. Cool and distant to Martha at the beginning; his interaction with Martha, her Mother, and most of all Lazarus is a pitch perfect pleasure. Best of all is the Cathedral conversation between Lazarus and the Doctor. 'You think history's only made with equations?' Lot's of great dialogue throughout the script.

With it's glossy look and fast pacing topped off with multiple climaxes, this story felt more like a good old fashioned SF blockbuster and I think that was the right thing to follow last weeks psuedophilosphical clunking imagery and Star Trek sentimentality. As a result I was already grinning all over my face when the episode ended...

AND THEN... there's the trailer. We're halfway through the series and at the risk of jinxing it I don't see what can go wrong with any of the remaining episodes, Jack, Saxon, Cornell, Moffatt, Chibnall, Derek frickin' Jacobi! If the scarecrows and spaceships and explosions weren't enough for you there's John Simm in a room full of dead or incapacitated people wearing a respirator and tapping the table. The scariest thing I've seen in Who yet.

Vote Saxon!

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Phew...that was some ride! I am beginning to think I should hav docked the preceeding Dalek episode a point as 10 days on I feel less positive about it. But Lazarus didn't disappoint in any way.

It was great to see Mark Gatiss on screen, and he gave Doctor Lazarus a wholly believable aspect (though my wife thought the "old man" makeup was poor). I was expecting a kindly old gentleman but what we got was a creepy, smarmy, dirty old man - right from the get go you realise Lazarus isn't nice even if he obviously is not evil. That often makes for the best of villians, they are more believable if you can see they're not just bent on destruction. Lazarus has a motivation for what he is doing, and in the same circumstances many sane people might do the same.

We also got to see Martha's family for the first time since "Smith & Jones", but isntead of the soap scenes with Jackie Tyler we are treated to an altogether more satisfactory situation where they are attending Lazarus's great unveilling of his life's work.

And what of his invention? Something akin to a regeneration chamber funded by Mr Saxon...if the rumours are true Saxon might well have good reasons for funding Lazarus's reserach! It is worth pointing out at this juncture that I have been pleasantly surprised that Saxon has not been mentioned every other sentence this year, I felt there were far too many Torchwood references last year.

As we all know, Laz's experiment goes wrong and his DNA becomes unstable forcing him to change into a hideous monster...and back into the young Lazarus. I felt the monster was good, but not necessary. Some of the dialogue between the Doctor and young Lazarus was truly excellent, a treat in an era of modern soundbites and something we wouldn't have had from a Davies-penned script (though his humour in Gridolck was fantastic).

The twist, where we think Lazarus is dead with 15 minutes to go was well handled. I really felt we were going to go off on some other tangent, and hoped it wasn't a prolonged family scene chez Jones. When it became Lazarus wasn't dead after all that was a nice surprise.

Also wonderfully written and acter was the scene where the Doctor tries to leave Martha behind. I really found myself wondering if he was going to leave her! Given how well Martha's character is working out I was very glad he didn't.

The final scenes in the cathedral made for a thrilling climax, with the Doctor's organ playing quite an appropriate way to do away with the monster in a non-violent fashion.

Overall this was very strong, if not perhaps a classic. Stephen Greenhorn's script is among the very best in terms of dialogue and the pacing of the direction was superb.


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When you mix together a lot of ingredients, you are going to get a dark brew, and this is what The Lazarus Experiment turned out to be. I am not sure if I know the exact recipe, but I think that first you add a healthy dose of Robert Louis Stevenson's Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, together with a dash of David Cronenberg's The Fly. Then you give the whole thing a classic biblical setting straight from the eleventh chapter of St. John's Gospel, and you throw in some obtuse quotes from T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land and The Hollow Men. You sprinkle the whole thing with some nifty CGI, some effective makeup and promising new characters just waiting to be developed in future episodes, and you have got a very entertaining episode six.

Doctor Lazarus is a mad scientist in search of the fountain of youth. Unfortunately for him, it does not come as easy as it does in Oscar Wilde's great novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. In that great decadent Victorian work, Gray does not actively seek youth by scientific means, it just comes to him one day via art and the kind of artifice that verges on magic. In The Lazarus Experiment, the title villain works towards similar results by using the time-tested traditions of sci-fi mad scientist research. For both Gray and especially for Lazarus, eternal youth carries some dire results, plenty of drawbacks, and the kind of side-effects that should make any rational thinking man of science throw out his bunsen burner and dedicate himself to less dangerous work. Lucky for us and humanity, the Doctor happens to be in attendance at the unveiling of Doctor Lazarus's creepy way-back machine, and he is able to thwart the horrible side-effect mutation that creeps into Dr. Lazarus's existence in the very same way in which Mr. Hyde often usurped the body of his literary better half.

The entire episode, like Wilde's literature, has an inescapable end of the century moldy air to it. It starts with the great old man makeup that transforms actor/writer Mark Gatiss (he is the author of one of my favorite Dr. Who episodes: The Unquiet Dead) into a seventy-six year old ready to be reborn. Throughout the episode we feel that we are nearing the end of something, but we are not quite sure what it is. The TARDIS's return to Martha Jones's apartment, at the start of the episode, for instance, is described as "the end of the line," and the show's denouement concludes at dark, empty, centuries-old Suffolk Cathedral with a monstrous Dr. Lazarus falling from the bell-tower ? the fall of Lucifer ? to the strains of a pipe organ, with all the stops pulled out that turns out to be the not too convincing deus ex machina of the story. By the way, this quasi-musical tour-de-force banging on the organ's keys and pedals is played by the Doctor with the kind of aplomb that would make the Phantom of the Opera really envious.

This episode delves further inside the relationship between Doctor and new companion, by exploring Martha Jones's family. We are introduced to her sister, who works for Dr. Lazarus, and we also get to meet Martha's brother and her mother. Mrs. Jones, portrayed by Adjoa Andoh, is one tough lady who, right from the start of the episode, seems to have made up her mind that the Doctor is just no good for her baby. In addition, a mysterious man named Harold Saxon, whom Mrs. Jones meets at Lazarus Laboratories, manages to completely poison her mind against the Doctor by revealing to her a secret that culminates in Mrs. Jones attacking the Doctor's face with an old-fashioned slap. The Doctor's precious comment about mothers as he rubs his sore cheek was the comedy highlight of this dark show.

The Lazarus Experiment turned out to be a heady, neo-baroque concoction that will surely set the stage for the upcoming episodes that will follow. By the looks of it, the episode that will air in two weeks promises to be one of the most memorable of this remarkable season.

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After the unwieldy and ultimately disappointing 'Daleks in Manhattan'/'Evolution of the Daleks' comes 'The Lazarus Experiment', an episode that is pure filler, with a clich? ridden plot that sees a mad scientist accidentally turning himself into a monster that devours people, and eventually falls to its death from a bell-tower, but hugely entertaining nonetheless.

Professor Lazarus is like one of those old Marvel super-villains whose name predicts his fate, but rather than going for a simple Jekyll and Hyde scenario, writer Stephen Greenhorn creates an arrogant, cruel and deeply unpleasant character, a fact that starts to become obvious before his transformation when he clumsily gropes Tish's hand. Following his rejuvenation he becomes a proper gloating villain, showing no remorse for the fact that he now has to suck the life-force from other people to survive, and who coldly rejects Lady Thaw, revolted at her decrepit form now that he is a young man again. It all makes for very traditional villainy, and Mark Gatiss is perfectly cast in the role, hamming it up with glee and managing to be enormously entertaining in the process. In contrast to, say, Roger Lloyd-Pack's brand of "Bwa-ha-ha" ham in 'Rise of the Cybermen'/'The Age of Steel', Gatiss reigns in the over-the-top aspects of his performance just enough to make Lazarus rather fun, and clearly throws himself into the part with enormous enthusiasm, which rubs off on this viewer at least. He's also especially good when Lazarus is reflecting on the past, particularly when he's drenched in sweat and wrapped in a blanket in the cathedral.

Greenhorn also uses Lazarus to make comments about the nature of humanity, but does so in slightly less obvious ways than I first expected when I first heard the line "change what it means to be human", and in doing so makes him a suitable match for the Doctor. Simply put, when the Doctor is pompously telling Lazarus what humanity is all about, Lazarus' rejoinder that the desperate need to survive is very human is quite true, and tellingly when he scathingly asks the Doctor "who are you to judge me?" the Doctor doesn't seem to have a convincing answer to hand. The Doctor's initial objection to Lazarus' experiment prior to any obvious drawbacks also briefly makes him look like he arrogantly opposes any scientific development that he doesn't like, and this works well in context, as a mysterious suited figure whispers dire warnings about him into Francine's ear, a fact which the Doctor remains oblivious to here. The end result is that the Doctor's bull-in-a-China-shop approach to meddling without bothering to explain anything to anyone starts to make him look rather questionable to anyone who doesn't know him, and coupled with more references to the mysterious Harold Saxon, who obviously knows who the Doctor is, starts to give the impression that he's being slowly outmanoeuvred.

Tennant continues to be more restrained than in the past, and his frantic game of cat-and-mouse with Lazarus is very entertaining, as he improvises on the fly, blowing up laboratories, and desperately locking doors behind him in a bid to slow Lazarus down. More technobabble is used to get him out of trouble, but when he's forced to improvise inside Lazarus' machine and temporarily deals with his enemy by reversing the polarity of the machine, Greenhorn's insertion of the line "really shouldn't take that long just to reverse the polarity, must be a bit out of practice" makes it feel like a pleasing nod to the past. I also, in principle, like the idea of the Doctor despatching the monster with manic organ playing, although points are deducted for using the Davis ex machina as window dressing, as well as using it as a DNA detector earlier.

Martha's intelligence seems to have diminished somewhat since 'Smith and Jones', as she becomes a generic companion here, but she is quick-witted enough to realised that she has collected a DNA sample from Lazarus, and she also gets to show bravery whilst distracting the monster at the end. The Doctor's casual dumping of her back home also works well, since when he offers her a longer-term trip on board the TARDIS at the end, he looks a bit like a disappointed child when he thinks she's refused: this harkens back to the "my best friend" attitude of the past, and for all of Martha's obvious attraction to him, I find I can cope with the companion fancying the Doctor as long as it isn't reciprocated. In fact I endured it for two years with Sam Jones, and it was by far her least irritating attribute. We also get reintroduced to her family for the first time since 'Smith and Jones', and as I suspected at the time they are vastly less irritating than Rose's were. Most importantly, they also seem to be serving an actually purpose, with Francine's concern for her daughter entirely reasonable and believable, as she is warned that the Doctor leaves death and destruction in his wake. Greenhorn keeps the soap opera to a minimum, with even the sibling rivalry between Martha and her sister seeming like convincing background detail rather than something to be dwelt on.

The CGI monster frequently just looks like a CGI monster, and I can't help wondering if this series flaws derive from the self-congratulatory back-slapping of the production team, with nobody willing to acknowledge the programme's short comings, but for the most-part 'The Lazarus Experiment' is nothing groundbreaking, but is a very entertaining romp. And once in a while, there's nothing wrong with that at all.

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After bestowing praise upon each and every one of the first five episodes this year, last week I promised that I would try to find fault with "The Lazarus Experiment". Whilst the above was said entirely in jest, I did watch this week's episode with a particularly critical eye and, if I'm honest, there were one or two things in this episode that I wasn't especially happy with. On the whole though, "The Lazarus Experiment" is another good, solid episode of new Doctor Who. It may not be up there with some of the 'modern' classics, but it was the best thing on British Television all week by light-years.

I think it was in the pre-season Radio Times where I read that Russell T. Davies wanted this episode to have a 'comic book' feel, and if that is the case then it is a sentiment that has definitely transferred onto screen. Confidential made a big deal of "The Lazarus Experiment" paying homage to the James Bond movies, but tuxedos and gadgets aside, that wasn't really something that I bought into - Bond isn't Bond without scantily-clad women and guns! However, the comic book vibe I did get. The beautiful settings ? first in the Welsh Senate Building ('a laboratory in London') and then in a Cathedral ? both had D.C. or Marvel stamped all over them, and even the characters' names reeked of the genre. Doctor Lazarus. Lady Thaw.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I am Richard Lazarus. I am seventy-six years old and I am reborn!"

Thelma Barlow's role as Lady Thaw was much smaller than I expected after all the hype. Unlike 'Mavis' though, Mark Gatiss was given ample opportunity to shine. The chance to be in his favourite show has been something that Gatiss has waited a lifetime for and, although he might not have been cast in the dream role itself, here he gets to sink his teeth into a quite sinister role that could have been written just for him. Who knows, perhaps it was?

The sparring between Gatiss and Tennant is an absolute delight to watch, especially for someone like me who loves The League of Gentlemen as well as Doctor Who. At times their banter reminded me of how I felt watching Simon Pegg and Christopher Eccleston verbally batter each other in "The Long Game", an episode with which "The Lazarus Experiment" has much in common.

When in prosthetics, Gatiss is indistinguishable from any seventy-six year old man you may see in the street. His voice and his gait also help to get across this elderly, almost grandfather-like character. However, following his transformation I did have a bit of difficulty taking Lazarus seriously ? why in the blue hell did they make him look like Dr. Chinnery? I kept expecting him to stick his hand up a cow's backside!

Richard Clark's direction has to be praised, as does the sterling efforts of the production designers and of course, the Mill. From start to finish "The Lazarus Experiment" is visually spectacular. The C.G.I. in this episode is superb; not just in relation to the obvious but also in relation to some of the scenes inside the Cathedral and even the eponymous experiment itself.

I hope I'm not being too harsh in saying that it is really the effects that carry this episode ? the way the monster's mouth opens outwards; the horrific, calcified remains of it's victims; that breathtaking corridor chase that sees the monster spin around 360? as it runs after the Doctor. Some of the shots in the episode are on a par with some that we saw in "Tooth and Claw". In fact, my only criticism of the effects has to be that the monster's mouth didn't seem to move very well at all with the dialogue ? I noticed that they cut away from the monster speaking very quickly. Nevertheless, such a small detail could not detract from such a first-rate effort. I have a feeling that the Lazarus monster is one destined to be long-remembered. Do you remember the one with??

"He seems so human again. It's kind of pitiful."

This brings me to my main problem with the episode. "The Lazarus Experiment" is a good old-fashioned monster mash, and there is nothing at all wrong with that. However, in terms of plot there seems to be very little going on. Stephen Greenhorn has really made a lot out of the drama stemming from the prescence of Martha's family, but the science-fiction element that is driving the story is very simplistic indeed. Greenhorn may touch upon Lazarus' reasons for wanting to live forever, but his back-story is rather predictable and, if I'm brutally honest, dull as dishwater. Gatiss deserved better, really.

That much said, Greenhorn really hammers home the mysterious Saxon's hand in all this. If the rumours about his identity are true, then his interest in Lazarus' work is hardly surprising considering how he has always desperately clung on to life in the past. Looking back on this episode at the end of the season, I'd be very surprised if - as was the case with "The Long Game" - it did not come to light that there was much more going on here behind the scenes. As a stand-alone episode though, I have to say that the story feels distinctly lacking.

"A longer life isn't a better one. In the end you just get tired. Tired of the struggle. Tired of losing everyone that matters to you. Tired of watching everything turn to dust. If you live long enough, the only certainty left is that you'll end up alone."

But as I've said, what this episode lacks in storyline it more than makes up for in spectacle. The final showdown inside Suffolk Cathedral is a thing of beauty in so many ways. The Doctor's eloquent speech. The near-religious imagery of Lazarus naked in the shroud. The Doctor's nod to Spinal Tap: "We need to turn this up to eleven..." Martha hanging from the bell tower. Fantastic!

Looking at the larger story arc for a moment, "The Lazarus Experiment" marks something of a watershed for Martha Jones. It sees her return home for the first time since she begun her travels with the Doctor, and it also marks the first appearance of her family since "Smith and Jones".

"He's dangerous. There are things you should know."

In direct contrast to his navigational cock-up back in "Alien of London", here the Doctor actually gets Martha home within twelve hours. He still manages to earn himself a slap from Mrs. Jones though - "All their mothers. Every time!" ? as throughout the episode she has some sort of 'secret service' bloke whispering in her ear about the Doctor and how dangerous he is. Even so, I think that in this episode Francine comes across as very unlikeable - I can certainly sympathise with Martha's Dad! Even in her fiercest moments, Jackie Tyler was always loveable. Adjoa Andoh portrays Francine as much more austere; a much tougher nut to crack in many ways.

"I know the age thing's a bit weird but it worked for Catherine Zeta Jones."

Martha's sister Tish is also given quite a bit of exposure in this episode, and whilst she is not as severe as her Mother, she comes across as a bit 'up herself' and even a bit shallow. Prior to Lazarus' transformation, Tish won't even give him the time of day, yet as soon as he becomes a handsome young(ish) man, she's all over him! However, it is important to note that at the end of the episode she's there for Martha to catch her when she falls. Literally.

Of the Joneses, only Leo acquits himself as a pleasant, well-adjusted young man, though I suppose it's early days! Jackie, Mickey and Pete really endeared themselves to the audience over the course of the first two years and so I think that the Joneses have a difficult task in trying to replace them. So far, so good though.

I enjoyed the final scene very much. It sees Martha become a 'proper' companion as opposed to a mere 'passenger', much in the same way that Rose 'signed-up' properly at the end of "World War Three." "Okay," says the Doctor, nodding towards the open TARDIS door. "Well, you were never really just a passenger were you?"

And so off they go; off into the forty-second century.

"I'm begging you. I know who this Doctor really is. I know he's dangerous; you're gonna get yourself killed! Please trust me. This information comes from Harold Saxon himself. You're not safe."

On a final note, I'd just like to say 'bloody Eurovision!'

I suppose if you do have to stall the season for a fortnight, then this semi-cliffhanger is a tantalising way in which to leave things, especially when combined with the new Christmas Special-style trailer for the rest of the season. It seems that there is certainly much to look forward to ? Captain Jack back in action; Saxon in an oxygen mask tapping the desk, evilly; a dark and gritty 'real time' adventure out in space; not to mention the "Human Nature" dramitisation. I haven't read the novel for a while, but I don't remember Scarecrows or a Wedding! They certainly seemed to have jazzed it all up a bit for TV, even the Aubertides look far more threatening on screen than I imagined when reading the book.

"He's fire and ice and rage? Loves greatly, but not small-ly. He's Merlin."

Roll on Saturday week!

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I wasn't particularly looking forward to this episode to be honest: all-too-obvious mad scientist plot with all-too-obviously named professor, return to Earth, reappearance of plastic Martha's plastic family, CGI monster and so on. All the ingredients for the kind of irritation, boredom and cringing I normally experience during your average New Who episode.

But I was pleasantly surprised by The Lazarus Experiment. Of course it still had token annoyances which have become something of the RTD production-tradition now, but this particular story managed to rise above such irritant factors due to a general seriousness of tone and a well-articulated - albeit not entirely original - plotline.

From the outset, boundaries were being put down by the maturing Doctor towards his latest and rather simpering companion, Martha: for once we had a reason, more like the old days, for the Doctor to return his companion to her time on Earth: he wanted to call it a day and put her back we he found her. And who can blame him? Martha is even more insipid than Rose, but seemingly lacking the latter's attempt at a personality. Martha seems to have none at all. Her fancying the Doctor just seems substanceless and token in its doe-eyed vapidness. There's no chemistry at all anyway. So I thanked God that the Doctor started this episode further emphasising his emotional detachment from her. If only she hadn't hopped back on at the end (but that was his fault admittedly).

This scene also adds a welcoming touch of alienness and detachment to the rather erratically scripted 10th Doctor, and this is greatly welcome. This slightly restless and solipsistic slant on Tennat's incarnation is also nicely reminiscent of early Pertwee's misanthropic fuss-pot of a Doctor, who had childish tantrums whenever his attempts to regain control of the TARDIS for purposes of self-centred escape from his rather mundane UNIT trappings backfired.

This is, in many other ways, very much Pertwee-era territory (sonic screwdriver aside): the 10th Doctor, just like his ever doomwatching 3rd incarnation, pops along - in tuxedo too - to witness the latest amoral experiment turning heads in the human scientific community. In this sense this episode is very reminiscent of the enthralling thriller of Season 8, The Mind of Evil. We also have the ultimate fan reference to the 3rd Doctor: 'reverse the polarity of the neutron flow'.

What I liked the most about this episode wasn't the plot itself, but certain concepts and chunks of explanatory monologue from the Doctor, which added real leaven to what could have otherwise degenerated into a facile run-around. The suggestion that the regenerative process of Lazarus's machine should produce an atavistic reaction in the human body, tapping in to an evolutionary cul-de-sac wherein our genes still contain an aborted DNA chain which could have led us to evolve into scorpion-like insects rather than apes (and then humans), was the stuff of classic Who, and really did add terror to an otherwise ambitious but only half-convincing CGI monstrosity (the body was good, but the air-brushed-on face really didn't work for me, and just looked like a computer graphic, and also not remotely like Gatiss himself) - I think CGI should be scrapped entirely now, and more tangible model work should be employed: the similar man-headed spider creature in the Eighties version of The Thing for me is far more convincing than The Mill's efforts nearly a quarter of a century later.

But what really carries this story is the consumate performance from Mark Gatiss in the title role. In Professor Lazarus, we have, in my mind, the first really charismatic and affecting foil for the Doctor since the new series began. The character is in some ways reminiscent of Julian Glover's immortal turn as Count Scarlioni in the classic City of Death. And of course Gatiss is well aware of his classic lineage in this regard being an out-of-the-closet Whovian himself. He pulled out all the acting stops in this episode, in quite the opposite fashion to how 'Trigger' pushed them all into ham as Lumik in Risable of the Cybermen last year. Gatiss shows how a Who villain should be done: with suave menace and a subtle hint of self-torment. But where Gatiss's performance, and indeed the entire episode, really comes into its own, is during the cathedral scene, as Lazarus cowers in mutating pain naked in a red towel on the flagstones, in a battle of philosophies with the Doctor. This scene was exceptionally well-directed and acted: darkly, subtly, but above all, dramatically. This scene also reminded me a bit of the 5th Doctor's final confrontation with the mutating Omega at the end of Arc of Infinity (and is it just me, or does the young Gatiss bear a vague facial resemblance to Peter Davison?). During this scene also, there is a pivotal and highly resonant retort from Lazarus to the Doctor's comparatively superficial observation of how 'facing up to death is part of being human' - which of course is imutably true; but Lazarus comes back with an equal truism about our contradictory condition: that it is also our instinct to 'cling to life with every fibre of our being' (sic). Even the goggle-eyed 10th Doctor seems struck dumb by this statemtent. Excellent scripting. Here then we have a tale suitably grisly and morally-disturbing as its obvious literary influence, Dorian Grey.

The only trouble that crops up here is that Gatiss frankly steals this episode from Tennant - and though Tennant strains to rise to the occasion - and doesn't do too badly in places -there is no doubting in my mind that this was one occasion, and actually probably only the third of three occasions for me in the show's history, when an incidental actor in a Who story seemed to have 'Obvious Doctor material' stamped all over him in comparison to the current incumbent (the other two occasions for me were Paul Shelley opposite Davison in Four to Doomsday, and David Collings opposite Davison (again, sorry Peter) in Mawdryn Undead). I know Gatiss has long nursed a fantasy of one day playing the lead - partly pampered to in his comedic cameos in the 30th Who anniversary documentary), and this is a potential I haven't been convinced of myself previously. However, on the basis of his turn in this episode, I did feel instinctively that he was more obvious Doctor material than Tennant. In his very RP, throaty delivery of lines, Gatiss oozed the kind of old-style theatrical gravitas that has so long been missing from the Timelord's interpretations. As the young Lazarus, I detected also a passing resemblance to the young Derek Jacobi (turning up of course soon in Utopia, which is tops with me, being a massive fan of I,Claudius, especially of Jacobi's eponymous performance).

The musical extermination of the Lazarus monster was indeed 'inspired' as the Doctor put it - and the sight of him grinding away at the church organ as a means to defeating one of his foes has to surely be one of the most, well, artistic ways in which the Timelord has ever won the day. Definitely inspired.

Subtle hints at the inevitable identity of the mysterious Mr Harold Saxon aside, the other key factor of this episode which I think deserves particular mention and praise, is that for practically the first time since new Who began, we have the Doctor finally using a more erudite and profound cultural reference properly befitting the drama of the occasion than bathetic trendy allusions to Kylie Minogue lyrics or third-rate Eighties films: 'not with a bang but a wimper - Eliot. I also liked the subtlety here of saying 'Eliot' rather than 'T.S. Eliot' - not even spelling it out. This was a truly welcome return to the more profound and poetic days of the glowering 4th Doctor (cue his tendency to quote poetry, as in The Face of Evil and at the end of Horror of Fang Rock). Again, brilliant scripting. And what a polar contrast to the usual contemporary cultural allusions.

To sum up then, this episode certainly didn't go out with a wimper, as I was starting to suspect it might about 10 minutes before its end, with a red-herring conclusion of Lazarus being stretchered away in an ambulance - but the episode hit back with a real vengeance and a philosophically challenging denouement which in itself (that cathedral scene) will, to my mind, go down as a classic moment in the series (both old and new).

Like Gridlock, another pleasant surprise of an episode, The Lazarus Experiment continues to show how unpredictable this season is turning out to be. This is not necessarily a classic story, but it certainly contains some unexpectedly classic moments, which is the next best thing. Mr Gatiss, I'd hand you the keys to the TARDIS any time.


Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor

Almost halfway through Series 3 and, after two trips to Earth's past and one to New Earth in the distant future, we're back to present-day London. These episodes haven't tended to be amongst my favourites since the series returned - no particular objection to them, I just have a personal preference for "historicals" and "other planets", as I think they're more interesting settings.

And this one, although eminently watchable, didn't change my perception about present-day London as a setting. Again, I must harp on about the episode length - there really isn't that much you can do plot-wise in 45 minutes (and the running time of this was very short, a lot closer to 35 minutes) and, as a result, the story is over before it's begun.

So what was this latest short story all about?

The Doctor takes Martha back to Earth after her "one trip" in the TARDIS but, just as he's about to leave, his interest is piqued by a TV news item featuring Martha's sister, Tish, a PA, and her boss, the ageing Professor Lazarus.

At a demonstration in Lazarus Laboratories, The Doctor, along with Martha and Tish and their mother and brother, watch in amazement as Lazarus performs an experiment using his Genetic Manipulator, from which he emerges 40 years younger. He believes this discovery of cheating the ageing process is set to transform the human race.

The Doctor works out that Lazarus has altered his DNA to change his molecular structure, but a side effect is that he transforms into a monster which drains the life force of humans. The Doctor manages to lure the creature away, so that the guests at the demonstration can flee and, once she is sure her family are OK, Martha returns into the building to help her new friend.

They think they have destroyed the creature, and it reverts to the form of Lazarus. However, the ambulance which takes the body away suddenly stops, and The Doctor realises Lazarus has indeed risen from the dead. Pursued by The Doctor, Martha and Tish, Lazarus heads for a nearby cathedral.

Meanwhile, a "mysterious man" takes Martha's mother to one side, and warns her about The Doctor.

In the cathedral, Lazarus once again reverts to monster form, and chases Martha and Tish to the bell tower at the top. Just in time, The Doctor kills the creature for good by playing the organ which creates massive sound waves that revorborate off the bell.

The Doctor agrees to Martha's request for more than "one trip", and she joins him full time in the TARDIS. As it dematerialises, Martha's mother leaves an urgent message on her phone, warning her to leave The Doctor because she's in terrible danger . . .

The story itself - mad scientist's quest for eternal youth/immortality/turns into monster/dies wouldn't win any prizes for originality, but it was a perfectly-decent romp - although, even for Doctor Who, they might have been over-quota for running!

Writer Stephen Greenhorn's debut episode for Doctor Who had plenty of good dialogue for the main characters, though, and the script was well served yet again by David Tennant and Freema Agyeman as The Doctor and Martha. Some humorous moments, too - The Doctor grabbing Martha's underwear from a clothes horse in her flat to her horror, Mrs Jones dealing a hefty slap to The Doctor (shades of Jackie Tyler to the previous incarnation), and the monster itself (peek-a-boo) being given a character.

Mark Gatiss was also excellent as the older and younger Lazarus, particularly the former, which he seemed to relish. I was actually more taken with the prosthetic work to make him up into the 76-year-old Lazarus than the CGI monster, impressive beast though it was. And Gatiss, as a DW fan and dual writer for the series, knew how to pitch the villain so as not to make him over the top. Good performance, and some nice scenes in the cathedral with his friend, Tennant.

It was always going to be a big ask to integrate three members of Martha's family, and Reggie Yates as Leo was the big sufferer of time constraints here, unless there's an award for "standing there". More substance to Gugu Mbatha Raw as Tish and Adjoa Andoh as concerned mum Francine, and it'll be interesting to see them again, as we undoubtedly will later in the series.

Plenty of "green screen" acting and, again, kudos for Tennant, now an old hand at acting against nothing. I'm finding it difficult to find any fault with the show's star at the moment.

No denying that The Mill's latest CGI masterpiece did what it said on the tin, and filled the screen magnificently, but these creatures are rather one-dimensional in that after devouring a couple of sacrificial extras, all they can really do is chase people down corridors. We've seen it with the Reapers, The Werewolf and the Krillitanes - plus the static CGI creatures in Rose, The Long Game and The Satan Pit - all very different visually, but limited in what they can actually do. And, speaking of limits, there is a finite amount of times you can go to a well. I think we might be close to the bottom of this one.

Intriguing titbits for future episodes, with more mentions of Mr Saxon, who was the paymaster behind Lazarus's experiment. We now know Saxon's first name is Harold and has, through an intermediate (who rather reminded me of Willy Wonka's sidekick who tried to bribe the golden ticket winners in the original version of that film), started to sow seeds of doubt about The Doctor with Martha's mother. And just a little hint that there may be a touch of sibling rivalry between Martha and Tish, which may also prove significant.

Good, too, that Martha (probably the most-eager-ever incumbant of the companion role - even more than Rose) has convinced The Doctor that she is worthy of a regular spot in the TARDIS. There are similarities with Rose in that she has already effectively suggested she would choose The Doctor over her family, but there is no indication in the slightest that The Doctor sees her in any other terms than a companion. She has been an excellent addition to the show - both character and actress - since her first scene really. Particularly pleasing that, like Rose, she takes an active part in the solving of the mysteries and using her own initiative, rather than just being The Doctor's foil. Makes her a much more rounded character.

On the whole, more filler than thriller, but pretty slick, and hard to criticise. But no more than 7 out of 10 because most of it has been seen in various guises before. However, I do believe there is better to come, and we haven't seen anything like the best of this series so far.

Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor