The Lazarus Experiment

Doctor WhoMartha is crestfallen when the Doctor brings her home, announcing that this is where their travels together end. When she sees her sister in a TV press conference, however, Martha is intrigued. When he hears Professor Richard Lazarus announce the unveiling of an invention that will “change what it means to be human,” the Doctor decides to investigate. He and Martha go to the public demonstration of Lazarus’ new invention, which – after a near-overload is averted by the Doctor before it can destroy the entire building – apparently regresses the elderly inventor to his youth. But the Doctor, examining Lazarus’ DNA, discovers that the transformation is only just beginning, and when the first corpse is found, the Doctor believes that Lazarus is mutating into something that feeds on living flesh. He sets out to put Lazarus’ evolutionary experiment to an end, but can’t do so without putting Martha in mortal danger. And that’s when Martha’s mother – who has apparently received confidential information about the Doctor directly from the office of Harold Saxon, a candidate for Prime Minister – decides that Martha’s TARDIS travels must end.

Download this episodewritten by Stephen Greenhorn
directed by Richard Clark
music by Murray Gold

Guest Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Tish Jones), Reggie Yates (Leo Jones), Adjoa Andoh (Francine Jones), Mark Gatiss (Lazarus), Thelma Barlow (Lady Thaw), Lucy O’Connell (Olive Lady), Bertie Carvel (Mysterious Man)

Notes: Actor Mark Gatiss has written several Doctor Who stories (including The Unquiet Dead and The Idiot’s Lantern) for television, Big Finish’s audio adventures, and numerous novels, and has lent his voice to such characters as the Master in Big Finish audios as well. The Doctor seems to have some experience as an organist, as he demonstrates both here and in 1985’s Attack Of The Cybermen. Harold Saxon doesn’t appear here, but is mentioned in The Runaway Bride and Smith & Jones; “Vote Saxon” signs were seen in the backgrounds of those episodes, and even in the Torchwood episode Captain Jack Harkness. On its original UK broadcast, The Lazarus Experiment concluded with an extended trailer showing scene from much of the remainder of the season, since there was no “next week’s episode” – the series took a one-week break to be pre-empted by the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest.

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: Though there’s an interesting hard SF concept in the background of The Lazarus Experiment – namely that human DNA contains material left over from abandoned evolutionary branches (an idea explored more fully in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Genesis) – much of this episode seems to be a set-up for events that will unfold later in the season, particularly with regards to Harold Saxon. In that respect, The Lazarus Experiment almost feels like half a story.

It redeems itself with some of the Doctor’s lamentations on near-immortality, though this turns out to be one instance in the new series where perhaps the CG monster at the heart of the conflict just wasn’t quite ready for prime time. Especially with its digitized Mark Gatiss face, the Lazarus monster seems awfully video gamey, and not quite up to the extremely high standards that the revived Doctor Who’s effects work has displayed. I give the Mill points for trying, but this is one CG creation that didn’t quite meet the bar that has been set.

The interplay with Martha’s family is interesting enough to mention here as well, though it ties into the Saxon arc. Aliens Of London this isn’t, though there are lots of parallels (the Doctor even mentions that this isn’t the first time he’s been slapped by his traveling companion’s mum). Martha’s family isn’t used in quite the same way that Jackie Tyler and Mickey were in season one, and the reasons to keep showing them from here on out are more plot-related than sentimental.