“The Lazarus Experiment” – Review: Redux

Martha “I don’t want to be just a passenger anymore: someone that you take along for a treat. If that’s how you still see me, I’d rather stay here”

The Lazarus Experiment

The story started off with what was supposed to be the end of Martha’s travels, although I doubt anyone watching would have thought for a moment that the adventures of the Doctor and his newest companion would be ending here, although his little re-appearance in Martha’s room with the words “Did he say he was going to change what it means to be human?” was a lovely touch. It was a trip home for the companion: something we were all very used to by this point in RTD’s tenure (although not quite on the scale for the current incumbent Clara, who the Doctor seems to pick up at the start of each episode and drop off at the end). However, on this trip, a chance sighting of Martha’s sister, Tish, on the telly with the eponymous Dr Lazarus was enough to tempt the Doctor to hang around for a while and, by the time the day was saved, Martha had been promoted to permanent companion status.

The story also gave us an insight into her family a bit more than we’d seen in “Smith and Jones”: Dad was absent but Mum, Francine, sister Tish and, to a lesser degree, brother Leo (an underused, Reggie Yates), were all involved here.  Echoes of “Rose” were apparent as the mum took an instant dislike to the Doctor and even went so far, as Jackie did in “Aliens of London”, to give him a pretty solid slap.  I quite like the family aspect of the show, a statement that would rattle many a purist but I believe it genuinely works in giving Martha a reason to want to escape it all for a while and also providing an added dimension to the traditional companion in peril style.

The script came from the pen of debutant Who-writer, Stephen Greenhorn and was a deceptively simple tale of mad professor with his experiment going tragically wrong and, perhaps despite the apparent simplicity (or perhaps because of it) it worked brilliantly.  Part of the reason for the success has to be Mark Gatiss’s debut in front of the camera.  It is known that he and David Tennant have been good friends for quite some time, so this opportunity for them to act off each other was taken with relish.  The scenes in the cathedral being especially noteworthy towards the end of the episode.  Also, doing a good turn was Thelma Barlow in a completely different role from what we are used to in Corrie or Dinnerladies.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the tale was the introduction of a “mystery man” who took the opportunity to warn Francine that the Doctor was nothing but trouble, the final scene revealing that he was working for a certain Harold Saxon.  For those unsure about it, the mentions of Mr. Saxon were this Series’ ongoing arc (although “arc” is probably too strong a word… “theme” or “meme” perhaps?) and is intended to set the pulses of fans racing with anticpation, which, of course, leads to all kinds of speculation… Who exactly is he?  How does Saxon know of the Doctor?  Why doesn’t he like him?  Why did he sponsor Lazarus’s experiments to regenerate his body?  And why should anyone vote for him? It’s quite nice knowing the answers already and re-watching with the benefit of hindsight, as it adds a little more depth.

The build up to the episode had been dominated by the announcement that there would be a 2-week gap between this story and the next episode “42″, that was to enable Any Dream Will Do and Eurovision to co-exist on Saturday night without trouble.  As a special treat, the Beeb put together an extra Series Preview instead of the usual “Next Time” trailer at the end and it looked, to coin a phrase, fantastic. This might be the first example of a mid-series break that we had in Doctor Who; a feature that is now common-place to the chagrin of many, as it feels like we’re not getting our regular fill of stories.

Highlight: Gatiss versus Tennant in the Cathedral

Lowlight: I thought the monster was just a bit silly

Talking Point: Taking a two week break! What madness is this?

Demon’s Run Rating: 15 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 5th May 2007

Marathon Status: Exactly one-third of the way through 🙂

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