As the wise sage Yazz once said, the only way is up. So it was with the latest episode of Doctor Who, The Lazarus Experiment. After the dismal piece of genetic mutation that was Evolution of the Daleks, we have a hybrid we can all be pretty proud of, a nearly 100% successful amalgam of old Who, new Who, The Quatermass Experiment and – ooh – MacGyver.
So why was it so successful? To my mind, the ingredients were one of the main reason. We had a strong, gobbledygook science-fiction plot straight out of old Who in which yet another mad scientist tries to find a cure for getting old (cf Mawdryn Undead. When, incidentally, have you seen a sane scientist on new Who? Plenty of perfectly compos mentis writers, I notice...). Plenty of running around in corridors being chased by monsters. Plenty of cunning Doctor plans. Please, Mr RTD, can we have some more?
Then there was the new Who topping, with our first decent glance at Martha and her family, as well as a bit of angsty Doctor. While Martha's poor acting appears to have a genetic component, we finally have a better understanding of Martha and what drives her. I particularly liked her ability to thrive under pressure and act like an actual doctor. Not quite sure why her mum's so mental, but there you go: there's always one in every family.
Angsty Doctor was nice, and certainly a good replacement for shouty Doctor, who was far less visible this week. I do worry about the human-centric "living for a long time must be hard" attitude that's creeping in. Some mandatory Sapphire and Steel viewings for the writing staff are in order, I think. I'm sure the mayflies, if they could think, would be wondering how we manage to cope living 70 years plus and those lovely elephants don't appear to give up on the thrill of life when they're 120 plus, so I'm not sure why a Time Lord would really wish to live as long as a human. But he's alone, now he's The Last of the Time Lords, and just needs some comforting, I suspect.
For the pop-culture/sci-fi junkie (and those on "Saxon alert") there were some nice moments to watch out for, with parallels and references to The Quatermass Experiment (evil lifeforce sucking thing takes refuge in a cathedral. And let's not forget the recent remake starred both Mark Gatiss and David Tennant), This is Spinal Tap and other bits of glory gone by. Even Murray Gold's usually dismal music spent most of its time emulating the soundtrack to 1970's X-Files predecessor The Omega Factor - or maybe he just sounds like 30 years of improvements in incidental music never happened.
A few minor criticisms though: the lighting and direction are looking quite flat these days; The Mill's CGI work is looking less effective than segments of 'Quake 2' although the bodywork on Professor Lazarus was pretty fine and probably scared the kiddies silly; and there were some long talkie gaps that I didn't enjoy when I was wearing my Helm of an ADHD Eight-Year Old, although I liked them as an adult.
Nevertheless, a cracking tour de force from Tennant and Gatiss and a nice bit of writing from Mr Greenhorn. And didn't you all feel a thrill of excitement at the trailer at the end?
PS Do you think we need to pay attention to John Simm's ring?
PPS I can cope with one story messing up a biblical reference, but two stories in a row? Solomon never chopped the baby in half and Lazarus rose from the dead. Seriously, just spend a night in a hotel if you haven't got a bible to hand, guys.
- January 7, 2010: The writers for series five of Doctor Who
The writers of series five of Doctor Who
- October 22, 2010: Review: The First Men in the Moon
A review of BBC4's adaptation of HG Well's First Men In the Moon