Review: Doctor Who – 3×6 – The Lazarus Experiment

The Lazarus Experiment

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.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    Varied between witty and dull. Pales next to the inobviously wonderful Daleks two-parter. I mean, yes: big, fuck off monster looked impressive, but as we had it quite early on, the rest was an undemanding runaround. I don’t normally complain about the sonic screwdriver, but the fact we had hypersonics thrown in our faces such a lot did rather give a way some big clues as to what would happen.
    When, incidentally, have you seen a sane scientist on new Who?
    There have been a handful of technical experts or medical types who were fine, but no full on geniuses as far as I can see. In fact, Torchwood‘s two geniuses turned out to be nihilistic rapist and an occasionally dead serial killer, and the visiting cybernetics expert seemed to have a fetish for cyberized flesh, so one does have to wonder about the production teams’ attitude to science. Whither the likes of Professor Rubeish and Laurence Scarman?
    PS Do you think we need to pay attention to John Simm’s ring?

  • Your question about John Simm’s ring made me blush.

  • John Simm – best charming/maleavolent grin this side of Mr Tennant.
    PS if the trailer is for the whole season (which it is) does that mean that Chris ‘couldn’t write instructions for tea-making’ Chibnall has gone back to remake Countrycide for Doctor Who? Say it ain’t so…. It has to be better than that…

  • There is a suggestion going around that John Simm isn’t playing the character we think he is, but is playing another character. Cast your mind back to which (very) old Who character also wore a ring and then see what that might mean.

  • “Your question about John Simm’s ring made me blush.”
    Mission accomplished!

  • “It has to be better than that…”
    It’s got Cindy for EastEnders in, that one, hasn’t it? I leave you to extrapolate from that.

  • Now that is interesting since I have had some thoughts about that. Given that I have tried to keep fairly fingers-in-ears-la-la-la-not-listening about the whole Saxon-Simm-rumour mill of internet and magazine gossip I’m still very much hoping for the possibility of a surprise. And your hint suggests VERY interesting time ahead.
    Chris Chibnall excluded…??

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    I’ve given up thinking Saxon’s definitely [removed by Rob to avoid potential spoiler] because of stuff I’ve heard from Tennant et al on Confidential and elsewhere. Besides, it seems rather dubious that Gene Hunt would spill the beans like that.
    So, you’ve heard that very early ’60s character might be back? It’s one to put in the pile along with the Valeyard and Sec’s son, I suppose; and it does make better sense of the alone/not alone paradox than the latter would…

  • Mmm. What happened to that ring? Didn’t it fall off?
    I still think he’s who we think he is, but that probably is That RIng. He’s trying anything, isn’t he?
    I really enjoyed that last epsiode, and so did my mum, my sister and my niece, which makes it wholly successful in my book.

  • “the lighting and direction are looking quite flat these days”
    YES! I totally agree. That’s one of my main greivances. But hat-tip to the Mill for the Lazarus machine, I thought that was pretty amazing.
    As the episode as a whole, I was actually smiling, thank god, throughout. Mark Gatiss was fabulous, and Tennant playing the church organ – just inspired. But, as I’m gonna write up on my blog, I don’t know whether the last two were so bad that I think this was better than it was, or that it’s made me think it was worse than it actually was…

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    The ring’s on the wrong finger.

  • Hang on, are we talking about this ring, or am I misunderstanding you?
    (Spoilerphobes, don’t click on the link)

  • For what?
    Besides, wouldn’t it have to be? You know, in the “Japan winning second world war”, Man in the High Castle kind of way?

  • You’re not wrong, but with an added twist.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    Well, if you’re thinking that way, then that would mean RTD was fibbing when he said there were no alternative universe TLs (it’s at the end of the video interview linked on that page).

  • Well he wouldn’t be alternative, he’d be over here.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    ‘One race… who oversaw everything’.

  • Plenty of wiggle room in that. Let’s not forget said character isn’t 100% pure Time Lord for one thing. Plus RTD does like to play.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    Hang on, are we treating the ‘on my mother’s side’ thing as gospel?

  • Maybe. He could have been deluded, he could have been telling the truth. RTD is free to use that as he sees fit. Plus there is a certain two-parter coming up this season that might be able to shine a light on that conundrum.

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    Plus there is a certain two-parter coming up this season that might be able to shine a light on that conundrum.
    My bet is that it won’t ever be referred to, at least not during RTD’s tenure. There’s been a tendency not to confirm/deny elements of past continuity except when the story demanded it.

  • I’d go along with that. But he might tip a wink to it.

  • I really don’t know my old Who well enough to have any clue what you lot are going on about, but I like the uncertainty over who Simm is playing, because I like surprises.
    Can I lower the tone here by saying that with Tennant *and* Cap’n Jack *and* John Simm I am going to be taking a lot of cold showers on Saturday evenings from now on? Hubba and indeed hubba.

  • “I really don’t know my old Who well enough to have any clue what you lot are going on about”
    Marvellous. I was a bit worried we were on the verge of spoiling people who didn’t want to be spoiled, but looks like we’re in the clear. I have to agree uncertainty is good. Nothing worse than knowing all the surprises in advance, and there’s nothing better than arguing the toss about it.
    “I am going to be taking a lot of cold showers on Saturday evenings from now on”
    You really don’t have any luck with your boilers, do you? 😉

  • Have a look at this, from the Daleks’ lab.
    And now have a look at the logo for Lazarus Laboratories.
    And now go and have a look at the trailer, and freeze-frame on John Simm’s ring.

  • I’ve yet to see the episode – have to visit those friends of mine who um… can help me out on that score…
    But if I’m following the hints correctly, I’m all for this new theory as to his identity over those of “X” or “Double X”. It would provide me with lots of material for Toobworldian analysis!
    Whichever way it goes, I hope it can live up to the hype. Nothing sadder than thinking what might have been….

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    Well, that adds weight to one of the theories.

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  • Jake Brown

    That’s a rediculous picture.