"...some option that evolution rejected millions
of years ago but the potential is still there.
Locked away in your genes..."
Martha returns home but could this be the end of her travels with the Doctor? When she discovers Lady Thaw is caught up in the scheming of Professor Lazarus and his Genetic Manipulation Device, it becomes a fight for survival, as human DNA twists into a monster.
If I were six years old THE LAZARUS EXPERIMENT would be a roller-coaster ride of thrills, scares and terror - enough to make the most bladder confident to wet the bed that night - and if I was a forty-one year old it be exactly the same.
Including wetting the bed too.
Terrific episode. I have never said "terrific" before in a review but it sums the episode's consummate balance between storytelling, dialogue, design (Neill Gorton of Millennium FX producing a potentially Award-winning make-up design) and sound creation. It ticks all the boxes for not only DOCTOR WHO but for BBC1 family drama for the 21 st century that, I am sure if you recently saw the recent BBC3 reprise, DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS did for BBC1 in the 1980s.
In their six outing, written by DOCTOR WHO newcomer, Stephen Greenhorn, Tennant and Agyeman (confounding both fan critics - who should know best by now - and professional media critics alike for her effortless engaging acting) are equally "terrific", settling into a relationship that is, at a similar point in SERIES 1 or even SERIES 2, easily absorbing to watch. There is something wholly natural on-screen between the two; an ease and a cosiness. A British version of America's Mulder & Scully. Agyeman is a treasure.
Martha : Thank you for everything.
Doctor : It was my pleasure.
FX: The TARDIS dematerialises.
FX: Moments later the TARDIS materialises.
Doctor ( referring to the TV News report ): No. Sorry. Did he say he was going to change what it means to be human?
A true CLASSIC SERIES opening gambit to hook the viewer, knowing that the protagonist has sniffed out the rotten-egg and that the chase was on. And, of course, we knew that all the well-meaning intentions of Professor Richard Lazarus will come to nought.
Lady Thaw : Are you sure it is safe?
Lazarus : There were some issues. They have been resolved. And I am confident that I am in no serious danger.
As Professor Richard Lazarus, Mark Gatiss can be proud.
Probably, the first convincing "misguided" human in the NEW SERIES, and he relished it. Not once but three times. As the aged professor, the rejuvenated pitiful letch and, finally, as part of CGI creature.
The characterisation was astute, thoughtful, credible and detailed. Minute observation by Gatiss, especially as the 76 year-old scientist, was key for viewers to accept that the comedic-actor was not ridiculed - innocent jowl rumination action, digit gesticulation and overall physical movement was measured and skilful. And the dialogue between Lazarus and the Doctor was equally telling.
Lazarus : "Between the idea and the reality. Between the notion and the act."
Doctor ( Interrupts ): ".fall the shadow".
Lazarus : So the mysterious Doctor knows his Elliot. I'm impressed.
Doctor : I wouldn't have thought you'd have time for poetry, Lazarus. What with you being busy on defying the laws of nature and everything.
Lazarus : You're right, Doctor. One lifetime has been too short for me to do everything I like. How much more I will could get done in two, or three or four.
Doctor : It doesn't work like that. Some people live more in 20 than others do in 80. Its not the time that matters it's the person.
Of course, Gorton's (surpassing 1970s DOCTOR WHO "mask-maker", John Friedlander as the design master) prosthetic for Lazarus was inspired and beautifully crafted - even handsome - that aided Gatiss in establishing his character. The personification of a method actor?
Additionally, The MillTV's visual effects contribution rivalled that TOOTH AND CLAW of its exquisite and terrifying "monster" - a creation that could be easily seen in a Hollywood blockbuster let alone on a British TV screen. More so as much the creature is seen in relatively highly lit environments (as opposed to be lurking in the "shadows" which more easy to create as any rough edges are swallowed-up by the dark) and the professionalism of the designers is clearly demonstrated. Every sinew, sheaths of derogated skin, and gnarled bone was precisely designed and demonstrates unmatched talent (even by London's The Framestore) and accomplishment in their field.
Director, Richard Clarke, whilst having an iconic DOCTOR WHO story laid across his clapperboard, showed an adroit understanding of the series' aims and ambitions. Be witty, be sharp, be on-message, be scary (you must have 'jumped' as Martha falls from the bell tower? I did. The edge of the sofa was worn threadbare), be thoughtful. He allowed the story to unravel at a steady pace, notching up the angst as the James Bond action-style action sequences played out and then, as if to give the viewer a "pause for breath", relax as the morality is expounded. Prior to the murder of lady Thaw, the transformation of aged Lazarus into the creature was deftly handled, showing less than more was more frightening than the iconic transformation in AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON .
Amid the darker threat in THE LAZARUS EXPERIMENT there were lighter elements that (Note 1) were witty and (Note 2) continue a theme running throughout SERIES 3.
For Note 1: The "Doctor and Martha's knickers" scene was sexually cheeky yet sweet (unlike the bisexual kissing in THE PARTING OF THE WAYS, and numerous gay comments littered in SERIES 1).
For Note 2: The warning, given to Martha's Mother, by a mysterious man indicating that the Doctor is a dangerous man. Is Harold Saxon laying a line of breadcrumbs for the doctor to follow? Was employing Martha's Sister as part of the Lazarus project by design or an accident? Did Saxon wilfully sabotage the Genetic Manipulation Device in order to create the Lazarus hybrid-creature? How the Saxon theme is eventually resolved will this year's biggest "to watch".
Even a 1970s throwback to Jon Pertwee was included as the Tenth Doctor "reversed the polarity".
Overall, THE LAZARUS EXPERIMENT will not inspire all fans of SERIES 3 (like Marmite or even LOVE & MONSTERS) as its theme & content is nothing new - a misguided Earth scientist who is afflicted by his own machinations (re-watch INFERNO for a CLASSIC SERIES prime example) and pays the ultimate price. However, it was flawless in its production, morally explicit (though, I think, genetic science should be rested as a subject matter for SERIES 4) and more entertaining than the preceding Dalek episodes.
THE LAZARUS EXPERIMENT is the blueprint for SERIES 4.