The Lazarus Experiment.



TV The Lazarus Experiment continued this season's trend of aping the structure of the first season, in this case follow The Long Game's model of telling a stand alone story whilst at the same time introducing a range of story strands to be picked up later. The most particular is of course Martha's mum being fed information about who the Doctor is by an aid to the mysterious Mr Saxon (underscoring the deliberate shift away from domestic dynamic of the second season in particular). You could also imagine that, if some of the rumours about the mysterious Mr Saxon are correct, the Lazarus experiment itself could also part of some greater plan we're not privy to yet.

The DWM preview notes echoes of the Pertwee era, and they're not wrong with the Doctor turning up for some experiment at the opening of the story which goes a bit wrong and he spends the rest of the story sorting it out, reversing the polarity somewhere along the line. In that same preview writer Stephen Greenhorn lists all of his influences from Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man to The Fly to Jekyll and Hyde and perhaps the biggest problem with the story is that some of these influences were too close - the treatment of the reveal of the experiment and its result were pretty similar to the film Spider-man 2 and the monster her became was Brundelfly on a bigger budget.

It was great though to see Gatiss and Tennant acting opposite one another on-screen and those scenes were perhaps the most entertaining, Greenhorn's thoughtful script providing a genuine philosophical discussion about the nature of humanity and the implications of the Doctor's longevity of the kind we haven't seen for a while, the Doctor in particular looking spectacularly tired all of a sudden. The atmospheric light helped to give the scene even more import, a nourish pool of light caging Lazarus in until his inevitable Hulking out once more.

The moment in the booth was probably the closest two way since the bathroom scene in Chinatown and worked a treat and despite the application of the Sonic Screwdriver to yet again save the day, the climax too was excellent fun; Wells Cathedral standing in for Southwark looked stunning in the shadows and organ music sending the creature to his doom. It's amusing too that Martha was saved by her sister, not as you would often expect the other way around. Richard Clark showed the same talent for action he displayed in Gridlock, and unlike some directors this season kept the jeopardy clear and lucid.

Importantly it deepened the dynamic between Doctor and companion in a far more significant way that that recent Dalek story should have. Obviously we knew the Doctor wasn't going to leave Martha behind in the teaser, but the bluff was played in an entertaining way and mirrored perfectly in the closing scene when she completely misunderstands his meaning when he says that OK, she can be his companion rather than a passenger.

Perhaps the most meaningful way that their relationship differs to that between him and Rose is that whereas they had a shorthand and to an extent could anticipate each other's needs, these two always seem just off each other's wavelength, never quite gelling with the Doctor perhaps deciding that the old approach to these best friends, potentially dying for them but at arms length is best.

If, once again, I completely failed to be thrilled by it all, it's perhaps for the same reasons I've outlined before. It's another base under siege, another CG beastie chasing the Doctor around, another evil genius played by someone who's narrated Doctor Who Confidential, another experiment gone awry and some more scenic murder. To unfortunately repeat myself, it really is getting to the stage were you imagine that my favourite scene in Paul Magrs novel The Scarlet Empress is playing out.

In there, the Doctor suggests to the parliament of birds that he feeds them all of the expected elements of one of his adventures and by slotting them together at random they can create something new. Like the Starship Enterprise investigating yet another special anomaly it lacks a freshness, a blasting together of already successful elements in an attempt to produce another entertaining story, which it really is to a point. I know I'm beginning to sound like a scratched record, but I look forward to seeing something more challenging. Perhaps Human Nature will provide that.

It would be a tad unfair to describe The Lazarus Experiment then as a forty-five minute build up to a trailer but the treat presented at the climax as a result of the fortnight's hiatus could potentially over shadow the whole episode, at least for now, and will certainly be rewatched more often over the coming fortnight, especially the stuff with John Simm looking totally menacing. Could the Doctor's meddling at the close of The Christmas Invasion have finally resulted in some very bad things happening in the British Government?

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