Thursday, 28 September 2017

Story 183 - The Lazarus Experiment

In which the Doctor takes Martha to her next destination - and she is disappointed to find that she is back home in her flat. The Doctor reminds her that she was only supposed to have had one trip. Martha checks her messages and there is one from her mother, Francine, stating that sister Tish has a new job, and that she should look at the news on TV. They see a report featuring Professor Richard Lazarus claiming that he is going to change what it means to be Human. Tish is seen in the background - the scientist's new PR adviser. The Doctor leaves, only to return moments later - intrigued by what Lazarus has just claimed.
That evening they go to a special reception at LazLabs - the Professor's research establishment in south London. Lazarus has built a machine - the Genetic Manipulator - which he claims can rejuvenate people. He is present with one of his backers - Lady Thaw. Most of the funding has come from the Harold Saxon Foundation. The Doctor meets Tish and brother Leo, and finds that Francine seems antagonistic towards him. She wants to know who he is, and is worried that he might be distracting Martha from her studies.
Lazarus intends to demonstrate his machine using himself as a test subject. He enters the Manipulator, but something goes wrong. The Doctor intervenes to prevent it exploding.
The machine opens and Lazarus emerges - looking decades younger.

He goes up to his private office to change, accompanied by Lady Thaw. The two had been lovers, but now he is disgusted by her. She wants his machine to be for the sole use of the rich and famous. He is gripped by a terrible seizure and collapses, transforming into a huge mutated creature. It attacks and kills Thaw - leaving her body a desiccated husk. Reverting to human form, he invites Tish up to the roof. He shows her the nearby Southwark Cathedral, and explains how he sheltered there as a boy during the London Blitz. The Doctor knows that the Professor's machine should not work properly. It should have damaged his DNA. Investigating, he and Martha go to the private office and find Thaw's corpse. Examining his research, the Doctor sees that the process has activated dormant DNA. They go to the roof and find Lazarus and Tish. They see him transform once more into the mutant creature. They flee downstairs as the creature gives chase. It arrives in the reception area, killing one of the guests and triggering a panic. Leo is injured. Martha helps open the doors, whilst the Doctor lures the creature back upstairs, looking for a way to destroy it.

Blowing it up in one of the laboratories fails to stop it. The Doctor and Martha find themselves trapped in the Professor's machine, and the creature switches it on. The Doctor sabotages it, so that the effect emanates outwards and strikes the creature. They emerge to see the Professor in human form once again - apparently dead. He is taken to an ambulance. Outside, a man approaches Francine and warns her about the Doctor. He tells her his information comes direct from Harold Saxon. Furious, Francine slaps the Doctor. Suddenly they hear a commotion, and find that the ambulance men have been killed - their bodies drained like Lady Thaw's. Tish tells them of how the Professor had sheltered in the Cathedral. They go there and find Lazarus. The Doctor tries to show him the error of his ways in trying to prolong life. He has triggered DNA that has lain dormant in humans for thousands of generations. Lazarus transforms once again. Martha and Tish flee to the upper levels of the Cathedral, ending up in the bell tower. The Doctor goes to the organ and starts playing - using his sonic screwdriver to boost the sound levels. The reverberation in the bell tower affects the creature, causing it to plunge to the ground. It is killed, transforming back into the Professor. His body reverts back to its aged state.
Back at her flat, the Doctor offers Martha one further trip in the TARDIS. She refuses, stating that she will only go with him if she is no longer treated as just a passenger. He agrees. After the ship has dematerialised, Francine leaves another message on Martha's answer machine - warning her about the Doctor...

The Lazarus Experiment was written by Stephen Greenhorn, and was first broadcast on Saturday 5th May, 2007. Greenhorn is best known for his stage-play / movie based on the music of the Proclaimers - Sunshine on Leith. He has also written for the BBC Scotland soap River City, and the supernatural series Marchlands, which starred Alex Kingston. After writing a pair of episodes, Mark Gatiss gets to appear on screen, playing Lazarus. He's not the first actor to have written a story as well as playing a role in the show. Victor Pemberton had featured as a credited extra in The Moonbase before writing Fury from the Deep, and Glyn Jones wrote The Space Museum before appearing in The Sontaran Experiment.
The story features Martha's family prominently. Dad is not present, and it is the only episode of the season in which Reggie Yates gets any substantial screen time as Leo.
Instead of a preview for the next episode at the end (42), there was an extended teaser for the rest of the season, as the programme was to miss a week to make way for the Eurovision Song Contest. The "Next Time..." trailer was made available on the BBC website, and was subsequently edited onto the episode for overseas sales of the episode and for the DVD releases.

As well as the cast members mentioned above, there are only two other significant guest artists. Lady Thaw is played by Thelma Barlow, famous for a long-running role in Coronation Street. As the unnamed agent of Mr Saxon we have Bertie Carvel. He has since gone on to bigger things, having featured as Jonathan Strange in the BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. He has just been seen in Doctor Foster, making him one of the most hated men on television. Carvel was supposed to return later in the series, but proved unavailable, so he was replaced by the female agent played by Elize du Toit.

Story Arc: Lots of mentions of Harold Saxon. He is said to be funding Lazarus' research, and we see his agent stirring up trouble between Francine and the Doctor.
Martha becomes a fully fledged TARDIS traveller. When they arrive in her flat, it is the morning after she first stepped into the TARDIS.
The Doctor mentions that his tuxedo tends to be unlucky, and he refers to how a previous companion's mother also once slapped him.

Overall, an okay story, serving mainly to set up events for later in the season. As such this episode performs the same sort of role that The Long Game did in the 2005 series. The monster is supposed to have Mark Gatiss' features, but I certainly can't see it. The DWM 50th Anniversary poll puts it at a lowly 200th place.
Things you might like to know:

  • The reception scenes were filmed in the Welsh National Assembly building in Cardiff Bay. A couple of years later, the James Bond producers asked to film there - for Spectre - and were turned down. When the Doctor worries about his tuxedo bringing bad luck, Martha reassures him by claiming it makes him look like Bond. The bad luck he is referring to is the rise of the Cybermen on Pete's World, when he wore it to act as a waiter. He'll have further bad luck later on, when he wears it on board the spaceship Titanic.
  • Being slapped by mothers refers back to Aliens of London, when he returned Rose to Jackie a year late.
  • The exterior of Southwark Cathedral was used for establishing shots, but the interiors were recorded at Wells Cathedral.
  • Lazarus was the biblical character who was brought back from the dead by Jesus, as recounted in John 11: 41 - 44. Professor Lazarus is believed killed, but comes back to life in the ambulance.
  • A Lazarus taxon (a subset of animal / plant life) is one which disappears from the fossil record and so is thought to have become extinct - only for it to reappear later. This would relate to the Professor triggering the activation of dormant DNA.
  • The central part of the Professor's Genetic Manipulator is a reused prop. It had previously been the descent capsule in The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit.
  • It was only decided late in the day that Mark Gatiss would wear a wig as the younger Lazarus. There was no time to create a custom-made hairpiece, so Gatiss offered to hire the production team the wig he wore in The League of Gentlemen. He wore this when playing the hapless vet, who was based on Peter Davison's All Creatures Great and Small character. He charged £100.
  • The conclusion to the story, with a monster in a church, is obviously based on the first Quatermass serial. In 2005, Gatiss and David Tennant had starred in a live remake of this, and it provides the inspiration for this story's title.
  • Spinal Tap is referenced, as the Doctor turns the volume up to 11.
  • The works of poet T S Eliot are mentioned - The Hollow Men and The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.
  • A deleted scene saw the Doctor find a copy of the American Declaration of Independence in his tuxedo pocket. He claimed to have helped draft it - taking credit for the "pursuit of happiness" line. Earlier this season, he had mentioned being struck by lightning whilst experimenting with Benjamin Franklin. An out-take has Tennant and Agyeman running out of camera track before he can completely unroll it.

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