Monday, 25 March 2013

Review: Doctor Who 3.6: The Lazarus Experiment
I wanna imagine this scene being played out in-studio.
Doctor Who - Season 29, Episode Six - The Lazarus Experiment
Written between 20th and 21st February 2013

It really hits home in The Lazarus Experiment how different of an approach the show took towards Martha than it did Rose. At this stage, due to The Doctor's "one trip" business, it feels like she's still only just beginning. Rather an odd thing, considering we're half-way through the season. Most of The Lazarus Experiment felt very much like filler, but there was a swirl of ideas both wonderful and completely terrible to keep me interested. Like last week, we have to say goodbye to Biology for a bit - bigtime.
     The Doctor, after giving Martha her "one trip" (which he admits has somewhat escalated), takes her home. He's about to pop off, but he hears on a local news report about Professor Richard Lazarus (Mark Gattiss) and his groundbreaking experiment. The Doctor decides to attend the event, organised by Martha's sister Tish, and saves the day when Lazarus' machine almost explodes with him inside. When the machine is opened, the pensioner Lazarus comes out as a youthful Mark Gatiss, and claims that he has just enabled human immortality. However, Lazarus' machine has made his DNA unstable, and he periodically transforms into a massive pincered monster. After faking his death once, The Doctor and Martha guide him to a Church, where The Doctor uses sound waves to make him fall to his death. The Doctor offers Martha a permenant place as companion and they pop off.
     Mark Gatiss' character veers on the cliché at times, but I at least found him captivating. There's something quite Voldemort-y in his key motivation to avoid death at all costs, and his memories of cowering in war-torn London gave him a very human motivation for doing so. That theme of immortality was complemented quite well by The Doctor's role in the episode - not just blatantly against attempts at Immortality for the sake of it, but also sincere and heartfelt in his explanation of the loneliness that said immortality brings. Ten is really quite awesome in this series, and I can't for the life of me think why.
I probably enjoy Gatiss' acting a little more than his writing.
     The main problem with the story, then, is soley down to its Monster-Of-The-Week nature. The Lazarus mutant may be very scary indeed, but it shatters my suspension of disbelief into a million tiny pieces. Genetics just doesn't work like that - DNA doesn't randomly sporadically jump around just cos you shake it up a bit, and changing someone's DNA doesn't automatically change what they look like, it's not like some crazy biological cheat code. Also, DNA doesn't "hide" past options - at worst, it can hold a few minor evolutionary throwbacks (like tails or hindlegs in whales), but they ease themselves out during adult growth. There's never been a stage in human evolution where we had the option to become a massive skeletal beast with a dislocatable jaw and a stinger that can suck the life out of people.
     Despite that, I actually quite enjoy The Lazarus Experiment. It's a fun adventure, and there's enough depth to its villain that it makes a decent watch, even if it isn't a masterpiece. I'm also loving the development of the relationship between Martha and The Doctor, which I find rather fascinating and is so far the main reason why I'm enjoying Series Three to the extent that I am. It ma have silly CGI and some sillier concepts, but the performances sell it and it's more than enough to make it fun.


NEXT WEEK: The first Who appearance of the dreaded Chris Chibnall... it's 42.

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