Before we get to “The Lazarus Experiment,” the latest episode of Doctor Who‘s third season, let’s look at two new Doctor Who drabbles I wrote and uploaded to the website.
The first, “Recitals,” is a tenth Doctor/Martha drabble about, yes, a poetry recital. (There’s no spoilers, for those unfamiliar with Martha.) The second, “Coffee Bars,” sees Torchwood‘s Owen and Gwen visit a coffee bar in Cardiff. Enjoy, peeps.
Now, “The Lazarus Experiment.” I’m a sucker for “mad scientists gone horribly wrong” stories; that’s why I love the Universal Monsters movies so much. (And why I despise Van Helsing so much–the one thing it got right was the pre-credits black-and-white teaser. It got everything else wrong.) And “The Lazarus Experiment” is forty minutes of a mad scientist gone horribly wrong. What if the mad scientist found a way to turn back time, to reverse the aging process? And what if that unleashed something he could never have predicted? “Lazarus Experiment,” you had me at hello.
I have to throw this out. Just what is the deal with the Doctor’s hair? It’s never consistent from week to week. What’s the deal? I don’t mind the scruffy, unkempt look, but really!
Onto weightier matters.
“The Lazarus Experiment” had a lot of things going for it. Some very impressive direction. Innuendo-heavy dialogue. Generally solid performances.
Richard Clark’s direction, especially in the scene in the cathedral, was amazing. The composition of light and dark, the camera movement around the Doctor and Dr. Lazarus in their face-off–this was top-notch composition. “The Lazarus Experiment” was always visually gripping, from the confined space of Martha’s flat to a camera pan from high above as the Doctor, Martha, and Tish entered the cathedral to Dr. Lazarus’s final fall.
The dialogue! Innuendo-heavy! From the Doctor fingering Martha’s laundry, to his awkward conversation with Martha’s mother which left entirely the wrong impression, to the conversation the Doctor and Martha have in Lazarus’ regeneration chamber, I can’t think of a Doctor Who episode that quite had me in stitches to this extent. “The Lazarus Experiment” had simply fun dialogue, and it had good character moments with Martha and her family. Especially Tish.
And the performances? The regulars were quite good–see again the Doctor in the cathedral facing off with Lazarus, and Martha showed a particularly resourceful independent streak. Mark Gatiss’s Dr. Lazarus was tolerable as the elderly scientist–he played the role a little broad, and the old age make-up did him no favors–but as the episode progressed–again, the cathedral face-off–his performance as Lazarus became quite interesting to watch.
The one thing that let the episode down?
The problem was that the CGI wasn’t very convincing. Also, I kept wondering where all the extra mass the monster clearly had came from, because there was definitely a lot more monster than there was of Mark Gatiss. And I’m trying to figure out when humanity went through an evolutionary stage where we were six-legged scorpion-like monsters (but like Reginald Barclay’s devolution into a spider in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Genesis” some things you’re not supposed to think too hard about, obviously). But it’s Doctor Who, and one doesn’t expect everything to make perfect sense.
I can forgive the monster. The episode’s other strengths make up for its lack, especially the way the episode plants the seeds for the final episodes of the season. I came away feeling very positive and very excited about “The Lazarus Experiment.” In terms of the writing, the direction, and the performances, “Lazarus” was really quite remarkable, and easily in the top half of the season thus far.
And then, there was a little something more after the episode. A preview for the back half of the third season.
I won’t say much about it. Most of the footage came from “42” and the “Human Nature” two-parter, plus a few shots of Captain Jack, Mr. Saxon, and the Professor. The feeling I was left with from this trailer? I’m wondering if the Doctor himself might not be the season’s “Big Bad”….
Okay, it’s not the most sensible theory. I mean, no one expects your titular hero to go off the deep end. But when you look at how the trailer is pieced together, when you listen to the voice-over, when you consider the final shots, it’s not too unreasonable to think that perhaps the Doctor could be his own worst enemy.
“Lazarus Experiment,” a thumbs up. Back half trailer, another thumbs up. This week Doctor Who had me giddy like a kid, and there is nothing wrong with that.