5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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THE LAZARUS EXPERIMENT
“More hide and seek, Doctor. How disappointing.”
Buy this Dr Who DVD: UK
Bored, bored, bored.
Yes, there absolutely are some very good things about The Lazarus Experiment. For a start, there’s some spine-tinglingly stellar acting, particularly from Mark Gatiss and Thelma Barlow. There’s a beautifully dark meditation from the Doctor on the downside of a long life, too. Martha is, if anything, even better in this episode than previously as she throws her hat well and truly in the ring with the Doctor in defiance of her mother’s suspicion, and her deepening friendship with the Doctor is a delight. And the whole thing’s very well put together.
The trouble is, though, that all these good elements exist within a framework that’s beyond unoriginal. None of the overused elements are fatal in themselves: base under siege, for example, is the wrinkliest Doctor Who plot device ever, yet The Impossible Planet shows that there’s plenty of juice to be wrung out of it yet. The problem comes when you squash together an entire programme-load of overused concepts and, what’s more, you don’t put an original spin on a single one of them.
Zooming people around in a giant salad spinner and spitting ‘em out young? Done it already in The Leisure Hive. Twiddling DNA and producing a monster? Not only is this worn shiny with use, they did it in the very last episode (and it made as much sense there too). Nasty capitalists with the gall to want to make a quid off bringing joy to the world? In Russell T Davies’s Who, legion. Scientific experiment gone hopelessly wrong? Evil scientist? Where do we start? And if those aren’t bad enough, they shovel in a bunch of homages, from Quatermass to Spinal Tap to Phantom Of The Opera (again, the second Phantom ripoff in a row) just to make sure there’s no room whatsoever in the script for a crumb of originality to creep in.
And that’s dull. The big weighty moral dilemmas are dull, because there’s zero they haven’t pondered in the past. The monster “feeding” (how come they never just “eat’?) is dull, the Doctor making the monster angry is dull, the monster chasing the Doctor is dull, the monster chasing the companions is dull. No matter how good the CGI (and it isn’t that great) we’ve seen this scenario since forever.
What’s more, after setting up some good stuff, they turn round and unpick it all again. The Doctor’s dramatic monologue about the misery of losing everyone you love’s all very BAFTA-winning (if slightly too Rose! Rooooooose!), but in context it makes no sense: with the tech Lazarus (Lazarus? Yeesh. Where’s our shotgun?) has invented, all your loved ones are going to be right there beside you. And the tension between Martha and her mother’s tres promising for the future, especially with Mysterious Evil Waiter dripping poison in Mum’s ear and all, but it’s undermined by the sheer unlikelihood of Mum taking violently against the Doctor before he even opens his mouth. Why on Earth should she? He’s not that dodgy-looking, is he? And why would she conclude Martha had turned her back on them when they’re all safe? It’s conflict for conflict’s sake. Mark Gatiss staggering out youthed is all very exciting (if you haven’t seen The Leisure Hive, that is), but how come after such an astonishing result he isn’t mobbed? People are chatting, munching canapés and ignoring him completely. And what kind of scientist does their first experiment in public? Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Kudos to the actors: no one puts a foot wrong, and Gatiss is particular is outstanding. As for the script: nul points. And that’s all we’ve got to say. We’ve already reviewed everything else in here before, and more than once at that.
MORAL: Some graves shouldn’t be disturbed.
See that statue of Michelangelo’s David in Lazarus’s office? That’s the Gay Agenda™, that is. What we want to know, though, is: who’s taking the minutes?
It’s fantastic when the Doctor’s explaining the DNA stuff to Martha that she gets it straight away. And the DNA sample on her hand (contaminated as it might be with her own DNA) is smart thinking, too.
AGE OF CONSENT
There are some really creepy ageist scenes in here. First, there’s Lazarus pointing out Mavis’s wrinkles as the only justification necessary for him recoiling from her. Then there’s Martha’s sister being creeped out by Old Lazarus’s advances yet panting to snog Young Lazarus even though she knows he’s the same guy. Sponsored by Botox?
A JOLLY GOOD SMACKED BOTTOM
“He was biding us time”, Tish? For a moment we thought we were back with the First Doctor.
WHEN IN DOUBT
Yes, yes, he said reversing the polarity. Unfortunately, in a script so hackneyed this came across less as a homage and more as mining the back catalogue.
Buy this Dr Who DVD: UK