Monday, 12 April 2010
Doctor Who: The Lazarus Experiment
“People will sell their souls to be transformed like that…”
The TARDIS arrives in Martha’s bedroom, and it seems her journey is over. The Doctor seems to ostentatiously ignore Martha’s unhappiness at being dumped, and off he goes in the TARDIS before an unpleasant scene can happen. Then he suddenly comes back on the flimsiest of excuses. Yep, those messages are just a little bit mixed there.
It’s an odd one, this. There are lots of great things about it, not least Mark Gatiss’ extraordinarily brilliant performance, but also a lot of naff things, not least Mark Gatiss’ extraordinarily unconvincing age make-up. Worst of all, the whole thing plays out by the numbers, telling you early on that it’s a riff on Frankenstein and then pretty much having things unfold exactly as you expect them to. Still, at least we definitely know that Gatiss would make the perfect Victor Frankenstein if Hammer or someone were to make it into a film in the future. It’s just that his brilliant performance tends to distract from the fact that all the guest characters here are pretty much just a load of stock character types- the callous mad scientist dreaming of fame, the gold-digging wife, and… well, that’s pretty much the whole guest cast. And who’d have thunk it- a chap called Lazarus turns out to have the secret of eternal life?
One thing that’s great, though- and probably by RTD rather than new writer Stephen Greenhorn- is the plot strand with Martha’s mother (brrr!). Brilliantly, as much as the audience might not like her she’s being perfectly rational from her own perspective. The situation, and the way the Doctor says exactly the wrong things to her, make it more than believable that she acts as she does and believes what she’s told by that mysterious man. I like the Eliot references too.
I’m a bit on the fence about the two long philosophical chats between the Doctor and Lazarus, on the roof and in the cathedral, which are undeniably cool but hardly possible, happening not because of the characters’ motivations but because that’s the sort of scene that seems to be expected. Still, I love the Doctor’s speech about long life and the tiredness, pain and loneliness it leads to.
Nice final scene, though. Martha finally gets the Doctor to accept her as a permanent TARDISeer and not just someone who’s there on sufferance. Again it’s interesting what’s motivating the Doctor’s ambiguous behaviour here. And then we get the answerphone message from Martha’s mother, and a mention of the mysterious Harold Saxon…