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28 January 2015 @ 08:40 pm
NuWho Rewatch: The Lazarus Experiment  
I really didn't remember much about The Lazarus Experiment going in, which is pretty odd given that it is clearly meant to be the lynchpin around which this season turns: the moment Martha is properly accepted as a companion, where her family become a part of the Doctor's life, and where the Saxon plot thread kicks into gear.

One of the first things that struck me is that the setting is quite alien for NuWho of this era. It had done a high society party before, of course, but on that occasion the Doctor and Rose were pretending to be the waiting staff. Here they are guests. The show has switched from presenting every day people doing every day things, to presenting people experiencing a wish-fulfillment high society lifestyle.

Martha's siblings come across very well, Tish fitting in easily to the Doctor's mad-cap adventures. Sadly Martha's mother comes across even worse than Jackie does. It looks like an attempt to present someone detecting the potential dark side of Martha's fixation with the Doctor but, in the context, having met the Doctor mere moments before and with nothing to go on, Francine simply looks judgemental and controlling.

The science is fairly rubbishy, but it makes for an interesting monster and some interesting interactions between the Doctor and Professor Lazarus, though I'm not sure the set-up is deep enough to actually carry all the Eliot quotes. I rather dislike Mark Gatiss's acting style which always comes across to me as exaggerated and smug (though in his favour he seems to primarily pick characters who are somewhat smug). In my opinion he's much better here in his moments of weakness than he is in the flush of boastful glory.

The story also doesn't seem to know where to end. There are plenty of nice moments in the sequence in Southwark Cathedral but one can't help feeling they should have come earlier and the whole death and resurrection thing quietly dropped. Given the name of the story, one assume that the death and resurrection were built-in from the start, but the ideas don't sit well with the rest of set-up which is about rejuvenation and genetic mutation.

All the above sounds very negative and actually most of this is very slickly done. It's a good story for Martha - for all her mother is implicitly criticising her throughout. The script is aware of the parallels between the Doctor and Lazarus and working hard to use them to give some depth to the running about. It is also uses its position in the season to mark both the Doctor's pivotal decision to accept Martha fully into the Tardis and her mother's decision to throw in her lot with Saxon. It ties those events together nicely and launches the season into its second half.

For all that, the story still feels oddly throwaway. In season 2, I attributed the weakness of some of the episodes to the fact they had no real role to play in the larger story unfolding for the audience. Despite the fact that The Lazarus Experiment is anything but inconsequential to the larger narrative it still feels a little slight and I can't quite put my finger on why.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/139288.html.
a_cubeda_cubed on January 29th, 2015 12:48 am (UTC)
I think that Martha's mother reaction is part of the racist problems with the whole Martha treatment. The fact that Martha's father's girlfriend is white plays into this unfortunate aspect.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 30th, 2015 04:10 pm (UTC)
Possibly. RTD's Who is, on one level, one big Mother-in-Law screed - none of the companion mothers are remotely reasonable and only Jackie is even likeable. So, in this instance, I'm more inclined to attribute it to whatever Davies' problem with mother-in-laws is rather than him channelling any particular prejudices about black mothers.

However, I wouldn't necessarily rule it out, Jackie's over-protectiveness had much better foundation than Francine's.