Doctor Who 3.06 The Lazarus Experiment

The Doctor and Martha make it a family affair.

The Doctor makes a perfect landing in a tight spot.  “You should be used to tight spots by now,” says Martha and oh.  Oh ho!   Sure, Doctor Who‘s totally a children’s show.  Right.  Wait, they’re back twelve hours after she left.  “But all the stuff we’ve done! Shakespeare, New New York, old New York?” Martha asks.  That, my friends, is without a doubt the most jam-packed one-night stand of which I’ve heard tell!

And no, I’m not going to stop with the wink-nudge jokes, because there THESE WRITE THEMSELVES with material the ep hands over on a sexy, saucy platter!  Just watch! 

Okay, the Doctor, so misses the point that Martha’s not listing their adventures but talking about what’s happened between them.  “This is it?” asks Martha at the news she’s home as he promised.  The Doctor fingers her panties (I am NOT MAKING THIS UP.  See evidence) and prepares to bid her adieu.

The Doctor grabs Martha’s lucky pants.

Hang on a tick.  Martha’s feeling-neglected guilt-tripping mum Francine voicemails that Martha’s sister Tish is on the news for her PR work; Tish stands beside an elderly man, Professor Lazarus, who declares, “With the push of a single button, I will change what it means to be human.”  Well, the Doctor only said one trip, so that’s that — wait, Mr. Geezer’s going to change means to be human?

LOLWUT?

It’s Smith and Jones, back on the case!

Lady Thaw tells Lazarus they better make Mr. Saxon happy with more investors. There’s that Saxon name again!  Lazarus creepy-hands Tish while Martha and the Doctor scrub up for Lazarus Laboratories’ party.  The Doctor frets about the doom-bringing potential of him wearing black-tie (Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel).  It’s very James Bond, Martha compliments, and the Doctor struts at that because —

OH MY GOD, they’re on their second date!  If all their adventures took place in one trip (I know, but bear with me) and she’s gone home the next morning, and they’ve decided to meet for a cleaning-up-nice official event, that’s got second date written all over it.

Martha tips her mum off that something’s up when she hugs her tearfully.  Cue Francine’s suspicion of this “Doctor” who Martha seems to have met and gone away with last night.  Ahem.  The Doctor’s heard soooo much about Francine.  Like, for instance, she’s Martha’s mum!  “We haven’t had much time to chat,” he confesses.  “You know, been busy.” Busy doing what?  “Oh you know. Stuff,” the Doctor says awkwardly.  Heeee!

Time for Lazarus’s world-changing stunt!  When his lit-up blue capsule overheats, the Doctor saves everyone from blowing sky-high with last minute Sonic Screwdrivering.  Out steps Lazarus: he’s no longer a prosthetic old-face guy, but a puffy-faced younger guy!  “I am reborn!” he shouts, in case we missed the whole Biblical namesake thing.

While Lazarus scarfs down nibbles (Such bad form! Those nibbles are for everyone!), the Doctor scolds him about risky variables.

Lazarus is such a greedy grabber!

Martha points out Lazarus can’t claim he’s unharmed without running proper tests (I love when Martha’s science background gets to come out and play).  Lazarus creepy-kisses Martha’s hand as he leaves.  Nice work collecting his DNA, Martha! “Oh, Martha Jones, you’re a star,” the Doctor exclaims.  Nice of you to notice!  She and the Doctor sneak into the labs to run some tests.

Upstairs, Lazarus reminisces during the Blitz he’d hide at the cathedral “in the crypt. The living cowering among the dead.”  Creepy.  Lady Thaw distracts reminds him how rich they’ll be and plants a wet one on him.  Sheesh, he’s like the elderly nerd who joined the popular young clique: he wastes no time making ewww-faces because she’s omg OLD!

Well, fine! Lady Thaw will just young-ify herself too.  Lazarus sneers he doesn’t want to hang out with her even if she becomes a regulation hottie.  She rails about her financial investment, and how she’s going to tattle to Mr. Saxon: then how popular will Lazarus be, huh?  Meanwhile, Lazarus makes the traditional neck-lurching moves of a guy about to transform into something gross.  Sure enough, it’s Atavistic Monster morphing time!

Francine fumes about her daughter’s suspicious plus one, ignoring Martha’s brother Leo’s suggestion it’s maybe okay for Martha to have a boyfriend.  Lazarus returns to the party in new clothes, creepy-maneuvering Tish alone upstairs.  Urk, Francine, direct your over-mothering that-a-way!  I do like Francine.  Of course she reminds me of Jackie with her protectiveness.  Fascinatingly, she’s far more formidable: she’s clearly well-educated, ambitious, and holds high expectations for her children, Martha in particular.

The Doctor and Martha discover Lazarus’s DNA is changing: “He’s hacked into his own genes and instructed them to rejuvenate.”  But he’s still mutating, due to something he’s activated that won’t let him stabilize.  Eh, it’s not real science, but it’s spooky scary nonetheless!  They head upstairs, only to find Lady Thaw’s corpse.  She’s a desiccated shell, “all the life energy drained out, like squeezing the juice out of an orange.”

Martha realizes Lazarus might strike again; the Doctor observes his fluctuating DNA might demand more energy than poor old Lady Thaw.  They get in a lift to head downstairs, just missing the other lift releasing Lazarus and Tish, headed to do some flirting up on the roof.  I feel like Tish would be more creeped out, because Lazarus = CREEPY, old or young.  But plot contingencies being what they are…

When Leo tells Martha that Tish headed upstairs, for cozy-time with Lazarus, Martha reacts immediately, dashing off to save her sister.  Rushing to help, the Doctor knocks Francine’s champagne from her hand, opening the way for a Random Charming Man to replace Francine’s drink and plant more seeds of doubt about the Doctor.

It’s tricky, that Francine listens to someone she doesn’t know over trusting her daughter’s choices.  Yet given Martha’s acting so differently (and well she might be, having had so many adventures and life-changing experiences since she saw her family last), I get why she’s grasping for any information to help her figure out what to do about her daughter.

The Sonic Screwdriver quickly pinpoints Lazarus’s fluctuating DNA and Martha and the Doctor run to the roof.  While the Doctor and Lazarus competitively quote T.S. Eliot at one another (that’s quite the erudite pissing contest there), Martha pleads with Tish to move away from that “monster”.  Sulky Tish thinks Martha’s commenting on the age difference, but nope, look, MONSTER!

Tish runs with Martha and the Doctor from horrifying Scorpion Creeper King Lazarus.  When he creepy-crashes through the door, the building’s fancy-schmancy alarm system detects an intrusion, and everyone’s sealed inside.  Terrific way to deal with an invader: trap everyone with it!

Sending Martha off with the Sonic Screwdriver (and I love how casually he trusts her to get tech stuff right), the Doctor warns everyone to run like hell.  “Don’t be ridiculous,” a woman scoffs.  “The biggest danger here is choking on an olive.”  Guess who’s going to get Scorpion Creeper King desiccated?  You are!  While Martha helps Leo (who’s gotten a concussion from Lazarus’s scorpion-tail) and leads her family toward safety, the Doctor taunts Scorpion Creeper King to lead him away from the guests.

The Doctor evades Lazarus, who insists being a ginormous scorpion is “progress”.  The deaths?  A “necessary sacrifice.”  Jerkface.  At the exit, Martha badass-slides across a security desk and Sonic-overrides the system.  Everyone runs to safety.  “Peek-a-boo,” Lazarus announces (scary special effects let him clamber all over the corridor and end up on the ceiling).  “Oh, hello!” the Doctor stammers before high-tailing it out of there.

OH HAI!

Over Francine and Tish’s objections, Martha runs back to help the Doctor.  The Doctor twists open gas lines as Lazarus orders him to face him.  “Have you looked in the mirror lately?” the Doctor calls out.  “Why would I want to face that?”  Oh, snap!  He runs, hitting the light switch and making the lab go boom!

Martha pulls some suave moves: the Doctor asks what she’s doing there and instead of saying she came to see if he was still alive, she answers, “I’m returning this [the Sonic Screwdriver].  I thought you might need it.” That’s our clever girl!  Did the blast kill Lazarus?  “More annoyed him, I’d say!”  The Scorpion Creeper King gains on them.

Outside the building, Leo and Tish gab about how much Martha likes this new Doctor guy, while Francine frets.  Oh, great, Random Charming Man’s back, this time to whisper in Francine’s ear how dangerous the Doctor is.

Do you want to know a secret? Mind if I nibble on your neck while I’m here?

It sucks how worried and vulnerable Francine is here; Martha’s own version of the Doctor doesn’t seem to stand a chance.

The Doctor and Martha hide in Lazarus’s Magical De-Aging Pod, banking on Lazarus not wanting to destroy his masterpiece.  He shimmies down her (seriously, it’s a tight space,) to Sonic the control panel at the bottom.  Martha deduces Lazarus’s atavistic form resulting from DNA manipulation is like opening Pandora’s Box.  “Nice shoes, by the way,” the Doctor murmurs.  Hey, Doctor, while you’re down there…

Lazarus somehow switches on the capsule in his Scorpion Creeper King form, but the Doctor’s cah-jiggered it to reflect energy instead of receive it, theoretically making Lazarus’s form literally spread himself too thin with “cellular triplication.”  At last they step out, finding naked Lazarus sprawled on the floor.  The Doctor can’t resist quoting a little more Eliot to rub it in (macho poetry wars are awesome!).

“Keep away from my daughter!” Francine yells, slapping the Doctor when he and Martha emerge.  “All of the mothers, every time!” he bemoans, holding his face (I still love Jackie’s “Stitch this, mate!” best). Francine’s been told he’s dangerous: “Nothing but death and destruction” around them proves the danger Martha’s in even if, as Tish points out, the Doctor saved them all.  Aww, Leo’s joke that technically Tish is to blame for Scorpion Creeper King Madness since she invited everyone gets lost in the shuffle.

At the sound of a crash, the Doctor runs off; both Martha and Tish follow despite Francine’s pleas to stay.  Guess what: Lazarus isn’t really dead (hence the name).  His poor EMT’s lie around all energy-sucked.  Tish realizes Lazarus headed to Southwark Cathedral, where he hid as a child during the Blitz.  They find him on the altar floor, wearing his red blanket like a shroud and doing his freaky neck-twisty thing.

Lazarus’s entire people-killing atavistic-rampaging Who Wants to Live Forever defiance of the normal limits of humanity apparently stemmed from his childhood war trauma.  It’s too quickly and too reductively un-spooled to work to convince me it’s a genuine pain rather than “oh, that’s why!” simplistic back-story.

Though the Doctor tries to warn him of the curse of living too long a life, exposing his own loneliness and sadness in always ending up alone, Lazarus would rather take the Way of the Scorpion.  He chases Martha and Tish with energy-sucking on the brain, not realizing they’re deliberately leading him to the bell tower in aid of the Doctor’s latest wacky scheme.

Time to pull out all the stops!  Literally, the Doctor pulls the organ stops out and readies the good ol’ Sonic Screwdriver for some Hypersonic Sound Wave action.  Tish and Martha scream as Lazarus reaches them, proving the acoustics are A-OK.  When Martha, hit by Lazarus’s tail, holds on for dear life over the bell tower’s railing, the Doctor whips out his Spinal Tap pub quiz references, and cranks the organ up to eleven.

The Doctor bangs out notes Phantom of the Opera-style.  It works to make the monster reel and fall, but it makes me wary how tangentially involved he is in saving Martha.

Oh Doctor? All in your own time, of course, but A LITTLE HELP HERE???

It’s Tish who pulls her sister to safety, a telling moment.  Though she says Martha should thank “your Doctor”, it’s a startling exposure of how for all the Doctor’s knowledge and innovation, Martha needs someone who’s actually there for her to save her life.

I adore Martha’s siblings, and love the time Tish gets here: plunging into the adventure, readily believing Martha’s trust in the Doctor, and reacting with hysterical laughter at the absurdity of it all.  I also can’t get enough of Martha’s fantastic interaction with her sister; we so rarely saw Rose (the ultimate only child, I suppose) getting along well with other women, and it’s a treat to see how terrific Martha is at it.

“I didn’t know you could play,” Martha comments about the Doctor’s organ hammering.  “If you hang around with Beethoven, you’re bound to pick a few things up,” he says, mainly so they can make a deaf joke because of the Sonic-ing of their ears.  Classy.

Back in Martha’s room, she and the Doctor joke about the Doctor’s little pattern of things escalating too quickly.  “It’s good fun, though, isn’t it?” he cajoles, inviting her along on “one more trip.”  “No, sorry,” Martha says firmly, and Martha Jones, YOU’RE A STAR!  She’ll only travel with him if she’s more than a passenger.  Though first it seems he’s refusing, he actually concedes, a huge thing for Ten right now.

It’s a relief to me that Martha and the Doctor dealt with, however briefly, the way he’s treated her.  Though the Doctor says, “Well, you were never really just a passenger, were you?” as they enter the TARDIS, all of his behavior to her has treated her as such.  Yes, he’s delighted by her intelligence, and we see over and over how he implicitly trusts her with important tasks.  But he fails her time and again when he avoids acknowledging how she’s now an important part of her life.  He doesn’t need to return her affections (though he could do with putting an end to all the mixed signals!).  But he does need to treat her and her obvious loyalty to him with respect.

Just as the Doctor and Martha head off to their next adventure, we hear Martha’s mum leave a voicemail, begging her to avoid the man “Harold Saxon himself” claims will endanger her.  Gah, the reach of this shadowy Mr. Saxon display!  Tanks fire under his orders, and elite industries like Lazarus Laboratories work for him!  I’m worried that understandably- frantic Francine, thinking she’s trying to make her daughter safe, has become mixed up with quite a dangerous man indeed.

Ooooh weeee wooooo hoooo!  Tell me what you think of Martha’s family and this change in her relationship with the Doctor!  And join me tomorrow as I recap Martha and the Doctor’s adventures in “42”!

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  • Fabrisse

    If this season didn’t also have three other episodes that were wonderful, plus what I consider the best two parter of the reboot era, this would be my favorite episode. Martha is one of the strong and independent companions and she is wonderful.

    The actress who played Francine came to the attention of the casting directors when she played one of the cat nuns in the first New New York episode.

    • I really adore Martha; I think that even some of the less polished or impressive eps this season benefit tremendously from Freema Agyeman’s acting.

      How fun! I’ll go look that actress up at IMDb; she’s great.

  • DJ

    You must ship the Doctor and Martha… I love it! LOL! I did like this episode. Martha was a bad ass with her sliding over tables and using the Sonic. What other Companion has been trusted that easily? I love the Doctor and Martha.

    • I often feel conflicted about how Ten reacts to Martha, and I fret a bit about her poor heart — but this episode, with its flirty moments and awkward meet-the-family antics along with the Doctor’s almost unaware mixed signals in which he keeps saying he’s leaving her and can’t quite do so shows off the conflict in such a fruitful way. There’s tons of sexy “it’s complicated” relationship material here! :D

  • Ellie

    I like Martha’s family! Jackie was perhaps a bigger part of the story, and with a more forceful personality, but Martha’s family are so different.

    Mark Gatiss is awesome. Mainly as Mycroft (we’ve had Lestrade and there are others, Sherlock characters do pop up in Dr Who very often) but also as a very creepy young Lazarus.

    I like how this episode properly puts the Doctor and Martha officially together as companions, sets up even more the whole Saxon story and generally is good.

    Although my favourite ever episodes are in this season so I can’t really compare this one :P

    • I do too! I love Martha’s siblings, and Francine is such a great complicated character.

      Yes, I’m looking forward to recapping the end of this season so much — lots of good ones to come!

  • Avril

    I’m so glad I found your Recap site! I just got done with season 3 and I wanted to see what Recappers thought. Thank you for this! Yes, the Doctor totally needed to stop with the mixed signals ASAP. A part of me feels they weren’t too mixed though. Not saying he was instantly in love with Martha, hardly, but he was in like, and he reacted like every boy in elemetary school…he got mean. I hope you review the last bit of Season 3 soon. I can’t wait to see what you think.

    • Hello! I’m very glad you found the site too! :D I understand what you’re saying about the Doctor and his impulses toward Martha. It’s a very complicated relationship for both of them, though my heart aches for Martha especially during the course of it.

      I hope to get back to the older DW eps as well (I also have reviewed the more recent eps as they’ve aired). Thanks so much for your comment!