The Lazarus Experiment was the sixth episode of series 3 of Doctor Who. It saw regular writer Mark Gatiss take on an acting role and marked the Doctor's acceptance of Martha as his regular companion. It included a large number of "Harold Saxon" references and saw Francine Jones' first involvement with his aides.
It once more brought up the Doctor's perspective on a long life; in his eyes, a long life only ensures one will end up alone as everyone and everything else turns to dust.
To have an adventure investigating the unusual, there's no time like the present!
After travelling backwards, forwards and backwards again in time, Martha Jones has returned home. However, before the Tenth Doctor can bid farewell to her, he hears Professor Richard Lazarus announcing that he'll "change what it means to be human." What could this mean? And could it lead to something far more dangerous than a simple scientific failure?
The TARDIS materialises in Martha's flat. The Tenth Doctor tells her that they had agreed — one trip and home. It is about twelve hours after they left, something the Doctor failed to do with Rose in his previous life. Martha's phone rings, but she does not pick it up; it is her mother Francine, saying that her sister Tish is on the news. Martha turns the television on and, alongside Tish, an elderly man, Professor Richard Lazarus, announces that tonight he "will change what it means to be human." Though looking thoroughly perturbed at what was just said, the Doctor says goodbye to Martha and, oblivious to how upset she is, steps into the TARDIS. It dematerialises, but quickly rematerialises. The Doctor reemerges, saying, "No, I'm sorry, did he say he was going to change what it means to be human?". Evidently, he cannot resist this.
Hours later, it is night-time at Lazarus Laboratories. Professor Lazarus and Lady Thaw discuss the need for the experiment to work, with Thaw mentioning that Mr Saxon is funding their research. Lazarus tells Thaw not to worry as "our friend will get his money's worth." Tish comes in, asking if Lazarus would like to check over the guest list for the reception again. He clumsily hits on her, asking what kind of perfume she wears; she tells him "soap" and quickly excuses herself.
Outside, the Doctor and Martha are walking to the entryway of Lazarus Laboratories for the black-tie reception. The Doctor is making some last-minute inspections to his suit, making sure everything is in place; he complains about how something bad always happens when he wears black tie. Martha, who is wearing a cocktail dress, remarks that it is simply him, not the outfit and that she thinks it makes him look like James Bond in a way, flattering him.
Inside, they meet Martha's mother Francine and her brother Leo, though the Doctor only succeeds in arousing Francine's suspicion about his relationship with her daughter. Tish also meets the Doctor, wondering how he got in as he's not on the guest list; Martha explains the Doctor is her "plus one". Martha explains Tish works in the PR department before Tish corrects her; she's head of the PR department, having put together the party herself. The Doctor inquires what kind of experiment Lazarus is going to perform with the large capsule in the room, being labelled a "science geek" by Tish after using big words. He questions Martha as to what it means, seeming rather pleased with the answer.
The lights of the room dim and a spotlight focuses on Lazarus, who announces he is to perform a "miracle", which will outstrip all other human accomplishments in the field of science, even the splitting of the atom and Armstrong landing on the Moon. Declaring that they will wake tomorrow to a world changed forever, the elderly professor steps into the manipulator's capsule. Technicians flip the switch and the capsule flares to life with a blinding flash of light; four manipulator arms circle the capsule at breakneck speed while manipulating threads of light up and down it. As the machine builds in intensity, an alarm blares and the consoles smoke and spark. The Doctor notices that the system is overloading and jumps in to avert disaster. Lady Thaw demands that someone get the Doctor away from the controls, but the Doctor declares that if the machine explodes it will take the entire building with it. He pulls the plug, and the machine comes to a stop. Martha rushes forward at the Doctor's urging and yanks the door open.
The crowd advance slowly on the capsule. Out of the steam steps a young blond man; Lazarus. He smiles as he touches his newly rejuvenated face and declares that he is 76 years old, "And I am reborn!". Martha is stunned, questioning the Doctor as to what happened; the Doctor merely tells her that Lazarus has kept his word and changed what it meant to be human.
Lazarus is talking with the spectators with Lady Thaw, who is impressed he managed to do what he promised. Suddenly Lazarus sucks in a pained breath, takes a plate of snacks from a passing waiter and devours them rapidly. Despite Lady Thaw scolding him for his poor manners, Lazarus defends that he is famished. The Doctor steps up next to them, saying Lazarus is suffering from energy depletion so his body is trying to revert the lost energy by having him eat. Lazarus notes the Doctor seems awfully familiar with his work, to which the Doctor says he has had experience with a similar process. The Doctor tells him that he could not have thought of all the variables that could have happened. Lazarus scoffs at the Doctor's warnings, kissing Martha's hand farewell as he and Lady Thaw head up to his office.
The Doctor notes that Lazarus is being foolish; too bad they can't conduct a DNA test to find out what's happening with Lazarus. Smirking, Martha tells him that it's a good thing she just collected a DNA sample, waving her hand. The Doctor smiles at Martha, praising her quick thinking. In one of the labs, the Doctor and Martha look at a readout of Lazarus's DNA; it seems to spike and change, something which should be impossible. The Doctor reels off a lot of complicated scientific lingo but simplifies it for Martha's benefit: Lazarus hacked his own DNA and instructed it to rejuvenate. However, "something's been activated; something that won't let him stabilise, something that's trying to change him."
Meanwhile, Lazarus speaks with Lady Thaw in his office on the top floor, recounting a story about his childhood during World War II. Because of his work, Lazarus is likely to have a plaque placed upon his old home; however, he explains it was destroyed by a bombing, but the sentiment is nice. Thaw expresses her desire to be the next in line to be rejuvenated so they can continue their partnership both personally and professionally. Lazarus, however, recoils when she kisses him. He ridicules the idea of wasting another lifetime on her, prompting Thaw to ask if the process made him crueler; he jokes that not only did he learn cruelty from her, she has a gift for it. As she threatens to complain to Mr Saxon, Lazarus begins convulsing and falls to the floor. To Thaw's horror, Lazarus mutates into something horrendous. A scorpion-like tail raises itself and lunges at her.
Downstairs, a concerned Francine asks Tish and Leo whether Martha has ever mentioned the Doctor to them before. She worries there is "something going on", but Leo tries calming her down by saying Martha's found someone to be with. Lazarus returns to the reception, back to normal and wearing a different suit, and invites Tish upstairs with him. Tish, now willing to return his advances, follows without argument.
The Doctor and Martha emerge in Lazarus' office, searching for him. As Martha suggests trying back at the reception, her voice trails off as she spots a bony leg sticking out from behind the desk. Investigating, they find the shriveled husk of Lady Thaw; the Doctor says she had all the life energy drained to supply energy to the processes caused by Lazarus' fluctuating DNA. Worried he will kill again, they go back downstairs, only to learn that he has gone back upstairs with Tish. They rush off, the Doctor accidentally spilling a drink on Francine. A mysterious man replaces her drink and warns that Martha should be more careful in choosing her friends.
Lazarus takes Tish to the roof, where he shows her the nearby Southwark Cathedral and quotes T.S. Eliot, a quote the Doctor completes before they discuss the transformation; Lazarus believes he has perfected humanity by purging it of mortality, while the Doctor is aghast at his disregard for the laws of Nature. As they argue, Martha manages to get Tish away from Lazarus before he transforms. They stand, transfixed in horror, as they behold Lazarus' mutated form; resembling a huge, skeletal scorpion, a facsimile of Lazarus' face stares out of the monstrosity. The three of them flee indoors and the Doctor seals the door behind him. As they wait for the lift, Lazarus' attempts to smash the door down triggers a security lockdown; the lights dim, the lifts stop and the exits seal themselves, much to the confusion and slight panic of the guests. Rushing downstairs, the Doctor gives Martha the sonic screwdriver to unlock the doors, and warns everyone at the reception to evacuate. One woman refuses to believe this, stating jokingly that the biggest danger is choking on an olive. Suddenly, all heads turn as glass shatters and Lazarus appears on a balcony overlooking the reception area, roaring.
Now more inclined to listen, the assembled guests scream and scatter as Lazarus wreaks havoc, striking Leo in the head with a table. As Martha finally gets the doors open and the party-goers scramble down the stairs, Lazarus advances on the olive woman and deploys his stinger; the Doctor shouts for him to leave her alone, but too late. The guests still in the room avert their eyes as the woman's withered husk hits the floor and Lazarus turns towards a prone Francine and Leo. The Doctor draws Lazarus away from Francine by taunting him; he attempted to defy Nature, only for Nature to punish him. Lazarus chases the Doctor down a corridor. Martha examines Leo for a concussion, gets everyone out of the building, and goes back inside to help the Doctor despite Francine's protests. Tish guesses that "maybe she loves him". The enigmatic man who replaced Francine's drink earlier calls the Doctor "dangerous", and whispers in Francine's ear the things he says she "should know" about him.
The Doctor turns on the gas in a lab, hits the light switch and leaps away from the resulting fireball, but Lazarus survives. Martha hears the explosion and finds the Doctor as she runs toward its source. She returns the sonic screwdriver to the Doctor. Together they flee back to the reception area and end up hiding in the capsule of Lazarus' machine, on the Doctor's hunch that Lazarus is unlikely to destroy his own creation even to get at them.
The Doctor starts fiddling about with the wiring inside as the Lazarus creature futilely searches for a way in. Martha, still unsure of where it came from, inquires if it is alien but the Doctor nixes that; for once, the horrible creature trying to kill them is strictly human in origin. Martha reacts with disbelief, as the creature does not look even remotely human, but the Doctor explains that the machine unlocked something hidden away in Lazarus' genes; an option which evolution rejected for humanity, but the potential for which still lies dormant. Martha likens it to Pandora's Box, but their ruminations are cut short as Lazarus switches the machine on. The Doctor "reverses the polarity" so that the capsule reflects the energy rather than receiving it, which it does explosively. The shockwave blasts the creature away, transforming Lazarus back to his normal self and apparently killing him. As they gaze upon the professor's naked body, Martha and the Doctor reflect on how pitiful he looks, the latter quoting T.S. Eliot: "This is how the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper."
Outside, as the ambulance carrying Lazarus' body pulls away, Francine slaps the Doctor and warns him to keep away from Martha. Suddenly, all turn their heads when they hear a loud crash nearby. The Doctor, Martha and Tish take off and find that the ambulance has gone off the road. Opening up the back doors, they find that Lazarus, true to his namesake, has risen from the dead, drained the paramedics energy, killing them, and escaped.
Realising they are next to Southwark Cathedral, Tish guesses that Lazarus has taken shelter in it just like when he was hiding as a child during World War II. Inside is Lazarus in human form, draped in a red altar cloth; he writhes in pain as his body spasms, unwilling to stay human. The Doctor tells Martha he has a plan, but he needs to get Lazarus into the bell tower. Lazarus recalls how he took refuge during the London Blitz, hiding amongst the dead in the crypt. The Doctor says he was present during the Blitz, but Lazarus says that he is not old enough to have been there. "Neither are you," the Doctor jokes, prompting Lazarus to laugh. The two of them argue again about the benefits and curse of longevity. Lazarus states that he will feed soon, eyeing the Doctor; however, Martha instead tempts Lazarus to come after "fresher meat" as the Doctor is old and bitter.
Using herself as bait, Martha takes off with Tish as Lazarus gives chase. Heading up the stairs, the girls hear Lazarus scream, meaning he's transformed again. They reach the bell tower, where Tish questions what they are supposed to do; Martha tells her that this is where the Doctor told her to lure Lazarus. Tish is less than pleased with being bait. The Doctor commandeers the cathedral's pipe organ and amplifies it with the sonic screwdriver, playing as loud as he can.
As Lazarus tries to get to the Jones sisters, he manages to knock Martha over the rail and leave her hanging on for dear life. Tish grabs Martha's hand, leaving both of them vulnerable to his sting. Realising that the music is too quiet, the Doctor boosts the organ's sound waves further, setting up a resonance in the bell above Lazarus that interferes with his sonic-based experiment. Lazarus falls to his death on the cathedral floor below, transforming one last time — back into the elderly man he once was. Martha reunites with the Doctor, who explains he was taught how to play piano (loudly) by Ludwig van Beethoven.
Back in Martha's flat, the Doctor offers Martha one more trip, but Martha refuses to go with him on that basis, as a mere passenger being given a treat. The Doctor says, "Okay, then, if that's what you want." She thinks he means to leave her again, but he indicates with a nod that she is welcome to rejoin him in the TARDIS on her terms, and admits she was "never really just a passenger". As the ship dematerialises, Martha's phone rings; it is Francine again. She warns Martha about "who this Doctor really is", saying, "This information comes from Harold Saxon himself. You're not safe!"
- The Doctor - David Tennant
- Martha Jones - Freema Agyeman
- Tish Jones - Gugu Mbatha-Raw
- Leo Jones - Reggie Yates
- Francine Jones - Adjoa Andoh
- Richard Lazarus - Mark Gatiss
- Lady Thaw - Thelma Barlow
- Olive Woman - Lucy O'Connell
- Mysterious Man - Bertie Carvel
|Executive Producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner|
|Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.|
David Bednall was uncredited for his organ performance.
- The Doctor states that he has to turn the sound "to eleven", a reference to the mockumentary "This is Spinal Tap".
- The Doctor claims to have been taught how to play the pipe organ by Beethoven.
- Harold Saxon is mentioned by Dr Lazarus, Lady Thaw and Francine.
- The working title for this episode was The Madness of Professor Lazarus.
- This is the second time in the revived series when the Doctor jumps from an explosion, first seen in The Unquiet Dead (written by Mark Gatiss).
- Mark Gatiss's appearance in this story makes him one of five people to have both written for and acted Doctor Who, and the first of the revived series. The others being Victor Pemberton, Derrick Sherwin, Glyn Jones and Toby Whithouse. Though Gatiss is one of only two (along with Whithouse) to have written multiple stories and he is the only one to have acted in multiple stories.
- Mark Gatiss' involvement with the Doctor Who franchise dates back to writing for the Virgin New Adventures novel series in the early 1990s, as well as appearing in and writing several independent spin-off video productions. Gatiss also voices "Danny Boy" in Victory of the Daleks, which he also wrote, reprises the role in A Good Man Goes to War (though both roles where uncredited), portrays Gantok in The Wedding of River Song (credited under the name "Rondo Haxton"), and Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart in Twice Upon a Time.
- As the rejuvenated Lazarus, Mark Gatiss wears a wig he previously wore in an episode of The League of Gentlemen, playing a veterinary surgeon based on Peter Davison's character in All Creatures Great and Small. When the Doctor Who make-up department told him they didn't have time to get a new wig made, he offered to use the League of Gentlemen wig that he had at home. The BBC ended up hiring it from him for a hundred pounds. Gattis recounts the story in great detail on the audio commentary for The Lazarus Experiment.
- The name "Lazarus" is a reference to the Biblical man who was resurrected from the dead, similar to being given youth back. The comparison is made explicit when he escapes the ambulance and the Doctor says, "Lazarus, back from the dead. Should've known, really."
- The set piece for the capsule of Lazarus's hypersonic soundwave manipulator is actually the redecorated descent capsule from The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit.
- Lazarus says he once lived above a butcher's shop as a child. In his role as Hilary Briss in the BBC series The League of Gentlemen, Mark Gatiss is well known for playing a butcher.
- When Martha introduces the Doctor to Francine, Francine's response is, "Doctor what?"
- David Tennant and Mark Gatiss had previously appeared together in the Big Finish audio story Sympathy for the Devil.
- There was no "NEXT TIME..." trailer at the end of this episode, instead there was a "COMING UP..." trailer to show what was still to come in the series after the 2 week break due to the Eurovision 2007, as stated in the end credits, "Dr Who will return in two weeks".
- An old head-cast of Vincent Price was tracked down and used by Neill Gorton to add an aged and wrinkled look to the prosthetics Mark Gatiss wore when playing the elderly Dr Lazarus.
- Originally Professor Lazarus was working on developing invulnerable synthetic skin. This was dropped because Russell T. Davies feared that this might be part of the plot of Spider-Man 3, which was due for release around the same time the episode would likely air.
- A scene cut from the episode, but included as an extra with the DVD release, reveals that the Doctor participated in the writing of the United States Declaration of Independence and in fact carries a copy of the first draft folded up in the pocket of his dinner jacket.
- In creating a 'mad scientist' story, Stephen Greenhorn was inspired by The Fly and The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. He also sought inspiration from Spider-Man villains Doctor Octopus and The Green Goblin.
- This is the first episode since Smith and Jones where Martha is wearing different clothes other than her jeans and leather jacket.
- Professor Lazarus was originally named Professor Anger.
- 7.19 million viewers - BARB Final Rating
- 6.7 million viewers - Overnight
- 0.98 million viewers - BBC3 Repeat
- The National Museum of Wales was used for the exterior and several interiors of Lazarus Laboratories.
- For the exteriors of Southwark Cathedral, the real cathedral was used. But the interiors are from Wells Cathedral in Wells, Somerset. (Coincidentally, Wells is also the location of the Wookey Hole Caves, where Revenge of the Cybermen was partly filmed.)
- As the Doctor circles Lazarus in the Cathedral, a person in sunglasses (presumably a memeber of the filming crew) can be seen in the background of one of the shots.
- In a later shot, the altar cloth slides partway down Lazarus’s back as he contorts in pain. However in the next shot it has moved back onto his shoulders.
- When the Doctor begins playing the organ in the Cathedral, he tries to pull out the same drawknob twice.
- The Doctor references experiencing the Blitz first hand, which he did in his ninth incarnation. (TV: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances) He would later do so again, in his eleventh incarnation. (TV: Victory of the Daleks)
- The Doctor leaving in his TARDIS only to quickly come back to Martha mirrors when the Ninth Doctor did likewise to Rose Tyler. (TV: Rose)
- Lazarus' project insignia, a circular pattern of circles seen many times within the laboratory, is the same pattern later seen on the Master's ring. (TV: Last of the Time Lords)
- The Doctor references "something bad happening" whenever he wears a tuxedo. (TV: Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel) This later happens to him again. (TV: Voyage of the Damned)
- Martha states the Doctor is her "Plus One." The Ninth Doctor said the same of Rose Tyler when watching the last day of planet Earth. (TV: The End of the World)
- Jackie Tyler was the last mother to slap the Doctor. (TV: Aliens of London)
- The Doctor mentions he "reversed the polarity", something his third incarnation did often. (TV: The Five Doctors, etc.) When his tenth and eleventh incarnations meet, they run into issues when they both do so. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
- Martha stated a dislike she had for being only a passenger while with The Doctor, which led to him taking her on as a full time companion. After defeating The Monk, Steven Taylor stated a liking for being part of the TARDIS crew, only to be told by Vicki that The Doctor was the crew and she and Steven were the passengers. (TV: The Time Meddler)
Home video releases
- This episode was released with Daleks in Manhattan, Evolution of the Daleks and 42 on the Series 3 Volume 2 DVD.
- It is also part of the series 3 DVD box set.
- A deleted scene establishes that the Doctor once helped Thomas Jefferson draft the US Declaration of Independence, and he specifically takes credit for the reference to "the pursuit of happiness". The Doctor finds the first draft of the document in his tuxedo pocket.
- Official BBC Website The Lazarus Experiment
- The Discontinuity Guide to: The Lazarus Experiment at The Whoniverse
- The Lazarus Experiment at The Locations Guide