Friday, January 28, 2011

"The Lazarus Experiment"

Poor Mark Gatiss again. This time instead of being saddled with having to write a rubbish story he actually gets to show off his acting chops in a rubbish story. I can honestly think of few things more uncreative than calling a man who de-ages himself, effectively cheating death, as "Lazarus". It beats us over the head with the subtext, exactly as when both T.S. Eliot quotes from The Hollow Men which are uttered by Lazarus and the Doctor are pointed out as being T.S. Eliot quotes, presumably for the benefit of the thickies in the audience. It's like we're reading annotations rather than watching a television programme.
Don't get me started on the idea that highly concentrated sound waves can have any effect on someone's genetics; it's just as bad as the 'gamma ray splicing' an episode before but possibly even more ignorant of physics and biology. No, what's even worse than this, and infinitely stupider, is that this causes Mark Gatiss to transform into a giant scorpion capable of sucking out people's "life energy". There's some interesting rumination by the Doctor on how a long life is overrated and that your time is exactly what you make of it, and from Lazarus about the need for progress and the value of change, but I think this message would have been infinitely more effective if they'd done something more subtle than having Mark Gatiss occasionally transform into the Scorpion King. Regardless, how could any such creature be a throwback in the genetic makeup of humans? The last I checked the amount of common ancestry between primates and arachnids was exceedingly small, and I think if humanity had ever been capable of developing into giant unstoppable scorpion creatures then those traits wouldn't have been "rejected by evolution".
So the science, and the plot in general is, as usual, complete bunk. What about the characters? Well it's nice to see the Doctor quoting a bit of Eliot instead of the usual pop references. It's incredibly charitable of RTD's team to occasionally remind us that the Tenth Doctor is still an intellectual, not just a manic-depressive hipster with a time machine. There is, of course, far too much of the usual "monster chases the Doctor around some corridors" and while I think it's not without merit to have Lazarus as unconcerned about the fate of the individual in the wake of progress, the idea of him 'feeding' on people is a deeply tired one. Besides, haven't we already seen a de-ageing device in "The Leisure Hive"? Ever seen that one, folks? Personally I think Lazarus needed some redeeming characteristics: he's ruthless, self-obsessed, and a seedy old man to boot. It's good to see Martha remain strong and steadfast and even Tish get a moment or two of courage but the usual 'horrible old mother' routine from Francine Jones which we had already with Jackie and even saw with Donna's mum in "The Runaway Bride" reeks appallingly of the suggestion that maybe RTD needs to take his neuroses outside before he develops his storylines and characters. Then she gets dropped some suspicious hints by a man who looks like a young Gryff Rhys-Jones and we hear even more about this 'Mister Saxon' character. At least this series RTD is weaving it into the stories to an extent and not simply shoving the phrase in wherever. It's not really clear why Martha's mum immediately turns against the Doctor but it's good to see Ten-Inch get slapped regardless, even though he's pretty restrained in this one and it's nice to see the Doctor play the organ.
Overall it's very unoriginal and there's too much pointless running around, but Gatiss is good, the Doctor's a good deal more in character and if there was ever an episode to suggest that not every story needs a monster, and can even suffer for having one, this is it.

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