Follow TV Tropes


Recap / Doctor Who S29 E6 "The Lazarus Experiment"

Go To

Doctor Who recap index
Tenth Doctor Era
Series 3: CS | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13
<<< Series 2 | Series 4 >>>

The Lazarus Experiment
Written by Stephen Greenhorn
Directed by Richard Clark
Production code: 3.6
Air date: 5 May 2007

Martha: What'd he do?
The Doctor: Changed what it means to be human.

The one where the Doctor gets called a geek. And James Bond.

The Doctor, wary of getting too attached to another human, or perhaps of getting another human killed, drops Martha off back home. Her time in the TARDIS is over. However, from the news on her TV he realises that Martha's time period is in danger, and returns only seconds after he left for — ostensibly — one more adventure with Martha.

The activity in question is that of Dr. Richard Lazarus (Mark Gatiss), a brilliant elderly scientist who has devised a way to reverse the aging process. The scientist tests his equipment on himself at a black tie affair, which Martha and the Doctor attend as her sister is Lazarus's Public Relations director. When Things Spin, Science Happens, and Lazarus successfully turns himself into a young, healthy, 41-year-old. Martha's sister is happy to see her boss now looking very young and handsome and snoggable indeed.

Meanwhile, Martha's mother is approached by a suit-wearing guy, who hints that the Doctor is dangerous. He's 100% right about that (heck, he could even have added that the Doctor has a history of absconding with young women, sometimes kidnapping them(!), and that they don't always come home, oh and the Doctor killed Martha's cousin Adeola). This involves the Doctor getting slapped by his companion's mother (again).

Then Lazarus surprises everyone by turning into a massive scorpion/lizard monster?! Martha's sister laments that she was about to snog him and then runs for her life with the rest...

The Doctor kills the scientist with the polarity-reversed age-reversal machine. However, the scary scorpion beast turns out not to be dead after all and flees to a cathedral, where the Doctor kills it again with a church organ.

With the day saved, the Doctor offers Martha yet another "one more trip". Martha says no to the "one trip" thing and the Doctor says "OK!" while jerking his head towards the blue box.

But as the TARDIS takes off, Martha's mum leaves a message on the answering machine not to be with the Doctor, saying the notice came from Harold Saxon...


  • Abhorrent Admirer: When the elderly Lazarus hits on Letitia early on, she's repulsed by it. She's understandably less repulsed when he ages himself down from 75 to 35.
  • Actor Allusion: Lazarus says he once lived above a butcher's shop as a child. In The League of Gentlemen, Mark Gatiss played butcher Hilary Briss.
  • Arbitrary Scepticism: During their final confrontation, Lazarus tells the Doctor about the Blitz. The Doctor mentions in reply that he'd seen it firsthand. Lazarus dismisses this, pointing out that the Doctor looks far too young to have been there, and the Doctor parries by pointing out that Lazarus looks too young himself. At this, Lazarus chuckles.
  • Arc Words: Lazarus' experiment has some involvement with Mr. Saxon, and the man who warns Martha's mother about the Doctor is revealed to be working for him as well.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: The Doctor is up to his usual exploits running around trying to save people while wearing a "bad luck tuxedo".
  • Biblical Motifs: In the Bible, Lazarus was a man who was brought back to life by Jesus Christ. In the episode, Professor Lazarus wants to benefit humanity by finding a way to defy death.
  • Big Bad: Professor Richard Lazarus.
  • Big Red Button: The one on the aging reverser is pressed with an unusual lack of ceremony.
  • Body Horror: Lazarus' transformation into an "evolutionary reject".
  • Call-Back: The Doctor's reference to the Lazarus monster as an "evolutionary reject" is notably similar to the way the Fourth Doctor described the life-eating Fendahl in "Image of the Fendahl", creating very dark implications for old-school fans about the way things might have developed if it hadn't been killed quickly.
  • Chekhov's Gun: During the conversation on the roof, Lazarus talks about how, during the Blitz, he and his family took refuge in Southwark Cathedral. The final confrontation is right there.
  • Compliment Backfire:
    • Martha, when she sees the Doctor in his tuxedo, says he looks like James Bond. The Doctor disgustedly replies, "James Bond?!", then thinks for a moment and says, somewhat less disgustedly, "Really?"
    • Tish calls the Doctor a "science geek". Once he understands what this means, the Doctor's quite pleased.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Doctor complaining that something bad always happens when he wears a tux.
    • The Doctor saying "Really shouldn't take that long just to reverse the polarity. I must be a bit out of practice." Reversing the polarity was something the Third Doctor did quite often.
    • The Doctor muttering to himself over being slapped by his companion's mother.
    • The Doctor saw the Blitz firsthand.
  • Death by Irony: The Doctor weaponizes the device Lazarus built to achieve eternal youth. It doesn't take, and Lazarus is instead killed by the organ in the church where he sought shelter from the Blitz.
  • Death by Mocking: The woman who rebuffs the Doctor's warning by stating that the greatest danger at the party is choking on an olive is one of the first people Lazarus kills just moments later.
  • Delayed Reaction: The Doctor sees Lazarus' press conference without commenting, leaves in the TARDIS, and then comes back to double-check what he just heard with Martha.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: The Doctor puts his foot in it talking to Martha's mother and gives her the impression that he's this secret boyfriend distracting her from her studies.
  • Dirty Old Man: Pre-transformation Lazarus is implied to be this, what with his reaching for Tish's hand and asking her about the perfume she's wearing (it's called "soap"). Just make sure to keep that in mind post-transformation.
  • Double Take: A very delayed version on the Doctor's part: after dropping off Martha at her apartment, he catches a bit of Lazarus' press conference on her TV. After saying goodbye to Martha, he leaves in the TARDIS... only for the TARDIS to then return almost a minute later:
    The Doctor: (pops out of the TARDIS) No, I'm sorry, did he just say he was going to "change what it means to be human"?
  • Dying as Yourself: Averted, as Lazarus was always himself, even while transformed. That said, after he dies, he reverts back to his old man form.
  • Follow the Chaos: Martha finds the Doctor by running towards the sound of the explosions.
  • Fountain of Youth: Lazarus' machine is for rejuvenation.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Lazarus talks about hiding in the church during the Blitz, "The living, cowering among the dead". Not only does he die there, but he has inverted that with himself, he is now the dead hiding within the living.
    • The mysterious Mr. Saxon is a backer of Lazarus Labs, and a man who works for him gives Francine Jones information about the Doctor that makes her apprehensive of him...
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Lazarus' mutated form is fully nude and whenever he changes back to his human form, he's naked.
  • Game Face: Early on in Lazarus' mutation, his face changes to match his new form.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Lazarus' machine works by reprogramming DNA and commanding it to rejuvenate. The problem is that he accidentally released a bunch of "junk" DNA that had been inactive until then.
  • Handsome Lech: Post-transformation Lazarus appears to be this, such as his attempts to charm Martha's sister, although he might just be trying to lure in easy prey.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Martha lets Lazarus do this for the sake of a DNA sample.
  • Immortality Seeker: Having barely survived the Blitz as a child, Lazarus has been obsessed with conquering death all his life. He's looking forward to what he can accomplish in two, three or maybe four lifetimes.
  • Insult Backfire:
    The Doctor: "Science geek"? What's that mean?
    Martha: It means you're obsessively enthusiastic about it.
    The Doctor: [happily] Oh, okay!
  • Innocent Innuendo: The Doctor causes a few awkward moments talking to Martha's mother by saying he and Martha haven't had much time to talk as they've been "busy". Fortunately, their conversation is interrupted before he can dig himself deeper.
    Francine: Busy? Doing what, exactly?
    The Doctor: Oh... you know... stuff.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: "Don't be ridiculous, the only danger here is choking on an olive!"
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: Lazarus constantly shifts between that... thing and his youthful human form due to an Unstable Genetic Code.
  • Irony: The Doctor condemns Lazarus for doing whatever he can to avoid death. He'll go on to do pretty much the same thing (though admittedly without turning into a hideous monster and feeding on people). Lazarus' device also effectively amounts to regeneration, and the way the Doctor talks about it seems to imply that it's based on the same principles as his own go-to method for extending his life, albeit one that still has some bugs in it.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Martha Jones dresses up in a cocktail dress for the black-tie event, and once she's seen Lazarus's Game Face, she doesn't have time or spare clothes nearby to change out of it. She spends the rest of the episode running around, assisting the Doctor, checking her injured brother for a concussion, and volunteering herself as The Bait to lure Lazarus into position to get hit with weaponized music.
  • LEGO Genetics: Lazarus is apparently the one human descended from scorpions, if the recessive traits his monster form has are any indication.
  • Liquid Assets: Mutant!Lazarus feeds on Life Energy.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: Lazarus thinks so. The Doctor disagrees.
  • Loud of War: Sonic screwdriver plugged into cathedral pipe organ = weaponized music.
  • Mad Scientist: The classic story of a deluded scientist who ends up turning himself into a monster.
  • Meaningful Name: In The Four Gospels, Lazarus was the man raised from the dead by Jesus. Which the Doctor neatly lampshades when the seemingly dead Lazarus suddenly wakes up in the ambulance and kills the paramedics.
    The Doctor: Lazarus, back from the dead. Should've known, really.
  • Missed Him by That Much: The Doctor and Martha leave Lazarus' office via the lift intending to go back down to the reception to seek out Lazarus. Merely a second after their lift leaves, Lazarus and Tish arrive on that floor on the other lift.
  • Never Be Hurt Again: Lazarus wants to avoid death because of his experiences during World War II. Waiting helplessly in Southwark Cathedral for bombs to blow him up, he vowed to never be so helpless again.
  • No Immortal Inertia: Lazarus inexplicably turns back into an old man immediately after his death.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The Doctor says that whenever he wears his tuxedo, something bad always happens. This episode is the second of only three onscreen occasions where the Tenth Doctor is seen wearing a tuxedo, so what caused him to develop this opinion is a mystery.
    • The Doctor says he's seen something like Lazarus' tech before. His wording strongly suggests what Lazarus did isn't too far removed from Time Lord regeneration.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Averted. The Doctor isn't against Lazarus' work per se, but saying that he doesn't understand what he's dealing with, and is definitely against the killing people thing. The immortality-is-bad thing is separate, applying to non-transhumans, such as himself.
  • Offscreen Crash: The ambulance carrying the apparently deceased Lazarus drives away from the reception gallery. Just after Francine slaps the Doctor, and the conversation that results, we suddenly hear a loud crash. The Doctor, Martha and Tish rush off to investigate the noise and find the ambulance has gone off the road and crashed. They open up the back doors and find that Lazarus has killed the paramedics by draining them of their life energy and escaped.
  • One-Winged Angel: Lazarus transforms into a giant scorpion for battle scenes. There is no battle when he's human.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: Lazarus' first success is himself. It's justified in that he's 76 years old and might not live long enough for clinical trials.
  • Reverse Polarity: Mentioned by name when weaponizing Lazarus' device. The Doctor says "Really shouldn't have taken so long just to reverse the polarity. I must be a bit out of practice."
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Doctor uses this to provoke Lazarus into chasing him, drawing him away from the Jones family:
    The Doctor: You can't control it, the mutation's too strong. Killing those people won't help you. You're a fool. A vain old man who thought he could defy nature, only nature got her own back, didn't she? You're a joke, Lazarus! A footnote in the history of failure!
  • Seeking Sanctuary: As a child, Lazarus hid from bombs in Southwark Cathedral. When he's losing control of his mutation, he retreats there a second time. The Doctor lampshades this.
  • Shaky P.O.V. Cam: We see Lazarus attacking from his perspective several times, most notably when he's chasing the Doctor down a hallway.
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: Averted. It's explicitly stated that even though Lazarus' size has changed, he's still the same mass, so "he's spreading himself a bit thin!"
  • Shapeshifting Sound: Lazarus tends to make a loud bone-crunching noise whenever he shifts from human to his monstrous form.
  • Shout-Out: The climax in the cathedral is an acknowledged shout-out to the climax of The Quatermass Experiment.
  • Smash Cut: "The biggest danger here is choking on an olive!" Cue the monstrous Lazarus, who of course drains that very woman.
  • Speculative Biology: The Doctor describes Lazarus' monstrous form as a creature of evolutionary potential — something that evolution could have turned humanity into if it hadn't gone for the "two arms and legs" approach — lying dormant in Lazarus' genes and awakened by the experiment.
  • Talent Double: In the final scene inside the church, the actual organ playing was done by someone else.
  • This Was His True Form: After dying (both times), Lazarus returns to human form. The final time he dies, he goes back to his original age.
  • Unstable Genetic Code: Lazarus has one due to his experiment and it causes his mutation. Yes, Martha the medical student points out the sheer impossibility of this trope.
  • Villain Has a Point: Lazarus rejects the Doctor's claim and insists the opposite, "rejecting death is part of being human". As inevitable as death may be, human beings are hardwired to avoid death; that's why adrenaline kicks in to aid in overcoming danger. Every advance in medicine is to stave off disease, increasing crop yields to prevent famine etc.
    The Doctor: Facing death is part of being human. You can't change that.
    Lazarus: No, Doctor. Avoiding death, that's being human! It's our strongest impulse, to cling to life with every fibre of being! I'm only doing what everyone else before me has tried to do. I've simply been more successful at it.
  • When Things Spin, Science Happens: Lazarus' machine works by spinning really fast to create "hypersonic resonance".
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The Doctor informs him that being immortal in a world of mortal things is not fun at all. All you do is watch things waste away.
    The Doctor: I'm old enough to know that a longer life isn't always a better one. In the end, you just get tired; tired of the struggle, tired of losing everyone that matters to you, tired of watching everything you love turn to dust. If you live long enough, Lazarus, the only certainty left is that you'll end up alone.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Lazarus is carted away in an ambulance... and there's almost 15 minutes left of the episode; just enough time for another climactic showdown...

"I'm begging you. I know who this Doctor really is. I know he's dangerous. You're going to get yourself killed. Please, trust me. This information comes from Harold Saxon himself. You're not safe!"

Alternative Title(s): Doctor Who NSS 3 E 6 The Lazarus Experiment