TV EYE: New Who, Week 6: ‘The Lazarus Experiment’

Possibly the most visually slick New Who has ever been- and with very little going on under the hood. Beware the Spoilers…

The ‘inbetween’ episodes of Who are an odd breed- never seeming to pack as much punch as the two parters. You get the glorious experiments (Girl in the Fireplace), the out-of-their-head what-the-hell-did-we-just-watch experiences (Love and Monsters)- and then, there’s the traditional runarounds and it doesn’t get more traditional than ‘The Lazarus Experiment’. It almost takes guts to do a mad scientist tale and have it just be a mad scientist tale– and while tonight’s episode was surprisingly good fun in places, it was also incredibly thin, and no number of speeches about humanity and the Blitz could make up for that. It’s one of the places where New Who falls down– injecting lengthy emotion and speeches isn’t always an effective substitute for cramming in acres of story. Mark Gatiss managed to be relatively entertaining in a sleazy way, and the actual direction of the episode was some of the most imaginative, filmic stuff I’ve seen in Who- from the shot where the creature spun onto the ceiling, to the Doctor and Martha trapped in the capsule, and the rather tacked-on final chase in the Cathedral (I was looking at my watch when Lazarus got taken to the ambulance, thinking “Oh- what are they doing for the rest of the episode?”) Once again, the science was bobbins, but nowhere near as embarrassing as last week, and it did at least manage to be genuinely thrilling in places.

My heart sank slightly at the re-introduction of Martha’s family- and particularly, Martha’s mother. It seems we’ve substituted one pushy, aggressive maternal figure for another, as the ‘Mysterious Man’ turned up, whispered a few sweet nothings in Martha’s mother’s ear, and soon had her getting ridiculously suspicious and spouting more of the ‘Death and destruction follow him everywhere’ nonsense that New Who is worryingly fond of. It doesn’t help that the actress doesn’t click with the heightened state of sci-fi melodrama needed in New Who, and comes across as majorly stilted as a result. It just seems to be proving why never seeing the companion’s family (or killing them off quickly) was usually a good idea, and considering that- according to the episode schedule- we’re not due to return to the present day until episode 10, it’s difficult to see this as anything other than clumsy foreshadowing for the finale. The whole ‘big secret’ running through the season motif would be more fun if they weren’t so thunkingly unsubtle about it- but the trailer at the end promised plenty of spectacle, the potential for Captain Jack Harkness to be back in full flamboyance mode (about bloody time too), and John Simm in an oxygen mask apparently trying to drum the Doctor Who theme on a desk. There may be some fun to come, but Season 3 is still running in ‘above average’- yet to do anything that annoys the crap out of me, but also yet to knock me for six.

Time will tell…

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