The Lazarus Experiment

Region 1
box set

Region 2
box set
Region 2
plain 4-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 187, starring David Tennant)
  • written by Stephen Greenhorn
  • directed by Richard Clark
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 45 minutes
Story: Richard Lazarus believes he has created the fountain of youth in a laboratory booth, and Martha's sister arranges a demonstration for some of the world's wealthiest investors. But what dormant horrors of human DNA has Lazarus inadvertently let out? And what secrets does his mysterious political sponsor know about the Doctor?

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Audio commentary by actors David Tennant (The Doctor) and Mark Gatiss (Lazarus).
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Monsters Inc. (12 min.) adding Reggie Yates (Leo Jones), director Richard Clark,
    executive producer Russell T. Davies, producer Phil Collinson, prosthetics designer Neill Gorton, special effects supervisor Mike Crowley,
    visual effects producer Will Cohen, CG supervisor Jean-Claude Deguara, and stunt co-ordinator Tom Lucy.
  • David Tennant's Video Diaries (8 min.) with Tennant, Gatiss, Clark, Freema Agyeman (Martha), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Tish Jones),
    3rd assistant director Sarah Davies, and costume assistant Kirsty Wilkinson.
  • Out-Takes & Bloopers
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

Season 29 continues to coast complacently through its most uninspired material, formulaically going through many motions that were never a good idea for the show in the first place. "The Lazarus Experiment" ends up facing off with "Evolution of the Daleks" (the previous story), trying to avoid the lowest ranking of the season.

Firstly, it seems a royal waste of time to still be debating Martha's status as the new companion half-way into the season. More than that, why are we doing it in present day London, while being treated to another episode of her not-very-interesting family? Spending time with the previous companion's family in the past two years was not a great idea for a sci-fi series, but had the novelty of never having been done in the 26 years prior to that, and only worked because the characters, casting, and chemistry managed to create a bit of magic and charm. The formulaic attempt to replace and recreate all that falls flat here, not only because we don't have that charm, but also because it's not a great idea, and it's time for Doctor Who to move on to a whole new companion dynamic. It should be enough that Martha's on board the TARDIS. Now take us across the galaxy.

But no, here we are stuck on Earth, in London, present day, debating what else? - the human race. Been there, done that, and far too often since 2005. It's kind of cheesy and impractical to bring the TARDIS right into Martha's flat. Really, how many people would have an apartment or other living space that small with an empty space in the middle big enough and tall enough to hold a police box? Unless they had planned it prior, which Martha had never had an opportunity for. The indecisive twaddle of the scene in the apartment allows for a full demonstration of the TARDIS materializing in addition to a scene in its interior, but this doesn't go far for making up for the silliness of the Doctor and Martha's dynamic here.

This story uses both established versions of Martha's Theme and new stylistic variations and developments that are sadly not represented on the season's official music CD release. Another excellent new piece backs the actual experiment early on in the story. But sometimes, as in the opening scene, the music seems to be trying too hard and taking over too much, without really having much to say in this particular tale.
Music by Murray Gold
"Martha's Theme" is available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who:
Original Music from "Series 3"

More info & buying options

The episode earns its sci-fi stripes and gains its quality from its opening sections, during which Professor Lazarus' idea and experiment are put on screen. Excellent concept, the "fountain-of-youth" machine. A few too many wild CGI movements around the booth itself to remain believable for me, but decently satisfying nonetheless. I'm not too sure that keeping the concept a mystery until Lazarus steps out of the booth was a great idea, because anticipation of something worthwhile is not as high as it should be to make it work.

However, it does perhaps help to sell Lazarus as an old man in the beginning. I was convinced I was watching an older actor, and one who seemed strangely familiar. I kept asking myself what it was I might have seen him in previously. Thus the revelation from the booth was doubly surprising - not only was the sci-fi process of the story revealed, so was the fact that Lazarus had been Mark Gatiss all along, and I knew I'd been had - in a good way.

Gatiss's performance as both the old and young Lazarus is definitely the highlight of the episode, and he gets some nice meaty scenes to sink his teeth into. Fantastic. He and David Tennant work well off of each other and create some great scenes.

However, the youth-experiment idea seems let down by the plot for the remaining 2/3 of the story, in which the writer(s) fall back on the formulaic misguided idea that "monsters" need to be the central focus of a good Doctor Who story. Both the title and the interview questions of this week's Confidential behind-the-scenes featurette show how deeply embedded and sadly unquestioned this aspect of the show is becoming, but thankfully Tennant himself understands what a dumbing-down this is, and that the Doctor himself would never agree with it.

In short, the third "monster" incarnation of Lazarus is pretty stupid, a grand CGI mistake that looks as though it has nothing to do with Lazarus's other two forms despite all their considerable efforts to the contrary. Going for anything other than a very mild variation of human stretches credulity way too far, and is totally unnecessary and unsatisfying. Equally stupid are the number of almost instantaneous transformations between these wildly different forms. Sorry, this concept went down the toilet too quickly to save itself.

And speaking of formulaic writing, the patterns of the last two seasons build up expectation of the major returning threat of this season to show itself by about this point. I myself was burning to see either the Master or the Sontarans revealed in this episode. Instead I'd got a bigger overdose of overused Earth cities, overly predictable Dalek reruns, and the kind of canned dysfunctional family dynamics that are found on dozens of below average everyday dramas.

Mention of Mr. Saxon in this story fuels a bit of interest for those who know where that strain is heading, but ultimately this falls flat and is an utter waste of time. If you don't already know what it is, it means nothing to you. If you do know what it is, it's far less than you want, and remains insignificant. And it drags itself once more through the British Government, not for reasons of developing a decent conspiracy plot element, but more for a sense of self-importance that, considering what Doctor Who's galactic scope should be, actually works to make it seem smaller-scale instead.

"The Lazarus Experiment" plods on through formulas good and bad, managing a decent conclusion with excitement and emotion, but little point or worthwhile development. Tennant gets his heroic due, and one gets the sense that the ideas here will be further built upon later, although one suspects that starting over with other ideas may be the better choice. Although not too bad an episode, most of the rest of the stories this season have more going for them, and "The Lazarus Experiment" is in serious danger of receiving the Wooden Turkey Award for worst season 29 story.

International Titles:

Deutsch: "Der Preis der Jugend"

Magyar: "A Lazarus kísérlet"

Français: "L'Expérience Lazarus"

Русский: "Эксперимент Лазаруса"

Italiano: "L'esperimento Lazarus"

This story has become available on DVD.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

DVD NTSC Region 1
14-episode boxed set
for the North American market:

DVD PAL Region 2
14-episode boxed set
for the U.K.
DVD PAL Region 2
plain 4-episode volume
U.K. format only

Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes only feature the plain episodes.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "42"

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