After a rousing two-parter featuring the Daleks, "The Lazarus Experiment"
is a bit anti-climactic.
The story opens with the TARDIS landing in Martha's apartment about 12 hours since they left. A tense goodbye is broken by the ringing of a phone. Martha neglects to pick it up but the answering machine blurts out her mother's voice saying that her sister, Tish, is on the tele. Turing on the idiot box, we see Tish standing with the elderly Professor Lazarus who proudly proclaims that he "will change what it means to be human". With that, The Doctor and Martha say their goodbyes and the TARDIS dematerializes only to return a few seconds later. Poking his head out the door he says, "No, I'm sorry, did he say he was going to change what it meant to be human?"
Meanwhile over at Lazarus Labs, Lazarus is chatting with Lady Thaw who is about his age. Much is riding on the experiment and the enigmatic Mr. Saxon will be watching as he is bankrolling the project. Tish comes into Lazarus' office and finds the old man to be flirtatious.
We then cut to later that evening with The Doctor and Martha all gussied up for the experiment and its attendant reception. Also attending are Martha's brother, Leo, and her mom, Francine, who lays out all her motherly suspicions. There are fans out there who didn't care to see Rose's family and feel similarly about Martha's kin. I don't mind it much and give the producers credit for giving background to the new companions and providing some of their motivations. Did we really need to have Martha's family be the vehicle for this? Maybe not, but I think it's great that both Rose and Martha get fleshed out instead of being simple props to receive information from The Doctor cum Irving the Explainer and to scream when imperiled.
Back at the reception, Lazarus enters the chamber of his contraption and it is activated. As the columns whirl around in bathed in bright light, the professor is being transformed by some kind of sonic bombardment as the audience is wowed. But something goes wrong and the machine threatens to overload but The Doctor saves the day. Lazarus steps out of the machine looking half his age. Ignoring one of The Doctor's patented you-don't-know-what-you're-messing-with admonishments, the professor schmoozes with the astonished crowd, even giving Tish's hand a gentlemanly kiss. His saliva, however, gives The Doctor a DNA sample which he tests. The results show that Lazarus' DNA has been sonically altered and is unstable. Worse is the fact that it's mutating.
Back in his office with Lady Thaw, the new young version of Lazarus rejects her desire to be the next person to undergo the process. When she threatens to approach Mr. Saxon, Lazarus transforms into a hideous monster that resembles a scorpion but has his face. Needless to say, Thaw meets her doom. Sporting a new suit, our mutant returns to the reception and lures Tish away. Poking their noses around, The Doctor and Martha find Lady Thaw's body which is a shriveled corpse of dust. Her energy has been sapped to feed Lazarus' frenzied mutation. They rush back downstairs to warn the others only to discover that Tish has accompanied Lazarus back upstairs.
The pair are on the roof overlooking Southwark Cathedral. Just as he readies his transformation so he can feed, The Doctor and Martha appear and snatch Tish from the immediate path of harm's way. A chase ensues which sees Lazarus as monster making his way to the main floor and scaring the bejeezus out of everyone. Martha sees her family to safety before returning to aid The Doctor. Outside, as Francine, Tish, and Leo debate the identity of The Doctor, a man approaches and whispers to Francine that there are things about our hero that she should know.
Back upstairs, The Doctor lures the Lazarus monster into a lab which is filled with gas normally reserved for bunsen burners and lets it rip. Unfortunately, the explosion doesn't kill the creature and this forces him and Martha to seek refuge in Lazarus' machine under the notion that Lazarus won't destroy his own creation. The compartment is meant for one person so it's a bit cramped with the two of them in there making for some fun, if rather subdued sexual tension. In his usual improbable way, The Doctor reverses the polarity of the machine so that the energy is projected outwards into the room rather than into the compartment. Exiting, they find the youthful Lazarus' body sprawled on the floor.
After an ambulance takes Lazarus' body away, Francine gives The Doctor the first degree and, after slapping him, issue a warning to stay away from her daughter. The Doctor's treatment at Francine's hands is disrupted when a crash is heard in the distance. Rushing to the scene, the ambulance is found with the paramedics having become victims of Lazarus. Rushing into Southwark Cathedral, they find him there in human form and he remarks that he took refuge there as a child during the Blitz. The Doctor replies that he too experienced those terrible days but Lazarus disbelieves him saying that he is much too young to have been alive in 1940. They argue about longevity/immortality and this harkens back to last season's "School Reunion" in which The Doctor called it a curse. Here The Doctor is speaking from experience. But being a dork, I have to admit that the first thing I thought of while watching this scene was the final scene of "The Five Doctors" when Borusa discovers that immortality is no blessing and to achieve it is to lose.
But Lazarus will hear none of it and proceeds to turn back into a monster. The Doctor hatches a plan which involves luring him up to the bell tower. They succeed as The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to give the church organ a turbo boost. The music is amplified by the conic bell tower and thusly affects creature's DNA. In pain, it falls to the floor below where Lazarus' body is found looking its correct age.
The scene shifts back to Martha's apartment where she gleefully rejoins the crew of the TARDIS. As it dematerializes, the phone rings and it's Francine once again. She warns Martha that The Doctor is dangerous and that this tidbit of info comes from Mr. Saxon himself.
When I said that "The Lazarus Experiment" was anti-climactic, I hope no one thought that I didn’t like it because I did. But the episode was average being another take on Frankenstein and using genetic manipulation again right after another story involving it. Although fun to watch, it felt like it was a retread of just too much familiar ground. The Dulcinea and I both like Martha quite a bit but I'm disappointed that she seems to be developing along lines too close to Rose. She has gained the courage to rush in where angels fear to tread when it comes to big bad monsters yet is still not wholly comfortable confronting her own mother. This perhaps mirrors Rose too much. At least Francine is quite a bit different from Jackie which changes the mother-daughter dynamic.
The mysterious Mr. Saxon is also mentioned a few times. A clue as to his identity can probably be found in The Doctor's comments comparing the effects of Lazarus' machine to Timelord regeneration. This certainly lends credence to the rumor that Saxon is The Master. And it makes me wish the episode were longer so more time could be given to the whole issue of longevity. Despite having explained himself at the end of "Gridlock", Martha still seems to view The Doctor with doe-eyed wonderment and I think she still lacks anything approaching a real comprehension of his situation. It isn't all going around saving people – there's still a big hole in his hearts. I don't say this meaning that this story was fatally flawed or anything like that. I say the above in the same spirit as horror movie fans yelling at the young woman on the screen not to go into a particular room. It's all part of the game of being a fan. Unlike the writers, I know neither the big climax ahead this season nor where the writers are taking Martha's character. So perhaps they're revealing things piecemeal for the season finale. And so my ranting is more about personal preference than any objective criticism of the narrative.