The Lazarus Experiment
The Lazarus Experiment was the sixth episode of the third series of Doctor Who. It saw regular writer Mark Gatiss take on an acting role and marked the Doctor’s acceptance of Martha as his regular companion. It included a large number of “Harold Saxon” references and saw Francine Jones’ first involvement with his aides.
The TARDIS materializes in Martha’s flat. The Tenth Doctor tells her that they had agreed — one trip and home. It is about twelve hours after they left, something the Doctor failed to do with Rose in his previous life. Martha’s phone rings, but she does not pick it up; it is her mother Francine, saying that her sister Tish is on the news. Martha turns the television on and, alongside Tish, an elderly man, Professor Richard Lazarus, announces that tonight he “will change what it means to be human.” The Doctor says goodbye to Martha and, oblivious to her upset, steps into the TARDIS. It de-materializes, but quickly rematerializes. The Doctor reemerges, saying, “No, I’m sorry, did he say he was going to change what it meant to be human?”
At Lazarus Laboratories, Professor Lazarus and Lady Thaw discuss the need for the experiment to work, with Thaw mentioning that Mr Saxon is funding their research. Tish comes in, asking if Lazarus would like to check over the guest list again. He stops her and tries flirting by asking what kind of perfume she wears; she tells him “soap” and quickly excuses herself.
The Doctor and Martha attend Professor Lazarus’ reception that evening, as do Martha’s mother and her brother Leo. Martha introduces the Doctor to her family; Francine is suspicious of him. Tish also meets the Doctor, wondering how he got in as he’s not on the guest list. Martha explains Tish works in the PR department before Tish corrects her; she’s head of the PR department, having put together the party herself. The Doctor inquires what kind of experiment Lazarus is going to perform with the large capsule in the room, being labelled a “science geek” by using big words. He questions Martha as to what it means, seeming rather pleased with the answer.
The lights of the room dim and a spotlight focuses on Lazarus, who announces he is to perform a “miracle”, and steps into the manipulator’s capsule. As technicians operate the machine, the Doctor notices that the system is overloaded and jumps in to avert disaster.
Lazarus emerges, looking decades younger. Despite the momentary crisis, his experiment appears to have been a success — but the Doctor is certain there are dangers the professor has overlooked. He talks to Lazarus about having experience with a similar process, taking notice that he’s experiencing hunger from a depletion of energy; the Doctor tells him that he couldn’t have thought of all the variables that could have happened. Lazarus scoffs at the Doctor’s warnings, so the Doctor and Martha sneak off to conduct their own tests, taking a DNA sample from Martha’s hand, which Lazarus has just kissed. Their test shows Lazarus hacked his own DNA and instructed it to rejuvenate. However, “something’s been activated; something that won’t let him stabilize, something that’s trying to change him.”
Meanwhile, Lazarus speaks with Lady Thaw in his office on the top floor, telling a story about his childhood during World War II. Thaw expresses her desire to be the next to be rejuvenated so they can continue their partnership both personally and professionally. He rejects her, joking that not only did he learn cruelty from her, she has a gift for it. As she threatens to complain to Mr Saxon, Lazarus begins to spasm. To Thaw’s horror, Lazarus mutates into a hideous scorpion-like creature and attacks her.
Downstairs, Francine asks Tish and Leo whether Martha has ever mentioned the Doctor to them before. She worries there is “something going on”, but Leo tries calming her down by saying Martha’s found someone to be with. Lazarus returns to the reception, back to being himself and wearing a different suit, and invites Tish upstairs with him. Tish, now willing to return his advances, follows without argument.
The Doctor and Martha find Lady Thaw’s body, or rather, just the shell of her body; the Doctor says she had all the life energy drained to supply energy to the processes caused by Lazarus’ fluctuating DNA. Worried he will kill again, they go back downstairs, only to learn that he has gone off with Tish. They rush off, the Doctor accidentally spilling a drink on Francine. Another man replaces her drink, and darkly warns that Martha should be more careful in choosing her friends.
Lazarus takes Tish to the roof, where he talks about nearby Southwark Cathedral and quotes T.S. Eliot, a quote the Doctor completes. As they argue, Martha gets Tish away from Lazarus before he transforms again into a monster. They run away, tripping a security lock down. The Doctor gives Martha the sonic screwdriver to unlock the doors, and warns everyone at the reception to get out, but one woman refuses to believe this… until Lazarus bursts in and roars at the assembly. Panic ensues as the guests scramble for the door, Leo suffers a concussion and Lazarus drains the life energy from the same woman who refused to believe the Doctor, killing her in front of the horrified guests. The Doctor draws Lazarus away from Francine. Lazarus chases the Doctor down a corridor. Martha examines Leo, gets everyone out of the building, and goes back inside to help the Doctor despite Francine’s protests. Tish guesses that “maybe she loves him”. The man who replaced Francine’s drink earlier calls the Doctor “dangerous”, and whispers in Francine’s ear the things he says she “should know” about him.
The Doctor turns on the gas in a lab and leaps away from the resulting fireball, but Lazarus survives. Martha hears the explosion and finds the Doctor as she runs toward its source. She returns the sonic screwdriver to the Doctor. They flee together, and end up hiding in the capsule of Lazarus’ machine, on the Doctor’s hunch that Lazarus is unlikely to destroy his own creation. The Doctor comments that what Lazarus has transformed into is an accidentally-unlocked evolutionary dead-end lying dormant in human genes. Lazarus turns on the machine as the Doctor fiddles with the wiring inside. The Doctor “reverses the polarity” so that it affects the outside of the capsule instead of the inside, transforming Lazarus back to human in appearance — and apparently killing him.
Outside, as the ambulance carrying Lazarus’ body pulls away, Francine slaps the Doctor, and tells him to keep away from Martha.
Suddenly, all turn their heads when they hear a loud crash nearby. The Doctor, Martha and Tish take off and find that the ambulance has gone off the road. Opening up the back doors, they find that Lazarus has killed both paramedics for their energy and escaped. They find him in human form inside Southwark Cathedral, where as a child he took refuge during the London Blitz. The Doctor says he was present during the Blitz, but Lazarus says that he is not old enough to have been there. They argue again about the benefits and curse of longevity. Martha (accompanied by Tish) then lures Lazarus away to the top of the bell tower; the Doctor told her earlier that Lazarus could be defeated if he could just get him up there.
As the Lazarus monster chases the Jones sisters at the top of the cathedral, the Doctor pulls out all the stops on the pipe organ, inserts the sonic screwdriver, and plays it at maximum volume, setting up a resonance in the bell above Lazarus that interferes with his sonic-based experiment. Lazarus falls to the cathedral floor below, transforming one last time — back into the elderly man he once was.
Back in Martha’s flat, the Doctor offers Martha one more trip, but Martha refuses to go with him on that basis, as a mere passenger being given a treat. The Doctor says, “Okay, then, if that’s what you want.” She thinks he means to leave her again, but he indicates with a nod that she is welcome to rejoin him on her terms, and admits she was “never really just a passenger”. They leave together in the TARDIS. As it disappears, Martha’s phone rings; it is Francine. She warns Martha about “who this Doctor really is”, saying, “This information comes from Harold Saxon himself. You’re not safe!”