The Lazarus Experiment

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183 – "The Lazarus Experiment"
Doctor Who episode
Lazarus Experiment.jpg
The mutated Lazarus bears down on a party guest.
Directed by Richard Clark
Written by Stephen Greenhorn
Script editor Simon Winstone
Produced by Phil Collinson
Executive producer(s) Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Incidental music composer Murray Gold
Production code 3.6
Series Series 3
Length 45 minutes
Originally broadcast 5 May 2007
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Evolution of the Daleks" "42"
Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)
Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

"The Lazarus Experiment" is the sixth episode of the third series of the revived British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was broadcast on BBC One on 5 May 2007 and stars David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor and Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones.

In the episode, Professor Richard Lazarus (Mark Gatiss) demonstrates an experiment at his laboratory near Southwark Cathedral in Southwark where he renews himself into a younger-looking man. The effects on Lazarus' DNA causes him to change into a giant creature that sucks the life force from other victims.

According to the BARB figures this episode was seen by 7.19 million viewers and was the twelfth most popular broadcast on British television in that week.[1] Executive producer Russell T Davies has stated that he directed writer Stephen Greenhorn to base this episode on the typical Marvel Comics plotline: "a good old mad scientist, with an experiment gone wrong, and an outrageous supervillain on the loose."[2]


The Tenth Doctor returns Martha to her flat in London, twelve hours after she first stepped in the TARDIS. They listen to a message from Martha's mother, Francine, informing her that her sister Tish is on TV. They watch a news report that shows an elderly man named Professor Richard Lazarus who claims that he will change what it means to be human. The Doctor leaves briefly in the TARDIS, but immediately returns, intrigued by Lazarus's statement.

The machine at Lazarus Labs as shown at the Doctor Who Experience.

The Doctor and Martha go to the launch party at Lazarus Labs and meet up with Tish, who works there. Francine and Martha's brother, Leo, also join them; Francine is immediately suspicious of the Doctor's interest in Martha. Their conversation is interrupted as Lazarus announces he will perform a miracle and steps into a capsule in the centre of the reception room. The machine starts and surrounds the capsule with shining white light, and the Doctor quickly steps in when the system begins overloading. He deactivates the machine, and Lazarus emerges from the capsule as a much younger man. The machine appears to be able to manipulate the subject's DNA to make them younger, but the Doctor is concerned about unknown side effects. Martha points out that they obtained a DNA sample when Lazarus kissed her hand earlier, and they race to Lazarus' lab to examine the DNA. They find that it is fluctuating and unstable; Lazarus had successfully managed to instruct his genes to rejuvenate, but has activated an unseen element hidden within his DNA, which is trying to change him into something.

Meanwhile, Lazarus returns to his office with his partner, the elderly Lady Thaw. She insists that she be the next to use the machine so they can be young together, but he refuses. She threatens to have a "Mr. Saxon" pull their funding, but Lazarus transforms into something and kills Lady Thaw. He returns to human form and to the reception, while the Doctor and Martha discover Lady Thaw's body and deduce that Lazarus must drain life energy to keep his DNA stable. Lazarus goes up to the roof with Tish and they talk for a few minutes until the Doctor and Martha run in and warn Tish. Lazarus and the Doctor argue over his rejuvenation; Lazarus sees it as a means of improving humanity by purging it of mortality, while the Doctor believes that he has broken Nature's one unbreakable law and will soon face consequences. While Tish and Martha argue, Lazarus transforms again and attacks them, revealed to be a giant skeletal scorpion-like being, but they manage to escape to the lift. The building security system locks down the entire building. The Doctor, Martha and Tish take the stairs, warn the guests of the danger and are quickly followed by the monstrous Lazarus. The Doctor gives Martha the sonic screwdriver so she can unlock the security doors and Lazarus kills a guest while the others flee in panic. The Doctor attempts to reason with Lazarus while being chased, but ends up trapped in the machine with Martha. The Doctor explains that Lazarus' transformation is the result of an evolutionary throwback locked away in dormant genes that are now becoming dominant; evolution had rejected the mutation for humanity millions of years prior but, rather in the manner of Pandora's box, Lazarus had unwittingly unlocked it. Lazarus manages to activate his machine, but the Doctor reverses the polarity, causing the capsule to reflect energy outwards in a violent shockwave, blasting Lazarus away. They emerge to find Lazarus in his human form, naked and apparently dead.

As police and medical workers arrive to take care of the wounded, Lazarus' body is taken in an ambulance. Francine becomes doubtful about Martha's connection with the Doctor after being informed by Harold Saxon that the Doctor is dangerous but is unable to convince her to part ways with him. The Doctor hears the ambulance crash and finds that the drivers have been drained of life. The Doctor, Martha, and Tish chase Lazarus to the nearby Southwark Cathedral. The Doctor tries again to reason with Lazarus, who reveals that his experiments were a result of experiencing the horrors of the London Blitz as a child and vowing not to let death claim him, but is unable to stop him from transforming. Martha and Tish lure Lazarus to the top of the Cathedral's bell tower, and the Doctor manipulates the church's pipe organ to produce the maximum volume it can. The vibrations caused by the organ interfere with Lazarus' manipulated DNA and he falls to his death to the floor below, returning to his original form and age.

Martha and the Doctor return to her flat, and the Doctor invites Martha to come along for one more trip. She refuses, saying she doesn't want to travel with him as just a passenger. The Doctor agrees that she is more than that to him, and they leave together in the TARDIS. After they dematerialise, Martha's answering machine records a call from Francine warning Martha about the Doctor, who is unaware that the message came in too late.

Cultural references[edit]

Film and television[edit]

  • The preview of the story in the Radio Times magazine claimed that the episode's conclusion, wherein a monster, mutated from a man, dies in a large London church, is a reference to that of the 1953 science fiction serial The Quatermass Experiment.[3] David Tennant and Mark Gatiss appeared in the 2005 live remake of The Quatermass Experiment. These similarities were also noted by Alan Barnes in a 2017 feature on the story in Doctor Who Magazine. Barnes' also suggested that the title of the story was influenced by that of The Quatermass Experiment.[4]
  • Martha likens the Doctor's appearance when wearing a dinner jacket to James Bond; the Doctor appears skeptical but flattered. The commentary track mentions the Doctor's loosening of his bow-tie as a "Daniel Craig moment".
  • Tish refers to Catherine Zeta-Jones' marriage to Michael Douglas, comparing that situation of a big age gap to her own near-dalliance with Lazarus.
  • Whilst playing the Church Organ, the Doctor decides to "turn it up to 11" – a phrase popularised by the cult film This Is Spinal Tap (1984).


  • Lazarus is a biblical character, mentioned in John 11:41–44, whom Jesus raised from the dead. When Lazarus escapes from the ambulance, the Doctor notes he should have realised Lazarus would return from the dead.
  • Both the Doctor and Lazarus quote T. S. Eliot's poem The Hollow Men. The Doctor completes Lazarus' quotation with the line, "Falls the Shadow" — which has been used as the title of a Doctor Who novel. There is also a Doctor Who novel called The Hollow Men featuring animated scarecrows. The Doctor later tells Martha that Eliot got it right in saying that it all ends "not with a bang, but a whimper". The Doctor also alludes to Eliot's reference to Lazarus in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead."


Gatiss' appearance has made him one of a select few to have both written for and acted in the show. Gatiss began his writing career on the New Adventures Doctor Who novels, and acted in material for a BBC Doctor Who evening before the new series was commissioned. Others with similar credits include Victor Pemberton and Glyn Jones.

Whilst the exterior shots of Southwark Cathedral are the cathedral itself (or a matte image edited onto the Cardiff exterior sets), the interiors were filmed in Wells Cathedral (apart from the tower as seen from the crossing and the interior of the tower, which is a set). A model of Southwark Cathedral also appears in Lazarus's office, along with one of Michelangelo's David. The interiors of Professor Lazarus's institute were shot in Cardiff Museum,[5] the Welsh Assembly's Senedd building, and St William House, Cardiff. The latter also served as a location for the pilot episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, and the Torchwood episode "Random Shoes".

A scene cut from the episode, but included as an extra with the DVD release, reveals that the Doctor participated in the writing of the United States Declaration of Independence and in fact carries a copy of the first draft folded up in the pocket of his dinner jacket. An outtake of this scene is featured on the DVD as well, in which the Doctor has completely unfolded the document, only for Tennant to realise that he and Agyeman have run out of track.


The following episode, "42", was delayed by one week to make way for the BBC's broadcasting of the Eurovision Song Contest. The BBC Doctor Who web page announced in advance that 'something special' would be appended to the end of the original broadcast of this episode.[6] This proved to be an extended teaser for the remaining episodes of the series, taking the place of the usual "Next time..." teaser trail and headed instead "Coming up...". This was also made available immediately after transmission on the BBC's Doctor Who website. The extended trailer featured many short clips from upcoming stories: eyeless animated scarecrows and the titular Family of Blood, the return of Captain Jack Harkness, Sir Derek Jacobi in character, Michelle Collins likewise and, briefly, John Simm as the mysterious Mr. Saxon seen smiling for press cameras before the Houses of Parliament and in the Cabinet Room at No. 10 wearing an oxygen mask, sinisterly tapping out the heavy rhythm of the incidental music and surrounded by inert bodies. At the very end, a further caption ahead of the credits of "The Lazarus Experiment" revealed that "Doctor Who will return in two weeks". The "normal" trailer for "42" was then made available on the BBC Doctor Who website and was used on the DVDs instead of the special trailer, and is used in most repeats of the episode


  1. ^ "Lazarus Experiment — Final Ratings". Outpost Gallifrey News Page. Source: BARB. 17 May 2007. Retrieved 3 June 2007. 
  2. ^ "Russell T Davies's episode guide". Radio Times. Retrieved 29 July 2007. 
  3. ^ Braxton, Mark (5 May 2007). "Saturday 5 May — Today's Choices — Doctor Who". Radio Times. 333 (4334): 68. 
  4. ^ Barnes, Alan (Winter 2017–2018). "The Fact of Fiction. The Lazarus Experiment". Doctor Who Magazine. Panini Magazines (519): 65. 
  5. ^ "Walesarts, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff". BBC Wales. Retrieved 30 May 2010. 
  6. ^ "Doctor Who News: Something Special". BBC. 3 May 2007. Archived from the original on 26 August 2007. Retrieved 3 May 2007. 

External links[edit]