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The Lazarus Experiment

Professor Richard Lazarus has announced he’ll “change what it means to be human”. The Doctor and Martha investigate…

Scratching beneath the surface of Doctor Who’s most fascinating tales…

The aged Lazarus (Mark Gatiss).

‘Nominative determinism’ describes the theory that certain individuals subconsciously gravitate towards life choices that suit their given name – as with the poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850), for example.

We need, then, to talk about Professor Richard Lazarus, the man who could cheat death, or so he thought, and who shared his name with Lazarus of Bethany – raised from the dead by Jesus Christ, according to the Gospel of St John. Was our Lazarus a victim of this same phenomenon? In The Lazarus Experiment, we hear him describe how, growing up in a London besieged by the Luftwaffe, he swore he would arm himself against death – “fight back, defeat it”. But he couldn’t fight or defeat the power of nominative determinism, could he? As the Doctor says, on finding the presumed-dead Professor’s corpse missing from the back of an ambulance: “Lazarus, back from the dead. Should have known, really…”

Other than the Doctor, his TARDIS, and his sonic screwdriver, The Lazarus Experiment contains no extraterrestrial or otherwise unearthly elements, making it the first entirely ‘worldly’ adventure since the minor country house whodunnit Black Orchid (1982); and before that, the contemporaneous sci-fi thriller Robot (1974) – a story about a scientist who tries to build a better tin man; a scientist named Professor Kettlewell… Nominative determinism. It’s a killer.

The Doctor (David Tennant) tells Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) that the TARDIS has arrived at “The end of the line.” She exits… into the living room of her London flat.

■In Smith and Jones (2007), the Doctor had offered Martha one single TARDIS trip to say ‘thanks’ – a journey that was extended after The Shakespeare Code, then after Gridlock, and again in Daleks in Manhattan/ Evolution of the Daleks (all 2007). Now, he’s returned her to her flat the morning after they first set off – “back where you were, as promised”; a reference to the fact that in Smith and Jones, she’d told him she had to “go into town first thing and pay the rent”.

Martha’s mother Francine (Adjoa Andoh) leaves an answer-machine message; Martha’s sister is on TV. News 24 shows PR professional Tish (Gugu Mbatha- Raw) standing beside an elderly Professor (Mark Gatiss) – who claims that tonight, he’ll demonstrate a device that will “change what it means to be human”. Soon, in his office, the Professor – Richard Lazarus – tells the aged Lady Thaw (Thelma Barlow) that their “friend” Mr Saxon will “get his money’s worth”.

■In the shooting script of 6 September 2006, the ‘flinty’ Lady’s full name was given as ‘Sylvia’ Thaw.

■What, exactly, were the “issues” with the process that Lazarus claims have been resolved? It seems unlikely that a man like Lazarus would have been too squeamish to experiment on animals, say…

Martha (Freema Agyeman) is returned home by the Doctor (David Tennant).
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About Doctor Who Magazine

Doctor Who Magazine 519 has an exclusive interview David Bradley, who will play the First Doctor in this year's Christmas Special, 'Twice Upon a Time'. The contents of DWM 519 also include: • An interview with Sir Derek Jacobi who is returning as the Master for a new series of audio adventures • Interviews with Jared Garfield and Lily Travers who will play the First Doctor's companions Ben and Polly in the 2017 Christmas Special • A previously unpublished interview from 1997 with Michael Craze who played the original Ben • Costume designer Hayley Nebauer tells us how she created the First Doctor's 2017 look • A tribute to Trevor Martin who played the Doctor in the 1974 Doctor Who stage play 'Seven Keys to Doomsday' • Trevor Martin's final interview • Peter Purves and Matthew Waterhouse talk about recreating stories from the Doctor Who annuals • We celebrate Doctor Who's 54th birthday by looking at what else has happen on 23rd November over the years • Part One of a new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill, 'he Phantom Piper', by Scott Gray, with art by Martin Geraghty • The Time Team share their thoughts on 2011's 'The Almost People' • The Fact of Fiction explores the 2007 story 'The Lazarus Experiment' • Previews, book and audio reviews, news, 'The Blogs of Doom', prize-winning competitions and much, much more!
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