Sunday, May 06, 2007

"James Bond?! ...really?"

How many films contributed their electrically transmitted DNA to this week's Who?
  • The James Bond films, obviously

  • The Fly (for the capsule)

  • The Quatermass Experiment (for the title, and ending up in a cathedral)

  • This Is Spinal Tap (for going up to 11)

  • Predator/Blade 2 (for the monster's split jaw)

  • Lost In Space (for the rest of the monster's body)

  • Relic (I'm told - for the monster being some sort of human throwback/sidestep)

  • And of course, for a CG face unconvincingly slapped onto the front of an inhuman body, The Lawnmower Man and its close cousins, the pop videos of Peter Gabriel.
Please feel free to point out any I've missed. No, The Lazarus Experiment was not a story of great originality. Yes, it was a pretty traditional (so trad it hurts, in fact) Who monster runaround with mad scientist and Doctor-villain soliloquising. But it was quite possibly the most solid episode so far this year, delivering the straightforward slam-bang action it promised, running out of material after half an hour, and slipping in a further ten minutes of slam-bang action to round off the proceedings.

Viewers who think too much might ponder an episode of DW that shows the dehumanising horrors of science brought to heel in a church, but perhaps there really is nothing more to it than a Quatermass reference. Would've been nice if the Lazarus monster had looked like it had been drawn from the dormant bits of human DNA, and not from bits of just any old terrestrial DNA (to think, Confidential suggests the original design would have been even more of a spurious mix of animal bits). Apparently we're this far from being giant scorpions - the stinging tail, the mandibles, the external skeleton, the extra legs... the ability to suck the life right out of people? In its favour, the genetic science in this episode may have been cock-eyed again, but it was still better than last week. At least there was some effort to explain it all that sounded half convincing.

Still, two things save The Lazarus Experiment from being a mediocre knockabout action story with a big old CGI monster. One is the acting, with no obvious weak links and some pretty good bastard acting from Mark Gatiss. The other is the script, which was excellent (apart from some of the soliloquising in the cathedral, which got a bit ripe in places).

Thing is, a solid middling story like this would have looked like gold in the first half of Series 1, or rejigged as an episode of Torchwood. In the third year of New Who, it looks like 6 out of 10. But we're halfway into Series 3 now - when is it going to turn it up to 11? It was excusable for Series 1 to take a while to find its feet, but by this time last year we'd had The Girl in the Fireplace, a werewolf and ninja monks vs the heat-packin' Queen Victoria and two episodes of meaty, shiny, good-looking Cyberman action. The last month and a half pales by comparison. And we've got two weeks to mull that over while Who steps aside for Eurovision. Still, the rest of the series looks like seven weeks of continuous winners, if the trailer is to be believed.


Anonymous said...

I liked the 'reverse the polarity' comment as the Doctor and Martha stepped out the capsule...

Siskoid said...

I agree with a lot of what you say here, though I'd hardly call running out of stuff and just adding more of the same kind of stuff "solid". The plot is pure hogwash, but yeah, it's not really a stinker thanks to the character bits. I talk about it a little more on my own space.

For some reason, I'm liking this season a lot more than I did the second (on its first run anyway), despite my distaste for the Shakespeare story. It may boil down to the Companion for me. I loved Rose in Series 1, but she was a little hard to take in the first half of Series 2. I warmed up to Martha right away, so put me in that camp if you must.

John Toon said...

It's a fair cop - I'm using the word "solid" as a euphemism for "not totally shit"... I dunno, I'm well aware that the plot falls apart if you actually look at it, but it had the appearance of being coherent, and that's one up on "Evolution of the Daleks". It is solid - it's a traditional adventure with a beginning, a middle and an end... and another end... and a big monster - squarely in the mould of the average episodes of the old series.

Skeeter said...

Agreeing with you on the "at last something not quite so easy to pull apart into tiny little flopping bits". Liked this one a little less than the Cybermen last year and a little more than the eps Gatiss wrote himself.

"Solid" can also mean "thick" (ponder that ye all)

Also the Relic should also take credit for the "I'm a ten foot tall monster who can still get through a door" - and the bad version of the Predator's mouth (the monster in the Relic looks like something Stan Winston threw together at the end of a long week of doing other things, from bits he had lying around the workshop)

John Toon said...

Ah well, Skeeter, if you're talking about giant monsters that can mysteriously fit through normal-sized doors, let's not forget Jurassic Park. I believe it was you yourself, just this Monday, who mentioned the bit where they find a ship's cabin crew chomped, even though the doors are far too small for Tyrannosaurs and there's no sign of a forced entry.

Over on a forum where my old University drama buddies hang out, they're also grumbling about men turning into giant monsters and the laws of conservation of mass/energy. And it was the English graduates who raised this, shockingly enough.