Doctor Who: Project: Lazarus [Big Finish]

Creatures of Beauty was the 45th entry in Big Finish’s “Main Range” or “Monthly Range” of Doctor Who audios (released back in 2003), featuring both Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor and Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor. Maggie Stables also featured as Evelyn Smythe, the Sixth Doctor’s audio-only companion.

(Daily Doctor Who #257)

Spoilers!

I came into Project Lazarus with bad vibes. I’m not sure if it’s just because the name is similar to the television story The Lazarus Experiment, which is one of the lower points of the Tenth Doctor era. Or maybe it was because of the television episode The Alternative Factor, which is one of the lower points of the original Star Trek, and has a character called Lazarus in it. More likely, it’s because I realized on some subconscious level that the story is a sequel to the audio Project: Twilight which I didn’t like at all.

However, actually listening to Project: Lazarus yields a reasonably interesting story. First, though it brings back Cassie the unfortunate vampire from the previous story, the focus is not at all on the cruel antics of the heartless vampire elite (the sort of story I hate) but just on her as someone who is really messed up by the struggles of her existence and the cruel machinations of the story’s main threat, the self-titled Nimrod.

Things move pretty quickly, as Cassie first seems to be a traumatized victim, before revealing her to have thrown in her lot with the villains, before being redeemed and then dying tragically. All this in just two episodes! This is a necessary part of the structure, though, as after half the story focuses on the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn finding and then losing Cassie at the Forge (a secret alien technology research facility), it abruptly jumps forward and turns into a Seventh Doctor adventure. The Seventh Doctor returns to the Forge only to find that his predecessor is working there as their new scientific advisor. But it’s quickly apparent that things are not as they seem.

Both Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy are in good form as their respective Doctors, and Maggie Stables gets to do a lot of extreme emotions as Evelyn, coping with the tragic loss of Cassie. On the whole, Project: Lazarus turns out to be quite an enjoyable story. It stumbles a bit in the last episode, especially with its obvious “non-conclusion” (so the series can keep using Nimrod / the Forge in other adventures) but for the most part it was a fun listen.

Maybe the most interesting thing to come out of it is the question of how the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn’s relationship proceeds from here. There part of the story ended on quite a low note, and the Seventh Doctor later references her quite sadly. I know all of that is years in the past now in real life, but I’ve never heard anything with her beyond this, so I’m curious to find out some day.

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