‘The Zero Imperative’ (P.R.O.B.E.) (Film)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Patient Zero with Liz Shaw

I knew reviewing ‘The Stranger’ series by BBV was a mistake. 😀

In May 2020, I received a nice birthday present in the post from my best mate Stephen. It was the first ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ episode by BBV called ‘The Zero Imperative’. It looked exciting. I suppose because Stephen liked my ‘Stranger’ reviews on my blog for Easter 2020, he wanted me to review this one. 😀

‘P.R.O.B.E.’ is an interesting spin-off series by BBV. Unlike ‘The Stranger’ series, ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ is actually set in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe itself, featuring Caroline John as Liz Shaw. I was fascinated to find out how ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ would actually fit into the ‘Doctor Who’ universe with Liz Shaw as the main lead.

For those who don’t know, Liz Shaw was a companion (sort-of) in Jon Pertwee’s first season of ‘Doctor Who’ – Season 7. Liz was in the stories ‘Spearhead From Space’, ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’, ‘The Ambassadors of Death’ and ‘Inferno’. She’s also been in books, audios and comics. 🙂

At the time ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ was made in the 1990s, ‘Doctor Who’ was not on TV. Bill Baggs of BBV made video and audio productions with ‘Doctor Who’ elements in them to keep the spirit of the TV show alive. I was looking forward to how ‘The Zero Imperative’ would begin Liz Shaw’s own spin-off series.

After watching ‘The Zero Imperative’ for the first time, I had to watch it a second time for this review. In my first viewing of the episode, I had no idea what I watched. 😀 I’ve gained a clearer idea of what ‘The Zero Imperative’ is about on a second viewing, but you’ll need to see it more than once.

‘The Zero Imperative’ is by Mark Gatiss, who would go on to star in a few roles in the new TV series of ‘Doctor Who’ as well as pen a number of new series ‘Doctor Who’ TV episodes. He even stars in this ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ episode itself. 😀 As it’s a BBV production, ‘The Zero Imperative’ is directed by Bill Baggs.

‘P.R.O.B.E.’ takes place a number of years after Liz’s days at U.N.I.T. She’s now in charge of the Preternatural Research Bureau (called P.R.O.B.E. of course 😀 ) It’s like U.N.I.T. with investigating the strange and the out of the ordinary on Earth, except it’s neglected and smaller compared to U.N.I.T.

I don’t think we get to see enough of P.R.O.B.E.’s HQ in ‘The Zero Imperative’, especially as it’s just Liz and her assistant Linda Lusardi as Louise Bayliss. There’s also Louise Jameson as recurring character Patsy Haggard. Hopefully there’ll be more to explore with P.R.O.B.E. for future episodes.

In ‘The Zero Imperative’, a series of bizarre murders take place at a soon-to-be closed psychiatric hospital in Hawthorne. Liz investigates the murders but soon things go out of control when a psychic force is at work. Will Liz be able to uncover the mystery of the killer and who Patient Zero actually is?

I enjoyed Caroline John’s performance as Liz Shaw in this first ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ episode. It was intriguing to see an older Liz compared to her ‘Doctor Who’ appearances. She’s confident and sure of herself. She’s able to handle a murder investigation, even when other people get in her way during the story.

I don’t think Liz gets much of the spotlight, since other supporting characters sadly get in the way. I believe this is Caroline John’s first association with BBV. ‘The Zero Imperative’ was released in January 1994 and Caroline John would later star in ‘The Stranger’ episode called ‘Breach of the Peace’.

As I mentioned, Linda Lusardi stars as Louise Bayliss, Liz Shaw’s assistant in ‘The Zero Imperative’. She seems a nice person to be Liz’s assistant, helping her out with the murder investigation at the psychiatric hospital. I don’t think there is much to say about Lou Bayliss concerning her character.

Lou does question Nicola Fulljames as Dr. Beatrice Hearst and Patricia Merrick as Dr. Gilchrist over a certain death in the episode. I would like to find out more about Lou’s character in future episodes. I hope there’s more to explore…oh wait! This is Lou’s only appearance in the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ series? (Pause) Oh.

In terms of the guest cast for this ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ episode, most of the actors are former ‘Doctor Who’ stars who’ve either been Doctors or companions. ‘The Zero Imperative’ features actors like Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison. They played the Doctor at a time in their lives. 🙂

Now this is where it gets confusing for me. I know Sylvester, Colin, Jon and Peter aren’t playing the Doctors in this ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ episode, but it’s easy to think of them as the Doctors when watching them here. Why couldn’t different ‘Doctor Who’ actors instead of the Doctors be cast to play these characters?

Sometimes, I wondered whether Sylvester, Colin, Jon and Peter were the Doctors in the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ episode or not, especially since most of the supporting characters they play are doctors of a sort. Sylvester is Dr. Dove, Colin is Dr. Russell and Jon is Dr. O’Kane. You see? It does get very confusing. 😀

Mind you, I would like to think that Sylvester, Colin, Jon and Peter are the Doctors from ‘Doctor Who’ in some shape or form in the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ series. This is especially when Liz Shaw calls Jon Pertwee ‘Doctor’ at the end and even Sylvester says that famous Matt Smith line “Trust me! I’m a Doctor!” 😀

Sylvester McCoy stars as Dr. Colin Dove. Sylvester is well-known for playing the Seventh Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’ and he’s worked for BBV before in ‘The Airzone Solution’. He would later appear in ‘Do You Have A Licence To Save This Planet?’ with BBV. Here, Sylvester plays a villain in this ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ story.

It was fascinating to see Sylvester be a villain in this ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ episode, looking like Heath Ledger’s Joker from ‘The Dark Knight’ with that long hair of his. 😀 It was a shock to see Sylvester kissing Beatrice Hearst in the episode. Goodness me! Sylvester’s at it with the ladies as well as Colin Baker. 😀

Speaking of which, Colin Baker plays Peter Russell, who is a doctor of philosophy instead of medicine. Colin is well-known for playing the Sixth Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’ and he has had a big association with BBV, playing the Stranger/Soloman in ‘The Stranger’ series. I enjoyed Colin in this story. 🙂

Peter Russell is a sort-of decent character in ‘The Zero Imperative’, despite being a rich industrialist who keeps Dr. Dove’s hospital open. Russell wants to know what’s going on at the hospital with the murders. He has this dark connection with Dr. Dove and Jeremiah O’Kane, which concerns his family.

Jon Pertwee stars as Dr. Jeremiah O’Kane in the episode. Jon Pertwee is well-known for playing the Third Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’ and he previously worked with BBV, starring in ‘The Airzone Solution’. I’m glad Jon Pertwee got to do another BBV production in 1994, two years before his death in 1996.

Jeremiah O’Kane was the former director of the psychiatric hospital before Sylvester’s Dr. Dove took over. O’Kane lives at home and receives visits from Peter Russell, Dr. Dove and Mark Gatiss as Dr. Bruffin. O’Kane seems to be in cahoots with Dr. Dove over this Patient Zero business, knowing Russell’s past.

Like I said, Mark Gatiss stars in this episode as well as being the writer of it, playing Dr. William Bruffin. Just thinking about it, Mark Gatiss must have had a fan’s dream come true, working with Jon Pertwee, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy in the same production. And to think Mark did ‘Christopher Robin’ in 2018. 😀

William Bruffin is a nervous physician at the psychiatric hospital who became close to Jeremiah O’Kane. He has a thing for Beatrice Hearst and doesn’t know she’s having an affair with Colin Dove. Bruffin seems to be a sensitive like Peter Russell is. He’s sadly killed during the episode’s second half.

As mentioned, Louise Jameson plays Patsy Haggard, who is a police liaison for Liz Shaw at P.R.O.B.E. Louise Jameson is well-known for playing Leela in ‘Doctor Who’ and was in ‘The Stranger’ episode called ‘The Terror Game’. Patsy Haggard and Liz Shaw seem to know each other well here.

The episode also features David Terence as Patient Zero – shouldn’t that be Prisoner Zero? (“Prisoner Zero has escaped!” 😀 ). There’s Jonathan Rigby as Cummings and Sophie Aldred (well-known for playing Ace in ‘Doctor Who’) plays the public relations officer at Dove’s press conference.

I’m surprised Sophie didn’t play Ace alongside Sylvester McCoy in this ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ episode. They’re literally in the same scene together and it’s only one scene! I wish Sophie was in this ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ episode more. 😀 Sophie has also appeared in ‘The Stranger’ episode called ‘More Than a Messiah’. 🙂

I don’t wish to reveal too much about the story’s plot concerning the episode’s end. Like I said, I had to watch this twice in order to understand it, but it concerns a certain ‘reservoir of evil’ that’s about to arrive on Earth regarding Patient Zero. The plot twists by the climax were pretty unnerving indeed.

The episode ends with a cameo appearance of Peter Davison as Patient One. I wondered when he was going to show up in the episode. His cameo where he seems deranged was pretty chilling to watch. I don’t believe this ties into the next ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ episode that Peter’s supposed to appear in! 😀

The DVD special features are as follows. There are two deleted scenes to check out. I think those two deleted scenes should’ve been included in ‘The Zero Imperative’ to make the episode clearer. There also should have been a behind-the-scenes DVD documentary on the making of ‘The Zero Imperative’.

‘The Zero Imperative’ is an intriguing beginning to the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ series, starring Caroline John as Liz Shaw with Linda Lusardi, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Jon Pertwee, Mark Gatiss and a chilling Peter Davison cameo. I’m happy I saw this episode twice to get over some of the plot’s complexities here.

I’ll be intrigued to find out more about the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ series in its future instalments. I think it’s confusing when the Doctors get cast in supporting roles rather than playing the Doctors. Overall, I enjoyed the beginning of Liz Shaw’s spin-off series and I wonder what her next cases at P.R.O.B.E. will be like.

By the way! Thanks Stephen for getting me ‘The Zero Imperative’ for my May 2020 birthday! 🙂

‘The Zero Imperative’ (P.R.O.B.E.) rating – 7/10

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