Review: Doctor Who – 124 – Patient Zero

Patient Zero cover

Look at that. Look at that cover. The best cliffhanger in the whole bloody thing and it’s on the front bloody cover.


Anyway, moving on, this play marks the return of lots of things. It marks the return of the Sixth Doctor and Charley after months of Sylvester McCoy. It’s important to note this is the beginning of the end for Charley since she’ll be off soon which is a bit of a shame.

It’s also the return of the Viyrans. What do you mean you don’t remember the Viyrans? But Big Finish has been promising for simply ages that they were going to be a big series and they were going to tack Viyran stories on the end of all the plays in the run up to the release of this story. Don’t you remember? Well, no, because they didn’t and all we got was that one-parter tacked on the end of Mind’s Eye about two years ago.

It’s also the return of Nick Briggs as the voice of the Daleks, something that again is so important it deserves to be a “with NICHOLAS BRIGGS as THE DALEKS” on the front cover.

More than that, it’s also the return of Nick Briggs as a writer and as a director. So writer/director and voice artiste on this one – anyone want to guess whether it’s going to be a rigorously edited story that’s been revised multiple times to make it the best play possible?

To take a leaf from Big Finish’s book, I’m going to ruin the guessing for you and stick the answer on the front cover: no, it’s rubbish.

Finally, the Sixth Doctor challenges Charlotte Pollard to tell him the truth. Who is she really? What is she doing in the TARDIS?

To discover the answers, the Doctor must travel back in time, beyond all known civilisations to the vast, mysterious Amethyst Viral Containment Station. But answers lie within the TARDIS too. Someone who has been there a long, long time…

Meanwhile, the Daleks have travelled back in time on their own mission, to bring them the ultimate victory they crave. But it is a mission so complex and delicate that even they know they must beware the web of time…

Who is Patient Zero? What has happened to Charley? And why have the legendary Viyrans been summoned?

The Brigadier’s Story by Marc Platt:
Polly’s tale is over, but now Lethbridge-Stewart shares his story of a rare excursion in the TARDIS, when the Third Doctor answered a distress call from a distant galaxy. But what is the secret of Waterloo Station?

Is it any good?
To use a professional critical term, it’s a sucky load of old arse.

Now, normally, I do love a Sixth Doctor and Charley play and I’m prepared to extend Nick Briggs more benefit of the doubt than others. But this was horrifying. The only good things about the play are the cliffhangers, which is a vicious trick on the part of Briggs: you spend all the episode wishing the bloody thing would end and put you out of your misery and then up pops the cliffhanger and you go, “Ooh, I must found out what happened next.” So then you have to listen to the next episode and the vicious cycle begins again.

This could have been okay, if it had been half the running time. The general plot: Charley gets infected with some weird virus that’s been on board the TARDIS since those naughty Daleks in their time machine caught up with Billy Hartnell during The Chase. So the Doctor – with only a few years distraction, having left her alone in the Zero Room – takes her to the place the virus may have come from, only to discover that the Daleks and these Viyran things are converging on it at the same time.

To pad the whole thing out for four episodes, everyone involved is required to be colossally stupid – for years at a time, in some cases. You spend most of the play asking yourself, “Why don’t they just…?”, “Why is that remotely plausible?” and a whole load of other questions that Nick Briggs should have asked before the play ever reached your eardrums. The plot when revealed eventually involves viruses being mutated to be infected, then re-infected to infect the original infectee, except… Oh, you get the point. Silliness.

The dialogue’s awful, the whole thing hangs together minimally well, and it all leads into possibly the dumbest cliffhanger/arc that Big Finish have yet come up with for a series of plays. The long-trailed Viyrans are absolutely worthless new arrivals to the canon on this first indication, with nothing exciting up their sleeves at all – they make the Movellans look cool.

While Colin Baker and India Fisher are their normal reliable selves, their characters are thoroughly irritating. Michael Maloney’s okay as well, even if his character(s) is a twat. Jess Robinson is fine for most of the play before taking an inexplicable break from acting to read out phone directories instead.

It’s horrible. It’s going to be ruining the next play as well. About the only good things that can be said about it is that the sound design is very good and Nick Briggs does a good Dalek voice still.

Don’t buy it.

PS Mustn’t forget the new episode of The Three Companions. This CD, the Brigadier’s story starts, but nothing interesting happens.

Amazon CD: £10.49
Big Finish download: £12.99
Big Finish CD: £14.99

Colin Baker (The Doctor)
India Fisher (Charley Pollard)
Michael Maloney (Fratalin)
Jess Robinson (Mila)
Nicholas Briggs (Etheron/The Daleks)

Author: Nicholas Briggs
Director: Nicholas Briggs


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.