Thursday 8 July 2010

Doctor Who: Patient Zero

The greatest strength of this adventure is Nicholas Briggs, providing both the Dalek voices and some terrific dialogue for them, though Michael Maloney runs him close as Fratalin and his 799 familiars. Fratalin is a Jagrafin, who can separate out pieces of himself to act as independent agents, and then conjoin with them once the work is done. It’s “one of the remotest periods of space-time the old girl’s ever travelled in”, as the Doctor notes, and Amethyst Station is being prepared for the arrival of the mysterious Viyrons.

For once the Doctor’s not just walking into trouble, he’s also bringing it with him. Charley, originally an Eighth Doctor companion, is “fading in and out of existence”, and the Doctor doesn’t seem to know about her past (his future). After a little while chilling in the Zero Room, Charley rows with Mila, who claims to have been hiding invisibly in the Tardis since the very early days (cue blushes on the part of Jamie and Victoria). When things go sour the Doctor’s not there to help: he’s already being escorted to the Amethyst’s nearest airlock.

This isn’t a perfect story. The Sixth Doctor seems to have lost the light touch of some earlier audio adventures, and is back to the blustering and bellowing of his television run. The set-up feels much like the Doctor wandering into the first moments of the BSG mini-series; the Viyrans look very much like Cylons. At the conclusion the Doctor weirdly decides to pop back out of the Tardis for an extra chat with the Daleks. And his characterisation is a bit off: he spends an entire episode yelling at Fratalin to lower his force fields and surrender to the Daleks.

But Briggs continues the process in which he has played such a big part: returning the Daleks to the height of their sixties cool. This story features the Dalek Time Squad, and their leader the Dalek Time Controller, a slightly less insane version of Dalek Caan. Briggs makes them dangerous adversaries (both physically and intellectually), and delivers their dialogue with the same talent and relish he brings to the TV show. If I didn’t enjoy the bits with Charley quite as much, perhaps their pay-off will come in future adventures.

Doctor Who: Patient Zero, Nicholas Briggs, Big Finish, 2xCD.

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