â€œItâ€™s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…â€
Sadly all good things must come to an end, as is always the case with companions to the Doctor, and this months Big Finish release marks the beginning of the end for audio original companion Charley Pollard, played by India Fisher.
Patient Zero not only sparks the chain of events leading to Charleyâ€™s exit, it also brings us the much-anticipated proper return of the Viyrans â€“ a mysterious race of creatures on a secret mission previously hinted at in a series of single episode adventures in a handful of past monthly releases.
And thatâ€™s not all! Not only do we get those two big events, but we also get the Daleks.
Arguably, it could be said, that this is Colin Bakerâ€™s finest Dalek story. It has links past adventures in the showâ€™s history, while not becoming a continuity laden fan boy event.
The events leading into the story see the Doctor finally fed up enough with Charley for not telling him the truth of who she is and how she knows what she knows â€“ Charley of course previously having traveled with the Eighth Doctor â€“ that he seems to break back into his rather grumpy self from his first year in the role. But when Charleyâ€™s health takes a turn for the worse, the Doctor finds himself doing anything and everything he can to save her life.
After a rather long journey to find a cure the Doctor ends up on Amethyst Viral Containment Station. As is normally the case, he is an unwelcome guest and finds himself “face to face to face” with the multiple versions of an alien named Fratalin â€“ given life by actor Michael Maloney in many slightly varied and wonderful performances. Fratalin is a rather jumpy alien and guardian of the space station. He is waiting for some very special gusts to arrive and use any mean necessary to ensure that his mission is a success. Naturally this puts the Doctor in a rather bad situation, and if things werenâ€™t bad enough, they get even worse when the Daleks arrive.
Uncharacteristically, this time they donâ€™t want to kill the Doctor.
This is where things get really good, this group of Daleks have a mission so important that they have to deviate from their normal standing order of extermination to achieve it. But what could it be? What could be so important that they would go against everything that they are?
The Daleks in question are a special group of Time Squad Daleks, lead by a very different and unique sounding Squad Leader. Now for years the Daleks have had time travel technology but now they seem to have a set of rules regarding it. How very Time Lord.
Charley in the mean time is being haunted, you could say, by a ghostly figure in the TARDIS named Mila â€“ played beautifully by actress Jess Robinson. Mila, it seems, fancies herself to be the Doctorâ€™s companion, yet Charlie has never heard of her. Jess has a great little part to play here and one she genuinely, by her own admission, is having a ball with. Itâ€™s easy to tell how much she enjoys the character and even easier to see why. In this story alone she must have hit every emotional range available to play. And for an actor, that is a dream come true.
Whatâ€™s interesting here in this story is that ever character has a struggle, or some weight on their shoulders. Fratalin, willing to end all life in his way to protect his mission. Daleks that canâ€™t kill the Doctor. A Doctor who canâ€™t save his friend. Charley, who wants so desperately to tell the Doctor the truth about her but canâ€™t take the risk to the web of time. And now Mila, who just wants to live and be free.
Itâ€™s such a small cast of characters, but it never feels like a small story by any means. With ever actor acting their heart out in what feels like a story that all involved share the same affection for.
But letâ€™s look at India for a bit, after all, this story is part one of her last three. Throughout the years of Charley as a companion and caring for her so much, you actually feel tears coming to your eyes as you live the events of this story with her. That is a true testament to India Fisher as an actor and for the character that she created in Charley. It will be sad to see her last adventure with the Doctor, but her place amount the best companions is assured. She will be standing right next to Sarah Jane Smith in my eyes.
Patient Zero certainly does not dwell on the historic events that are taking place within its story though, after all every story needs and great adventure and Writer/Director Nicholas Briggs never lets up for one minute in that department.
If Patient Zero is anything to judge by, we are in for quite a ride for this latest three story season.
This new adventure starring Colin Baker and India Fisher as the Sixth Doctor and Charley Pollard is available from 31 August 2009 from www.bigfinish.com.