The Zero Imperative was the first story in BBV Productions' P.R.O.B.E. series. It was written by Mark Gatiss and was directed by Bill Baggs. It featured Caroline John reprising the role of Liz Shaw and a number of former Doctor Who actors in new roles, namely Louise Jameson as recurring character Patsy Haggard.
It was the first BBV film to feature a licensed Doctor Who character, having previously released a series featuring Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant as characters very similar to the Doctor and Peri Brown. It introduced the Preternatural Research Bureau (or P.R.O.B.E.), a neglected special division that dealt with the strange and out of the ordinary. Liz was given an assistant, Louise Bayliss, who was written out in the next story. Jon Pertwee, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy all appeared as doctors, albeit a doctor of philosophy in Baker's case, as a reference to their Doctor Who roles.
When the hospital is unexpectedly reprieved by rich industrialist Peter Russell, events seem to move out of Liz's control. Are the incumbent director of the clinic, Doctor Dove and his predecessor, Doctor O'Kane, harbouring the killer? What is the centuries-old horror hidden in the grounds?
And what exactly is the secret of room zero?
Liz Shaw arrives late at Hawthorne where the director, Dr Colin Dove, is giving a press conference. He announces that, although he expected to be informing them of the clinic's closure, Hawthorne will remain open for twelve months thanks to Peter Russell.
William, Beatrice and Julie are sitting in the hospital talking when the phone rings. Beatrice answers it whilst Julie asks William if he has made any progress entering into a relationship with Beatrice yet. Beatrice tells them that there has been an accident in Ward 4, which they rush to, finding Clegg dead.
William asks Dr Dove about staff changes and what is going to be done about Clegg's death.
Liz explains to Patsy that the recent murders have all occurred around Hawthorne and that the circumstances are unusual, thus coming under P.R.O.B.E.'s remit rather than Scotland Yard's. Patsy resigns herself to fighting their corner and leaves after holding Liz's hands and promising to call her. Patsy leaves and Liz and Louise tells Liz who Russell is. Liz tasks Louise with finding out why he would fund Hawthorne.
Russell meets with Dr Dove and the two argue before Russell tells him that he intends on being entirely "hands-off", leaving the running of the clinic to him.
William and Beatrice discuss Russell and Clegg's death, with William being unhappy that it is being covered up. They go to a staff meeting and are addressed by Russell, who tells them of how important he believes the clinic is. However, he avoids the question of why he cares about Hawthorne. Afterwards, Dr Dove introduces Russell to Beatrice. Russell asks to see Dr Dove's records, which Beatrice is tasked with getting for him. Russell arrives in his new office feeling somewhat unwell and puts a photo of himself and Jeremiah O'Kane on his desk before pouring himself some alcohol. He flips through papers.
Liz sits at home reading through documents relating to Hawthorne and watching the news, on which Dr O'Kane defends the clinic. She finds something connecting Dr O'Kane and Russell. The next day, Liz drives to Hawthorne whilst talking hands-free to Louise at Ashley House. Liz tells her that Dr O'Kane was Russell's guardian and Louise surmises that it was family pride that led him to save Hawthorne.
Dr O'Kane sits in his house listening to the news on the radio. Dr Dove walks in and switches it off, telling him that he must keep Russell out of the way as "perihelion" is almost upon them.
Russell visits Beatrice with the files and asks if he was given all of them. She tells him that she gave him all the ones that Dr Dove authorised her to give to him. He notes that he has all of the files bar the ones for the secure ward. He wonders if Beatrice has anything to hide.
Dr O'Kane sits looking at photographs and listening to "Daisy Bell". William arrives and asks about the photographs. Dr O'Kane points out his brother, Daniel, and his son. Outside, William catches up with Beatrice and asks her opinion of Russell. She has to rush off.
Russell reads through files as Dr Dove sedates the yelling Patient Zero. Russell hears a boy laughing and Patient Zero spots William through a window. Russell follows the boy to the secure ward and peeks in, eerily announcing "I'm here" before screaming. William too hears the laughs and is chased by an unseen presence.
Liz answers her phone and is told by Louise that there has been another murder.
Russell is asleep on Dr O'Kane's sofa. Dr O'Kane and Dr Dove discuss how the murders could not be a coincidence. Dr O'Kane suggests that they might be going too far, but Dr Dove says that they are not going far enough - perihelion is approaching and Russell is part of it. He tells Dr O'Kane that Russell will be alright afterwards. He leaves and Russell wakes. Russell tells Dr O'Kane that he did not come back for him and storms out.
William approaches Beatrice and tells her about the most recent death. He tells her about the chase and that Hawthorne has a dark history, but she does not listen and goes back to work.
At the morgue, Cummings presents Liz with what remains of the recent victim. She surmises that the drops in temperature and manner of death are becoming more extreme every time. Cummings gives her a note from Louise telling her that she has arranged a meeting with Dr Dove.
William and Russell talk and William deliberately leaves files on the deaths on the table for him to peruse.
Russell confronts Dr Dove about the secure ward and requests information on Patient Zero. Dr Dove tells him that a visit can be arranged in a few months. Liz arrives and tells them about P.R.O.B.E. before requesting their co-operation in investigating the connection between the clinic and the murders. Dr Dove refuses, but Russell hands her some files as he walks her to her car.
Dr Dove tells Beatrice off for helping Russell. She tells him that she does not know why they are keeping things secret but is assured by Dr Dove that what he is doing will change their lives, as well as everybody else's. They kiss. The phone rings and Beatrice is told that the secure ward's door is open. They hurry there.
Patient Zero turns his attention to William. William hears a boy singing "Daisy Bell" before screaming.
Russell enters the secure ward and finds Dr Dove standing over William's fresh corpse, his face partly deformed. Patient Zero is hiding behind his mattress. William stirs and sings a line of "Daisy Bell" before returning to his deathly state. Dr Dove looks at Patient Zero and remarks that it has begun. Beatrice has called the police, for which Dr Dove scolds her. "Why now?" he asks.
Liz arrives at Hawthorne where Louise greets her and tells her that Dr Dove is under arrest but has not said anything, as well as that Patsy is on her way. Liz goes to Dr Dove whilst Louise offers to help Beatrice, who has taken on Wiliam's duties. Liz offers to help Dr Dove in return for information on what has been happening at Hawthorne, but he refuses, only telling her that it has started and that he has been waiting for so long. He tells her about perihelion.
Beatrice laments to Louise how she did not listen to William. Liz meets with Patsy and manages to convince her to keep Dr Dove under house arrest and to keep the police from getting involved.
Russell asks Dr O'Kane to tell him the truth about Patient Zero. Russell explains that he felt drawn back to Hawthorne and that he had seen things, including a boy that Dr O'Kane identifies with a photograph of his brother Daniel. Dr O'Kane tells him that Daniel killed their parents and sisters and that Russell is his son. Patient Zero is Daniel O'Kane. Russell and Daniel make a psychic connection and Russell sings "Daisy Bell".
Louise tells Liz that Dr Dove brought Patient Zero to the hospital fifteen months ago, when the killings began. She goes to Dr Dove and confirms that Patient Zero is Daniel O'Kane, having learnt of the deaths of Eustace O'Kane and his family. Dr Dove tells her that the land that Hawthorne was built on is close to a reservoir of evil, a world of pain, suffering and fear. Sensitives have a connection to it and Daniel O'Kane is the second most sensitive person he is aware of. He begs her to let him out so that he can experience the release of the reservoir of pain into the physical world. He tries to strangle Liz but she is saved by Russell, who wants her to go with him to Room 0. A figure with a knife appears in the office and kills Dr Dove.
Liz and Russell go to the secure ward and feel the building shake due to perihelion. There is a bright light in Room 0. Russell confirms that Patient Zero is his biological father and has a vision of his murder of Eustace, which he shares with Daniel and Dr O'Kane. Liz realises that Russell is the most powerful sensitive and that the reservoir needed him and Daniel together at perihelion to break through. He produces a knife which he attempts to kill Liz with, but Daniel - who begs the reservoir for rest - jumps in front of the blade and dies, thwarting the reservoir's arrival.
Liz smokes her piper with Dr O'Kane and Russell. Russell uses a knife to cut himself a slice of Swiss roll. He pauses and looks at the knife. Next door to Room 0, in Room 1, Patient One laughs and sings "Daisy Bell".
- Liz Shaw - Caroline John
- Dr. O'Kane - Jon Pertwee
- Dr. Dove - Sylvester McCoy
- Russell - Colin Baker
- Bayliss - Linda Lusardi
- Patient Zero - David Terence
- Dr. Bruffin - Mark Gatiss
- Dr. Hearst - Nicola Fulljames
- Haggard - Louise Jameson
- Dr. Gilchrist - Patricia Merrick
- Cummings - Jonathan Rigby
- P.R.O. - Sophie Aldred
- Orderly - Simon Messingham
- Orderly - Alexander Kirk
- Daniel - Bill Baggs
- Boy's Voice - Daniel Mills
- Patient One - Peter Davison
- Executive producer - Andy Grant
- Original Music - Mark Ayres
- Cinematography - Dick Kursa
- Film Editing - Michael Duxbury
- Art Direction - David Rowston
- Makeup artist - Sarah Dickinson
- Assistant directors - Patricia Merrick, David Rowston, Edward Salt
- Gaffer - David Hilton
- Liz asks Dr Dove if Hawthorne is a leprous house.
- Louise tells Beatrice Hearst not to "crucify" herself.
- The song "Daisy Bell" is sung by Daniel O'Kane, Peter Russell and Patient One whilst they are being used by the reservoir of evil. William Bruffin briefly sings it following his death and Dr O'Kane listens to it with his gramophone.
- Among the items on Jeremiah O'Kane's shelves are the videos Nightshade, Nightshade 2 and Nightshade and the Imps, serials or (more likely) movie adaptations in the Nightshade series which originally starred Edmund Trevithick.
- Gary Gillatt created the Nightshade video covers which appear on Jeremiah O'Kane shelves.
- This film is the debut of the Preternatural Research Bureau (P.R.O.B.E.) and the return of Caroline John as Liz Shaw, a character last seen on television in TV: Inferno in 1970 (discounting a psychic projection of Shaw played by John that appeared in 1983's The Five Doctors).
- Several cast members previously portrayed (other) roles in Doctor Who: Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor who acted alongside Caroline John); Colin Baker (Sixth Doctor); Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor); Sophie Aldred (Ace); Louise Jameson (Leela); and Peter Davison (Fifth Doctor). Any actor to formerly play the Doctor plays a doctor in the film.
- Simon Messingham also wrote: PROSE: Strange England, PROSE: The Face-Eater, The Infinity Race, PROSE: Tomb of Valdemar and The Indestructible Man.
- This is the first of four films featuring the P.R.O.B.E. organisation. It pre-dates Torchwood as the first ongoing spin-off of the Doctor Who universe.
- This story marks the first time that Pertwee, Aldred, Jameson and Davison have played more than one character in the Doctor Who universe. It is not the first time for Baker and McCoy, however: Baker played Maxil in TV: Arc of Infinity and McCoy briefly played the Sixth Doctor in TV: Time and the Rani. Pertwee, Baker, McCoy and Davison had previously reunited in BBV's 1993 film The Airzone Solution, which, as it is set outside of the Doctor Who universe, this Wiki does not cover. Davison would appear as a different character in the second and fourth P.R.O.B.E. films, The Devil of Winterborne and Ghosts of Winterborne, whilst Aldred would go on to portray a number of different characters for BBV and Reeltime films throughout the decade. This is not the last time Baker, McCoy and Davison would play different characters set within the Doctor Who universe, as they reunited again in AUDIO: Zagreus.
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Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors
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- Liz Shaw last appeared on-screen in TV: Inferno, apart from a brief appearance as a psychic projection in TV: The Five Doctors. In spin-off media, she appeared with the Third Doctor several times chronologically afterwards (PROSE: The Wages of Sin, and The Devil Goblins from Neptune). Later accounts vary, as one said she died in 2003 while on the Moon (PROSE: Eternity Weeps), but according to Colonel Tia Karim she was still alive and on the Moon as of the Doctor's staged funeral in 2010. (TV: Death of the Doctor)
- Liz mentions her involvement with "another acronymic organisation" and repeats the words "little blue men with three heads". (TV: Spearhead from Space)
- Liz has kept newspaper articles in the P.R.O.B.E. office at Ashley House regarding monsters in the London Underground, (TV: The Web of Fear) "mannequin murders", (TV: Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Autons) the recovery of the Mars Probe 7 astronauts (TV: The Ambassadors of Death) and the halting of Project Inferno. (TV: Inferno) She also has a photograph of the Brigadier.
DVD, video, and Other releases
First released direct-to-video in 1994, it was reissued on DVD in 2012 and is available to purchase from independent retailer Galaxy 4.
- Mark Gatiss (23 January 2008). Author's Notes - Introduction. Doctor Who - Classic Series - Ebooks. BBC. Archived from the original on 23 January 2008. “A year or so later when I was making The Zero Imperative with Bill Baggs, Gary Gillett mocked up some videos that can just be made out on Jon Pertwee's shelves.”