Several murders in insane asylums all point to Doctor Dove's (Sylvester
McCoy) asylum that's (geographically) at the center of it, but that was to
be shut down - until rich private donor Peter Russell (Colin Baker) throws
in funding for another year.
P.R.O.B.E. investigator Liz Shaw (Caroline
John) investigates all of this, and finds out that Russell is the adoptive
son of the asylum's former owner Dr O'Kane (Jon Pertwee) - so does he have
some evil intentions? The audience soon finds out no, Russell is as
perplexed by the goings-on in the asylum as everyone else. Whatever it is
though has to do with Patient Zero (David Terence), a homicidal maniac who
has to be locked away in an isolated cell. One doctor (Mark Gatiss) who's
too curious pays his curiosity with his life. Patient Zero appartently was
at the center of an experiment to open the gate to hell, an experiment
that Dr O'Kane started in good faith, but Dr Dove is determined to bring
to evil conclusion. Oh, and Patient Zero is Russell's dad ...
has Liz Shaw, Dr Dove and Russell all facing Patient Zero in what was
supposed to be the final rite to open the gate, but what's left of
Russell's dad in Patient Zero prevents him from killing his son, so
instead he kills Dr Dove and dies himself, and thus the opening of the
gate to hell has been prevented - well, postponed at least, there's always
Patient One (Peter Davison) ...
The Zero Imperative is a
well-acted and competently directed piece of science horror - that just
fails to properly take off. Basically, it's over-crowded with characters,
most of whom serve as in-jokes for Doctor
Who-fans (and are mostly cast with that series' stars), its
story is too convoluted and non-linear for a mere 60 minutes, and its
shock-elements are a bit too downplayed to properly work.
Still, if a
decidedly unexcited and old-fashioned (both in the best sense of the word)
piece of science horror is your thing, you could do way worse than this -
I mean really waaay worse.