The Doctor Who Ratings Guide: By Fans, For Fans

BBV's P.R.O.B.E.
Unnatural Selection

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A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 4/10/98

The third of the P.R.O.B.E tales could easily have been a Doctor Who story. The plot deals with the themes of regeneration and genetic engineering in a way that pulls no punches. The BEAGLE project, shut down after its experiments into trying to prolong life, gave cause for concern. These experiments included the dead living a lot longer than they should and result in the P.R.O.B.E team investigating a series of murders.

There are several enjoyable elements to this tale, not least when Quilter, the founder of the BEAGLE project is rejuvenated by his secretary Emerson; this scene is memorable as it is reminisent of The Seventh Doctor`s regeneration in the TV Movie.

Caroline John as Liz Shaw doesn`t get to do a great deal here: that honour falls to Louise Jameson`s Patricia Haggard and Geoffrey Beevers` Rutherford, whose backgrounds are finally given more depth. The star of the show, however, is Charles Kay as Quilter, bringing a vigour to the part. The only thing that might put viewers off this is the gore content; to see a man have his heart ripped from his body (supposedly) is not exactly teatime viewing, but nonetheless essential to the plot. In summary, if you don`t mind the gore, then Unnatural Selection is an enjoyable, suspenseful drama.

Darwin has a lot to answer for! by Joe Ford 11/4/03

Colour me impressed, this is the third PROBE adventure of four and it is another cracking piece. It further re-enforces my opinion that if the show had been picked up by a major corporation and had enough money injected into it it would have been quite popular indeed. The show has such potential and more than four one hour drama can rightly produce but to give the creators their two cents they make a good attempt to show what delights could have awaited a larger audience.

Mark Gatiss understands television, I see that now. He has that great Holmesian talent of understanding how to tell a story in his given time. Of creating characters quickly with relatively little dialogue and writing an atmospheric and intelligent story that the audience gets involved in. The story of the Beagle programme is another good one like Winterbourne and Patient Zero, the pieces are laid out quickly, the creature we will evolve into, the obsessed creator, the man from the ministry who was involved on the quiet and does some surprising things with them. There are lots of clues as to how the story will unfold and it is left to the viewer to try and second guess the writer and figure it out before they are told. That's my kind of television.

What's more this is easily BBV's most atmospheric production yet combining some striking lighting, good location work and some very inventive camera work. This is a behind the scenes crew who want to prove themselves even on a meagre budget and despite a few lapses (poor sound equipment means some of the voices bounce around the room) they succeed. As I said given a good budget they could produce a show that matches The X-Files.

I have rarely heard a score that enhances a drama so much. God bless Mark Ayres who is working overtime to make sure everybody watching is scared. I just loved his creepy drums as the creature slowly pulls back the bed covers to attack the girl and the gripping climax is scored with appropriately monumental music.

The four part series has reached a level of confidence that I admire and the actors are all well used to their parts. Caroline John is her usual icy self, clinical to the point of terrifying but hypnotic to watch. I admire any show that sacrifices looks for talent and puts a not-gorgeous woman in the lead role who carries the drama effectively. Louise Jameson is my heroine though and she charges through the production with a tremendous amount of energy and authority. Quite frankly this is one character who deserves her own series, I for one would be a big fan! Even the guy who hangs out at the morgue is back with his usual bland detachment. If you didn't know any better the lack of introduction for each character would suggest this was already a series.

Charles Kay provides a good name for the show and acts his socks off. The scene where he dies is brilliantly acted, he's angry, quietly ashamed and then terrifying before finally he just stops moving. Dead. Brrrr...

It has a fast pace, a lot of action but never forgets to tell a good story. It might not be perfect (only budget problem prevent this) but it certainly shows a lot to promise. I love The X-Files to pieces (in fact I'm one of the only people who hasn't abandoned the show and feel the last two years were quite extraordinary) and this story wouldn't be out of place in that show. The two shows only differ because of their international influences, this is an assured British production all woodland, cheap hospitals and history. Doctor Who would never come close to showing a man have his heart removed or having your organs sucked in. The make up department deserve a clap on the back, this story was suitably squeamish in places. Simon couldn't stand to watch the bit where the eyelids were pulled open and yellow goo poured out.

Spin offs can work well. PROBE continues Doctor Who's talent for strong storytelling and drama. Watch it and be impressed.