Blurb: Zelenka reluctantly finds himself aboard the Starship Apollo as part of Colonel Carter’s drive to survey the area of space surrounding Atlantis’ new planet. It’s a sensible idea, he understands that – but it’s also very dull. Dull, that is, until the ship discovers an entirely new life form…
Format: Limited cast audio drama recounting a story in the life of Doctor Janet Frasier. Published by Big Finish Productions and released September of 2008.
Setting: The spaceship Apollo.
Continuity: This story takes place between the television stories Reunion and Doppelganger.
Discussion: In some ways it disappoints me that Big Finish wasn't able to get more of the "stars" of SG-1 and Atlantis in for some audios. I'd have loved to hear Richard Dean Anderson or David Hewitt do some of these, for instance. Yet, with some of the stronger supporting cast members it gives them a chance to really shine. That's the case here with Dr Zelenka, the "sidekick" to Rodney McKay. Although his role increased as the series progressed, Zelenka started in the background, chafing under McKay's leadership and ego. Zero Point lets Zelenka take center stage and showcase his own qualities as a hero.
Actor David Nykl doesn't miss his chance. He presents Zelenka in an engaging light. The man's matter of fact almost understated speaking pattern is there. Yet, the story gives him the opportunity to reflect and give us a window into the man he is within. Zelenka is thoughtful and worries about the consequences of his actions. Yet, he also can't stand to allow innocent creatures to die, no matter how alien they may be. Nykl presents the frustration of a man that seems locked into a no-win scenario and his grim determination to ensure that they find a way to avoid genocide. Nykl's in-character impressions of McKay are the best. The impressions themselves are of a pretty poor quality, and I think Nykl could probably do better. The point is that this is Zelenka quoting Rodney, and that's what makes the caricatured conversations so funny. It shows the complete disdain that Zelenka has for the man and makes it very, very funny.
He's assisted by Ursula Burton as Captain Helen Sharpe. She's not a character from the TV series, but Sharpe gives us what we need to know, portraying her as a no-nonsense military woman. She's kind and open when off-duty, but becomes grim and determined when the situation gets tense. Through it all, Burton manages to keep Sharpe seeming likable. She's willing to contemplate the use of incredible lethal force, but only as a last resort in order to protect her own. Her reluctance comes through and keeps her from becoming the typical close-minded military figure that fights the scientists just because they don't like being told what they ought to do and enjoy violence. The only weird thing is that Zelenka says that she's an astrophysicist like Colonel Carter, but nothing that Sharpe says or does gives any hint that that's so. Still, that's a writing failure rather than anything in Burton's performance.
The story isn't incredibly deep, which is symptomatic of a lot of these stories. It pulls the idea from The Day After Tomorrow that a planet can go through a cold snap so severe that the ocean instantly freezes. This is of course ridiculous and one of the worst examples of science in a movie ever. I'm not sure if it's genius or laziness that has author James Swallow actually referencing The Day After Tomorrow in the story. Either way, the bad science made it particularly hard to focus on what was going on. The aliens were interesting, though, and it was nice to have the Atlantis crew encounter something that wasn't another humanoid alien species. It also gave Zelenka a problem to solve. The pre-credits sequence added to the tension of the story, and all-in-all even though the "misunderstood alien" plotline has been done to death the presentation was pretty good.
Big Finish are of course the masters of their craft. There was some nice work playing with the sound of recorded voices when the alien is sampling the conversation between Zelenka and Sharpe to figure out human speech. There's radio chatter, explosions, other assorted ship noises added in as well. It all helps bring Zelenka's story to life and give this some extra character.
Final Rating: 7/10
Recommendation: A fine first outing for Dr Zelenka as the hero of the story, Zero Point takes a pretty thin sci-fi story and makes it work, because it never forgets who it's about. This is about Zelenka winning the day and his performance and character moments are what we're supposed to care about. This is a pretty satisfying one, and I recommend that people listen to it if they can get ahold of it.