Doctor Who: “Praxeus”

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

I don’t have much to say about this one. “Praxeus” is a filler episode with a serviceable Doctor Who story: mysterious deaths on modern day Earth are traced to an alien virus that the Doctor must identify and cure. (Well, it’s the TARDIS that actually comes up with the cure, of course, because the TARDIS is a magical machine that can do anything, even synthesize cures off-screen). The problem, though, is that I’m so invested in this season’s main plot line that I can’t connect with a filler episode like this one. Where is Doctor Ruth? What did the Master discover that caused him to attack the Time Lords? What is the Timeless Child? When is the Master coming back? When is Captain Jack Harkness coming back? Hell, when is Doctor Ruth coming back? We’re in the back half of the season now and I don’t want any more filler.

But that’s not how a Doctor Who season is structured, unfortunately. We’re going to have to wait until the two-part season finale for any answers, and until then it’s likely to be all standalone episodes. So, taking “Praxeus” on its own merits, what did I think? I thought it was kind of meh. Okay but not great, in the same way that “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terrors” was okay but not great. Serviceable really is the word here.

Things I liked about it: Co-writers Peter McTighe and Chris Chibnall split up the companions at the start of the episode, sending them to various parts of the world, and I thought that worked really, really well. As I seem to mention a lot, it’s hard to find something interesting for all three of them to do, so when the show manages to it’s worth pointing out. I very much liked Yaz striking out on her own to discover more information and being courageous enough to follow the alien henchman through the teleportation device to his own turf. I thought Yaz and Gabriela made a good team, too. I wouldn’t mind seeing Gabriela on the show again. The mystery is creepy and interesting, and those infected by the alien virus come to a suitably gruesome, science-fictional end. There’s a nice reversal of the usual Doctor Who trope of the big emotional moment when one character sacrifices their life for the rest of them. Also, abandoned hospitals are great, creepy settings, and I think the bulk of the episode should have taken place in that abandoned hospital in Peru where they find Jamila’s body.

Things I didn’t like: The revelation that Suki Cheng is the alien who brought the virus to Earth. It didn’t make sense to me. How did she get that job at the lab in Madagascar? How long has she been working there? Her partner at the lab, Zach, seems to have known her for a long time, as if they’ve worked together for years, but the virus appears to have only just begun to spread, which means the crash couldn’t have been that long ago. There’s another environmental lecture from the Doctor, although this one is nowhere near as bad (or as long) as the one in “Orphan 55.” This time it’s about how we’re gunking up our planet with too much plastic, which, coincidentally, is what the alien virus feeds on. The reason it makes me groan is not that I’m some kind of anti-environmentalist but because it’s just sloppy writing. You have to trust your audience to get the message. You don’t need Rick Deckard to say, “Oh my God, maybe I’m the bad guy here,” at the end of Blade Runner, you need to lead him and the audience to that conclusion through the action on screen.

There’s not much in the way of Doctor Who neepery in “Praxeus,” either. When the Doctor is trying to figure out the connection between plastic and the infected birds she name-checks the Autons as a possible cause before discarding the idea. The Autons are plastic robots controlled by the Nestene Consciousness, which has power over all forms of plastic, and they date back all the way to the Third Doctor’s very first serial, “Spearhead from Space,” in 1970. Their last appearance on the show was in the Eleventh Doctor episode “The Big Bang” in 2010, which saw companion Rory briefly turned into an Auton through a turn of events we can only call timey-wimey.

2 responses to “Doctor Who: “Praxeus””

  1. R. Francis Smith says:

    Well, much like with Tesla, I have little to add. My spouse was infuriated by The Message (not the content, but that it was happening again) and I offered to show her The Green Death and that didn’t really help matters, I suppose. 🙂 Although truthfully, when Doctor Who has gone message, 8 times out of 10 it’s been anti-corporate, and if there’s someone who needs shouting at about the environment… well. (I never thought I’d miss the first 40 minutes of Kaboom!)

    I know this doesn’t resonate with you, but I wish for the structure of the second Matt Smith season, where Moffat built an idea up more or less in the background until a big mid-season climax, _then_ went elsewhere until the season finale.

    Although, come to think of it, Doctor Ruth — I mean, Fugitive of the Judoon — was the fifth episode, and there’s only ten, and the finale is the last two of them (as the intro was the first two), so I guess actually that’s how this season _is_ structured. Never mind?

    • Nick says:

      I would love to see an entire season of DW that was serialized. One story told over ten episodes, kind of like Torchwood: Children of Earth or, well, any number of the shows on Netflix or Amazon. I think it would be interesting.

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