Doctor Who: Praxeus

There is an improving confidence and coherence to Doctor Who this series. Praxeus is not without flaws but (aside from one) the gaps in the plot or characterisation don’t really intrude into the story as it plays out. In general, as the story develops people’s motives become clear without the story being predictable and the mystery is resolved meaningfully.

Some spoilers follow.

The intrusive flaw for me was poor Aramu on Madacasgar, who gets attacked by diseased maddened birds and also gets completely forgotten about by the TARDIS crew (plus additions). It’s the sort of rough edge that has bugged me about other episodes but in this case it is a side-effect of something the episode manages to do surprisingly well. We get four additional characters plus a couple of doomed civilian redshirts (poor Aramu and Jamila at the start) as well as the regular companions getting their own missions.

Having decided to have a crowded TARDIS from the beginning of his run, Chris Chibnall has struggled to find enough space episodes for the three companions to have something to do. As good as Fugitive of the Judoon was, it essentially avoided the issue by punting the trio off to meet Captain Jack and standard around for some backstory exposition. This week, they each get a lot more agency and at last Yas gets to take a lead.

Graham also gets some nice moments. There was a particularly nicely done scene where he is comforting Jake the astronaut’s husband that just nicely eludes to his own loss without belabouring anything. It’s deep characterisation done very economically that, by reflection, helps build further empathy for Jake. Throwing in a bunch of new characters and getting the audience to care about them quickly enough to give the episode emotional stakes is hard to do but the episode manages it.

The plastic pathogen was just about hand-wavey sensible enough to be interesting but I was pleased that the aliens were not evil so much as unethical and even then mainly out of desperation. I’d have preferred that the Doctor was just a bit more upset that this alien species apparently has completely died off by the end of the episode but rather like poor Aramu and Jamila, this episode doesn’t take much time to mourn the dead.

Once again, cinematographically, the Chibnall era has raised the bar substantially for Doctor Who. Making use of southern Africa locations as a stand in for wider globe trotting has added a visual variety to the show that is a massive leap from Cardiff-is-London.

Not unlike the earlier Tesla episode, this is a solid Doctor Who episode rather than a standout classic but one with a lot of heart that does good service to the characters.

7 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Praxeus

  1. This one seemed to be going for almost a horror-story vibe, at least in places – sinister birds, zombies in gas masks, Jamila’s eyes opening on the mortuary slab – shades of Philip Hinchcliffe!

    Some good lines for the companions this week – I like Ryan’s allusion to the Who Companion’s Fitness Programme (“Do you work out?” *I do a lot of running.”) and Yaz’s low bar for success (“Didn’t teleport into an active volcano. Result!”) Chris Chibnall does, on the whole, appear to be handling his TARDIS team better this season.

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  2. It was somewhat reminiscent of Orphan 55 but hung together better, and wasn’t quite as preachy. An improvement, yes, but a little disappointing after Fugitive of the Judoon.

    But an important question was raised and not answered. What was Timothy doing in Ontario?.

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  3. It was eighty-five percent a coherent episode plotwise, so they are improving.

    The parts not coherent were, as noted, first poor Aramu, who is simply forgotten and whose body is not there on the beach in Madagascar when they return to there. Did he die? Did the flock of mutated crows move his body? Did the release of the virus cure him of any infection of the plasticizing bacteria? Is he in a hospital? All it would have taken was one line of dialogue.

    And why did the Doctor take the missing British astronaut, his British husband and a British vlogger on that particular beach in Madagascar? So the British astronaut could claim he was rescued by a fishing boat or something? So they could collect all the stuff in the alien lab in case they need it? It seemed a little random.

    And then there’s Jamila — how did she end up a mile away from her campsite in Peru? Again, did the crows move her body when attacking her? Why was she taken to a deserted hospital? Why was the hospital deserted? Did the aliens clean it out but for some reason leave Jamila’s body? (So yes, they were going for a horror vibe for part of the episode, but it didn’t always make sense.)

    And lastly, how exactly did Adam phone his husband from Hong Kong while strapped to a medical table? Did he have a cellphone in his spacesuit that he could operate with his nose?

    But it was a much better ratio. And having the companions work in teams, which is something they used last year, seems to be working fine this season too.

    The Doctor did want to help the aliens, but their lead person died and so the immediate issue was Earth. But it’s certainly open that the Doctor then later went to their planet, tracing the signal the alien researcher sent to her people, and fixed the issue for them. That’s the sort of open issue that is pretty standard for Doctor Who.

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    1. I took the lack of Aramu’s body to simply be “he got overwhelmed and exploded into dust” (like Jamila did).

      Still not sure why the Doctor picked Madagascar, would probably have to re-watch to nail that down.

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  4. So I’m liking the improvement in handling the ensemble, but there’s a bit of a reliance on “running while shouting out the plot” which I’m not so fond of.

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