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.