Doctor Who #1012: Praxeus

"There's also a talking cat in Ontario, but I've ruled him out for now."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.2 2020.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor fights a global pandemic of alien origin.

REVIEW: A pandemic? Though Chibnall was going for a topical story about pollution and plastic gyres, he inadvertently produced an even more topical episode in the wake of the spread of Coronavirus we're currently experiencing. It made the episode just a little more chilling. Now, the big thing here is that aside from a tease in the previous episode, this story skips all introductions and takes us to wha an earlier era might call episodes 3 and 4 of a 4-parter. The team is separated, though this time on its own terms, mid-investigation, and we catch up with the situation through the third parties they meet along the way. It's exciting, as is Series 12's globe-trotting aspect - Madagascar, Peru, Hong Kong, the bottom of the Indian Ocean, and a bit of space shuttle jeopardy as well in the upper atmosphere, we're really going places. Places that are not alien planets. I don't mind, but Yaz obviously does. Ha!

Speaking of Yaz, there's an interesting parallel to be made between her relationship to the Doctor and the dynamic between Adam the Astronaut, and Jake the Cop on Leave. Their jobs alone should point you in that direction. Jake lives in the shadow of his husband's great achievements, and does reckless things to compensate, almost at the cost of his life. Yaz's annoyance at not having discovered an alien planet in this episode, after recklessly teleporting herself to parts unknown. Girl's on the same road Rose was on in her second series, and I'm going to call it now: She won't survive the series if she keeps it up. If the parallel holds, she might get a last minute rescue like Jake did (Adric fans are very angry by the way, all two of them, and I'm probably counting Matthew Waterhouse), but her statements about dying in the season opener could well be foreshadowing. Jury's out if, like Jake and Adam, the moment will be accompanied with a confession of romantic feelings. Ryan and Graham also get good moments, of action and levity, and for most of the adventure, don't act as a double-act. It's nice to see the variety. What I'm saying is, this is a very good episode for the companions as a whole, and even for the guest companions, the married couple and the YouTuber who thinks she should be world-famous.

There IS that moment where none of them know what a pathogen is, a pretty common word, for Graham especially, since he's been in and out of hospitals (the bit with the IV drip pays lip to that). It's part of Chibnall's Hartnellian approach to the show, i.e. giving it an education remit. When it's show don't tell, I think it works. The show seems to love leaning into a woke agenda in plot, casting, in front of and behind the camera, and I like the instruction by example. When it's all tell, it's much weaker, and Jodie's Doctor is often forced to deliver monologues about science, history or issues (like pollution, in this case), and the show just STOPS. It's even worse when the characters have to play cabbage heads so the explanation can be justified. That said, the Doctor does get some good moments in this, trying to juggle a very complicated plot that's going on in different places, fine-maneuvering the TARDIS to all the hot spots, while her friends act as reconnaissance agents. If she makes mistakes, it's understandable. I do wonder if we'll see more of the comm dots used here and introduced in The Tsuranga Conundrum. Are we at a point where the crew should always be in contact with the Doctor the way real people are in contact with everyone via the Internet? Or is it gonna be one of those things that kills plots dead so they'll rather have nitpicky fans make comments about why they aren't standard complement?

I haven't mentioned the antagonists in this, but they're really a means to an end (bringing the plague to Earth). They remind me of the Vidiians from Star Trek: Voyager, who also lost ethical perspective in their desperate attempts to cure the Phage. With the whole underwater base, this was another chance at seeing Sea Devils again (if anyone's gonna be angry at plastic gyres, or perhaps build a nutty plastic kingdom at one of those points, it's the Sea Devils), but alas. Since the aliens are stranded, dying, and not very smart, Praxeus, the disease, is the real menace, and it has a creepy, shocking effect on the humanoid body. Between that and birds (a common plague spreader) falling out of the sky, we certainly get some good horror out of the concept.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Definitely one of the better-plotted episodes of Series 12, with lots to do for the too-often-ignored companions, a nice global scope, and only minimal hokey dialog.


daft said...

They should have subtitled this one... "The one where Yaz finally gets something to do" ;) I didn't pick up upon the Doctor Who/Astronaut Yaz/Boyfriend comparison, now the left-field recklessness displayed by the imminently sensible Yaz starts to make *some* kind of sense. It does feel like the set up to her death in the finale, though, especially with the boyfriend saved at the last minute this time around. I'm just hoping Mandip finally gets to perform some heroic action sequences between here and then, instead of it always being a moment for Ryan to challenge his dyspraxia yet again. :P With the very Torchwood opening sequence, it only sought to highlight how badly Sheffield-based copper Yaz is served in comparison to Cardiff-based Gwen Cooper. The reality is Yaz should be the companion with the most utility, but she's firmly stuck in the shadows of the female lead, The Doctor. Here Mandip, have the perfunctory third party carer role.

I was impressed generally by Pete McTighe's ability to service so many companions/complementary characters during the slender run time, even if occasionally the tardis crew felt rather ambivalent to the fate of those left behind. Aramu, you were less liked than Adric, apparently. ;)

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Toby’c said...

Calling it now: the talking cat has some connection to the Master, most likely going back to the 1996 TV movie.

“I was impressed generally by Pete McTighe's ability to service so many companions/complementary characters during the slender run time”
I imagine his past experience with Neighbours and maybe Wentworth may have helped there.


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