Doctor Who Praxeus
Review by Paul Bowler.
The momentum of Doctor Who Series 12 continues to build in Praxeus, where the Doctor and her companions have split up to investigate a series of mysteries across multiple continents on planet Earth. The Doctor must find the cause behind these strange occurrences and their connection to a new alien menace. What they uncover will place all of humanity in danger. And even the Doctor might not be able to save everyone this time!
Given how Series 12 has already shown the devastation of Gallifrey, along with intriguing mysteries like the Timeless Child and the Lone Cyberman simmering ominously in the background, coupled with the return of the Master (Sacha Dhawan), Captain Jack Harkness (John Barroman), and even the debut of a new female incarnation of the Doctor (J Martin), you’d be forgiven for thinking what Praxeus, co-written by Pete McTighe (Kerblam!) and show runner Chris Chibnall, and directed by Jamie Magnus Stone could possibly throw at the Doctor and her companions next? Praxeus certainly veers off on a significantly different tangent than might have been expected, and the result is an energetic episode bursting with intriguing ideas and scientific concepts.
As we rejoin the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Ryan (Tosin Coyle), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) in Praxeus the gang have already split up and are conducting their own investigations around the globe in response to the alerts the TARDIS received at then end of Fugitive of the Judoon. But what is it that connects a missing astronaut, birds that are behaving strangely in Peru, and a US naval officer washed-up on a beach in Madagascar? Jodie Whittaker’s performance as the Doctor continues to impress in Praxeus as she tackles what could prove to be this series’ most challenging mystery so far. Whittaker’s Doctor runs a gauntlet of emotions as she contends with several seemingly unrelated incidents, including a missing submarine in the Indian Ocean, alien technology giving off strange energy readings in Hong Kong, and identical deaths on two separate continents.
The Doctor’s companions are also put through their paces in this episode as their investigations take them around the world. Tosin Coyle and Mandip Gill have some great scenes as Ryan and Yaz embark on their missions, Bradley Walsh also continues to excel as Graham, and overall everyone gets a good share of the action.
Praxeus also guest stars Joana Borja and Gabriella Tolo as young bloggers Gabriela and Jamila, along with Warren Brown as Ex Police Officer Jake Willis, Matthew McNutly as Jake’s husband and the missing astronaut Adam, Molly Harris as Suki Cheng and Thapelo Maropefela as Amaru. They all inadvertently get caught up in the Time Lord’s chaotic adventure and it’s not long before the Doctor and her companions find themselves in a frantic race against time to save the human race from a deadly alien infection spread by rampaging flocks of birds around the world.
For an episode so jam-packed with characters and a world-wide menace to solve, co-writers Pete McTighe and show Chris Chibnall skilfully make use of the ensemble cast, and skilfully keep the plot on track as the mystery concerning the pathogen unfolds. I really liked the scenes where Ryan and Gabriella team-up to investigate a rather creepy looking hospital as well; Yaz’s character also gets a more significant role in Praxeus, and proves increasingly resourceful as she works with Gabriella in Hong Kong to find the true location of the alien threat.
Ex Police Officer Jake Willis and his Astronaut husband Adam also have key roles in the story, their relationship drives a good portion of the narrative, and Warren Brown and Matthew McNutly’s performances help give added emotional depth to an episode that could have otherwise risked been just a manic run-around. The scene between Jake and Graham was another highlight of the episode, with Graham proving as insightful as ever as he offers Jake some sound advice to gain a fresh perspective on life and get his failing marriage back on track.
There is something very wrong with the birds in Praxeus. It turns out the plastic they have eaten have been contaminated by a deadly alien pathogen that seems to feed on micro plastics – one that has now mutated the birds from the inside and driven them to attack. Praxeus feels a bit like a Sci-Fi version of The Birds at times, with its swirling flocks of marauding birds circling ominously overhead, or chasing the Doctor and her friends across a beach to the TARDIS, and the effects for these scenes are chillingly realised on screen.
Praxeus is Peter McTighe’s second episode for Doctor Who, his first being Series 11’s Kerblam! Together with co-writer Chris Chibnall, McTighe manages to balance the numerous plot strands of Praxeus, and the result is a fast paced and exciting globe-trotting adventure. Much of Praxeus was filmed along with the first episode, Spyfall, in South Africa, and it really gives the episode a great sense of scale. Director Jamie Magnus Stone delivers a roller coaster ride of an episode here, complete with stunning scenery, great special effects, and some especially disturbing moments as well.
With Yaz’s and Gabriella’s discovery of an alien construct and the missing submarine deep beneath a Gyre of plastic refuse in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Doctor and the others travel in the TARDIS to the underwater construct having just found a solution for the infection – thanks to Adam volunteering to be a test subject for the cure. With the scientist Suki Cheng now revealed as a humanoid alien who deliberately plotted to infect Earth with the Praxeus infection to find a cure for her own species, the Doctor must act quickly to save the world, cure the infection, get everyone to safety and carry out a last ditch rescue attempt!
Although there is a stark ecological message at the core of Praxeus, quite literally in fact, at least this time it wasn’t tagged on like it was in Orphan 55, and it was actually integral to the overall plot of Praxeus. I really liked the strong concepts and ideas that formed the basis of the story and how well all the characters worked together. At one point the Doctor name-checks the Autons as having a possible connection to the plastic pathogen, only to dismiss them out of hand as this strategy doesn’t fit with their usual M.O – obviously recalling the classic Doctor Who monsters shaped like shop window dummies faced by Christopher Eccelston’s Doctor in Rose (2005) and perhaps even more significantly during the 3rd Doctor’s (Jon Pertwee) era where they demonstrated the ability to manipulate other forms of plastic, such as dolls, suffocating plastic daffodils, and a lethal inflatable chair.
There were a few interesting questions posed during Praxeus that remain unanswered. Take the strangely garbed aliens that attacked Graham, Yaz and Jake in Hong Kong. Later the Doctor says she scanned the building and didn’t detect any life signals, so how come the TARDIS registered active alien tech in Hong Kong but not the life forms, and why could the aliens hide their life signs but not the unusual energy patterns from their technology? At one point in Praxeus the Doctor frantically contemplates the mystery of the pathogen in the lab, only to refer to her thoughts in the plural, which concerns her companions. So is this just the Doctor rambling as she thinks, or does the Doctor have two brains? Now that would certainly be another new take on Doctor Who cannon! During the attack on the lab, Amaru was seemingly killed by the birds, yet it is unclear if he was an alien like Suki Cheng, and his apparent death doesn’t seem to register at all with anyone.
With only two episodes to go now until the two-part season finale, Praxeus had a tough act to follow after the dramatic revelations in Fugitive of the Judoon, but Praxeus managed to surpass and exceed all expectations. With its great cast and excitingly paced script providing so many excellent character driven moments, the credible environmental threat presented during this episode seemed all the more potent as a result, and the outcome saw Praxeus evolve into one of Series 12’s most intriguing and exciting adventure to date.
Images Belong BBC
About The Author
Hi, I’m Paul Bowler, blogger and reviewer of films, TV shows, and comic books. I’m a Sci-Fi geek, a big fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, movies, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comic Books, and all things PS4.You can follow me on Twitter @paul_bowler,or at my website, Sci-Fi Jubilee, and on YouTube and Facebook