TV: Doctor Who - S12 E06: Praxeus – Reviewed

After last week's Fugitive of the Judoon spectacularly turned Doctor Who season 12 on its head, the season takes that momentum and excitement and runs with it – albeit in a very different direction. At the end of that episode, when the TARDIS alerted The Doctor to the strange events that lead up to this week, she says that it may just be the TARDIS trying to distract her from the wild existential implications of what just happened, but what the hell, why not check it out anyway? That more or less fits with the tone of Praxeus: this episode is a statement that even after the revelations of last week, this season won't be exclusively about that larger arc (unlike, say, the bogged-down-by-overarching-plot season 6), and it might make us wait a bit for answers, but that's ok because there's still plenty of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff out there to explore. Praxeus may be a standalone episode that doesn't engage much with the season's larger mystery, but that is totally fine because it uses the momentum of last week's episode to propel an exciting and breathless around-the-world mystery/adventure that works very well.

The episode finds The Doctor, Ryan, and Yaz and Graham split off into three teams in various corners of the world, investigating a presumably-connected but very mysterious series of strange phenomena involving a plague of insane crows, a warehouse full of alien tech, an astronaut who went missing upon reentry from space, and a disease that appears to calcify people alive. The mystery takes the TARDIS team around the world, from Hong Kong to Peru to Madagascar, first in separate plot threads and then together, and whirls them along at a breakneck pace as they are attacked by birds, race to fight the strange disease, and are pursued by strange figures that look a bit like post-apocalyptic plague doctors. The pacing and action of the episode are spot-on, moving with momentum and excitement, but not rushing the character and plot development. Some of the guest-starring characters in the episode are better-developed than others, but the best of them are legitimately strong characters with some good dramatic moments, and they don't feel rushed by the scope of the story told in a mere 50-minute runtime.

Praxeus is also another episode with an environmental message, with themes revolving around pollution, and the destructive force that consumerism has on the environment. The themes are very relevant, and the story handles them very well. As with the best Doctor Who episodes, the themes never feel shoehorned in, but instead feel organically like part of the story, with the payoff built around the themes. Naturally, this being 2020, the episode was greeted by some with the old “why do you have to ruin the show by bringing politics into it?” routine, and to those people I once again offer the reminder that Doctor Who has ALWAYS done this. It has always been a progressive show, and in particular it has always dealt in themes of environmentalism, going back at least as far as late-1960s and early-1970s story arcs like The Ice Warriors, The Silurians, Inferno, and The Green Death. Praxeus is just continuing one of the most time-honored of all Doctor Who traditions, and doing it quite well.

Sure, it may feel a bit frustrating that Chris Chibnall is making us wait for any follow-up to last week's season-shaking plot twists, but ultimately it's hard to be too upset about that when Praxeus does what it does very well. I don't think that it will go down in history as one of the best Doctor Who stories, but it is at least a very good one. The scope of the story is impressive, the material does some strong things with the environmental theme, and the pacing and momentum of the episode is spot-on. It's a very fun adventure that speeds through its 50 minutes. It feels a bit like a week off after how heavy and reality-bending Fugitive of the Judoon was, but ultimately that's just fine, because it's a very fun week off.


- Christopher S. Jordan

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