Release Date: 2/2/2020
Network: BBC One
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama
Praxeus opens with a shot of the Earth, and a monologue from the Doctor. At the same time, a failing space module is making a descent toward the planet. Piloted by astronaut Adam Lang, his chances of survival are looking bleak. The episode swiftly introduces Jake, (played by Luther’s Warren Brown), who rugby tackles a supermarket shoplifter. As an ex-police officer, he’s subsequently fired for his actions.
Then we’re in Peru, where travel vloggers Gabriela and Jamila find a river bed littered with debris. Overhead, a flock of birds swarm. They camp out that night and Jamila is attacked by a bird. Back to Jake, who learns of the module crash on the news, and receives a text from the pilot, Adam.
Adam needs help. So Jake flies out to Hong Kong. He meets Graham and Yaz at an apartment, a place giving off strange energy readings. Following so far?…
It’s hard to fathom where this story is taking us, and what any of it means at this point.
However, Praxeus then takes us to Madagascar, and I’m starting to rub my forehead in frustration. So many plot lines. I understand everything will join together to form the larger picture soon enough, but again, sometimes less is more.
Something Is Wrong With The Birds
A naval officer, Zach Olsen, is pulled onto shore by the Doctor, Suki, and Aramu in Madagascar. (Suki’s surname is Cheng, that’ll be important later). The Doctor has been investigating tide patterns for survivors from a missing US submarine.
There are scale-like markings on Olsen’s hand, which rapidly envelope his entire body. He suddenly disintegrates, to everyone’s shock. Ryan and Gabriela reach an abandoned hospital where they find more dead birds and Jamila. She suffers a similar fate to the naval officer, inflicted by the skin lesions, connected in some way to the swarm of birds.
Graham, Yaz, and Jake find a lab within the building, discovering Adam Lang, the astronaut, hooked up to alien machines. He’s somehow fallen from space in his descent module and now ended up in Hong Kong. What follows is a firefight with two people in hazmat suits and alien guns.
Yaz makes a decision to go back and investigate the alien tech at the lab. She and Gabriela make the connection that the machines in Hong Kong are in some way related to whatever’s happening in Madagascar.
One of the Hazmat Suit people vanishes via teleport from the Hong Kong lab, and Yaz intends to follow.
Meanwhile, in Suki and Aramu’s laboratory, Adam is dying from an alien pathogen in his bloodstream, as the birds continue to squawk and swarm in the air. We learn Suki and Aramu are working on a marine filtration system, which is connected to the Crystal Oceans Initiative, something that comes into play later on.
Yaz, (along with a mildly irritating Gabriela), teleport onto what Yaz believes is an alien colony. It could also be a ship, it’s hard to tell. They then discover, rather bizarrely, a part of Zach Olsen’s submarine.
The Problem With Praxeus
Alright, at this point, I’m starting to worry about the direction Praxeus is taking.
As Adam worsens, with the pathogen fighting against antibiotics, a discovery is made. The birds are full of plastic. It’s connected loosely to the real-world issue of plastic in the Earth’s oceans, and of the threat, they pose to birdlife. (It’s beginning to remind me of the global warming ending to Orphan 55 now).
So, the pathogen feasts on the plastic in the birds and takes over. The micro-filtration system filters out micro-plastics.
So this means that the alien pathogen can home in on the plastics as humans are full of it. From the air to the food we eat, it’s everywhere. As the Doctor then explains, the human race has flooded the planet with plastics that can’t be broken down. So ultimately, we’ve been ingesting these micro-particles.
The Doctor further explains that as a result, we’re poisoning ourselves as well as the Earth. The concern I have is that Praxeus has gone down the same route as Orphan 55. Fictionalizing a real-world problem in the context of an episode, and effectively, ruining it. Unlike Episode 3, Praxeus is smarter in its direction and writing and it feels more justified.
It is a smartly written, uniquely original and well thought out storyline,
Elsewhere, Yaz touches base with the Doctor, explaining that the laboratory in Hong Kong has been relaying data to two locations, one of which in Madagascar. Obviously. The Doctor reaches a realization, looking uneasily toward Suki, who begins to suspect she’s been rumbled. (Her surname is Cheng…).
What It All Means
Praxeus is the name given to the alien pathogen, as Suki explains, and quickly makes her escape. It’s revealed Yaz and Gabriela are beneath a gyre of plastic pollution, deep beneath the Indian Ocean, a naturally formed hot spot where ocean currents trap pollution, one of five on Earth. As a result, the Praxeus virus has constructed a world from plastic in the sea.
Adam volunteers to be a test subject in engineering a cure against Praxeus and in a predictably touching moment of reconciliation with Jake asks him to live his life. Nothing like an alien virus to save a marriage!
Suki is revealed as a part of an infected crew, (those in the Hazmat suits), whose planet was destroyed by Praxeus. Those fortunate to survive were tasked with finding an antidote. Considering the polluted state of the Earth from plastic, Suki and her crew intentionally bought Praxeus with them and experimented on the human race to seek a way to save their own.
Suki’s people crash-landed and released bacteria released into the ocean, forming the gyre and were further responsible for downing Adam’s space capsule. It brings it all neatly together but makes me wish for simpler times from Doctor Who. When stories were so much easier to follow and far less complicated. Suki swiftly dies from Praxeus, and Adam makes a remarkable recovery in minutes. So the antidote works.
In juggling too many plot lines, and with limited time to wrap it all up, an episode can at times, as Praxeus demonstrates, feel hugely rushed together to meet time constraints.
Using Suki’s ship beneath the Indian ocean, they intend to discharge the antidote against Praxeus from the stratosphere. The hope is to launch the craft via auto-pilot, (which of course malfunctions).
So Jake remains on board the craft in what looks likely to be his big hero ending, before being saved by the Doctor and reconciling properly with Adam. The final scene of Episode 6 is rather painful to watch, as they all say their goodbyes and give their thanks for saving the world.
Verdict: Praxeus is a baffling, head-scratching episode. It’s intelligently written, at times, but it’s ending felt rather rushed together. It was strained by the number of characters, of which there were far too many, as well as an unnecessarily complex story. It was reminiscent of Kill The Moon from the Capaldi era.
For more Doctor Who, check out last week’s fifth episode review at the link here.
- The smartly written story focused on a real-world issue of plastic in our oceans.
- Warren Brown's performance.
- Far too much going on. Rather confusing at times.
- Rushed ending.