Third Time’s A Charm
Global warming is a very real threat and humanity is destroying the environment. Just incase you missed that, global warming is a very real threat and humanity is destroying the environment. If this sounds obsessive and a little preachy, buckle in and prepare for another politically charged trip as Doctor Who undoes last week’s promise for another stand-alone episode, chock full of poor editing, clumsy dialogue and some really woeful writing.
Before we deep dive into that though, Doctor Who begins with a frenetic opening involving three different new characters. Jake is a former police officer and after being fired from his job, receives a mysterious text to head to Hong Kong. Adam Lang is an astronaut who loses control of his pod and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean while Gabriela and Jamilla go camping in Peru but find a rubbish-strewn wasteland instead.
Birds peck at Jamilla’s face that evening and kill her prompting Ryan to arrive in the morning and tell them something is wrong with the birds. Gabriela asks Ryan whether he’s heard of them, given they’re vloggers, but he tells them he hasn’t. They head into the local hospital and find the place quarantined. With no staff around, they find Jamilla’s body but infected by something that marks the side of her face.
In Madagascar we find the Doctor running and saving a man from the water called Zack. Unfortunately he’s infected too but it causes him to disintegrate. The Doctor then jumps over to Ryan where he touches the infected’s face and the same effect happens again – the body disintegrates.
In Hong Kong, Graham and Yaz use their set of keys to open a door Jake is trying to break into. It’s pure coincidence they found the same building but inside, hiding in the shadows, is a strange creature wearing a gas mask. However, they also stumble upon the astronaut but Yaz and Graham are attacked by two of the gas-mask wearing soldiers with surprisingly poor aim as they fire at them.
The Doctor appears here too, suddenly arriving without warning and announcing herself as the back-up. As they all hurry outside, Yaz decides to stay behind and try to salvage the tech with Gabriela. She again mentions her vlog channel but as they notice the gas-mask creature teleporting, Yaz takes the initiative and teleports too, playing the Doctor role and finding the submarine Zack came from at the start of the episode. It turns out they’re under the Indian Ocean where all the plastic is gathered.
The Doc skips the TARDIS back to Madagascar where birds circle around unnaturally. The duo of marine biologists there help bring them inside where she notices Adam’s bloodstream has been infected with something alien. As the Doctor tries to genetically manufacturer an antidote, it turns out the birds have eaten the plastic from the beaches and humankind has infected the planet so much that the overwhelming amount of plastic has caused micro-plastics to enter our bodies, which the aliens are feeding on.
As the birds mobilize and the Praxeus virus prepares to spread, Adam sacrifices himself to test the antidote. Under the ocean, they come face to face with the scientist who explains what happened, given she’s an alien too, and how her kind found the plastic-ridden Earth as the perfect habitat to off-load the creatures. Her shipmates happen to be the aliens and they’re wearing gas masks to hide the virus. Unfortunately she become infected with the Praxeus Virus and after meeting a messy end, Jake sacrifices himself to save the Earth until The Doctor teleports up and saves Jake at the last second. As the episode ends, our characters receive their happy ending.
It’s hard to know where to start with Doctor Who this week. On the bright side, the alien virus and the idea of birds spreading this across the globe is an intriguing idea and the various different locations around Earth is a nice touch and helps keep things moving at a good speed. Having said that, the execution here is woeful to say the least. Orphan 55 will forever be known as one of the worst Who episodes, with the Doctor abandoning core ideals to outright kill aliens and leave carnage in her wake (which ironically even the War Doctor didn’t do so nonchalantly) but the messy editing, deadpan jokes and agenda-driven writing here, hammering home about the environment again, is a serious step back for the show.
The editing in particular during this episode is really clumsy, with the Doctor jumping into different scenes and areas across the planet without warning. We rarely see the outside of the TARDIS, the messy structure of quick-cuts between three or four different locations doesn’t work and Yaz being groomed as the competent, intelligent Doctor figure in the wake of both Graham and Ryan being dumbed down, not knowing what a pathogen is, feels really lazy. The script writing is surprisingly poor too, and aside from the Doctor skipping between past incarnations without putting her own mark on the character, the repetition of meaningless sub-text is very jarring.
Gabriela announces her name three times on three different occasions. She mentions her Vlog “two girls roaming” three times during the episode and the same-sex marriage of Adam and Jake is mentioned three times too. Given the chemistry the latter two have, we don’t even need to be told once what the relationship is to understand what’s going on here.
Is Praxeus as bad as Orphan 55? No. Is it a close second for this season? Yes. The agenda-driven writing, the clumsy editing and a really hap-hazard structure early on combine to make this a frustrating episode, and even more so because the ideas are actually quite good. With two or three re-writes and tightening up of the structure, Praxeus could be a really solid episode but unfortunately it’s another big step back for this long-running sci-fi show.
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