Monday, 3 February 2020

Doctor Who - Praxeus

A Praxeus To Grind

Doctor Who - Praxeus
Airdate: 2nd February 2020

Okay, so this weeks episode of Doctor Who, Praxeus, didn’t bother picking up any of the threads dangled in last weeks episode (nor from earlier in the series) but this one wasn’t a bad romp. There were good things and bad things. Asides from the usual brilliant performances by Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole, Bradley Walsh and this weeks co-stars, it had a nice structure to it and, even though the plot itself was slow burn, the multiple repeat location hopping (very much in keeping with the style of an old 1930s - 1950s US theatrical serial) made sure that things never got boring and gave the pleasant illusion of an episode being, perhaps, a little pacier than it actually was.

Which is all fine, of course.

I also liked the, admittedly totally illogical but, ultimately, good looking make-up job (some of which was also CGI, I think) of this episodes ‘special guest virus’. Doctor Who is, once again, pulling no punches by being a family show in which, on a number of occasions in this episode, death strikes in a spectacular fashion. In this case, the final stage of the virus when it overwhelms its humanoid host causes said host to explode. Admittedly, it’s a completely bloodless explosion but it still looked suitably ostentatious as a form of death and one of the things I’ve liked about Doctor Who over the years is its willingness to go down this kind of route.

So... good acting, speedy pacing and a nice structure to it, where various companions in different places around the planet Earth were working on different and, at first, seemingly disconnected sides of the same problem. All great fun and certainly a nicely done episode. There were, however, some bad things too.

Bad thing one and, it has to be said, this goes for most episodes in the last two series... it was way too preachy about making its points again. I don’t know what’s going on but previously on Doctor Who the writers were quite able to put in a lot of relevant and topical subtext without dumbing it down so much that it hovers right on the surface and threatens to engulf the story. A big long monologue from The Doctor about the harm humans are doing by poisoning the environment and themselves with plastic was really... well... it was a bit embarrassing actually. Also, these kinds of messages are always better off going into the subconscious so the audience can come to the realisation themselves... it somehow seems more effective when that’s the case. You don’t for example, see someone climbing up onto a balcony in George A. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead to tell the audience it’s all about the evils of consumerism and retail therapy. There’ a brief mention of it by one of the characters and then, that’s it... you pick it up for yourself later on. So, yeah, I didn’t need all this stuff shoved down my throat, thank you very much.

The other really bad thing in this one, I thought, was the credibility of one of the characters... and this wasn’t the actresses fault, for sure. There are two female bloggers travelling the globe together in this and one of them explodes fairly early on in the show. Her best friend who is desperate to find her, after seeing her death, only reacts a little. Yeah, I know the emotional stuff on these kinds of shows and also in cinema are such that nobody stays upset for very long otherwise you don’t have time to, you know, actually progress the plot but the lack of reaction written into the character throughout the show... for instance as the character goes off smiling about her experiences at the end of the episode, only a few hours after seeing her friend die a very violent death, just felt really wrong here. I understand there’s a fine line but I think the writing could have been a little more solid, perhaps alluding to the process of grief in off screen moments to maintain an illusion of emotional torment. Instead we more or less got an attitude of ‘Oh, she’s dead. Oh dear. Moving along now... next?” Again, I don’t think it was the actress portraying the character who brought this, almost absence of appropriate affect, with her. I think it was the writing not giving her enough time and dialogue to express it. maybe it’s just me but I did get a feeling of the writers painting themselves into a corner and then running through the wet paint quickly in the hopes nobody would notice when it comes to this kind of stuff. And it isn’t the first time I’ve picked up on this over the last couple of years of Doctor Who, for sure.

And that’s me done on that one. Short review again but, ultimately, the bad stuff didn’t really outweigh the good stuff... just popped you out of the experience a few times. Fingers crossed that next week it’s not back to ‘business as usual’ for the show though because, just lately, business hasn’t been booming.

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