Saturday, February 8, 2020

Doctor Who 12x06 Recap: “Praxeus” (One Word: Plastics) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]

Original Airdate: February 2, 2020

Earth is in a bit of disarray. A British astronaut, Adam, crash lands in his space capsule and goes missing. A submarine has also disappeared suddenly. In Peru, a beautiful river is overflowing with plastic but travelers Jamilla and Gabriella must camp there overnight. Crows attack Jamilla in the night and she’s gone in the morning, but Ryan is there to help Gabriella sort through the confusion. He tells her birds are falling out of the sky everywhere and collects one of them to take to the Doctor. They track a distress signal online to an abandoned hospital nearby and find Jamilla’s body. She has strange scales on the side of her face, which Ryan, stupidly, touches. Jamilla starts convulsing, then disintegrates completely.

In Hong Kong, Jake, a police officer on leave, arrives at a warehouse. This is the location that Adam supposedly messaged him asking for his help. Graham and Yaz help Jake inside and they find Adam hooked up to a machine. He tells them to leave just before masked creatures burst in and start shooting. Jake may be an ex-cop but he’s still good with a gun so he’s able to get everyone out safely. Depending on which one you ask, Adam and Jake may or may not still be married as well.

The Doctor gathers them into the TARDIS. She has already been to Madagascar, where she found a survivor from the missing submarine who also disintegrated before her eyes. They’re all heading back there but Yaz wants to stay behind to find an important-looking piece of alien tech. Gabriella volunteers to go with her. They find the tech but have to hide when one of the creatures stumbles in and then teleports away. The two women decide to follow it.


At a lab in Madagascar, Suki and Aramu do their best to help the Doctor figure out what is attacking Earth and why. While everyone else goes inside the lab to analyze Adam’s deteriorating state, Aramu stays outside to monitor a flock of birds. Bad idea, Aramu. Adam is infected with an alien pathogen and the same scales have started forming on his neck. Suki believes they can reverse engineer a cure using Adam and the dead bird Ryan brought him. That bird is full of plastic, which the Doctor believes is the source of the alien bacteria. Because humans have polluted the planet with so much plastic, there are microplastics in our bodies from the air, food, and water. That means the bacteria can attack us just as easily as it attacks birds who eat plastic. Outside, Aramu is predictably killed by the birds.

Yaz radios in to tell the Doctor what she and Gabriella have discovered, including that the alien creatures are transmitting to Madagascar. And now at Suki’s over-equipped lab and eagerness make sense: she’s working with the aliens. They call the pathogen Praxeus, she says, and “it knows you’re on to it.” Then she teleports away. Birds burst into the lab but everyone is able to escape into the TARDIS with the samples needed to make a potential cure. Adam volunteers to let the Doctor test it on him.

While exploring what they think is an alien planet, Yaz takes off the mask of one of the dead creatures. The Doctor, who arrives shortly after, says the aliens are humanoid in appearance but not actually humans. They are, however, also infected with Praxeus so they’ve most likely come to Earth to try to find a cure for their own race. Suki confirms that’s correct. And they aren’t on another planet; they’re deep below the Indian Ocean. The creatures in the masks were Suki’s crew. They all came to Earth to use it as a lab because we have so much plastic here. It was the perfect petri dish for studying Praxeus.

But things went awry almost immediately. Their ship crashed, causing Adam’s capsule to crash too and the submarine to go haywire. Samples of Praxeus leaked out of the ship and spread into the ocean and the layer of plastic on it. Suki is hopeful now, though, because they have a cure but the Doctor doesn’t know if it works on humans, much less any other species. And she’s right and wrong. Suki dies a moment later but Adam comes in looking much better. The antidote is ready and they can use Suki’s ship to discharge it all over the Earth’s atmosphere thereby killing Praxeus everywhere on the planet.

It’s a perfect plan, until the autopilot fails. The Doctor leaves their chances to a wing and a prayer but Jake takes more direct action and stays behind to fly the ship. Having always felt inferior to his astronaut husband, Jake feels this is the right thing to do. He successfully sends the antidote across Earth even as the ship breaks apart in the process. A millisecond before he’s going to die, the Doctor swoops him into the TARDIS. All is well.

Final Thoughts:
  • It’s either feast or famine in series 12. Last week’s episode was the best of Chibnall’s Doctor Who. This week, we returned to the “performative wokeness” genre that’s made up most of his era. It had a light message about the evils of pollution, never addressed the actual issue of corporations being the ones who dump most of the plastic pollution into the oceans, and wrapped up things very neatly at the end. Mediocre and forgettable. 
  • An episode like this is why I worry that all of the potential from “Fugitive of the Judoon” may be completely squandered in the end.


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