Doctor Who: Truly Admirable Romance Delights; Illness Savages

by thethreepennyguignol

Just…give me a minute, alright?

It’s just that this week’s episode of Doctor Who, Praxeus, really threw a lot of shit at the wall. Following the spread of a violent and deadly alien disease over a number of continents, globe-trotting from Hong Kong to Peru to Madagascar and back again, I thought we might get a break after all the balls-to-the-wall plot of last week, but no such luck, it seems.

Which isn’t a bad thing, not really – I like an episode that’s teeming with ideas, and the round-the-world-in-eighty-quips thing Team Tardis have going on at least makes sure that everyone gets something to do for a change. There are no loose ends when you have a movie’s worth of plot to fit into less than sixty minutes, you know? And the framing device that kicks off this episode – having various members of our central quadrant crashing into other people’s established storylines – gives the episode an urgent feel and lays some solid, easy groundwork for the side characters we’re going to be following for the rest of the episode.

The thing is, Praxeus just has too much going on for its own good. Now, it’s not as much of a disaster as the gruesomely overstuffed Orphan-55 of yesteryear, but there are still just a few too many balls in the air for my liking – the interesting plot buries its lede on the actually interesting part (that the virus came to Earth as the people who had suffered its origins searched for a cure, not as an attempted genocide), because there’s just a touch too much going on here for the story to really flourish.

Though not all of that is bad, exactly. I’m not a huge fan of the travel vlogger who makes up one of our teritary additions this week – she gropes Ryan’s pecs within seconds of meeting him (which, come on, guys, is just a pretty gross way to treat people), and continues to mildly irritate from there on out as she bellows about her vlogging career at anyone who’ll listen.

But, okay, I do like that so much effort is being put into fleshing out other side characters for individual episodes – or maybe it’s just that, like the Doctor, I love romance, especially of the gay variety. Hey, it’s in my job description, sue me! Praxeus features a married gay couple who actually – whisper it – share great chemistry, fleshed-out conflict, and a whole-ass on-screen kiss, and neither of them even have to die to get it! Warm, earnest, but not idealized, this is one of my favourite one-off romances in Doctor Who in a long time, tender and layered and sweet without being too saccharine. Truly, several bounds forward, I think we can all agree. So yeah, a bit of a split for the side characters, and surely too many of them for a one-shot story, but at least there’s something worthwhile (read: gay) hiding up in there.

But I couldn’t help but think – this is the kind of episode, for all that it feels over-full, is the sort of thing that only works once you’ve gotten a good hold on your cast and the way they work together and within this universe. There are little details here – the focus-shift to the pin that Graham wears in honour of his lost wife, as he discusses feeling inadequate next to a partner with another character, for example – that prove that this show understands how these people work, how they react to the situations their faced with, and the impact it has on them individually. I feel like I know these people now, to the point where even cramming an episode with too many other characters doesn’t distract from the solid groundwork already done for Yas, Ryan, and Graham.

So far, this season really feels as though it’s doing what a second season should be focused on – expanding the world, settling in to our characters, and working out how to stir things up just when it feels like we’ve gotten comfortable. I’m not sure that Praxeus will go down as an all-timer, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a confidence and assurance that helps it get over some of the bumps along the gay way. Chaotic but hard not to get caught up in, Praxeus seems a good summation of this season so far. And I’m not mad about it at all.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to check out the rest of my Doctor Who recaps right here and hey, how about checking out my movie blog, No But Listen? If you just stop by for these recaps, then might I draw your attention to the fact that my first book, Rape Jokes,was released in between the last couple of seasons, and, oh, just so happens to have a few five-star reviews, not that I’m counting? As ever, thank you for reading, and drop your take on this episode in the comments below!

(header image via Den of Geek)