Timestamps Featured Image

Doctor Who: Praxeus
(1 episode, s12e06, 2020)

Timestamp 298 Praxeus

A lot of moving parts in a story where nothing is as it seems.

Picking up immediately after Fugitive of the Judoon, several plot threads are rapidly laid down.

A spacecraft plummets toward Earth. An astronaut named Adam Lang tries to salvage it, but his capsule begins to spin violently. On the planet below, a suspended police officer named Jake Willis tackles a shoplifter, but he’s scolded by his manager for his actions. Finally, in Peru, Gabriela Camara and Jamila Velez are disgusted by a river polluted by plastic waste. Later that night, Jamila is attacked by an unseen force.

Jake retires to a local bar and sees the news about Adam Lang’s crash. Jake is distraught, but his mood changes when he receives a text message from someone claiming to be Adam asking for help in Hong Kong. He tries to break into a warehouse and fails. Lucky for him, Yaz and Graham arrive with a set of skeleton keys. He questions Graham and Yaz, assuming they are from the European Space Agency, but Yaz explains they’re following some strange energy readings. They’re also being watched by a man in a hazmat suit.

Gabriela wakes up and searches for Jamila. When a bird falls from the sky, Ryan arrives and warns her away from it. Gabriela presses Ryan about her friend before introducing herself as a travel vlog influencer. She soon gets a message about an ambulance call-out a mile away.

In Madagascar, a lab worker named Aramu greets his co-worker Suki Cheng. They both rush to help the Doctor as the Time Lord rescues someone from the ocean. The stranded man is a member of the US Navy, a survivor of a recent submarine accident. The sailor is soon consumed by a rock-like substance and disintegrates. The two lab workers are very confused.

Ryan and Gabriela arrive at a deserted San Pedro hospital. Ryan finds another dead bird and Gabriela finds Jamila inside a quarantine area. Jamila is covered in the same stone substance, prompting Ryan to call the Doctor. The TARDIS arrives as Jamila disintegrates, leaving Gabriela upset as the Doctor realizes the severity of the situation.

Yaz and Graham track down the strange energy readings and find a room filled with alien consoles. Adam is strapped to a table, looking sick and still in his spacesuit. Yaz calls the Doctor as two figures in hazmat suits burst in and start shooting. Yaz distracts them with a control panel while Jake and Graham escape with Adam. Jake steals the rifles and shoots the attackers. The Doctor arrives and realizes the attackers and their weapons aren’t from Earth.

All of the players thus far board the TARDIS, but Yaz and Gabriela decide to stay behind and study the control device. The Doctor is hesitant but soon relents, sending the TARDIS on its way and examining Adam. She gets a call from Madagascar and returns to the beach. As the team heads for the lab, Graham learns that Adam and Jake are married but on a break. Meanwhile, the birds begin to swarm over the beach.

In Hong Kong, Yaz determines that the control panel is triangulating signals from two other places, including Madagascar. One of the hazmat aliens survived, and it stumbles into the room and teleports away. Yaz and Gabriela decide to follow, landing somewhere dark but safe amid equipment from the downed submarine

Ryan shows a dead bird to the Doctor and she asks him to dissect it. She asks Graham and Jake to give Adam an IV drip, then works with Suki to analyze Adam’s readings. The astronaut is infected with an alien pathogen and the Doctor has no idea how to stop it. Jake leaves and Graham tries to comfort him. Jake explains that he’s not good with emotions, commitment, or foreign travel, and knowing that his husband is an astronaut, he doesn’t believe that Adam could possibly love him.

Jake returns to Adam’s side as Suki analyzes Adam’s blood. Ryan finds that the bird is full of plastic, and the Doctor presumes that the alien pathogen attacked and metastasized the plastic. The Doctor rules out Auton interference before remembering that humans of the era always ingest microplastics. The pathogen has a buffet, but the Doctor notices that the bird’s natural enzymes are fighting the infection. Suki theorizes that she could make a countervirus.

The Doctor contacts Yaz and exchanges information. When she finds out that an alien signal is coming from Madagascar, she has an epiphany about Suki and learns that the infection is called Praxeus. Suki teleports away as the birds attack the lab. Everyone barely escapes with the samples and boards the TARDIS. Unfortunately, Aramu was previously attacked and unable to join them.

Adam volunteers for a clinical trial of the Doctor’s cure. The Doctor administers the antidote and programs the TARDIS to make more if it succeeds. She then leaves Adam and Jake in the TARDIS while the others search for Yaz and Gabriela. They discover they’re on an alien base under the Indian Ocean, centered under one of the world’s plastic pollution gyres. The birds are the infection vector and the travelers need to find Suki to stop them.

They find one of the aliens and suppose they’re also trying to find a cure. They soon find Suki, the last of her crew from a planet ruined by Praxeus. She traveled there to find a perfect lab and Earth fit the bill. The spacecraft was the source of the strange energy readings and the radiation that brought down Adam’s ship. The Doctor tries to help Suki but Praxeus overcomes the alien woman. Luckily, Jake and a cured Adam arrive with the antidote, and the team works together to distribute the cure with the alien shuttle’s organic engines. Everyone returns to the TARDIS as the shuttle takes off and floods the alien base, but Jake decides to stay behind when the shuttle’s autopilot fails.

The plan succeeds, but everyone thinks Jake has died after the shuttle disintegrates. The Doctor materializes the TARDIS around Jake at the last minute and the husbands kiss in gratitude.

Returning to the beach, Team TARDIS bids farewell to their new friends. They go their own ways, safe with the knowledge that no matter how far apart they are, the seven billion connected lives are safe.

This story has a lot of potential, but it gets bogged down with the varying plot threads, none of which gets enough room to breathe. It’s another example of a Chibnall-era story that would thrive as a two-parter with another editing pass.

The ecological message is definitely heavy-handed, but it doesn’t oppressively stifle the story like Orphan 55. We’ve had a preachy Doctor in the past, but this era’s interpretation lacks a degree of finesse.

Also missing in the finesse department is this story’s twist: I love adventures where there is no clear villain and the feint that portrays Suki as the villain is underwhelming because we learn that she’s a victim of Praxeus within minutes of her big reveal. With a little more subtlety, the twist could have been powerful on the level of other Doctor Who stories where the true villain is a force of nature instead of an army or single entity.

That said, I like the fast-moving mystery plot where the Doctor had to split her team to solve the puzzle. I also like the parallels between Praxeus and COVID-19, which was a full-blown pandemic when this episode aired.

Finally, I perked up when the Doctor mentioned the Autons. Their inclusion here would have made sense – we’ve only seen them in action three times in the franchise: Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Autons, and Rose – but, while creepy mannequins are fun additions to Doctor Who, it was a good move to not have a story about plastic pollution lean on them as villains.

This story settled out at a high 3, and as I’ve mentioned over the years, I tend to round up.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Can You Hear Me?


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

ESO Network Sponsors


Support Us

A Dollar a month keeps us in orbit. Trust us it’s better that way.

Ways to Listen

Find Us Wherever Fine Podcasts are Found

Sign Up for the ESO Newsletter


ESO Network Archives


No matter where you go here you are

Follow the ESO Network

You didn't come this far to only come this far

Contact Us

    Remember any comment made today will be the tomorrow you worried about yesterday

    <-- see them in a pretty grid

    42 Cast
    The Best Saturdays of Our Lives
    Blurred Nerds
    But First, Let's Talk Nerdy
    Cigar Nerds
    The Con Guy
    Cosmic Pizza
    Dragon Con Report
    Drinking with Authors

    Most Recent Episodes

    Earth Station DCU
    Earth Station One
    Earth Station Trek
    Earth Station Who
    Epsilon Three
    Metal Geeks
    Modern Musicology
    Monkeeing Around
    Monster Attack
    The Monster Scifi Show
    Soul Forge
    Thunder Talk
    The Watch-a-thon of Rassilon