Well, it seems that series 12 is now on a roll! After last week’s shock revelations and a story that pleased the critics, fans and super-fans alike (all three? truly a rare event in itself!), this episode is going to have to work really hard!
What connects a missing astronaut in the Indian Ocean, birds behaving strangely in Peru and a US naval officer who washes up on a Madagascan beach?
This week’s episode was written by Pete McTighe with showrunner, Chris Chibnall and directed by Jamie Magnus Stone.
Well, there were no references to the bigger story arc, reverting to the ‘alien-of-the-week’ format – and that was disappointing. It all started pretty well, by setting up a complex mystery, consisting of a series of unrelated events, it certainly held my attention, attempting to work out what was going on.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the timing of this episode coinciding with the current global coronavirus threat gave it some extra relevance, as the thrust of this week’s yarn was about a mysterious pathogen (Praxeus) with the potential to devastate humanity!
Then, for me, it all went a bit ‘Pete Tong’ as the BBC’s two current obsessions kicked in! Obsession 1: Being overly PC with its character choices and the other: commenting on the state of the planet. All perfectly valid of course in their own right, but not at the expense of the plot! Arghhhh!
The episode also suffered from a recurring issue with Chibnall’s interpretation of Who: far too many characters! If three companions aren’t two (or even three) too many, then this week, in addition, we had an astronaut, his husband, two vbloggers, a scientist and a scientist’s assistant – 50 minutes just isn’t long enough to give everyone enough to do, and it was one of those episodes where popping off to the loo would be a significant disadvantage, as things moved so fast!
As the story progressed, it became less about a story of mankind vs disease. Instead, a preachy piece, admonishing humanity for the ravages we have inflicted in the environment with plastics. Purleasssse! Can we have the Daleks back? – if I need reminding about the state of the planet, I’ll watch David Attenborough!!
By about two-thirds in, the story, that had all the ingredients of an excellent yarn when it began, just went off the boil. By the final act, it lacked impact and became all very predictable and clichéd: loser-becomes-hero-and-saves-the-day! Together with an over-sentimental they-all-lived-happily-ever-after final scene (no doubt to please our cousins across the pond!) and that just did it for me I’m so disappointed!
It was such a contrast to last week’s story!
I’m coming to the conclusion that both this series and the previous, it’s not the acting, I think it’s the scripts – they’re just not chiming with me (apart from last week’s), so maybe it’s time to accept that this Who is not my Who!
VERDICT: It started well, JW owns the character, but another preachy message about how we’re destroying the planet together with the rather sugary-sweet ending ruined a story that had shown great potential. 👎