Ascension of the Cybermen

This blog post contains spoilers for Ascension of the Cybermen.  If you have not seen this episode yet, please return after watching.

Ascension of the Cybermen Fam

The Cybermen were defeated.  The victors of a billion battles, broken.  An empire of might and terror, fallen.  Their weaknesses exploited.  Their armies outfought.  Their conquests surrendered.  Every empire has its time.  And every empire falls.  But that which is dead can live again in the hands of a believer.

Ashad

Synopsis

In the far future, the Doctor and her friends face a brutal battle across the farthest reaches of space to protect the last remnants of the human race against the deadly Cybermen.

Review

The first part of a two-part finale which has been billed as being game-changing by Chris Chibnall, Ascension of the Cybermen certainly leaves us with a lot of plot to mull over for the next week.  I feel this story broadly worked, however, the mystery surrounding the Irish policeman Brendan whilst intriguing felt as though it had come from another episode or even at times, a program like All Creatures Great and Small or Call the Midwife.  Ashad, or the Lone Cyberman, is still pretty strong and this episode certainly makes the Cybermen feel very threatening.

Ascension - Brendan

After quite a nice, atmospheric opening – and I particularly enjoyed the camera going through the disembodied Cyber head into the opening credits – the opening with a baby being abandoned in Ireland was rather unexpected.  The story keeps jumping in to check up on him, seeing him being adopted, enjoying a seemingly idyllic childhood, joining the Garda, mysteriously surviving a tumble off a cliff whilst in pursuit of a gun-toting criminal and then retiring, felt largely detached from the main plot until the ending, and even then I’m not convinced I entirely understand what’s happening.  At worst, this element feels out of place, however, given the ending of this story, I am intrigued to see what the pay off will be next week.  I’m particularly intrigued by the fact that neither his adopted mother or father seem to age, despite some considerable passage of time, which makes me think that this might be an artificial reality around him.  I doubt that he is the Lone Cyberman as Ashad states later that he wanted to be converted into a Cyberman and the last scene we have with Brendan certainly doesn’t make him look willing.  Unfortunately, however, some of these check-ins on Brendan’s life do feel like the brakes have been slammed on in quite a bombastic and stuffed episode.

There is no glory in being a Cyberman.  And ther’s definitely no glory in you.  I mean, talk about an identity crisis – you despite who you are.  That anger and hatred that’s driving you – those are human emotions.  The real Cybermen, they don’t do emotions.  So you loathe your own being because of what’s driving you.  Now, that’s what I call an inner conflict.

The Doctor

This story really does make the Cybermen feel threatening again, with the Lone Cyberman (or perhaps we should call him Ashad) certainly felt different to any other Cyberman we’ve seen before.  Ashad maintains his sense of threat from the previous episode and the fact that we can see the human elements and the incomplete nature of this beast make him more terrifying.  One simple but effective way that Ashad is marked as being different from the two battered Cybermen he spends most of the story with is the fact that he doesn’t have the ‘standard’ Cyberman voice performed by Nicholas Briggs and this contrast is particularly effective.  I liked the fact that they were able to easily incapacitate the Doctor’s attempts to defend the refugees through the use of Cyber drones, which looked great and took some of the traditional weaknesses of the Cybermen off the board by destroying machines like the Neural Inhibitor system, the Particle Projector, and the force field quite early on.  I am slightly confused as to why they are killing humans rather than converting them, which seems to be against their modus operandi, so I’m hoping we get some resolution to this in the second part.  Potentially this might be because, thanks to the Cyberium, Ashad knows that he’s got a shiny new army of Cybermen hidden away somewhere, ready to ascend, even if he is capable of making these Cybermen scream.

Ascension of the Cybermen Ashad

The goal of the refugees is to get to the mysterious Ko Sharmus and the Boundary, leading to the conclusion to this story, with the Doctor and Ryan with Ethan and Graham and Yaz with the remaining human refugees striving to reach this escape from the Cybermen.  In the conclusion of the episode, the Boundary is seen to open before the Doctor to reveal Gallifrey, albeit in its ruined state, however, the human refugees presumably haven’t all ended up here as it is stated much earlier in the story that the readings for the Boundary are never the same.  Whilst I was expecting Gallifrey to appear in some form in the finale, I was expecting it next week rather than here so it was a nice surprise. We also get a brief cameo from Sacha Dhawan’s Master in the closing minutes and I am certainly intrigued to see his involvement in this story.  We get less of an explanation as to Ko Sharmus, who is revealed to be a space hermit rather than a planet, and why he is so close to the Boundary, but this again could be another potential character that Brendan’s story ties into.

You’ve come a long way, Graham O’Brien.

Yasmin Khan

The Doctor and her companions continue their good form, and it is particularly nice to see the fact that the Doctor has underestimated the Lone Cyberman, despite Jack and her companions’ warnings and her realisation that she has done so continues a potentially darker side of this incarnation that we saw towards the end of last week’s episode.  The companions are separated again here, and it is good to see Yaz take control of the group of refugees who eventually end up on the Cybership and maintaining a cool head while the refugees and Graham are losing theirs.  Graham gets some nice moments with Ravio whilst they are exploring the troop carrier, and Ravio is probably the member of the guest cast that we spend the most time with.  Sadly, the rest of them are rather underserved as the crammed plot doesn’t really have time to explore them anymore, but we might get more time with them next week.

Verdict: Ascension of the Cybermen is a good first part of a two-part story, with enough sense of mystery and dread around it, even if the Brendan subplot does effect the pace somewhat.  8/10

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Sacha Dhawan (The Master), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Julie Graham (Ravio), Ian McElhinney (Ko Sharmus), Alex Austin (Yedlarmi), Steve Toussaint (Feekat), Coalyn Byrne (Sergeant), Matt Carver (Ethan), Rhiannon Clements (Bescot), Branwell Donaghy (Patrick), Kevin Hudson (Cyber Warrior), Andrew Macklin (Michael), Evan McCabe (Brendan), Orla O’Rourke (Meg), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen), Richard Highgate, Richard Price, Mickey Lewis, Matthew Doman, Paul Bailey, Simon Carew & Matthew Rohman (Cybermen).

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Director: Jamie Magnus Stone

Behind the Scenes

  • The sixth appearance of the Cybermen in part of a series finale – including cameos – and their third such appearance with the Master/Missy.
  • The twelfth story not to feature the TARDIS.

Best Moment

I’m a sucker for Cybermen stepping out of their pods like in Tomb of the Cybermen.  What can I say?

Best Quote

The systems didn’t stop ’em, Doc.

I know.

They destroyed everything we brought with us.

I know.

We haven’t got anything else to defend ourselves or them.

I know!  Listen to me, do not argue, go with the humans.  Help them.  Get them out of here.  You won’t make it back to the TARDIS alive.  Make sure you’re with them.  

What about you?

I’ll hold them off.

How are you going to do that?

This isn’t a discussion.

We’re not just going to leave you.

Yes you are.  All of you.  No questions.  Get out.  I’ve been so reckless with you.

What are you talking about?

You’re human!  If they capture you, they’ll convert you.  I’ll find you.  Get safe, now!

Graham O’Brien, The Doctor, Yasmin Khan and Ryan Sinclair.

 

 

 

The Haunting of Villa Diodati

This post contains spoilers for The Haunting of Villa Diodati.  If you’ve not seen it yet, come back after watching!

HoVD Doctor, Mary, Yas

Save the poet, save the Universe.

The Thirteenth Doctor

 

Synopsis

Lake Geneva, 1816.  Lord Byron and the Shelleys prepare for a night telling ghost stories, but their villa seems to have ghostly presences all of its own.

Review

It’s probably to the benefit of this story that it has broadcast on a weekend where the UK has been suffering under the winds and rain of ‘Storm Dennis’ and also that it coincided with the release of another period drama (Emma.)  However, I think that this might just be my favourite television Cyberman story – possibly jointly with World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls.  I love the way that this takes the tropes of a haunted house story and twists them neatly with the inclusion of the Lone Cyberman, and this is certainly the creepiest story of the Whittaker era to date.

Maxine Alderton’s debut story for the show is pretty damned strong.  She does some good initial work, setting up the guest cast of Lord Byron, the Shelleys, Claire Clairmont and Doctor Polidori early on through the cold open, the dancing scene and the scene with Ryan, Mary and Polidori at the piano, allowing everyone a satisfactory introduction.  Byron seems to get more of the lion’s share of the story than the Shelleys though which did bug me a little. The story does revert to somewhat standard haunted house and horror movie tropes, however, I really like the idea of the interior of the Villa being changed to make it into a ‘panic room’ for the Guardian of the Cyberium.  Despite the tone of this story being creepy and grim in places – especially the moment that the Cyberman picks up Mary’s infant son William – there is still some room for humour, with most of these moments being given to Graham, allowing Bradley Walsh to really shine.  These are helped by some good direction by Emma Sullivan, who emphasises gags like the one below with some good visual moments too – the looks that the Doctor and Graham shoot each other are fantastic.  Another example is the look that Fletcher shoots the Doctor when she tastes the dust from the destroyed disembodied hand.  The direction also helps with the fear factor too, which helps give the villain of the piece some real threat.

Yes, because it is a truth universally acknowledged…

Wrong writer!

…that one’s driver will park one’s carriage imprudently too far from whence one is going.

Graham O’Brien and the Thirteenth Doctor

Haunting of Villa Diodati

We get to see the Lone Cyberman, who was first mentioned in Fugitive of the Judoon by Captain Jack Harkness.  The design on this is fantastic giving us a drastically different Cyberman to the ones that we have seen previously.  This Cyberman is incomplete, showing more organic components than we have seen previously from usual Cybermen and this emphasises the body horror that is core to what makes this enemy of the Doctor so scary.  Like with the Daleks, it is good to have a story that stresses that even just the one Cyberman is enough of a threat which this certainly does.  The moment that Mary confronts the Cyberman to try and get him to address his humanity is fantastic and stresses that emotions like love aren’t going to provide us with a simple solution like previously, only for the Cyberman to reveal that he only spared Mary’s son because he’s a “pathetic runt” is really effective.  I like the fact that the Cyberman trying to come back through time is causing things like the weather, but equally the reveal that the ghosts that Graham was seeing weren’t part of this is a really nice moment.

Are you the Guardian?

No sir, I am the valet.

The Lone Cyberman and Fletcher

With regards to the Doctor and her companions, this story puts them into a really interesting place heading into the finale.  The Doctor and her companions are brought into conflict regarding Jack’s message about the Lone Cyberman, with Ryan stating that sacrificing Shelley’s life would save billions, which leads the Doctor into a speech which is probably the best part of the episode.  This really highlights the burden on her shoulders as a Time Lord in trying to weigh up what the right thing is to do, and with the ramifications of letting the Lone Cyberman get what it wants clearly pretty disastrous, the Doctor must be pretty confident in her abilities to atone for her error.  There have been more moments of conflict between the Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham this series, which is an improvement on last series.  She did get some lighter material as well and is particularly enjoyable in her scenes opposite Byron.  Meanwhile, the companions do get like some nice individual moments in the story, with Ryan talking to Mary at the piano, Graham’s hunt for the toilet revealing the first moments of the haunting of the house and Yaz with Claire Clairmont.

This enigmatic person of yours – would you trade them for reliable and dull?

My person’s a bit different.

Claire Clairmont and Yasmin Khan

Verdict: A really enjoyable haunted house story with a science fiction twist, The Haunting of Villa Diodati continues a strong second series for Jodie Whittaker and is amongst the best television Cybermen stories. 10/10

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Lili Miller (Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin), Jacob Collins-Levy (Lord Byron), Lewis Rainer (Percy Bysshe Shelley), Maxim Baldry (Dr John Polidori), Nadia Parkes (Claire Clairmont), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Stefan Bednarczyck (Fletcher) & Sarah Perles (Elise).

Writer: Maxine Alderton

Director: Emma Sullivan

Behind the Scenes

  • The Eighth Doctor previously met Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and Percy Shelley in The Company of Friends and Mary would become a companion of this incarnation of the Doctor in several Big Finish audio stories.
  • The Doctor mentions having met Ada Lovelace in Spyfall, Part Two.
  • The Psychic Paper is shown not to work at all after getting wet. It’s previously been shown not to work when a lie is just plain unbelievable – like in A Christmas Carol.

Best Moment

The discussion in the cellar regarding what to do with the Cyberium and Shelley – see below.  It’s a great moment which shows how the Doctor’s decision is not simple and I’m intrigued to see how this series will wrap up!

Best Quote

I can’t keep him away much longer.

Then don’t.

Doc!

Stop fighting.  It’s okay.

Jack’s warning!

Jack isn’t here, stuck in a house with that.

Exactly.  You didn’t want us near it a minute ago.

I’ve just been inside his brain.  there’s a super-computer fused to a cerebral cortex.  He’s the only one who knows how to get that out!

Don’t let the Cyberman have what it wants.

I know, because armies will rise and billions will die.

Shelley’s going to die if that stuff stays inside him.

Shelley’s only one life against all those others.

What are you saying?  How can you condemn him to death like that?

But is he, Ryan?  His thoughts, his words inspire thousands for centuries.  If he dies now, who knows what damage that will have on future history?  Wordes matter.  One death, one ripple and history will change in a blink.  The future will not be the world you know.  The world you came from, the world you were created in won’t exist, so neither will you.  It’s not just his life at stake.  It’s yours.  You want to sacrifice yourself for this?  You want me to sacrifice you?  You want to call it?  Do it now.  All of you.  Yeah.  Cos sometimes this team structure isn’t flat.  It’s mountainous, with me at the summit, in the stratosphere.  Alone.  Left to choose.  Save the poet, save the universe.  Watch people burn now or tomorrow.  Sometimes, even I can’t win.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham O’Brien, Yasmin Khan, Ryan Sinclair and Mary Wollstonecraft

HoVD Shelley's Room

Can You Hear Me?

Warning: This review contains spoilers for Can You Hear Me?  If you haven’t seen it yet, please come back after watching!

Can You Hear Me

 

Synopsis

Team TARDIS answers calls for help from deep space, 1380s Aleppo and Sheffield.

Review

Can You Hear Me? starts with an interesting premise delivers some sorely needed backstory for one of the companions and explores an issue that it is clear that Chibnall really likes – the impact of the companions’ travelling in space and time on those left behind in the shape of Ryan’s friend Tibo.  Almost coincidentally, this story has been broadcast at the start of Mental Health Week and does have some messages about mental health and toxic masculinity which are important to hear.

CYHM Zellin

The story starts with the basis of fears and focuses on nightmares as something for the two villains of the piece to prey on and the story does this suitably creepily.  A major factor here is the performance of Ian Gelder as Zellin, who doesn’t do much but laugh softly in the first few moments of his time onscreen, but imbues it with such menace as he appears in people’s darkened flats and the effect used when his fingers disconnect from the rest of his hand is really effectively done.  The threat is helped greatly by the direction by Emma Chambers, and helps to make him and later Rakaya feel like a real threat to both the Doctor and the Universe as a whole.   That was something that was really lacking from Whittaker’s first series and her second has seen a vast improvement in this respect and I especially liked the idea of Zellin being a God that was bored.  Speaking of direction, and to address the point more broadly, I’ve been very pleased with the way the show has played around with lighting of the TARDIS this season, exemplified here by the appearance of Zellin in the control room.  Zellin’s fellow immortal, Rakaya, is equally sinister once freed from her prison, keeping two planets apart that the pair have spent a long period of time trying to destroy.  I do feel that their combined threat is dispatched a bit too easily, having hyped up the ability of the immortals to change their form at will, but are completely undone by the sonic screwdriver.  The creature extracted from the nightmares of Tahira doesn’t look fantastic, sadly, in a story that looks stunning, even if it does contribute to one of the episode’s strongest moments in the cold open.

The use of nightmares as a plot point allows us to see the fears of Ryan, Graham and Yaz in turn, with Ryan fearing the impact his absences are having on his best friend, Graham worrying about his cancer returning and wallowing in his survivor’s guilt and Yaz revisiting her feelings of abandonment after running away from home.  The Doctor is also subjected to this, meaning that we do get a further glimpse of the Timeless Child as well as a reminder of the Master’s message relating to Gallifrey and as we are in the last stretch of this series, it’s nice to get a reminder of where we might be heading in a few weeks time.   Potentially, this story could have been helped by being a two-parter, with the reveal that Zellin has made the Doctor fall into a trap being a cliffhanger, giving the story more time to breath and explore the nightmare and fears in a bit more detail.

CYHM Yaz

It is Yaz’s nightmare that really stands out, with her subconscious mind feeding her an image of her sister Sonya, who we see earlier in the episode celebrating an anniversary (presumably of Yaz coming back home), urging her to ‘do it right this time.’  This is much-needed development for Yaz, who really suffered last series’ focus on Graham and Ryan’s relationship and their grief at the loss of Grace.  This gives us a hint at Yaz’s life before she met the Doctor and before she joined the police, with the arrival of the police officer and the talk she gets, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, inspiring her to potentially become a police officer, although the story doesn’t explicitly state this.  It also allows us to see more of the relationship between her and her sister –  which is really lovely.   Ryan’s nightmares circulate around an Earth on fire and the Dregs from Orphan 55 combined with the struggles that he sees his friend Tibo having at the start of the episode.  Tibo serves to reflect what could have potentially happened to Ryan had he not gone with the Doctor after Grace’s death.  I think this works well too by bringing back a character that we have seen previously this series – Tibo appeared in the opening to Spyfall, Part One as one of Ryan’s friends who he was playing basketball with.  Of the three companions, Graham’s dream scene feels as though it falls a little bit flat and is a bit too predictable, but his talk with the Doctor at the end of the episode is good, even if the Doctor doesn’t come across fantastically in her response to him.

Do it right this time.  I won’t be calling anyone.  No point. You’re weak.  You run. Nobody’s coming, Yaz.  You’re alone in the dark.

Sonya

The story also focuses on an issue which Chibnall seems quite keen to explore, the issue of what happens to those left behind by those who go traveling with the Doctor and the impact of adventures through time and space.  This was previously addressed in The Power of Three, where Amy and Rory had to choose between their lives at home and their lives with the Doctor.  Ryan and Yaz here have a conversation at the end of the story regarding this, which seems to imply that one of them will be leaving at the end of the series.  I think there is possibly too much potential with Yaz, but potentially one or both of Graham and Ryan may be leaving at the end of the series, leaving us with a significantly less crowded TARDIS.  Ryan certainly seems quite shaken up by the events of this episode and his concern for his friend and the life that he is missing out on might just drive him to leave the TARDIS.   These companions are certainly not in the same place they were at the beginning of the series.

CYHM Ryan

Yes! Gods back in their box.  We need to get this back to the monitor platform and all those people out of the TARDIS jacuzzi.  Come on!

Thirteenth Doctor

The Doctor takes a back seat to her companions for the majority of this episode, with the focus on their home lives more, but Whittaker continues to develop her Doctor.  I’ve seen some criticisms of her conversation with Graham as calling her glib and uncaring about his medical concerns which I understand.  Not to say that her reaction is right, but I don’t think it’s exclusive to this incarnation of the Doctor – I can certainly imagine Peter Capaldi or Tom Baker reacting in a similar fashion.  I really liked the fact that the Doctor was at somewhat of a loose end once the companions left until she had a mystery to solve and she was pretty good in her scenes with Zellin and Rakaya and thought that the moments where she forgot – or genuinely didn’t know – she wasn’t with the companions were great.

Verdict: An interesting premise which is largely executed well, but with some niggles.  It is good to see Yaz get some backstory and development here though. 7/10

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Clare-Hope Ashitey (Rakaya), Ian Gelder (Zellin), Aruhan Gailieva (Tahila), Nasreen Hussain (Anita Patel), Buom Tihngang (Tibo), Willie Jonah (Old Tibo), Bhavnisha Parmar (Sonya Khan), Sirina Saba (Maryam), Amanda Liberman (Mum), Everal A Walsh (Gabriel), Michael Keane (Fred), Anthony Taylor (Andrew) & Sharon D Clarke (Grace O’Brien).

Writer: Charlene James and Chris Chibnall

Director: Emma Sullivan

Behind the Scenes

  • Ian Gelder previously portrayed Dekker in Torchwood: Children of Earth, as well as playing the voice of the Remnants in The Ghost Monument.
  • The first televised Doctor Who story to feature animation in any form.
  • The Eternals are alluded to in relation to Zellin – the Doctor previously faced off against other Eternals in Enlightenment and Ghost Light and reference is also made to the Toymaker.

Best Moment

Probably the flashback chat between Yaz and the police officer, and the return to give her the 50p.

Best Quote

Now listen to me – Earth is not your plaything.  You’re wrong about humans. They’re not pathetic, they’re magnificient.  They live with their fears, doubts, guilts.  They face them down every day and they prevail.  That’s not weakness, that’s strength.  That’s what humanity is.

The Doctor

 

Praxeus

This post contains spoilers for Praxeus.  If you haven’t seen the episode yet, come back once you have!

Praxeus Doctor

OK.  So with the understanding that was pretty alarming, don’t be overly alarmed.

The Doctor

Synopsis

What connects a missing astronaut in the Indian Ocean, birds behaving strangely in Peru and a US naval officer washing up on a beach on the island of Madagascar.

Review

After the bombastic nature of last week’s story, Praxeus may seem a bit more by the numbers for the Chibnall era, especially with its story evoking contemporary issues relating to climate change and pollution.  In this way, it seems as though the obvious story to compare it to is Orphan 55, however, this feels much more cohesive than the third episode of this series and I generally had a better time watching it.  This story manages a large guest cast better than the former story and I certainly felt much more engaged with this.  It’s not perfect, but it is a good fun romp.

Praxeus Jake

I’ve spoken in reviews of previous episodes how much I have enjoyed the fact that the writers and production team seem to have realised that the companions are allowed to be separated from the Doctor for prolonged amounts of time and this story starts with the companions separated from her from the off.  This allows for interactions between the companions sorely lacking from the last series and having Graham and Yaz being together, with Ryan being on his own did all involved all sorts of favours.  The biggest beneficiary of this is Yaz, who ultimately gets to go off and explore the Praxeus facility under the Indian Ocean, accompanied only by guest travel vlogger Gabriela.  This allows the writers a chance to show how far Yaz has come since travelling with the Doctor and gives her a de facto companion.  Graham continues to be the show’s biggest asset, bringing some light comedy to some darker moments, such as when he is revealed to be holding a device telling him there’s unusual activity on the other side of a wall, only for Yaz to gently reveal that he’s holding the device the upside down.  This fish out of water material does really help endear Graham to the audience, especially when Yaz and Ryan seem much more capable of taking the weird and wonderful life of travelling with the Doctor in their stride.  Ryan also benefits from spending time away from the Doctor, also spending time towards the start of the story with Gabriela in Peru, although there is definitely a lot of repetition of Ryan and guest female characters spending time together, usually on the TARDIS this series, which is starting to show through.  I still think that one member of this TARDIS team will be leaving at the end of this series, although I’m not sure who I want it to be anymore – I was pretty sure I wanted Ryan to leave, but now I’m pretty attached to all three of them.

Like Resolution and Spyfall before it, Praxeus is a story with a global scope and it isn’t afraid to show it off, with the story moving at a pace to match the globe-trotting antics of the Doctor and her friends.  I think the fast-paced start helped me along with the story, although some parts do feel as though they drag, for instance the scene with Ryan and Gabriela in the hospital.  There is also a sizeable guest cast here, but they do feel as though they get enough time to be fully rounded.  Warren Brown’s Jake is particularly interesting as a policeman on sabbatical, who feels out of place when compared to his husband, the missing ESA astronaut Adam and their relationship really does come front and centre in the closing moments of this episode.  I was quite happy that they didn’t go for the inevitable step of killing one of them off, which would have felt like a major misstep to me.    Gabriela starts off as pretty annoying but I did begin to warm to her by the episode’s conclusion, whilst Suki Cheng’s about-face was suitably surprising, although I did feel that the death of Aramu, her assistant, wasn’t really handled terribly well.  I did like the fact that the Praxeus infection had come to Earth from an alien civilisation who wanted to use Earth as a petri dish, and the Doctor’s outrage at this was suitably well played by Jodie Whittaker.

I’m a sucker for a scientist.

The Doctor

The Praxeus infection is well brought to life by some great special effects and good direction, which makes the infection feel like a real threat.  The birds carrying the infection are suitably creepy – there is certainly something unsettling about birds moving in a flock like they do here.  Even though the cause of their infection is undeniably Earth-based, the fact that the Praxeus infection has been brought by an alien influence makes this story potentially more palatable than the Dregs in Orphan 55.  The scaling effect of Praxeus is really nicely done and the way that its victims explode certainly makes it memorable.  It almost goes without saying in this era, but the show looks absolutely beautiful, with the show making full use of filming in South Africa again.

Praxeus Gabriela

Verdict: A strong outing albeit with some reservations but good FX work and a story with something for all of the main cast and guest cast to do! 7/10

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Warren Brown (Jake Willis), Matthew McNulty (Adam Lang), Molly Harris (Suki Cheng), Joana Borja (Gabriela Camara), Gabriela Toloi (Jamila Velez), Soo Druet (Joyce), Tristan de Beer (Zach Olsen) & Thapelo Maropefela (Aramu).

Writers: Ed Tighe and Chris Chibnall

Director: Jamie Magnus Stone

Behind the Scenes

  • This isn’t Warren Brown’s first role in the Doctor Who universe, as he plays Sam Bishop in the modern UNIT Big Finish series, as well as previously having appeared in Industrial Evolution and Signs and Wonders and the Jago and Litefoot story Dead Man’s Tales.

Best Moment

I think the moment with Graham having the device the wrong way up in his hand is probably my highlight.

The VFX effects used for the Praxeus infection are also pretty good.

Best Quote

THAT’s why you smell of dead bird! I though you’d changed your shower gel.

The Doctor

Closely followed by:

Didn’t teleport into an active volcano! Result!

Yasmin Khan

Praxeus Doctor - infected