Before touching on the – yawn – story I just watched, I’ll visit the characters of the story, such as it was. But I’ll tell you right off, Praxeus was the personification of landfill.
Yaz. In Doctor Who Series 11, we fans were very critical of the writers giving Yaz nothing to do, and usually not recognising her vocation as a police officer, which — one would think — might be very useful. So far this year, Yaz has been given some busy work to do, however meaningless. Here, in some misguided effort to devote more of the story to her, we now get the feeling that Yaz is going through some kind of personal crisis, making her dive into the deep end on a whim. She rejects leaving Hong Kong with the Doctor to go back and retrieve something that might be useful. The Doctor, of course, lets her go with the other forgettable vlogger. Then, she eagerly wants to do a blind teleport. Suddenly, she’s a far lesser and more incompetent version of Clara without the skill set. She’s acting desperate and reckless. Honestly, when I hoped they’d give Yaz something to do, I thought they might make her more responsible, utilise the police training, be intelligent. Not this sudden suicidal phase. I hope she took notes from the real cop on how to kick a door down. I really thought they might have covered that in police school.
Ryan. He sits in the TARDIS with landfill vlogger and she asks him if the console room is an optical illusion. He responds “I don’t know.” REALLY, RYAN? She can’t possibly know how stupid and useless he is in general but he assures her, as he does everyone he meets in every story that whatever the problem, “He’ll sort it.” Also, the TARDIS can make everything from cookies to anti-toxins for an entire planet but it can’t provide Ryan with a hygienic ziplock bag to put dead birds in? No, Ryan uses his t-shirt. Ryan also doesn’t know what a pathogen is.
Graham. I’m sad to say, Graham is — thanks to the writers this season — becoming more of an old person joke with nothing useful to contribute. His heart to heart with Jenk was unconvincing and cliched. The writers also assume he can put in an IV line just because he had cancer. Oh, and he’s itching to do it. His comments indicate he’s seen it so often, that he’s got a good notion of what to do. Right. That’s really not how it works. But wait, he can put in an IV but he also doesn’t know what a pathogen is? It took two writers to do this? So much for the capable hands of the rumored Pete McTighe (Kerblam!) taking over the reigns of showrunner.
The Doctor. From the meaningless narration that began and ended the episode, to her regressing back to her uninspiring, wacky ways, I’m halfway certain this episode was filmed during Series 11! Yaz gets all independent and does some blind teleporting and just some dangerous, stupid things in general, yet, when she tells the Doctor, the Doctor doesn’t get mad and when they finally come get her… okay, show of hands: under these circumstances, would the Doctor hug the companion upon rescue? Show some concern? Most past indications would say yes. But of course not here, because the Doctor has no connection to the companions. What the Doctor does have is a wonderful opportunity to lecture us again about pollution. Evidently, as far as worlds who have just behaved abominably in this respect, Earth is the only planet in several galaxies to do that. Zowie! I’m actually surprised she didn’t recap for the class at the end during the narration.
As for the other characters…
Jenk and the astronaut, married but there was no chemistry there. No wonder they were on the outs. I could not have cared less if they died or not. At the end, they manufacture another disaster with the ship, declaw it with the autopilot — oh no, the autopilot gets devastated with cliche damage and Jenk of course hangs back and will sacrifice himself (don’t care) and the Doctor manages to save him at the last sec — still don’t care though. Another cardboard cutout. And yet he was a better cop than Yaz.
Landfill vlogger. This annoying girl actually acted a bit more appropriately to all the new and amazing things than any of the companions ever do. When she and the girlfriend come upon the landfill and are hurried, stating there’s no way they’re camping there — then they camp there. Maybe go back 10 minutes down the trail and find another place? Because you see, when people do senseless things, when horrible things happen to them, we don’t care. Much like her vlog. With the million vlogs out there, why does she assume everyone’s heard of hers? Doesn’t matter now anyway.
Suki. Again, we come back to the lackluster antagonists of Series 11. At no point did I feel anything but apathy toward her or the dead friend on the beach. I don’t think she or anyone else much worried about the dead friend on the beach. Yeah… Suki.
The black birds. And here I thought they were a representation of the Black Guardian. Do I feel silly. That would have been interesting. Amazing how those 1,000 birds were everywhere but only scratched Suki, even though everyone else were wading through them. Whew!
The story itself: We made so much pollution, we got treated like a Petri dish by aliens. Okay. I really can’t find it in myself to care. Not about any of the characters in this story. Not one. Not any of the regulars; certainly none of the guest cast.
Perhaps the disappointment is compounded by the fact that two weeks ago, we had a Doctor Who ep. Last week, we had a cracking Doctor Who spectacle, and this week, a tepid filler. An actual filler episode out of a measly 10-part series. Pathetic.
In the past, I’ve felt a bit bad when the negativity flows out of me after being presented with a bad episode. It happened a lot last series. But I no longer feel the slightest bit bad reacting appropriately when Chibnall serves up a plate of drivel, especially after showing he can be capable of a bit more, even if they are parlour tricks.
In the meantime, don’t pollute, kids!
Speaking of which, amidst the dangers inherent in that very real giant island of plastic, A) it’s kind of the elephant in the room that she could probably fix that/eliminate the problem in 4 minutes flat and B) yes, it really should have been an Auton plot. Come ON… millions of tons of PLASTIC out at sea?!
Imagine, if you will, all the pollution we caused coming together and forming a giant Kaiju that attacks New York or Tokyo! Several Kaiju! All it takes is imagination, Chibs.
But instead… we got this.