Dire Straits’ third album, Making Movies, has a stellar side one: Tunnel of Love, Romeo and Juliet, Skateaway. Only three songs, but all of them stone-cold classics, using their extended running times to great effect. But then on side two, it all falls apart, eventually staggering to embarrassing collapse with the cod-cabaret of Les Boys.
That’s Praxeus, that is.
The first half is genuinely interesting. It sets us up with a lot of ideas: a missing hiker in a garbage dump in Peru; an ex-policeman in a supermarket in Britain; an exploding submariner on a beach in Madagascar; a vanished astronaut wired into a mechanism in Hong Kong. What do they all have in common?
Well, nothing really.
There’s an alien microbe. It came here, or was brought here, because the Earth is rich in plastic, which it feeds on. Except that it seems instead to feed on organisms that have ingested plastic. Except that it doesn’t feed on them, it makes them suddenly scaly and then they explode. Which is not a good strategy for a pathogen to spread.
How does the microbe connect all these things? It doesn’t.
I keep wondering if there was a way for this to have been a really good episode — on that lived up the intriguing premise of its opening scenarios. Was there a more coherent plan that somehow got lost along the way? Or — and honestly this feels more likely — did the writers generate a literally random set of locations, people and phenomena, and challenge themselves to spin a web of narrative over it as a kind of game?
If they did, they’re not very good at that game.