Could Praxeus have been saved?

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 classis, 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 of 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.

16 responses to “Could Praxeus have been saved?

  1. I agree this was a bit of a messy episode. At least Yaz is developing into an interesting character though…

  2. Is she? I think I missed that bit. The only thing she did that stayed with me was her compltely idiotic insistence in taking a teleport to an unknown location where she knew a lethal hostile alien was waiting.

  3. I was going to object about Making Movies but… you’re right. It’s very lopsided.

    The thing is, the opening of Expresso Love is gorgeous, with just that naked guitar riff and the piano, but I have to admit the rest of the song is nothing special. Hand in Hand is kind of the same. Solid Rock is one of the few Straits songs I actually dislike.

  4. Agreed, Expresso Love has a strong opening. But if I had to pick the best three songs from the album, they would unhesitatingly be the first three (probably in 1, 2, 3 order, too … which makes me think perhaps every single song on that album is worse than its predecessor!)

  5. On account of this I’ve been listening to Dire Straits all day.

    It turns out Love Over Gold is a side A type of album too. That’s not something I would notice unprompted, having come of musical age in the CD era…

  6. Oooh, that’s harsh! Yes, a good case can be made for Telegraph Road and Private Investigations being the two best songs on the album, but actually there’s not a single track on it that’s less than superb. One of the most consistent albums I know.

  7. Huh. I feel very differently about it. Telegraph Road and Private Investigations set a very high bar, immediately followed by Industrial Disease which is the *other* Straits song I don’t like. Love Over Gold is good but a couple of notches below the A-side numbers, and It Never Rains is middle-of-the-road by their standards.

  8. I figured early on that nothing was going to come along and join all these elements up, so I might as well enjoy it as a grab-bag of set pieces. (Look over there! dead fish! And over there! Captured astronaut! Now scary hospital!) After that I was fine with it. But there seems an overall problem with New Who, which I think goes back before Chibnall, where it can’t decide whether it’s happy to just throw stuff at you or blindside you with linking devices. It could do either. But it needs to decide.

  9. Pingback: Can You Hear Me? is the episode Praxeus wanted to be | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  10. It’s never enough just to throw things at you. Russell T. Davies shows us that with The Fires of Pompeii (and his inexplicably proud write-up of the creative process behind it). Good episodes always emerge from coherent plots — always.

  11. … by which I mean, to clarify, that when there is a good episode, it’s always one with a coherent plot. Not that whenever there’s a coherent plot the episode is good. It’s possible to be sound but dull.

  12. There are Avengers episodes (as in Steed & Mrs Peel) which really just throw crazy stuff at you. The Surrealists made films which they went through finding out which bits made sense, and then cutting those bits out. Providing there’s sufficient supply of crazy stuff to keep you fed, providing the crazy stuff is actually crazy, and provided it’s all done with some style, I think it works.

  13. Well, Gavin, I think this is a classic example of where your and my artistic tastes diverge: as always, I find it hard to appreciate as art anything that lacks craftsmanship; whereas you are far more willing to accept what I would see as sloppy work provided it contains elements that interest you. (Though to be fair I should say I have never watched a single episode of Avengers, so I can’t say for sure that the episodes you’re referring to wouldn’t work for me.)

  14. I don’t think it would be right to say the Avengers lacked craftsmanship.

  15. >insistence in taking a teleport to an unknown location where she knew a lethal hostile alien was waiting.

    Forget the hostility. Said alien was wearing breathing apparatus, so I would assume it was obvious the atmosphere on the other end of the teleport (the alien ship? an alien world?) was incompatible with human life. Turned out it was ok for (current-day ;-) humans, but apparently not breathable for the aliens who owned the ship (in my recollection).

  16. Pingback: The Timeless Children is 90% satisfying | The Reinvigorated Programmer

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