Doctor Who – Arachnids in the UK

  • Doctor Who (2005) Season 11 – Episode 4
  • Air Date: 28th October 2018, 19:00 (GMT)
  • Writer: Chris Chibnall

Such Halloween. So Spiders. Wow! And it kind of was Wow this week, as we return to the fine adventuring form of the second episode with another rollicking roustabout in the time-lost depths of deepest, darkest Sheffield. This suggests a pattern similar to that of the Star Trek movies, Odd ones being not quite as good as the Evens. It’ll be something else to watch out for, won’t it? Not sure what I think of that title…I suppose it’s a riff on Anarchy in the UK but if so it falls pretty flat as a reference to anything that happens in this episode. I was looking out for him but I didn’t spot Sid Vicious once. Did you?

So the Doctor has finally managed to bring her technologically-kidnapped charges home, just in time to sort out a problem with the local spider population. [SIDE NOTE THAT IS BIGGER THAN THE  PARAGRAPH CONTAINING IT: We got a fantastic look at the time vortex in this sequence, looking like nothing we’ve ever seen before; a riot of colours – blues and reds predominantly – forming a visible network of tunnels for the TARDIS to hurtle through. It was also fun to see the TARDIS crew being rocked and buffeted about as the Doctor is clearly still relearning how to pilot her revamped ship. It reminded me pleasingly of old times in classic series’ and very much reinforces the Doctor’s love of a good rollercoaster ride.] I was also quite impressed that she got them home within half an hour of their departure. That spot of deft, chronal terpsichore neatly sets up the ending of this weeks’ episode, too.

Name That Expression

If you don’t like spiders, then this episode would probably have been viewed through strategically clenched-fingers as the effects department treated us to some brilliantly realistic little devils for us to feast our eyes upon. Some the size of cats, one the size of a van, these things were amazing to look at, beautifully realised through all-conquering CGI. There was a fair amount of it, too, lots of great shots of the beasts scuttling about singly and  – mild, wispy spoiler –  en masse. Reports are that someone showed this episode to Peter Jackson who promptly fainted: the spiders are THAT good.

My favourite companion, Graham, was sad a lot this episode. I’m not surprised: Bradley Walsh is very good at this. You really feel for him as he sits in that old house haunted by the startlingly present memory of his dead wife. I’m glad the writers did this for Graham. It wouldn’t have done to have him blast off into the universe without a backwards glance. But I do hope that’s enough moping from him, says this entirely callous reviewer, and next episode we get to see him whooping it up with a multi-breasted lady of negotiable virtue.

Yas finally takes centre stage and shines, apart from the bits where she’s being bitchy to her lovely Mum and deserves a bit of corrective hand-against-face. This episode has resolved my concerns about her acting abilities, though – she seemed much more comfortable this episode. Perhaps acting against the brilliant Shobna Gulati, of Dinner Ladies fame, playing her Mum gave her a bit of a boost? Long may it continue.

…..Oh, Rose. *sniff*

The Doctor shines in this episode too, getting to be very Doctory – rushing about breathlessly solving problems – but also a kind of Doctor we haven’t seen before. One that doesn’t just sell her companions on the thrill of Seeing The Universe but makes sure they understand what they’re getting into (where was that last week with Ryan in 1950, eh, Doc!?). She also has some great comedy lines this week – in a world where we have the American President we have (He Who Shall Not Be Named Here) the thought of Ed Sheeran becoming President is both terrifying AND hilarious AND completely terrifying again.

Great acting this week from all concerned. I get the definite sense that people are relaxing into their roles, and the supporting cast were generally brilliant. Dr Jade McIntyre, played by the wonderfully named Tanya Fear, was especially good to watch. She reminded me somewhat of the lovely Osgood. Something about her accent, perhaps? The glasses? Whatever, she was great. More of her, please.

In modern Sheffield women walk ahead of their males where they greet people first to transact business and negotiate access to whatever talents the males possess. Yes, this is the second Star Trek reference of the day – a NoPrize for whoever gets the episode it comes from.

Chris Noth as Robertson was also fun to watch, relishing screen time and chewing scenery with finely measured aplomb. He’s not he first American Corporate type we’ve had as villain on Doctor Who – Henry Van Statten in Season 1’s seminal episode, “Dalek”, springs to mind (“Recognise me!”) – but he’s a fairly memorable addition to the list, though as a villain he’s squarely of the pantomime variety, despite starting off as a bit of a git. I did laugh at his highly topical view of the world, though: “Why can’t you be normal people who own guns and shoot things?”.

AAAAAAARGG! I’m an American on a British TV show airing in America!!!!

Turns out the reason for the gigantic spiders was amusingly hokey in a B-movie kind of way, with a twist of eco-responsibility hammered in because why not. I liked it for being rather barmy and also because it occurred as a result of the kind of short-sighted but ultimately well-meaning business decisions I see at work on a regular basis. I’m not sure I ever want to work in a a lab that throws out not-quite-dead spiders, though. That’s just Shoddy. Tsk.

Lastly, no Metebelis III mention in an episode where the Doctor faces giant spiders??? HERESY!

N E X T   W E E K ! ! !   Doctor Who – The Tsuranga Conundrum, where the Doctor and her chums play the original GTA and figure out how to run over the conga line of people dressed in orange.

1 thought on “Doctor Who – Arachnids in the UK”

  1. I can’t stand spiders. I would have taken up arms and shot every one of those 8 legged monsters. Hard for me to feel sympathy for them. Overall, a well done episode. They took something many people are afraid of and attempted to to help us feel some form of pity for them. I am looking forward to next weeks episode and getting back into space and away from spiders.

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