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.

Doctor Who – The Woman Who Fell To Earth

  • Doctor Who (2005) Season 11 – Episode 1
  • Air Date: 7th October 2018, 18:55 (GMT)
  • Writer: Chris Chibnall. 

[HERE BE WHACKING GREAT SPOILERS. YE HAVE BEEN WARRRRNED. ARR] /random pirate voice

SOMEHOW I managed to miss the first episode of Jodie Whittakers’ tenure as the Thirteenth Doctor when it aired on Saturday just gone. I’m not sure that’s ever happened to me before. I’ve been waiting for it, patiently, but perhaps the huge wait since the Christmas Special lulled me into a stupor. Dang it. Oh well, I’m caught up now and am all ready to speak my brains on the subject.

Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor. As a male and lifelong fan of Doctor Who, first watching Tom Baker somewhere from behind a couch (yes, I genuinely did this, so my mother never fails to remind me) I’m a HUGE FAN of the decision to cast a woman in the role having campaigned for just such a thing since when Matt Smith announced he was stepping down. I’m delighted the program makers have listened. What a wonderful fresh start for the character after the fifty-year sausage-fest!

Quick interjection: the massively misogynistic fan backlash to this decision has been appalling and deeply shaming for the Dr Who community. If you are one of those people, if you’ve ever joked about “Nurse Who” or images of a crashed Tardis next to “Women Drivers!” kindly stop reading this now and depart back to whatever rock you slithered out from under.

Having now seen Jodie in action I really do like her. She’s a very personable, very engaging actress, with just the right kind of oddness in her Doctor for me to have no trouble with her as the Doctor. This is early days however and I’m looking forward to seeing how she develops as writers get more comfortable with her. The script made her a little Tennant, a little Matt Smith, all whirling, verbalised thoughts changing even as she spoke them but that could be down to her Regeneration still playing out throughout most of this episode, which she even calls out in the episode with her great wee speech about Becoming who she is meant to be while still being composed of echoes from the past. Her accent…I’m going to take a little longer getting used to. Like Chris Eccleston it sounds from “The North” (i.e. Northern England). I’d honestly expected something a bit more regal, a bit upper crust. Not sure why I thought that but it’s nice to have an expectation confounded!

It’s also nice to have a Doctor who is a bit nicer to people, after 12 being all crabbit/borderline autistic and 11 liking to go dark and scare them now and again (except when he’s eating Fish Custard). But you can see when this Doctor interacts with people she’s very open with them, fully engaged and on their level. Personable, as I said, and very charming. It also helps that she’s a good bit shorter than Capaldi which avoids her towering over folk like he did – though if she had shorter legs how did she manage to run in those lanky trousers of his without tripping herself up???

The Tardis. This sainted object doesn’t appear in this episode, which is a unique kind of agony for a fan eager to learn all about the new Doctor. I vividly remember Matt Smith’s The Eleventh Hour – my own high watermark for new Doctor entrances in the new series – which waited until the dying minutes of that episode to pull off a jaw-dropping reveal of the redesigned console room. But here, as seen in Twice Upon A Time, the Tardis has apparently dumped the new Doctor out into the skies above Sheffield (props to the showrunners for choosing any other city in the UK than rassenfrassen seen-it-a-million-times London) then scarpered off into the universe. I’m hoping we catch up with her/it next episode and we’re not in for a season long chase. Having said that…it would be kind of cool to see a Doctor deprived of that machine for a little bit longer than usual – just don’t go all Third Doctor on us, eh? But why did The Tardis react so violently to the regenerated Doctor and then run away? Is it also kind of a sexist a-hole? Or has it glimpsed the future and knows something terrible is coming? We’ll have to wait and see.

The Theme Tune This only played during the end credits so either the Beeb have run out of money to make a decent opening title…or it’s being held back until next week. The tune (as played in the end credits, anyway) itself is a throwback to the very first Doctor Who theme and is quite understated in comparison to the Murray Gold era of BIG ORCHESTRAL OMMPAHPAH, which I very much appreciate (Murray seemingly never understood that less is often more). I’m still getting used to it but there’s no doubting it’s Doctor Who, and different enough from what came before to be distinctive.

The Companions I’m not generally in favour of celebrities becoming companions – real life intruding on fiction, and aren’t there actors out there who can, you know, act – even though I have to say in just about all instances on Who so far they’ve worked out okay. Billie Piper was shockingly good despite my viewing it as joke casting ahead of the actual premiere. Catherine Tate was good, if very much Cath Tate. And now we have Bradley Walsh joining the crew, however inadvertently (well, ‘Team’ is probably more accurate until they find the Tardis). I had only encountered Bradley in his role as game show host and was quite despairing of him being chosen for the role. Check out this clip as he tries desperately to keep a straight face. I actually love this clip but seeing him as a Doctor Who Companion? Nooooo. However, my brother – Doctor Who Superfan – told me he’d done some serious acting in the past and was actually very good. Here, as Graham O’Brien, he’s…actually very good. His star charisma means he easily outshines everyone but the Doctor herself but he copes very admirably with a late-episode speech after a tragedy and with a subsequent personal revelation of a close encounter with cancer that he’s still recovering from. I’m interested to see where his character goes.

Ryan (TOSIN COLE), Graham (BRADLEY WALSH), Yaz (MANDIP GILL)

I don’t have much to say about the other two, really. They’re a bit non-descript so far. Although I am a little worried about the acting abilities of our police-woman. While Tosin Cole (“Ryan Sinclair”) delivers a very natural performance, Mandip Gill (“Yasmin Khan”) seemed to overcook a few deliveries of line and action. I’m hoping that was just nerves and she’ll relax into it. I never liked “Martha Jones” waaay back in Season three (of the 2005 series) but watching Freema Agyeman on Netflix in Sense8 was a revelation.

Overall I’m really pleased the new Doctor is finally here. I caught a glimpse of her Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), sadly after the fact, and she seems lovely as a person, very funny and witty too so I’m looking forward to seeing her sparkle on screen as the series progress.

And that ending, eh? Has any episode ever ended with all four of our heroes unceremoniously dumped into interstellar space? Can’t wait to see how they get out of that one! My guess: quick recalculation of doohickey then BLIP! back to sweet sweet oxygen!

Until next time, folks!