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 Ghost Monument

  • Doctor Who (2005) Season 11 – Episode 2
  • Air Date: 14th October 2018, 18:55 (GMT)
  • Writer: Chris Chibnall. 

Well, I as live and breathe and emit gasses. I just started this blog a couple of weeks ago, got excited by it, threw some quick articles up, then left it for a bit thinking “It’s new, no-one will see this for aaaages yet.”

Turn up just now. TWELVE new comments awaiting my approval! Blimey! Such a thing has never happened to me. Little bit stunned, but rolling with it. Will read all those later and try and make words do sense back at them.

But for now – Another Episode of Doctor Who just aired! And IT WAS BRILLIANT!!!

[HERE PROBABLY MOST LIKELY BE MOAR WHACKING GREAT SPOILERS. I DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW YET, CAN’T CONFIRM, AS HAVE JUST STARTED WRITING AND PREDICTING FUTURE IS ALWAYS EMOTION (SAYS YODA). BUT LETS PUT THE WARNING HERE JUST IN CASE, EH? PRETEND RIVER SONG IS LOOKING SMUG AT YOU. WE CONTINUE….]

Sorry about the River Song mention just then. She’s not in this one. I don’t think she’ll ever be back, sadly, and now I’ve made myself a bit sad thinking of her. ANYWAY….

Tonight’s episode was an absolute cracker! Starting from that jaw-dropping finish of last week’s inaugural episode, we rejoin our heroes as they slowly die in the absolute nippiness of un-centrally heated space. The Doctor stares, shocked and probably saying rude words inside her head, as her companions all seem to have joined her in this beautifully-shot awfulness.

And then, a rescue! [AH, THERE *ARE* SPOILERS. GOOD THING I DID THE WARNING] Not, as I had imagined, the Doctor doing a techno thing on a techno-gubbins, but the second thing I thought of – but didn’t mention last week and now everyone will think I’m making this up – a spaceship suddenly arrives! Hooray, they’re saved!

And here we go into the new titles sequence! Woohoo! First impression – lovely. The effects sequence used here is just a delightful thing to look at, so bright and colourful in the way only computer generated effects can be. I ADORE it.

Second impression: blimey, that was a bit quick, wasn’t i? None of the triumphal poncing around, languorous lap around the opera-house of the Murray Gold era, no sir! Bit of tune, bit more of tune, title fanfare (also a bit sexy, very delicate CGI lighting on it) – then WHOOSHONWITHTHESHOW. Blimey (reprise) – we’re off to a fairly rapid pace so far!

Let’s keep things a bit vague from here out, shall we? No need to get really detailed about stuff. How about lots of “Squueeeeee!” noises instead? Or maybe something inbetween those two things? Alright then. Glad that’s settled.

Last word on music. I love the subtle music in this show now. So so so much better than the brass pomp of yesteryear. Really good in this episode too.

“Iiiiii’m a Lumberjack and I’m OK. I sleep all night and I work all day”

SO our heroes make it down to a planet, which is beautifully deserty. I do wonder where they shot that. It looks foreign but is probably Brighton or somewhere else stunningly prosaic/a bit shit. By the way, by this point you’ll have noticed that the special effects are two things: 1) Being used sparingly. A BBC budget is clearly in effect. 2) That doesn’t matter because the effects are GORGEOUS. That shot of the ship on the planet when they’re setting off on their walk….yum, I could just lick the screen when stuff like that appears. But you’ll notice you only see it once. Any other shot just has spaceship legs, which are a lot cheaper to do.

Things move rapidly. A menacing chap arrives in a holographic tent (That’s not much of a spoiler). Turns out plot exposition plot, more plot = episode is going to be a perilous journey across a dangerous and mysterious planet! Art Malik is in this bit. He’s dead good. As an actor, I mean. As a character he’s a morally indeterminate. You’ll see what I mean.

You’ll also see that thing that every Dr Who fan wants to see, all the time. The OTHER bit of the Doctor. The bit that makes the noises and carries them about. Ship of Dreams. TARDIS. Clever Blue Box. Only a glimpse, mind. But enough that you know – as I knew  – they’re going to find her this episode. Hooray! But will she want to see the Doctor, or will she run away again?

Jodie Whittaker is really good as the Doctor. All I said about her last week is still there and I love it. I’m going to love this Doctor, I can feel it. She’s like Eleven, but Northern (and female).

Bradley Walsh continues to impress. He’s a very decent actor, and approaching middle age myself I am comforted that he’s a companion. He does some running – as all companions end up doing – and I loved how he had to stop for breath. That’s me, that is. Unfit and old and loving being on an alien planet. He might be my new favourite.

Crikey blimey this planet is dangerous. Millions of flesh eating bacterial microbes in the water, eh? No place for a sodastream.

Boat trip. New companion Ryan Sinclair gets a chance to speak his engineering brain, impressing the Doctor. Poor old Yaz gets a bit short-changed this week. Not much to say or do. I’m hoping she’s some kind of hideous alien being with a dark secret that’ll come out as time goes on. Not sure why I want that, I just do.

Alien planet, my arse, Doctor. This is still Sheffield.

Speaking of which, an encounter with a deserted building complex full of killer robots that shoot like stormtroopers and sentient killer tarpaulins that speak (no, am not joking here) starts laying down some very Moffat-ian mythologising – “The Timeless Child” indeed (uncontrollable shudder of pleasure), I lap that shit up, I really do. MOAR PLEASE. Also, hints that some things with “Tim Shaw” last week are linked to stuff happening this week, too. I SEE YOU, Arc Plot! I do love an Arc Plot. Have a string of full-blooded adventures but tie them all together with tiny threads that weave into their own adventures later on. It’s fun for all the family. If Doctor Who is too complicated for you, you’re too old to be watching it. Complexity is healthy.

..shush now, MEGA-spoiler approaching!

THEY FIND THE TARDIS!!!! And despite appearing to be in a spot of trouble earlier in the episode (and at the start of this scene) she’s actually okay. Not just okay but all better and recovered from her Doctor-explodo incident! Shiny new paint on the outer shell (St Johns sign is white text on Black???). Doctor gives her a cuddle, all raw affection. Awwwwwwwww. TARDIS, notably, lets her cuddle and does not run away or attempt another murder. Doctor, in mid cuddle, tells TARDIS she is sorry but has lost her key (Any Sheffield peeps reading: that’s your cue to go look for it) and door pops open for her. I was looking for the Tennant finger-click but no.

And then….and then….

You know I mentioned Matt Smith’s first episode in my last Dr Who post. And right at the end of that we get a TARDIS interior reveal? Same here. VERY similar, actually, but without the Scottish girl in her nightie blocking the view with her great ginger noggin (I’m Scottish too, so be careful what commentary you make about that – we’re a feisty bunch). No, it’s a great BLONDE noggin blocking the view this time – progress, of a sort.

I was no less excited – I was off my couch and kneeling as close to the TV as I could get, trying to see through the HD pixels and past the Doctor’s head. She’s….The TARDIS is VERY different from what’s come before but also similar? Hexagons are there but not as the famous roundels. Almost looks like the coral is back around the console….but it isn’t. The console itself looks….grown, organic (stop thinking of coral, dammit) but still has the usual assortment of ancient, dichotmous bric-a-brac on it. It appears to be all on one level again, unlike the last one. Reminds me of Ten’s TARDIS quite a lot, but much more claustraphobic. Tighter spaces. Not the great expanse around the centre like there used to be for Rose’s Mum to play Shelf Ornament. It’s a fascinating design, and on screen for way too little time this week to really get familiar with it. But like the Doctor staring agog at her new (old) new ship, I love it too. Yes, already – leave me alone.

The agony, the ECSTACY. “Hello, Sexy”.

God, I love the TARDIS. I wanted to kidnap Suranne Jones for the longest time. Oh, you sexy.

End Credits. Instead of the frankly bizarre list of cast who will be appearing this series we got last week, this week we get a proper ‘Next Time on Dr Who’ bit. Time travelling proper begins. Into the dim and distant 20th century! Looks all a bit ordinary until man shows up with laser blaster firing bright blue bolts which is NOT 20th Century as far as this one-way time-traveller remembers it anyway.

This was a cracking episode. Great pace through it, a terrific energy. Lots to see, actors all being fabulous and giving great performances. Bit of mystery dropped in to keep us intrigued. TERRIFIC special effects. Great new monster tarpaulin thing. And Ryan gets to go all commando Call of Duty after which the Doctor tells him off but then she does something amazing by way of tuition for the lad.

Dr Who is back, folks, and apparently in safe hands, although on a Sunday night now which caught me by surprise but isn’t the death slot that it used to be, in the digital age. And, to the person who asked in the comments, YES I WILL NOW BE DOING THESE EACH WEEK. 🙂 There’s only, what, 10/11 more? Easy peasy.