Doctor Who Review: Arachnids in the UK

They’ve made it back to Sheffield, half an hour after they left, but as the horrendous pun in the title suggests, there’s a bit of a spider problem going on… arachnophobes beware.

Arachnids in the UK

Directed by Sallie Aprahamian
Written by Chris Chibnall

Cast

Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor
Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien
Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair
Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan

Chris Noth as Robertson
Sharon D Clarke as Grace O’Brien
Shobna Gulati as Najia Khan
Tanya Fear as Dr Jade McIntyre
Ravin J Ganatra as Hakim Khan
Bhavisha Parmar as Sonya Khan
Jaleh Alp as Frankie Ellish
William Meredith as Kevin

Premise

Returning the gang to Sheffield half an hour after they left, the Doctor prepares to move on by herself, but is soon distracted by the offer of a cup of tea, followed quickly by a missing neighbour and an invasion of giant spiders.

High Point

The Doctor’s compassion is more on display than it’s ever been, and it’s fantastic. Robertson says guns are what the world needs right now – no, he’s wrong. It’s compassion, and the Doctor embodies it at the highest level.

Low Point

Robertson is all the lazy stereotypes about entitled white rich Americans in the age of Trump combined into one cookie-cutter character.

The Scores

Originality: A monster of the week episode with some character development thrown in. We have kind of seen this before, although it doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. 3/6.

Effects: Lots of giant spiders. The animation and texturing is good, but the integration in the real environments they’re part of isn’t so convincing. 4/6.

Acting: Gill is superb showing Yaz’s frustration with her constantly-bickering, teasing, interfering family. Walsh gives us a number of poignant moments as Graham has to continue to deal with the grief of Grace’s death, and Whittaker continues to prove her worth as the Doctor’s relentless respect for all living things is forefront in the storytelling, which she shows us with conviction and sincerity throughout. Noth is the only real downer, but to be fair he didn’t exactly have much of a character to portray. 5/6.

Production: They definitely filmed some of the exterior scenes in Sheffield – that’s a proper Sheffield tram and that’s properly Sheffield’s most famous high-rise housing development – but I’m not completely convinced by the mine tunnels. The music made itself very welcome again this week with a different kind of mood for a bit less synth and a lot more solo cello. The music seems to be changing style to suit each episode, a touch I really appreciate. 4/6.

Story: It starts out like a fairly standard monster of the week story, but there are a number of false leads about who’s responsible and how it’s going to finish so we get something rather more interesting than I was initially expecting. I’m disappointed that the fate of a certain character isn’t covered, and I’m kind of hoping the series will return to Earth again to interfere with them some more. 5/6.

Emotional Response: During the episode my social media timelines erupted with people talking about hiding behind the sofa. That is a lot of spiders. I don’t have a problem with spiders, so I found the episode more heartwarming than scary. Getting that much heartwarming in around all the spiders is really quite an achievement. 4/6.

Overall: An enjoyable episode, which develops our new characters while giving us an entertaining story and some great incentives to hide behind the sofa. 5/6.

In total, “Arachnids in the UK” receives 30/42.

 

11 replies on “Doctor Who Review: Arachnids in the UK”

  1. JD DeLuzio says:

    A fair review for a fun episode!

    As for Robertson, I found him less of an unconvincing stereotype than his real-world inspiration.

    • J_W_W says:

      Ah, yes, more stuffing politics into everything. I understand that entertainment reflects culture and there are politics in culture.

      Star Wars The Last Jedi, completely damaged my faith that they’re telling stories to tell stories versus telling stories to push politics.

  2. Sadly, While Robertson is a cookie-cutter caricature, that doesn’t mean it isn’t realistic.

  3. lost says:

    As much as Robertson *is* something of a caricature, there actually is a bit more nuance to him that it appears at first glance. How much of that is down to Noth’s performance and how much to the script and direction is unclear, but there is a bit more to him than the obvious caricature.

    I also have to give the writers credit for the Chekhov’s gun making an appearance at the climax.

    And the “wait, did anyone look up” moment was the perfect lampshade on how nobody ever looks up. (Something of truth in television, there. We really don’t usually look up.)

    As an aside, I’d give pretty high odds that I would have done the same thing as Robertson at the climax. The motivation would probably have been different, but I rather suspect I would have done the same. And I think most people who just can’t “do” spiders would.

    • And the “wait, did anyone look up” moment was the perfect lampshade on how nobody ever looks up. (Something of truth in television, there. We really don’t usually look up.)

      With my friends base online being strongly comic book influenced, there’s a lot of talk of the Spider-Man PS4 game, and much commenting how nobody ever sees Spider-Man on the ceiling.

  4. JD DeLuzio says:

    Whittaker is fast becoming one of my favorite Doctors.

  5. Jethro says:

    I was talking to someone on Friday who hasn’t watched Doctor Who since Tom Baker, and asked me how the new one was. I said that one thing he’d notice is that the special effects are much better, and the baddies don’t look like a guy in a latex suit any more. And that while they were still a bit cheesy back in 2005, they’re really pretty good right now.

    Boy I wish they were a bit less convincing for this episode.

    Also, who else thinks Fake Trump will be back?

  6. Also, while Mr. Big was clearly a parody of the dumb rich Americans, I did want to point out that they went out of their way to point out that even this rich dumb American hated Trump. That means that for his 2020 presidential big, Mr. Big probably would be on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

    • zocalo says:

      Maybe, but plenty of Republicans are not exactly fans of Trump either, so maybe that was intended more as a “Traditional Republican Candidate” for 2020, or they’re just assuming he’ll be impeached following the midterms. They’re not exactly known for being fans of far-right politics at the BBC in general, let alone the more creative drama types…

      Regardless, I actually took it more of CYA kind of thing throwing that line in there – there were too many other parallels to Trump otherwise; the reality TV show (they even got the “You’re fired!” line in there!), the hotel chains and other business ventures, numerous personality traits right down to the style of tie. You could easily use the episode for a drinking game (and I suspect some fans might do just that). Yeah, it was a absolutely a stereotype and caricature, but of a person for which Trump could well be the poster manchild.

      • JD DeLuzio says:

        It reminded me of how they name-drop Hearst in Citizen Kane, as theough the filmmakers are winking and asking, what? This guy is sorta like Hearst? Never even thought of it. Totally different character.

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