Arachnids in the UK, felt to me like a more traditional (ie since 2005) episode of Doctor Who, with some horror, some silliness, conflict, coincidence and a bit of gimmickry. I enjoyed it, despite feeling it had many flaws some of which I’ll talk about here. I note the episode did better in the overnights than Rosa, perhaps showing how much volatility there is in either the system of measurement or the total TV audience. Anyhow, on with the review (mid the spoilers)…
Arachnids in the UK
Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is still forming, and I felt the use of the psychic paper came across as forced. Perhaps it won’t appear again, but she didn’t appear convinced by it. Once again Bradley Walsh is very strong as Graham, and the weaving of his grief and memories of Grace as a presence in his life were well done. I loved Shubna Gulati as Yaz’s mum Najia and she must surely come back later, as I also suspect will Robertson (Chris Noth taking no prisoners with his performance). I did enjoy a lot of the build-up in the hotel, until the randomly well-lit tunnel to the mines made an appearance.
The episode petered out a little towards the end (see below) but did entertain a lot. My predictions held up with greed and sloppy science being the villains not aliens. An environmentally aware message as well, ticking boxes for those tracking such things (and who don’t remember The Green Death).
Overall Yaz got some development, if not as much as I’d hoped. I also still want the Doctor to be slightly more centre stage, but perhaps that’s part of the new character.
The end is the beginning
I was tricked by the tea at Yaz’s trailer and assumed that scene ended the episode; instead it was the start, showing reluctant separation, particularly from the Doctor. The episode then went on to give all three of Graham, Ryan and Yaz reasons to get back in the TARDIS. I also understand the new TARDIS design: by putting the ‘bigger space’ behind a small police box, it allows more angles to be shot when using the TARDIS prop. They can show the inside of a wooden police box and it fits the shooting angles without needing to CGI in the TARDIS interior.
Too many coincidences
As the story got moving, I get vexed by the number of coincidences:
- Najia works for Robertson, gets sacked but links up lots of the story
- The Khan’s live just down from the woman who gets killed by spiders and worked at the lab
- Hakin Khan (Yaz’s Dad) collects rubbish
- There’s a parcel to collect from the dead woman’s flat (and it never was!)
- Dr Jade McIntyre happens to be calling on the dead woman as the TARDIS team arrives, then provides most of the exposition to explain the story. In the old days with more episodes she would have been discovered through deduction, not chance. I blame the one-episode format
- The o’Brien house has a giant spider in the attic, just to get Graham linked into the story. This is never explained.
For me that’s way too many coincidences. I accept the idea the TARDIS can pick points and locations in time when events are peaking, though for this episode time and place were hard-wired by the Doctor returning people home.
Too many characters
The episode also felt busy, with people introduced just (in the style of Star Trek redshirts) to die as spider fodder or provide lots of knowledge on spiders (Dr McIntrye). Also having someone else with scientific knowledge diluted the Doctor’s relevance. Maybe it’s more credible, but I’m not sure.
I felt the story just stopped. The giant spider was dying and Robertson shot it, with the offspring dying in his panic room. Robertson shows no remorse and walked away. I imagine him returning and the Doctor coming into conflict with him more forcibly, though the BBC won’t come out too condemning I suspect. The Doctor mostly kept people busy while events played themselves out, adding to my sense she isn’t the hero of the story at the moment. I am probably being over-critical. Maybe I need a break from the show?!
Let me know what you thought, or if you disagree by using the comments. Until next time!