TV Review – ‘Arachnids In The UK’ (Doctor Who)

SPOILERS ALERT!!!

Hello everyone! 🙂

Welcome to ‘Bradley’s Basement’ blog and I’m Tim Bradley!

I’ve now seen the fourth episode of Series 11 of ‘Doctor Who’ called ‘Arachnids In The UK’ by Chris Chibnall. I enjoyed the episode very much. I watched the episode on BBC iPlayer with my parents. I’d be lying though if I said the episode did not have any flaws. This especially concerns the tale’s climax.

Let’s talk about the positives first. The episode has the Doctor return her friends in the TARDIS back to Sheffield, half an hour where they last left off in ‘The Woman Who Fell To Earth’. I couldn’t help be reminded of the situation where the Tenth Doctor returned Martha Jones back home in ‘The Lazarus Experiment’.

I really liked that scene where the Doctor says goodbye to Graham; Ryan and Yaz but is reluctant to see them off. You can clearly see she wants her new friends to join her in the TARDIS. You can also see how Graham, Ryan and Yaz are reluctant to see the Doctor go as they’ve enjoyed being with her.

I found it funny when the Doctor’s all sad and sullen at the TARDIS before Yaz asks, “Do you want to come for tea at mine?” The Doctor immediately perks up and says, “Definitely!” I just love it when the Doctor’s all sad one moment and then the next she’s like all keen to go for tea at Yaz’s! It’s so funny.

And yes! This is where we get to meet Yaz’s family in the episode. Beforehand, we didn’t really know much about Yaz as a character. We do get to know a little about her and what her family background is like. And as we can see, Yaz’s family is a pretty typical family set-up as you would expect.

There’s Ravin J. Ganatra as Hakim Khan, Yaz’s father and Bhavnisha Parmer as Sonya Khan, Yaz’s sister. Yaz referenced her family a few times in previous episodes. We see that it’s not an altogether happy family set-up. Yaz loves them apparently, but they do drive her bananas when they have arguments.

We also meet Yaz’s mum, Shobna Gulati as Najia Khan. She has a more pivotal role in the episode compared to the rest of Yaz’s family. In fact, there are echoes of Rose Tyler and her mum Jackie in Yaz Khan and her mum Najia when watching the episode. Najia initially had this job at a luxury hotel.

But before she could even get on with the job at the hotel, she’s immediately fired by her would-be boss, Chris Noth as Robertson, on her first day of work. Robertson is a nasty piece of work. He’s an American who’s very business-obsessed and seems to want to be the next in line as a US President.

Robertson also seems to have no compassion in him, since he’s in the bathroom; a giant spider comes out; his henchman Kevin runs in to protect his boss and Robertson locks him in the bathroom with the giant spider. That’s pretty horrible! Even my Mum was horrified when watching that scene.

He’s also very ignorant about responsibility since there have been these giant mutant spiders that have been coming out of his hotel as well as across the world including places like Sheffield. The giant spiders in this episode have been pretty creepy to watch. Even my Mum was terrified by them.

The episode also features Tanya Fear as Dr. Jade McIntyre. She’s a scientist whom the Doctor and team meet that has been working on building genetically engineered spiders. For all we know these spiders could end up biting someone to make him or her become Spider-Man…or Spider-Woman. 😀

So yeah! These giant spiders aren’t alien creatures like the ones you would expect from Metabellis III in ‘Planet of the Spiders’. These spiders are the result of a genetic mutation or experiment gone wrong. Again, it was pretty terrifying and very on the edge of your seat to see the spiders on screen.

I couldn’t help but think of Shelob from ‘The Return of the King’ when watching the giant spiders in the episode. There are even cases where the Doctor and the others find people like Jaleh Alp as Frankie Ellish and William Meredith as Kevin trapped inside web-like cocoons similar to what Frodo Baggins was in.

It was claimed earlier on that this episode had a classic 1950s B-movie style to it with giant spiders and all that. I can’t say I’ve seen many 1950s movies with giant spiders in it, but the story does feel like it comes from a classic mad scientific experiment gone wrong story with spiders in it. It works for me.

Jodie Whittaker again was a joy to watch as the Doctor in the episode. I like how she takes an interest in Yaz’s family as well as figuring what’s going on with the giant spiders in Sheffield leading to Robertson’s hotel. There are times when the Doctor can be a little awkward in making small talk.

There’s one moment when the Doctor says she used to be a ‘sister’. What’s sad is that I’m never sure whether the Doctor’s joking or not. 😀 However those moments of awkwardness are made up for with the Doctor’s fierce determination to put an end to the spider menace and with humane means.

What I especially like about the Thirteenth Doctor so far is her enthusiasm for adventure as well as making sure her each of her three companions has a part to play in the story. Also, does she have the ability to do ‘spider’-talk like when the Doctor could do ‘baby’-talk long ago? It seemed that she could.

Mandip Gill has been great to watch as Yaz in the episode. It was criticised that her character was underused in previous episodes, but I like how her character gets some development in terms of her connection to her family. It is even suggested that Yaz is ‘married’ to her police job unlike her sister.

I liked it when Yaz goes over to pick up her mum after she’s been fired at the hotel before they get into trouble with Robertson. Yaz even accompanies the Doctor when they explore a bathroom that had a giant spider in it. And goodness, the Doctor’s very brave going down in a hole to face a spider!

Tosin Cole is pretty good as Ryan. He’s given a letter by Graham from his dad about wanting to reunite with his son after the death of his nan. But Ryan isn’t happy about living with his dad again as he doesn’t consider him ‘proper’ family. Maybe he considers Graham and the others ‘proper’ family.

It’s suggested by members of Yaz’s family that she and Ryan are a couple, though the two deny it as they’re just good friends at this point. Ryan is the one who manages to lure the giant spiders into a trap with loud music into the panic room. Ryan and Graham also capture spiders together in this.

Bradley Walsh is also very good as Graham in the episode. I can see that Graham’s character has developed significantly throughout the series so far. It seems he’s taken his departed wife Grace’s adventurous spirit when he’s having adventures in the TARDIS. He is still grieving for Grace however.

There’s a special appearance of Sharon D. Clarke as the ghost of Grace O’Brien when Graham is in the homely house by himself. I liked it when Graham re-joins the Doctor and the others once discovering a spider in the house. He even gets to be the decoy when he and Ryan are trying to capture a spider in this.

Like I said, the episode is not without its flaws. I think the biggest failing is how rushed it all seems at the end. Our heroes lure the spiders by trapping them into Robertson’s panic room. But what happens to them? Do they get killed? Do they eat each other? I don’t think it’s properly explained in the story.

Also the climactic scene of Robertson shooting a spider with a gun and the Doctor getting angry about it did seem a bit rushed for me. For Robertson walks away and is never seen again. What happened to him? Do we see him again in a future tale? This does get left on a bit of an anti-climax.

I think this is often the problem with new series episodes of ‘Doctor Who’ especially now when you have to focus on so many characters. There isn’t enough time to fully flesh out what happens in the climactic scenes. I think it would have been great if ‘Arachnids In The UK’ was a two-part adventure.

But somehow those weaknesses in the episode didn’t matter much to me as it’s made up with some pretty good character development. I like how the characters are developed in the episode, including the Doctor, her companions and the villain-like Robertson as you feel engaged with them.

I love how the episode ends with the Doctor’s companions, Graham; Ryan and Yaz wanting to accompany her in her travels in the TARDIS. Graham feels travelling with the Doctor will get over her grief for Grace; Ryan doesn’t want to return to his old job and Yaz wants to see more of the universe.

I like how the Doctor advises her three friends to be sure that they want to join her, warning them of the dangers they’ll get themselves in. Graham; Ryan and Yaz seem pretty sure about it and the four of them pull the lever together, setting the TARDIS off for some new adventures in time and space.

So we’re four TV episodes in and I still stand by my current opinion that I love the new TARDIS team of Jodie Whittaker; Bradley Walsh; Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill as the Doctor; Graham; Ryan and Yaz. The characters are pretty likeable and I love how the four TARDIS characters work together as team.

Despite this episode’s shortcomings especially during the climax, I enjoyed ‘Arachnids In The UK’ very much. It’s pretty scary with some giant spiders in it; has some wonderful character development and I’m looking forward to how the series progresses with the Thirteenth Doctor TARDIS team next time.

Next week’s episode is called ‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ by Chris Chibnall.

Thanks for reading!

Bye for now!

Tim. 🙂

4 thoughts on “TV Review – ‘Arachnids In The UK’ (Doctor Who)

  1. Hit the nail on the head, completely agree Tim, great intense episode until the climax, shoving spiders in a panic room & erm that’s it no reversing the effects returning then back to normal size? The Doctor doesn’t want to kill them so been good have scene she found a antidote & used the air vents to infect the spiders & return them to normal size but we get nothing.

    Robertson i think be a recurring character who’ll be a pain in the Doctor’s arse, i can forsee a episode were he’s become president & caused chaos which the Doctor & companions have to investigate.

    I like the drama & emotion of the Chibnall era but when you invest your time in a long running tv show & do a episode about huge spiders at least give the audience a satisfactory pay off to the main plot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Simon.

      Many thanks for sharing your thoughts on this episode.

      It pains me to talk about the rushed climax as most of the episode has been pretty good up to that point. I think it would be great to have seen the Doctor provide an antidote to the spiders in making them small again. I assume Chris Chibnall didn’t have enough time to write the climax he wanted and instead had to rush through it. We don’t see what happened to the spiders in the panic room or anywhere else afterwards. Maybe it gets followed up on in a future episode. This isn’t the only time I’ve come across a Chris Chibnall episode where I felt the ending was weak as that happened in ‘The Power of Three’ with Matt Smith’s Doctor.

      Yeah I’m guessing Robertson and other characters like Krasko from ‘Rosa’ will make an appearance in the final episode of this season for some grand showdown with the Doctor and her friends. I hope that is the case since it feels a shame to leave it open-ended where we don’t know what happened to Robertson after this episode.

      I still like this episode though despite the weak ending. I thought the spiders were pretty scary and the Thirteenth Doctor TARDIS team were wonderful to see. It’s a shame this episode stopped being great when the rushed climax happened and it ended up being decently very good.

      At least it’s not like what happened with the rushed endings in episodes during the Steven Moffat era.

      Thanks again, Simon.

      Tim. 🙂

      Like

    • I would love to write for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and her companions someday. I have got in mind to write a series of ‘Doctor Who’ stories featuring all the TV incarnations of the Doctor. That’s something I have in mind next year and it’s something I’ve done already when I originally wrote for most of the Doctors for the 50th anniversary in 2013. I’ve just got the War Doctor, the Twelfth Doctor and the Thirteenth Doctor to write for.

      Tim. 🙂

      Like

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