‘ARACHNIDS IN THE UK’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Spiders In Sheffield
I like the fourth episode of Series 11 of ‘Doctor Who’ called ‘Arachnids in the UK’ by Chris Chibnall very much. It’s not a perfect episode, but after some re-watches I’ve been able to appreciate it a lot.
I’d be lying if I said the episode didn’t have any flaws, especially concerning the tale’s climax. If more time was spent on the climax, it’d be superb. I watched the episode with my parents on BBC iPlayer.
Let’s talk about the positives of the episode 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 to her home in ‘The Lazarus Experiment’. There are quite a number of echoes of RTD’s era in Series 11.
I really like that scene where the Doctor says goodbye to Graham; Ryan and Yaz but is reluctant to see them off. You can clearly see the Doctor wants her new friends to join her in the TARDIS longer.
You can also see how Graham, Ryan and Yaz are reluctant to see the Doctor go and leave. They’ve clearly enjoyed being with her and it’s nice to see how these four have become firm friends thus far.
I found it funny when the Doctor was all sad and sullen at the TARDIS before Yaz asked her, “Do you want to come for tea at mine?” The Doctor immediately perks up as she says “Definitely!” at that! 😀
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 was really funny. I just love how Jodie’s Doctor works like that as a character in the series.
And yes! This is where we get to meet Yaz’s family in the episode. Beforehand, we didn’t really know much about Yaz’s character. Here we get to know a little about her as well as her family background.
And as we can see in this episode, Yaz’s family is a pretty typical family set-up as you would expect. It’s not an altogether happy family set-up. Yaz loves her family, but they do drive her bananas here.
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. This is when Najia initially had a job at a luxury hotel in the tale.
But before Najia could even get on with the job she’s meant to have at the hotel, she’s immediately fired by her would-be boss, Chris Noth as Robertson, on her first day of work. That’s pretty shocking.
I’ve met Shobna Gulati in real-life at the ‘Science of the Time Lords 2019’ event in Leicester, January 2019. I enjoyed meeting Shobna and she turned out to be a really nice lady when I chatted to her. 😀
There are echoes of Rose Tyler and her mum Jackie in Yaz Khan and her mum Najia when I watched the episode. This is especially when Najia becomes curious on how her daughters knows the Doctor.
The hotel boss, Robertson, is a nasty piece of work in the episode. He’s an American who’s very business-obsessed and wants to be the next in line as a US President in 2020. That’ll be pretty soon.
Robertson also seems to have no compassion in him. When he’s in the bathroom and a giant spider crashes out from the bath; Robertson locks his henchman Kevin, who’d ran in to protect him, inside.
That’s pretty horrible! Even my Mum was horrified when watching that scene. It was amusing when Robertson realised he has “No more Kevin!”, despite locking him in that bathroom in the first place.
Robertson is also very ignorant about responsibility. There have been these giant mutant spiders coming out of his hotel in places like Sheffield as well as around the world to cause some chaos here.
The giant spiders in this episode have been pretty creepy to watch. Even my Mum was terrified by them. One of my work colleagues told me she couldn’t watch this episode because of spiders in it. 😀
The episode also features Tanya Fear as Dr. Jade McIntyre. She’s a scientist whom the Doctor and her team meet. Apparently she’s been working at a lab with building genetically engineered spiders.
For all we know, these spiders she’s been creating could end up biting someone to make him or her become Spider-Man…or Spider-Woman. Hmm. That is an idea that’s worth considering in future. 😀
So yeah! These 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 watch these giant spiders on screen. I didn’t know what to expect and it was creepy when the spiders were coming to get you! 😀
I couldn’t help but think of Shelob from ‘The Return of the King’ when watching the giant spiders in the episode. Perhaps these spiders are cousins of Shelob. It is possible. I’d like to see it to happen. 😀
There are even cases where the Doctor and the others find people like Jaleh Alp as Frankie and William Meredith as Kevin trapped inside web-like cocoons. It’s 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 really say that I’ve seen many 1950s movies with giant spiders in it in my lifetime.
But the story does feel like it comes from a classic mad scientific experiment gone wrong story with spiders in it. It works well for me and I am sure it works well for anybody who likes classic sci-fi films.
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 and figuring what’s going on with the spiders in 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 I’m not sure if the Doctor is 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. I like her enthusiasm for adventure here.
I also like how she makes sure her three companions have a part to play in the story. By the way, does she have the ability to do ‘spider’-talk just like when the Doctor could do some ‘baby’-talk long ago?
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 has some development with her family.
It’s even suggested that Yaz is ‘married’ to her police job. I liked it when Yaz goes over to pick up her mum Najia after being fired at the hotel before the two get into trouble with Robertson by gunpoint.
Yaz even accompanies the Doctor when they explore a bathroom that has a giant spider in it. And goodness me! The Doctor’s pretty brave going down into that hole to face a spider down in a sewer!
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 is not happy about living with his dad again.
Ryan doesn’t consider his dad as ‘proper’ family by this point. Maybe he considers Graham and the others as ‘proper’ family. It is suggested by members of Yaz’s family that she and Ryan are a couple.
The two deny it of course as they’re just good friends at this point. Ryan is the one who manages to lure the spiders in a trap with loud music into the panic room. Ryan and Graham also catch spiders. 🙂
Bradley Walsh is also very good as Graham. Graham’s character has developed significantly throughout the series so far. He has taken his late wife Grace’s adventurous spirit within the TARDIS.
He is still grieving for Grace though. 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. It was moving to watch those scenes.
I liked it when Graham re-joins the Doctor and the others once he’s discovered a spider in the homely 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 in Robertson’s panic room at the story’s end.
But what has happened to them? Did they get killed? Did they eat each other? I don’t think it was properly explained in the story. After re-watching it a few more times, it did become clearer though.
Also the climactic scene where Robertson shoots spider with a gun and the Doctor getting angry about it seemed rather rushed for me. For Robertson walks away and…he’s never seen again. Hmm!
What happened to him? Do we get to see him again in a future tale? This does get left on a bit of an anti-climax. Mind you, Robertson could return in Series 12 when he becomes a US president in 2020.
I think this is often the problem with new series ‘Doctor Who’ episodes, especially now when you have to focus on so many characters. There isn’t enough time to flesh out what occurs in the climax.
I think it would have been great if ‘Arachnids in the UK’ was a two-part adventure. But somehow those weaknesses didn’t matter much. It is made up with some pretty good character development.
I like how the characters are developed in the episode including the Doctor; her companions; Yaz’s family and the villain-like Robertson. You feel engaged with them as characters throughout the tale.
I love how the episode ends with Graham; Ryan and Yaz wanting to accompany the Doctor on her travels in the TARDIS. Graham feels travelling with the Doctor will help to get over grieving 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.
But Graham; Ryan and Yaz seem pretty sure about it. The Doctor is happy to have them and the foursome 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 a team. Despite the episode’s shortcomings, especially during the climax, I enjoyed ‘Arachnids in the UK’. 😀
It’s a pretty scary tale with some giant spiders in it and has some wonderful character development. I was really looking forward to how the season progressed with the Thirteenth Doctor TARDIS team.
The DVD/Blu-ray special features on this episode are as follows. On Disc 2 of ‘The Complete Series 11’ of ‘Doctor Who’, there’s the ‘Arachnids in the UK’ – Closer Look’ featurette.
‘Arachnids in the UK’ rating – 8/10
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