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Monday, 29 October 2018

Doctor Who delivers a slightly uneven episode


Following on from meeting Rosa Parks in 1950s America, the TARDIS team return to Sheffield so Ryan (Tosin Cole), Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) can return to their normal lives. However, the gang they discover that something strange is going on. Spiders seem to be appearing everywhere and rubbish is building up everywhere. When The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Ryan discover that Yaz’s neighbour Anna has been consumed by spiders, it seems that something has happened to Sheffield’s spiders and caused them to become a true danger.

In many ways, this episode is a typical mid-series adventure – a grounded story that sees the Doctor fighting off a threat from another planet that seems determined to conquer Earth. Like Aliens in London/ World War Three, it allows The Doctor and her new companions to properly introduce the horrors of space to their loved ones and face a threat on home soil. However, unlike Aliens of London/World War Three, this story perhaps feels a bit bog standard. After three episodes that, in their own ways, felt different from the norm of what we have come to expect from the series, Arachnids in the UK is almost atypical Doctor Who. This isn’t to say the story is bad; rather it is a means of introducing the companions, in this case, Yaz’s, family into the bizarre world of the time traveller.


In many ways, it is with these interactions that the story works best – in bringing a sense of believability and humanity to the companion’s family it allows the companions to feel more realistic and engaging. One of the best parts of the story is when The Doctor meets Yaz’s Dad Hakim (Ravin J Ganatra) and her sister Sonya (Bhavnisha Parmar) and attempts to make “small talk”. In fact, the story is at its best when it relies more on the characterful comedy rather than attempts to impress upon us the danger of the spiders. Though Chibnall does attempt to interject an element of political satire in the figure of Jack Robertson (Chris Noth), a discount Trump, this is not nearly as successful as the more natural humour that results from the horrific situation the cast find themselves in.

Bradley Walsh gives a great performance as Graham. He is easily one of the funniest parts of the episode and manages to perfectly play off the horror of what he is encountering. Yet Walsh is also able to ensure that he effortlessly pulls off the more emotional scenes with true heartfelt emotion. The scene in which he returns to the house he shared with Grace (Sharon D Clarke) is emotionally resonant and demonstrates how much the loss of his beloved wife has impacted on him, despite the incredible things he has seen.

The special effects in the episode are excellent – from the cobwebs that denote the presence of the Spiders, to the Spiders themselves, the production team has done an excellent job at creating a monster that is both realistic and scarily strange. Similarly, the new time vortex used during the sequence when the TARDIS returns to Earth also has a creepy air to it – the redesigned vortex seems much more gothic than it has seemed previously and helps to create an almost sinister atmosphere as the TARDIS travels towards the frightening heart of the mystery on Earth.

Arachnids in the UK is not perhaps an outstanding or special episode, but it is an enjoyable one. When it is at its best it allows us to understand all of our companions properly and makes us believe that they are real people who we can empathise with and enjoy seeing going on the adventures through time and space that we see each week. The new series of Doctor Who continues to impress even when it isn’t at its most spectacular – a show that can be enjoyed by the whole family and that truly feels like it is a family.

Doctor Who Continues Sunday at 7.00pm on BBC One.

Contributed by Will Barber Taylor 

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