Doctor Who: ‘Arachnids in the UK’ – A Review

Mostly solid characterisation and a likeable TARDIS crew isn’t enough to save this script. Which somehow manages to overcomplicate the simplest of premises.

Goes without saying given the title of the episode, but arachnophobes might want to give this one a skip. 😉

You know, I was hoping that the standard Rosa set last week would have ended up as the norm, rather than the exception. I really did. But here we are with Arachnids in the UK; it has its moments, and is by no means terrible. However, it is flooded with problems that don’t need to be there.

Let’s start off with the good, because if I start talking about what I didn’t like, I’d just end up upsetting myself for the rest of the review.

YES – FINALLY YASMIN GETS TO BE A CHARACTER!!

I mean – ahem – it is a slight shame that her character seems to be entirely defined by her family. And also took until episode 4 to get going. But hey, it’s a start! And to be fair, at least they do make her family an interesting bunch, resulting in some very nice interactions with them and the Doctor. I especially like her father being a bit of a conspiracy nut. Imagine him as part of the TARDIS crew!

In fact, the main characters get a lot of good moments throughout. Whittaker’s settled into being Doctor Who now, and it is a joy to watch. Graham and Ryan both get surprisingly nice arcs throughout that are really nicely done. And as said before, Yasmin’s interactions with her family are quite fun.

Additionally, the direction for this episode was really well done. Sallie Aprahamian’s very confident behind the camera, with the episode getting suitably creepy when it needs to. I’m not scared of spiders, but there were still moments in the episode where even I got a chill down my spine.

I bet people are going to start checking the ceiling of every room they walk into now.

Also – WOW HOW GOOD DOES THE TIME VORTEX LOOK NOW?!

Seriously, it’s so well animated. And looks so cool! And it’s just so right!

If the whole episode was just the TARDIS travelling through that vortex, I would be gushing over it.

But you know, the episode is called Arachnids in the UK. And that just makes me ask…

What was the point of Discount Donald Trump?

Why was he there? What did he add that was absolutely necessary to a story about giant spiders taking over Sheffield? A villain? Because when you have giant spiders, and you feel the need to have a human villain on top of that, I think you have missed the point of giant spiders.

Also, the side characters unique to this story were just very forgettable and very clunkily implemented into the narrative. Can anyone give me scientist lady’s name? Without looking it up.

Doctor Who is usually at its best when it takes a really simple concept and builds around it. I mean, take Rosa for instance: an important historical event is in jeopardy – make sure it doesn’t break. But with Arachnids in the UK, the conspiracy angle just complicated it far more than necessary.

I know I’m sounding like a broken record at this point. But why couldn’t the story just be about giant spiders taking over Sheffield? Not-quite Donald Trump doesn’t do anything worthwhile at all. And given that one of the strongest aspects of the story is its direction, and how creepy it can be why not just spiders? It would have been better than this clunky mess.

And I still don’t get what they’re going for with Whittaker Doctor’s anti-gun stance. Was that the entire point of Budget Trump? So, he could shoot the spider, and everyone can look down on him for it? (Side note: your Trump allegory fails when he fires the gun himself rather than get someone else to do it.)

Furthermore, I think the problem with Whittaker’s Doctor’s anti-gun deal is that their plan is to trap and kill the spiders anyway. Fair enough, they do make a point of it being humane killing, over something as inhumane as using a gun. Additionally, they make the point that the spiders would all die anyway once they grew past a certain size. Nonetheless, it feels off that Doctor Who’s solution is to trap and kill them/let them die.

I feel like the more Doctor Who-y thing to do would have been to, I dunno, lead them to the TARDIS, instead of leaving them in a panic room to die. They could have easily trapped them in one of the TARDIS’ many rooms. Would have been a good opportunity to expand the scope of Whittaker’s uncomfortably small TARDIS. Also, you could have had a great moment where the Doctor and crew lead the spiders down the streets of Sheffield to the TARDIS, kinda like a weird spidery Pied Piper.

And then once in the TARDIS, the Doctor either tries to find a way to restore them to their normal size. Or finds a planet where the atmosphere can allow the giant spiders to live.

It’s cheesy, and I know not every story has to have a happy ending for everyone. But the joy with Doctor Who is at least the Doctor tries, right? They always try to find that happy ending for everyone, even if they don’t succeed. Because it’s right, it’s decent, and above all, it’s kind.

And, say if the Doctor did succeed in giving that happy ending for the spiders. I think it would have given more reason for Graham, Ryan and Yasmin to want to travel in the TARDIS at the end. Because they do say their reasons for wanting to join but nothing in the episode really builds to that moment.

One of the really great aspects of Rosa, was how it forced the Doctor into failure. It was a beautiful moment, and Whittaker sold it. But the key difference between Rosa, and Arachnids in the UK is that in one, you feel like the Doctor at least tried.

Hopefully things pick up next week with The Tsuranga Conundrum. I’m not sure what to expect from the episode itself, but at the very least, I like the idea of travelling around with this TARDIS crew.