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Doctor Who Arachnids in the UK

Review by Paul Bowler.

Doctor Who goes all eight legged and freaky in Arachnids in the UK as The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Graham (Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole ) return to present day Sheffield after their recent adventures. But after everything they’ve been through together, can life back home ever really be the same again? Some big decisions await, but first there’s a creepy infestation of dangerous spiders in Sheffield to deal with…

Continuing the ongoing trend of placing markedly different stories next to one another, the fourth episode of Doctor Who’s eleventh series Arachnids in the UK, written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Sallie Aprahamin, is pure B-Movie fun.

Returning to the present after the modern historical of previous the episode, Rosa, Arachnids in the UK gives the Doctor’s companions a chance to touch base back home and contemplate everything that’s happened to them since the Doctor whisked them away on their adventures in time and space. There’s also more focus on Yaz’s family, and we gain a bit more insight about her home life

Jodie Whittaker continues to impress on every level as the Doctor, Mandip Gill gets more time in the spotlight as Yaz, while Tosin Cole and the brilliant Bradley Walsh also deliver strong performances as Ryan and Graham. Arachnids in the UK also features an impressive guest cast including Chris Noth (famed for his staring roles in Sex and the City and The Good Wife) as hotel the mogul Robertson who is dealing with a very pressing spider problem, Shobana Gulati (Dinnerladies and Coronation Street) plays Yaz’s mum, Najia, and Tanya Fear as the zoologist Dr Jade Mclntyre.

From the spectacular sight of the TARDIS travelling through the time, space vortex, to the beautiful scene where Yaz invites the Doctor and her new friends home for tea, and the emotional scenes as Graham returns home this episode hit’s the ground running and hardly lets up for a moment. Bradley Walsh continues to knock it out the park in this episode, delivering an especially moving performance as Graham confronts his grief, and these moving scenes are made all the more poignant as Sharon D Clarke also reprises her role briefly as Grace O’Brien.

Its only when the Doctor and Ryan meet Dr Jade McIntyre, a zoologist from an arachnid research centre in Sheffield, and discover something nasty under the bed in the flat next door but one to Yaz’s home that the full extent of what’s been happening to the spiders begins to emerge.

After an arachnid encounter at his house, Graham rejoins them, and the Doctor and the gang set off to find Yaz who has gone to meet her mother who has just been fired from her job at the newly constructed luxury hotel by its American owner Jack Robertson – a hotel which the Doctor has identified as the source of the infestation

Naturally the spiders in this episode provide the monster-of-the-week factor. Brining enough scares, chills, and downright ickyness to make your skin craws while providing the Doctor and her companions with a suitably challenging menace for them to deal with. Chibnall’s tautly paced scrip cleverly toys with all the familiar B-Movie tropes, along with our fears, and preconceptions of arachnids to make the eight legged critters – which are also effectively realized – in this episode feel all the more menacing as a result

It transpires that spiders are in fact giant domestic spiders that grew from the offspring of a spider specimen from Dr McIntyre’s lab that was believe to be dead when it was disposed of. Only trouble is, the company put it with the rest of the toxic waste they’ve been dumping in the mining tunnels beneath which Robertson’s new hotel has been built on.

With the creepy crawlies webbed presence cunningly hinted at right from the outset, Arachnids in the UK has spiders under the bed, spider scuttling down dark corridors, and even a giant spider bursting out through a bathtub (my favourite bit in the episode) to snare a hapless victim!

Its not long before the Doctor and her companions, along with Najia, Dr Jade McIntyre and slimy Trumpesque business man Robertson find a way to deal with the bulk of the spider horde, but I wasn’t expecting the tragic fate of the giant spider, and Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor really drives home the powerful themes surrounding the creatures demise with the utmost conviction.

Although I though the plot was a bit sketchy in places, Arachnids in the UK was still a fun, action packed adventure. Chris Chibnall continues to build the bond between the Doctor and her new companions, and the dramatic direction by Sallie Aprahamin makes ensures the scenes with the giant spiders are really exciting. With its distinct Pertwee era vibe, especially The Green Death (1973), and its dash of modern political satire Arachnids in the UK is certainly an eventful episode. Sure, the resolution to the spider menace does get wrapped up a bit too quickly and conveniently, but the final scenes in the TARDIS more than make up for any unresolved plot threads as Graham, Yaz and Ryan decide to continue travelling with the Doctor despite the dangers they might face, and its a wonderful moment for this new “team TARDIS” as they set off to see the universe. together!

Images and Video belongs BBC

Watch the trailer for the fifth episode of series 11, The Tsuranga Conundrum!

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