Sunday 28 October 2018

Arachnids in the UK - A Review

A lot of people who do not normally watch Doctor Who will have tuned into tonight's episode following the buzz which surrounded last week's Rosa, expecting to see more of the same. What they got was a much more traditional Doctor Who story. Rosa was great, but you simply can't deliver that kind of story on a regular basis.
I was reasonably happy with this episode, despite being a terrible arachnophobe. Three things stopped it being great for me, though.
The first was the character of the Trump-like businessman, Jack Robertson. I say character, but he was little more than a caricature of a nasty businessman. He sacks Yaz's mum, seemingly on a whim in the first few minutes, then has his assistant draw a gun on her and Yaz soon after. (Yaz is a police officer, let's not forget, but does she mention this at all?). Characters such as this usually get their comeuppance by the end, but Robertson is left alive and well, and potentially a future POTUS. Which brings me to another dislike - the ending. Everything was wrapped up a little too easily and quickly for my liking, with too many threads left dangling like so many spiders' webs.
The smaller spiders get lured into a room to be left to perish eventually, whilst the mother beast is dying anyway from its enlarged size, but Robertson shoots it dead. (The shooting is set up as if to say this character is bad, but actually it was a mercy killing. Was the Doctor going to just stand there whilst it slowly suffocated to death?). He walks off, and there is no mention of any consequences for his having built his hotel on top of dumped waste from one of his own companies. There is no mention of any other spiders still out there in the city, or even about how the waste dump is dealt with to prevent any more mutants being created. It's as if this part of the story has just switched off, because they need a few minutes of the run time to get the new companions to turn up at the TARDIS wanting to continue their travels with the Doctor, who has clearly been hoping for this since she dropped them all back home at the start.

The third thing that bugged me was the level of coincidence going on. We are told that the spiders have spread out across the city, and can see this on a map, yet the only ones we see just happen to be at Graham's house, and next door to Yaz's home. Apart from a bit of exposition, there is nothing to suggest that this is a city-wide problem. Then there was the fact that Yaz's mum just happened to be at the place where the spiders originated, and the hotel owner just happened to be the sort of person who had a panic room, full of weapons, and assistants who carried guns.
So, apart from some plotting issues, and the cartoon businessman, there was much to commend the episode. Hearing that Yaz's family were to feature, I was quite worried that their inclusion might pull the story more towards soap, with the actual spider business sidelined, but this was not the case. We met Yaz's dad and sister only briefly, and her mum just happened to be already at the hotel from whence the spiders came anyway, this being where she was supposed to work. I thought they were rather pleasant myself, and nothing like how Yaz seemed to be describing them in The Ghost Monument. It looks like it might be Yaz who has the problem, with no friends and certainly no partner, if her mother doesn't even know if she likes boys or girls.
There was a little more bonding between Graham and Ryan, but this took place as the action unfolded - so the story wasn't stopped in its tracks to make room for it. It was also nice to see Grace back again, if only in Graham's mind as he faced up to the ghost of her presence in his house.
I've no idea of the order this season's stories were recorded in, but Jodie Whittaker seemed a lot more settled in the role. I loved the Ed Sheeran jokes.
The spiders themselves were very well realised, and once again the cinematography was first class.
I wasn't impressed with the disco-lights Vortex at first, but it looked better on second viewing.
I am definitely missing the pre-credits teaser scenes. A big mistake in leaving these out I think, and I also miss the throw forward trailer forming part of the closing credits.
Mind you, next week's trailer was incredibly weak. There was nothing about it which would make you want to tune in. Good job I am a fan and will be watching anyway, but you can't say that for everyone.

1 comment:

  1. I'm also not sure how leading all of the smaller spiders into the panic room was ensuring a "natural end." presumably to eat each other?

    I liked it, though. The episodes are starting to add up and they're varying things up enough (and hey, the spiders didn't turn out to be aliens!) that I'm staying interested.