It’s week four of the Jodie Whittaker era of Doctor Who and we’re back to Sheffield for Arachnids in the UK, which is an episode title that feels as though it’s only called that because ‘Spiders in Sheffield’ may have already been used by David Attenbrough.
Doctor Who – Arachnids in the UK Review: What’s This One About?
Take a guess?
Thoughts – Green Death 2K18
Last week, if you stripped the story down to its bare bones, Rosa was basically a modern take on the Time Meddler. I’m not complaining about that, because the Time Meddler is a great use of the Doctor Who
Special Guest Star Chris Noth: He put his all in to the episode
This week, it’s just The Green Death 2K18, with a touch of Planet of the Spiders thrown in too.
Again, this is by no means a bad thing.
Not only is The Green Death’s premise one that is good enough to be reused over 40 years later, but it’s also one that can be brought out and used in the contemporary Earth setting without having to rely on or exhaust the alien invasion card.
On that score, it was a pretty clever idea.
In execution, I thought the plot largely made sense and could almost be feasible in the world we currently live in.
Most of all though, I thought the episode was fun.
After last week’s moral and history lesson – as great as it was – this was a more light-hearted (without being silly) episode designed to make the audience chuckle, and at the same time scare the crap out of anyone with arachnophobia. It certainly did the latter, as my girlfriend sat watching it almost from behind the sofa; I don’t think she’s going to be calm in a bath ever again.
The Development of the Companions
But in amongst the fun and the scares, I thought one of the best parts of this episode was the continued development of Graham.
Bradley Walsh’s character’s reason for wanting to travel with the Doctor was quite touching and no doubt had a certain truth to it that any widow or widower out there will empathise with.
Walsh himself was once again very good and is proving to be a worthy addition to the cast.
The other companions though still aren’t coming to the fore enough, even though the actors playing them are doing a good job.
Take Yas for example; even though this episode was focused more on her, I still don’t think we know enough about her yet. As a character, her only development in this episode was that she gets annoyed by her family. I don’t have a reason to care about her yet. After four weeks, I should.
Meanwhile, although I find Ryan an amusing character, as the weeks go by it becomes clear he’s the comic relief. And I say that even though he was used to an extent more seriously last week.
Special Guest Star Chris Noth
Star of the show this week was undoubtedly Chris Noth, or as he’s known to viewers of the Good Wife, ‘Special Guest Star Chris Noth’ (despite being in pretty much every episode of the entire run).
I always, always love it when a guest actor grabs the bull by the horns and puts everything in to the role.
Sometimes when well-known actors have been cast in Doctor Who, they don’t take it all that seriously, and are clearly not giving it their all. Other times they do, and it makes a difference.
Noth played his part with a certain comedic edge to it, but that was how the character was written. I don’t think he was being frivolous and I came away from it believing that he enjoyed taking part in the episode and wanted to be there.
That’s all you can want from a Special Guest Star.
Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor: Just A Part Of An Ensemble Cast?
The end of this episode shows all four members of the regular cast pressing down on a TARDIS control together. The suggestion there is that they are all one team and are part of it together.
So far the show should be called Team TARDIS rather than Doctor Who
Now on the one hand, that seems alright; the regular cast of four is in every episode, so in this era of inclusion and equality, why shouldn’t they all share equal billing and limelight.
But on the other, they don’t have equal billing. The show is called Doctor Who and the star of the show is meant to be the actor playing the Doctor.
The problem is, I don’t think she is standing out as the star.
Don’t get me wrong, I do like Jodie Whittaker and I definitely think she’s grown into the role as the weeks have gone on, but at the same time, I don’t think she has the gravitas of most of her predecessors.
Now on the one hand, that could be down to Chris Chibnall. In fact, it probably is. The writing is less Doctor-centric, and it comes across like it’s assumed that we just know that the Doctor is alien and quirky. Less time is devoted to exploring her character than under RTD or Moffat, and also it’s fair to say that the Doctor has been put in less dramatic situations so far than say Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor in Dalek or David Tennant’s Doctor at the end of Girl in the Fireplace.
But at the same time, if I’m being totally honest, I’m yet to be convinced that Jodie Whittaker could do as good a job as these guys in a similar situation.
From the evidence we’ve been given, I can’t see her delivering speeches like Peter Capaldi in The Doctor Falls or selling the sadness of David Tennant’s Doctor in Journey’s End.
But then that’s just me remembering highlights of these past Doctors; the bits that have stood out and will stay in the memory always.
It’s just that so far, there hasn’t been anything like that from Jodie Whittaker, and so she just seems like one of the gang rather than the leader.
Hopefully that will change, otherwise why not just call the show Team TARDIS?
- Some might argue that the resolution to the spider problem – specifically the big spider in the ballroom – was a bit weak, but while I can understand that, I personally thought it was fine.
- As an extension to how weak Yas’s character development has been, “wanting to see more of the universe” is the best they could come up with for why she wanted to keep travelling with the Doctor.
- I’m not keen on the TARDIS interior.
- The spiders looked pretty good. Just a bit of an improvement on Planet of the Spiders then.
- I wonder if the characters all got their hush money from Robertson?
- The trailer for next week’s episode offers absolutely nothing to go on for what it’s about. I quite like that.
Doctor Who – Arachnids in the UK Review: Final Thoughts
Arachnids in the UK is a solid episode of Doctor Who. It’s fun, the guest star puts in a solid performance and the premise works very well.
Taken in isolation, it’s a success.
But I still have issues with the lack of character development for some of the companions, and it’s also a concern for me that we’re yet to see the Doctor – and by extension Jodie Whittaker’s acting range – properly challenged so far this season.
Hopefully that changes next week.