Ten Thoughts about Doctor Who: Arachnids In The UK, the fifth episode of Doctor Who series 11. Which really has one of the best wordplays as a title that the series has ever enjoyed that wasn’t self-referencing like The Empty Child… sorry for the delay, was a bit late coming back from MCM…
1. The Spiders Of Sol 3
I like spiders. I really like spiders. I get annoyed when people are afraid of spiders, in the UK at least, when there are things to actually be afraid of, like heights, and wasps and bigotry. And asteroids. Thankfully, these scary spiders were rather poor CGI and about as threatening as a mirage. Okay, things may have improved a little since the giant rat of the Talons of Weng Chiang (as well as some of the attitudes), but not enough to actually make a difference.
2. Take A Shining To The Doctor
What did work, was the spider-point of view, set in a hotel which took one straight to The Shining, sans tricycle. When you don’t see the spiders, and the use of webs was more than enough to suggest what was going on, even the discarded spider-husk, it was far more atmospheric. If they could have found a way not to show the spiders, or maybe just had one flash one of its eight ankles or so, that might have been a bit more of a thing. As it stands, this is no Blink.
And while the Hotel may not be built on an Indian Burial Ground trope, as in The Shining, the landfill in the coalmines forming the giant spiders from their own corpses makes a very ecological equivalent. The sins of the past being inflicted on the present.
3. The POTUS With The Mostus
Our Mr Big may hate Trump, but there was only person who this hotel-owning, firing-obsessed, hygiene-obsessed, running for President, and gun loving businessman was based on. And ‘Why don’t you do what normal people do? Get a gun, shoot things, like a civilised person?’ continuing references that aren’t that favour of guns. Remember, when the Doctor picks up a gun, something has gone very wrong. Now she is being a little more blatant about it.
And, frankly, he won. He shot the spider against the Doctor’s wishes, he survived to live and shoot another day. Will he be back? Was the ‘fire and fury’ line for nothing? How long till the TARDIS makes a jump forward to get a 2020 vision?
4. Tea For Four
Previous, the Doctor has had to be persuaded to come in for dinner. And has sometimes just jumped in the TARDIS to avoid it. Or turned up naked. This Doctor actually wants to go for tea. She wants to do the family thing. And gets all Matt Smith-chatty in the process. Inappropriate, motormouth and blindly not caring, and yet again some people presuming she’s in a relationship with her female companions… But it gives us a family for Yaz. A place for her to return – and to escape from. And while we get the psychic paper back, the Doctor does seem to forget she did indeed live in a flat, with James Corden. Maybe someone she wants to forget…
5. Doctor Death
Doctor Who has never done death well, it’s always been too busy moving on. The Doctor never shed a tear for Adric. Death comes and goes and the Doctor and his friends keep running. Here, five episodes in, and Graham is dealing with the death of Grace and the Doctor may just be the way out. Time travel as therapy?
6. Invasion Of The Humans
The Sonic Screwdriver feels far less appropriate used to open a lock when its a council flat in modern day Sheffield. A useful narrative trick is now something invasive and foreign, that even the Doctor has to ask for moral permission from the humans around her.
7. The Shadow Proclamation
Ryan making ‘incey-wincey’ silhouettes in the background of this scene may be his finest moment yet.
8. The Class
We mentioned the IBG trope being used under the hotel. As well as sins past haunting the present, it’s also about class warfare. Much of this series of Doctor Who has been class obsessed, with the usual upper-class Doctor joining the working classes. Her friends are junior policemen, mechanics, bus drivers, nurses, she’s in Sheffield, with notes to Sheffield steel manufacturers, to coal mining, to a world being transformed and gentrified. But she also gives them a chance to improve on their lot – or die in the attempt.
9. Sheffield Steel Webs
The giant monsters, formed from spider carcasses and oozing chemicals smacks of the giant radioactive monsters of old. There’s even a nod to the issue that spiders couldn’t get that large without dying. But did they really get rid of all the spiders with a bit of Stormzy? Surely there must be other spiders out there in Sheffield who weren’t getting those good vibrations?
10. Medical Warnings
We saw a Doctor who ignores danger warnings against the spiders. But points out the dangers of staying with her, They walked through one door with all the warnings, she is giving them the same warnings for stepping through the TARDIS door. But it’s not a warning that the Doctor has usually been willing to give.
So… what did you think?