RogerBW's Blog

Doctor Who 2/11.04: Arachnids in the UK 02 November 2018

Chibnall writes yet again. He's sole scriptwriter on four of the first five episodes (and of course the season finale), and co-writer on the fifth. And he's supposedly controlling the overall direction of the show. It's too much for one person to do well on a TV production schedule.

But one way of saving effort is to steal a plot from an old story, because after all 1973 was a very long time ago, and only boring old fans would remember a story from back then (even if it is still for sale on DVD now). All right, you have to shave off the subplots in order to cram it down into 50 minutes rather than 150 (no hippies, no miners, no megalomaniac hypnotist computer), but what's left is still a cohesive story… though to this boring old fan it seemed increasingly well-worn.

The grim evil corporate overlord is desperately stereotyped. Yeah, I know, there probably are people just like that, but he's dull, he doesn't change, and we never get much idea of why he's like that. So he's just a stock character doing stock things, ineffectually; he's evil because he's evil. Other bit-part characters are more effective.

And for all the repeated theme of guns being bad, yet again there's a gunshot that provides the final resolution. (Though what did they do with the vault full of spiders? And isn't there still a hotel on a toxic waste dump?)

Meanwhile, Jodie Whitaker's Doctor is going, for my taste, a bit too far down the idiot-savant route; she's becoming a clown, which seems like a waste of the potential I saw in the first couple of episodes.

It's a decent enough runaround, with competent direction and effects, and of course there are no truly original plots, but when the show steals this blatantly from an earlier incarnation of itself I start to wonder why I'm bothering to watch.


  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 11:03am on 02 November 2018

    My thoughts were... hang on, they've buggered off like they've solved everything, but isn't all of Sheffield filled with giant spiders? The hotel did not appear to be anywhere near the block of flats or the house where Grandad found a shed skin in the loft. If the spider-summoning music could be heard all over Sheffield, I missed that bit. There was some techno-bollocks about pheremones to explain the block of flats, but zero explanation for Grandma's house.

    I must admit I didn't make the connection to The Green Death. But then there are a squillion Hollywood offerings of the toxic stuff = giant killer creatures. Them! being a favourite (and much ripped off).

  2. Posted by Michael Cule at 11:55am on 02 November 2018

    This one did feel a little shallow.

    And yet the point that bothers me is why Naz didn't say "And why are you pointing a gun at a police officer? Oh, yes I am. Warrant card. Do you have a licence for that thing?"

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:33pm on 02 November 2018

    I thought private citizens can't get licences for hand guns at all in the UK. That was got rid of after Dunblane.

    I suspect they're basically forgetting Naz is a police officer as they turn her into a generic companion. I expect to see it never mentioned again, except perhaps when she misses a shift due to TARDIS mishap.

    And yet my biggest problem with this episode is there isn't enough partial pressure of oxygen in earth's present day atmosphere to support spiders anywhere near that large. The biggest spiders alive today are pretty much at the limit already.

  4. Posted by Michael Cule at 08:03pm on 02 November 2018

    Actually another thing bothered me now I think about it.

    What was all that business of the rubbish in the flat that the father was compulsively collecting?

    I thought it would tie into something. Or maybe define his character somehow. But it felt like half of a bit of writing whose other bit got cut.

  5. Posted by Dr Bob at 03:08pm on 05 November 2018

    @Michael - I think the rubbish at the flat was fly tipping by the same people who had dumped rubbish under the hotel. But as we never actually SAW the rubbish disposal company, I may have been joining dots that weren't there!

  6. Posted by RogerBW at 03:39pm on 05 November 2018

    I think it's not just forgetting that Naz is a police officer, it's that the Evil Business Guy stands for all evil business guys everywhere, and they never get arrested, or if they do they get away later. (Which is why he just fades out to do the same thing all over again, not apparently having learned any lesson.) Just as the entire justification for his having an illegal gun in the first place is "is an American". It's sadly broad-brush characterisation.

    Either that or they're pushed for time so they cut the scenes with actual plot in them in favour of more action.

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