First off, I have to applaud whoever came up with this title. Very punny. Secondly, this is a spider photo-free review!
The Doctor finally manages to bring Graham, Ryan and Yaz home – just half an hour after they left – but not all is well in Sheffield. Yet Arachnids In The UK remains also normal fare, reminding viewers that Earth has more to fear from humans than it does aliens.
Said human is Robertson, played by Sex & The City’s Chris Noth; a rich, white, hotel magnate who doesn’t care much for his fellows and is quick to fire his staff. Yeah, who he’s really meant to represent couldn’t be any more obvious.
His latest build is on top of a mineshaft which he’s also filled with dodgy landfill. Some of this has come from a laboratory studying (and modifying) spiders, with the result being massive, confused spiders wreaking havoc on Sheffield. And hurrah for science! There’s no magic spiders here – the largest is seen struggling for breath as she suffocated by her own size.
The plot is somewhat sacrificed for further character development. We get to see Yaz’s family, from the bitchy sister to the conspiracy-obsessed father. Her mum, Najia, is briefly employed by Robertson as an interior decorator and is clearly where Yaz gets her smarts. Plus Najia is either unsure as to her daughter’s sexuality – she questions the Doctor and Ryan as possible love interests and is fine on both counts – or Yaz is bisexual. I’m rather hoping for the latter, to be honest.
Ryan has more to do in this episode, but is still trailing behind the others in terms of characterisation. In fact, with his capture of one of the spiders, I wonder if his dyspraxia has been largely forgotten. Hopefully it’ll make a return, because the initial representation was done exceedingly well.
But the tour de force was again Bradley Walsh as Graham. Returning to the flat he shared with Grace, he’s assaulted by memories and images of what he knows she’d say to him, and his grief is so brilliantly portrayed that I got quite emotional. It’s also pleasant to have the writers carry this on rather than forget the human cost.
Talking of human cost, when the three decide to continue travelling, the Doctor makes sure they are very clear as to the dangers, telling them “You’re not gonna come back as the same people that left here.” And because this is four episodes in, we understand fully each character’s reasoning for going, though the script cheerfully fills us in.
I do feel that this script was a little weak. Some points were hammered home when a more subtle touch would have sufficed. I’m hoping that the writing will catch up with the incredible performances, and make this season of Doctor Who unforgettable.