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Doctor Who review: 'Scary and funny' Arachnids in the UK ticks all the boxes

Wednesday 31st October 2018
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Spiders, in Britain at least, shouldn’t really be any scarier than the flies they feast on. But there’s something in the way they move those long crawly legs, the dark places they hide in, the shock of getting tangled up in their webs. Even people who aren’t properly afraid of them are usually a bit afraid of them really.

Last weekend’s Doctor Who episode Arachnids in the UK gambled on that everyday creepiness and won, with almost-believable CGI and a script that cannily made the most of the unseen. Parents and teachers will no doubt curse this episode as much as they praised the last one, for sowing such a terror of our harmless eight-legged roommates.

That said, chilling moments, like when scientist Jade (Tanya Fear) reminded slimy tycoon Robertson (Chris Noth) that no-one would bother assassinating him with a giant spider since a tiny one would do the job so well, were balanced out with comic relief, like the spiders’ weakness for Grime music.

And the episode’s simple premise left room for some down-to-earth character-building, with the Tardis crew back in present-day South Yorkshire after adventures with aliens and world history. Prominent use of Sheffield’s iconic Park Hill estate, and nods to the region’s coal mining past, breathed reality into this setting.

The episode shone further light on their inner lives. Alongside Graham’s (Bradley Walsh) struggle with grief and Ryan’s (Tosin Cole) estrangement from his dad, we finally got to meet Yaz’s (Mandip Gil) family and see a bit more of what drives her. Moments like this made their inevitable decision to continue travelling with the Doctor feel a bit more meaningful.

But of course the increasingly confident Doctor herself was the star. Just four episodes in there’s no question of calling Jodie Whittaker “the new Doctor”: she’s the Doctor full stop.

At the other extreme from Park Hill, the spiders infested a luxury hotel owned by Robertson, a vain, greedy and incompetent businessman hoping to replace his rival Trump in the White House. Robertson was the script’s biggest missed opportunity, with Noth unwilling to commit to the full-blown scenery-chewing pantomime villainy the role was crying out for. This left Robertson a bit of a cardboard cut-out.

In between Doctor Who’s more ambitious forays into high-concept sci-fi and high-stakes history, Arachnids in the UK ticked all the boxes of what makes a decent, watchable, scary and funny bread-and-butter episode.

Next Doctor Who odds

Michaela Coel 7/1
Kris Marshall 7/1
Maxine Peake 8/1
Natalie Dormer 8/1
Tom Rosenthal 10/1
David Harewood 11/1
Vicky Mcclure 12/1
Phoebe Waller-Bridge 14/1
James Norton 14/1
Tilda Swinton 16/1
Richard Rankin 16/1
Jenna Coleman 20/1
Olivia Colman 20/1
Andrew Buchan 25/1
Paterson Joseph 25/1
Ben Whishaw 33/1
James Purefoy 33/1
Maisie Williams 33/1
Robert Carlyle 33/1
Richard Ayoade 33/1
Tom Ellis 33/1
Joanne Froggatt 33/1
Richard Madden 33/1
Zawe Ashton 33/1
Lara Pulver 33/1
Suranne Jones 33/1
Amanda Mealing 33/1
Sheridan Smith 33/1
Katie Mcgrath 33/1
Rory Kinnear 40/1
Alice Eve 40/1
Catherine Tate 40/1
Daniel Kaluuya 40/1
Andy Serkis 40/1
Charlotte Rampling 40/1
Russell Tovey 40/1
Andrew Scott 40/1
Michelle Dockery 40/1
Helen Mirren 40/1
Sacha Dhawan 40/1
Alexandra Roach 40/1
Eddie Izzard 50/1
Gillian Anderson 50/1
Frank Milham 50/1
Helena Bonham Carter 50/1
Ben Daniels 50/1
Alfred Enoch 50/1
Idris Elba 50/1
James Darcy 50/1
Gemma Arterton 50/1
Sanjeev Bhaskar 50/1
Russell Brand 50/1
David Walliams 50/1
Adrian Lester 50/1
Carey Mulligan 50/1
James Corden 80/1
Stephen Fry 80/1
Benedict Cumberbatch 80/1
Domhnall Gleeson 80/1
Alan Davies 80/1
Alan Carr 100/1
Katie Hopkins 110/1
Katie Price 110/1

Next Doctor Who odds

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Odds correct as of 11th Apr, 14:39 . Odds are subject to change.
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