Arachnophobes beware, as last Sunday’s Doctor Who definitely lived up to the Halloween season hype with a nail-biting runaround that, for many, brought the fear factor back to Doctor Who. Whilst Arachnids in the UK was far from the scariest episode in the show’s recent history, it certainly provides some welcome scares and genuinely creepy moments that prove the show is still willing to tackle the horror side of sci-fi.
Longtime fans were intrigued by the premise of this episode, as this is not the first time that giant spiders have appeared on the show – in fact, Third Doctor Jon Pertwee actually regenerated following an encounter with some insidious alien arachnids from Metebelis III in 1974’s Planet of the Spiders, so it would make sense if the Doctor to be a little squeamish around them. However, Arachnids in the UK takes a completely different approach to a similar idea as the spiders are common house spiders that have mutated rather than extraterrestrial invaders, which is a nice twist.
Once again, Jodie Whittaker steals the show and her character of the Thirteenth Doctor has been firmly well-established. It is amazing how soon she has found her feet in the role as the Doctor, and she has already solidified many of the details of her character from the Tennant-esque technobabble to the way she flourishes her sonic. Not only that, but the writing has given the Thirteenth Doctor a consistent character throughout her opening episodes, an improvement over the Twelfth Doctor’s introduction in which Peter Capaldi’s masterful grasp of the character was undermined by inconsistent writing.
Another marked improvement in this series over the previous Moffat-era stories is the heart, as whilst Series 10 had some great moments with characters like Missy and Bill, Series 11 has already a more compelling character in Graham than the Moffat era had with a companion like Clara. The simple approach to character development is always the way to go on Doctor Who, and the down-to-earth nature of the new companions is far more relatable than Moffat’s Mary Sues who were ‘born to save the Doctor’. Hopefully the show can learn from its mistakes and maintain the ‘regular’ kind of companion as these are far more effective.
The supporting cast in this episode are also strong, with Chris North’s character filling the role of merciless businessman that has become a staple of many Earth-based Doctor Who episodes, and Yaz’s Mum Najia played by Shobna Gulati proves a good foil for his stubborn and detached personality. The ending of this story is distinctly bleak, but has an uplifting turn at the end with the final scene in the TARDIS showing the team reunited for more adventures.
So although Giant Spiders may be a somewhat of a recycled plot idea for Doctor Who at this point, Arachnids in the UK somehow makes it feel fresh and is another strong instalment of Thirteen’s debut series.